Growing up, my family did a lot of moving around, from Ohio to Puerto Rico, from Puerto Rico to California, and back again to Cleveland. It was my life for a better part of my childhood and I learned not to get attached to anything because I knew it was all going to change soon.
I lost toys, drawing, books, CDs, notebooks, pets, friends, and assorted personal items during these moves. As a result, I gained a valuable skill. I learned to pack everything into one box and quickly. This skill has come very handy at times when moving or organizing. Just don’t ask me where things are because I wouldn’t have the first clue. The downside of all this moving is that I learned not to get attached to people or pets. I never had a friend that lasted more than a few months. I never had a pet that was with me for very long. I never had to experience the pain of saying goodbye to pet, when I was a child.
Today, I live with my wife Sarah and eight pets. They are all adopted. We don’t believe in buying pets when so many animals need homes if we had more room we’d rescue all of them. However, for now, we’re good with two dogs and six cats. It’s like a damn zoo around here. And surprisingly, our home doesn’t smell like a barn at high noon. I’ve been assured of that by people who visit. Of course, they could have been trying to be nice, but I’m going to choose to take their word for it.
Each of our pets has their own personality. They’re all funny in their own way. Whitley, who is feral, wants so badly for us to pet her…just as long as we don’t touch her. She’ll come over and meows at us to be petted and as soon as we reach over, she bolts.
Faith, the boss, she likes to be in charge. She kept order around the cats, smacking them around when they got out of line. Of course, we never quite understood what was the criteria she considered “misbehavior.” It all seemed so random to me. But since animals don’t do random there must be a reason, right? She’s still around, but she’s retired her boss title after she tried bossing around Jake, our pit-lab mix. That was a big mistake. He did not like it one bit. Faith lost some fur that day.
Gracie, the diva, this cat never liked anyone but Sarah. She was just fine living on her own. “Get away from me and close the door behind you!” If she was a cartoon, that’d be the bubble over her head. That all changed when Sarah and I met and moved in together. Gracie is a different cat now. She’s almost social! She lets me pet her for hours, when before she’d swat at you if you pet her for too long. Even Sarah can’t get away with that. I’ve become her human.
Sammy, Cider, Jake, and Lucy they pretty much keep to themselves. They try to give each other as much space as possible. Sammy and Whitley are brother and sister. They spend a lot of time snuggling together. Cider… well, she’s an odd duck. She’s the youngest and acts just like it. Jake and Lucy, are our only dogs. Poor Jake, all he wants is for someone to play with and not one single animal in the house will. Not even Lucy. So he spends most of his days sleeping and barking at the UPS guy when he comes around.
We inherited Lucy from Sarah’s parents after they passed. She has no interests in anything other than getting treats and having her belly rubbed.
Finally, there’s Joey. Joey’s Gracie’s sister. Though you would not think so from looking at them. They couldn’t be more different. Joey was all about chatting and being social. She’s also the first cat in Sarah’s clowder to greet me with her loud meow! I swear, the echoes of her meows can still be heard in background noise along with the Big Bang’s echo. She’s so loud and OMG was she demanding. She’d come over and want both Sarah and me to pet her nonstop. That’s all she’d ever want. She just never tired of being petted. And you could do no wrong. There’s no wrong way to pet this cat, rough, gentle, she couldn’t care less. She loved the attention.
I know that we shouldn’t say this, but she’s my favorite. She’s so funny, so chatty, and with so much energy. If she were human she’d be the active type. Always in the mood to do something. Hang out with friends, maybe go clubbing. Or maybe she could’ve been a movie star. The fun kind of actor like Amy Adams, or Denzel Washington. I don’t think she knew how to take life seriously. In a way, she’s a lot like me. Can you blame me for thinking of her as my favorite?
A few weeks ago, we noticed that she wasn’t eating crunchy food. We thought it was a tooth decay problem. It turned out to be a tumor under her tongue. The vet gave her a few months tops. Sarah was devastated, and I hated seeing her so upset and not being able to do anything. Since I don’t get easily attached to anything. I kept calm and collected and tried to be a rock for Sarah who only had a short time left with Joey.
We brought her home and we talked about the options the vet gave us and we both decided that we weren’t going to put Joey through the hell of chemo or surgery. We both thought that was no kind of quality of life for her. We decided we were going to keep her as comfortable as possible so that she’d live her final days as happy as she could be.
Finally, a few days ago, we noticed the tumor had gotten so big, that she wasn’t able to eat anymore. The poor thing was starving but couldn’t eat. She’d look at me as if begging me to give her food. If I could have magically made the food appear in her stomach I would have, but I have no magic powers. All I have is the ability to not get attached to things.
We took her once more to the vet to see if there was anything they could do to make her feel better; we didn’t like the options, and neither would have Joey. When the vet said the words, “euthanasia,” it was like something snapped inside of me and it was now real. I thought I was prepared. I thought that I didn’t get attached to things. I was so wrong. That was one of the most difficult decisions we had to make, but it had to be made. Because keeping her alive would have been for our benefit, not hers and we both thought that would be cruel.
Sarah and I just held each other and cried for I don’t even know how long. I was heartbroken. It’s like I lost all control suddenly and I couldn’t get a hold of myself. I couldn’t even breath. I couldn’t believe what was happening! Joey, who’s next to us doesn’t even know what’s going on. She doesn’t even look sick. We thought she was going to outlive everyone and here we were, considering ending her life, hoping, praying for another viable option. The sad truth of the matter was that no matter what option we chose, her life would have ended that day.
We chose to end her life humanely. The vet injected her with a powerful sedative and stepped out to wait for the drug to take effect. We petted and loved her until she slowly fell asleep. When the vet came in, Joey was completely sedated, but we were still there with her petting her. We wanted to make sure that she was loved all the way to the end. We weren’t going anywhere.
I don’t know if there is a heaven or not, but it’s comforting to think that as she passed she found her way on George’s lap (Sarah’s father who just past last year,) laid down and purred herself to sleep. It doesn’t matter if that’s true or not, it’s just a nice thought. Someone said to us that it was a great gift we gave her. It’s so weird how differently we all look at death and dying. It’s never easy to lose anyone. I thought that my childhood prepared me for this. It didn’t.
I wasn’t sure if I should share this story or not, but I think I should. I think it’s important to grieve and talking about your feelings is part of the process. Death is part of life whether we like it or not. I’m sad that she’s gone, but I’m happy to know that she was in my life and that we gave her a good home.
Good-bye Jo-Jo! I love you and I will miss you!