Learning About Loss

The last few weeks, I have felt like I haven’t had a whole lot to report. The girls and I have been easily continuing through our dance of everyday normalcy. Riley attended her first field trip, Maddie recorded a stellar rock rendition of Itsy Bitsy Spider, and we had a fun-filled sleepover with Story at the lake house. It’s all been good and very steady. This week, however, we experienced a first together. Our first loss of a family pet.

Doug, a salty Siamese, passed away this past Thursday. As far as cats go, Doug exuded all of the species’ famed attitudes and quirks. He was chock-full of attitude, didn’t care much about what others thought or felt, and was loud about it all. I saw a lot of signs that he would be a special cat when he was young. I adopted him from a farm in Wisconsin from a breeder who let me know that I probably shouldn’t get him. He had overeaten his kitty food, and for a period of time, the breeder thought he might not make it. He did though, and I was determined. Apparently, our stubbornness brought us together. When I picked him up from the farm, he ran right off of the table. I still took him home.

During his kittenhood, I had to sleep with my covers tightly tucked around my entire body, even my head. That little devil would jump and attack any exposed area with his kitten fangs all night long. He would also talk. All night. In the morning, his voice would be hoarse and raw from the constant jabber. As he developed into an adult cat, his crazy subsided and turned into a fierce and firm stance that he was the ruler of all things and right about everything. His voice didn’t get any quieter. He also became vindictive. He despised when I traveled. If I was off to visit home or have fun without him, he would find a way to show his disapproval. In college, after preparing for a visit home, I awoke to find a fresh pile of Doug’s droppings in the exact middle of my freshly packed suitcase. Doug sat self-righteously in the corner.

He was one handful of cat, but he was a member of our family, and we loved him. He had been sick for some time now, so his passing wasn’t a total surprise. I worried how the girls would take it. I have had family pets pass away, but I have never experienced the actual passing. I was always told after the fact and when things had been taken care of. I didn’t know how I would handle it, and that caused me to be less confident about walking the girls through it. They, however, did wonderfully. Maddie was upset to see me upset, and Riley was worried about how our other cat, Zeb, would take it. To my surprise, they were both interested in seeing him. They gave him a pet and volunteered to help dig a hole to bury him. The girls were reverent as we said our last goodbye. We’ve spent the past few days talking off and on about what death actually means and why some sicknesses kill you and others don’t.

It’s strange not having Doug in the house to judge my every move. I’ll miss him but am glad he is in a better place. I’m also reminded of how proud I am of the girls’ ability to cope with life’s challenges.