Have you ever lost a pet? If you have one it will eventually happen. My story starts with my own experiences and having been through it, some advice for those whom it will eventually affect.
I’m a British citizen living in SE Asia, which is probably the most unfriendly environment a cat could be in. There are packs of wild dogs, poisonous plants, snakes … A few years ago a cat turned up in our small garden carrying a litter of kittens one by one in its mouth. It looked like a dark miniature Tiger with stripes and we called it ‘Buffalo.’ Buffalo settled in, the litter grew up and one by one disappeared leaving Buffalo and one that looked just like her who we called ‘Little Buffalo.’ Buffalo went for a walk one day and took on what looked the size of a python snake, was bitten and death was so quick it didn’t even have time to turn around and run. We buried him in the garden and put a photo of him on the wall. With Buffalo gone, ‘Little Buffalo’ became a wild cat and still comes back occasionally years later to be fed, but her days as a house cat are over.
Last year my son in law went through a divorce. His young son who he’d got two small kittens for went to live with his mother and so we took on the two kittens. One who looked like Buffalo we now called ‘Buffalo 1’ and the other who looked like the runt of a litter we called, ‘Yellow cat.’ They grew up as an inseparable pair.
Outside our house is a small wall and on the other side what we call a jungle; a huge area of tall grass, banana trees and every assorted wildlife you can imagine. ‘Buffalo 1’ started to go into the jungle and spend his days there, returning around 6pm at night to be with his twin, when he again became a house cat. A few days ago we noticed ‘Buffalo 1’ had problems going to the toilet and were going to take him to the vet, but he didn’t come back at his usual time from the jungle.
Around half past one in the morning I heard a noise outside and he’d come back. I let him in and after drinking went behind the sofa and fifteen minutes later he quietly died – probably kidney failure from drinking poisoned water in the ‘jungle.’ I believe he came back to die at the home he grew up in and loved and to end his life with those who cared for him and with his twin companion. Our garden is now paved over, so we buried him just over the other side of the wall in a place he loved and spent his days, but only twenty feet from the house. On top of his grave we planted a banana tree, which in a years’ time will provide leafy shade for his final resting place.
I’m getting older, but emotionally strong and self-dependent, yet I won’t pretend there aren’t tears in my eyes writing this. This morning on being let out, the ‘Yellow cat’ instead of her usual prowling around, jumped straight over the wall obviously looking for ‘Buffalo 1’, as it’s the first time they’ve ever spent a night separated. My wife and I are left to find another favourite photo of ‘Buffalo 1’ to put on the wall to join that of ‘Buffalo.’ There are so many abandoned pets here that we could just go out and take our pick, but although I’ll keep feeding the strays, we’ve both agreed that the continuing attachment and pain of loss isn’t worth it and after the ‘Yellow cat’ dies, we won’t have any more pets in the house.
The grieving Process
My philosophy on life is that we’re here to learn lessons. How many times in your life have you thought, ‘this is it, it can’t get any worse than this’, yet ten years on you can look back and if not exactly smile, be thankful it did get better and you learned from it. One of those lessons is learning to let go. Nothing in life is permanent; just as our pet companions die, so too will we and grieving is part of the process for those left behind. Your pet isn’t a car or a washing machine, they can’t be replaced. The good news is that although it can take weeks or months, it does eventually fade into fond memories, which you keep in your heart. For example, one day you’ll be routing through a cupboard and find an old towel that the cat ripped up and you were so angry about at the time. That will now become a treasured memory and a valued possession.
There are no short cuts to end grief and mourning, just as you cut your finger you can seek all the help and read all the books you like, but the initial pain is something you will go through. Just as the cat relied on us, we also built up an emotional attachment and routine, basing our daily lives around it. That disruption hurts.
Be thankful for the time you were allowed to spend together with your feline friend. The pain will go, but the memories will stay. Maybe one night as you’re half asleep you’ll hear a little meow, or feel a slight weight on the bed. Was it a dream, or perhaps it’s your friend come back to bid a final farewell and to let you know all is well and he’s still with you.
Remembering the best two friends I ever had – Buffalo and Buffalo 1