While I typically write about either computers, or nonsense crap here, It’s a personal blog and therefore I feel compelled to write about a recent event that I could only describe as emotionally traumatic.
What event? The death of one of our pet cats.
“PAH. It’s just a cat” you say. And, a day or two ago, I would have shared that perspective; after all, a cat is a cat, right? Cats, and other animals, die all the time due to being hit by cars, abuse, and neglect. I would have never expected the death of this cat to effect me as much as it did. After all, it’s just a cat, right? That is what I keep telling myself, everytime I start to feel sobs welling up, I think to myself “What the fuck man, she was just a fucking cat. get a fucking grip”.
I’m no stranger to the loss of pets, either; we had a family Dog that died a year or so that we’d had since I was in fifth grade. In many ways I grew up with the dog. But when she was getting old and we put her down- I wasn’t sad, or angry, or anything; I was disappointed, but death is inevitable. And she had lived a long happy life. Same for various other pets who have died from assorted causes. Shit happens, and you deal with it- no sense getting emotional over it, right? Even when family members have died, after the initial “holy shit they’re gone” period, I still have the memories of their life and (assuming we were at all close) various events and memories we had shared. And that is with human beings; somehow I feel that is fundamentally different; They were sentient people, with families and jobs; a pet is just an animal you keep as a companion; logic dictates that a pet dying should be no different than losing your favourite book. But emotion tells us that an animated, living object has more value than an inanimate object (with the possible exception of insects, bugs, and so forth). And up to now, my feelings about losing various pets has reflected that. But this instance has an overriding factor that makes it both more real and stronger.
So that brings about the question- what makes this one different? There is one, blatant difference between the experience of losing this pet compared to all the others.
I watched her die, and it was anything but peaceful
That changes the entire thing for me. While I can remember her, as a cat, I don’t think I can ever remember her without also remembering the way she died. In those brief few seconds where I watched the life drain from her, as she fought for every last breath, every lasting second of her dwindling life being only the result of a fierce determination to hang on, the memory burned itself into me, overshadowing at least in part all other memories about her, so that when I think of her, the first thing that pops into my head is her death. With my other pets, I wasn’t there for their death’s so my memories are typically about their life; not their death. You know, you remember the various fiobles that set them apart from each other and other pets. Thinking about it now, I can’t remember any of those when I think of her. All I remember is the 10 second period where I was half awake, hearing the struggling sounds that in my idiotic naivety perceived to be her playing; the 5 seconds after being fully awakened and suddenly growing concerned at the violence of her activity. Then the smell, which told me something was critically wrong. Grabbing a nearby flashlight and peering underneath the bed. And not within 10 seconds of that, watching her last half dozen breaths, as she stared at me, with an expression that essentially asked me if she could give up yet, which I of course responded with a look of perplexity as I let the situation sink in. watching one last violent thrash as her last breaths were acquiesced only through a dogged refusal to accept the inevitable. And then, she was still.
I will never forget those few seconds where I strained to see her chest moving to indicate she was breathing, certain that I simply wasn’t looking hard enough, She was still alive, she wouldn’t die, would she? Certainly there is a logical explanation for her behaviour. But there was nothing. Her body was still.
I will never forget my puzzled utterance of “Squeak?”, which came out more as an exclamation and affirmation that what I was seeing was in fact being seen with my own two eyes and was not in fact some sort of backwards nightmare.
I will never forget my frantic attempt to move the furniture in such a way to get to her, or my cursing of the nearby chair and desk for having the audacity to obstruct me from easily performing that task.
I will never forget having my hope that she was just breathing lightly dashed, as I moved the bed and exposed her head, and had two unblinking, and clearly lifeless eyes staring back at me, as her tongue hung out in what would in other circumstances be considered a comical fashion.
You know how people talk about “seeing the life in their eyes”? I always thought that was a phrase. I now know it’s not.