The animals in our lives often comprise the best of us. They are our companions on trips around the sun, far too often pre-deceasing us and leaving us bereft.
Why do we miss our pals so much? They provide us with uncomplicated relationships. They are not in contention with us about who will do the dishes or in conflict about what movie to go to. They accept us for who and what we are with nary a concern about our looks. They live in the moment, another valuable lesson for us.
In August of 2015, I met a cat named Garfield. He had been abandoned by his family two years before and made his home at a condo complex where I landed. This enormous orange cat with arthritis was a part of the landscape. He was good with people, dogs, and other cats. He was one of the gentlest beings I’ve met. If I were not allergic to cats I’d have taken him home. I seriously considered going back on major meds to take him in. My dog is cat-friendly.
Over the past two years, I’ve taken many a photo of Garfie. When storms rushed in I worried about him. When it was too cold I worried about him. A few neighbors have constructed him winter shelters on their porches. He loved a cat mom here dearly, but he always wanted out again.
The drama began last Friday when he was found in extremis on the lawn. Cat Mom and I rushed him to a local vet and – wonder of wonders – no one asked: Who is going to pay for this stray cat? (by the way, I have a new vet now)
Snake bite was ruled out. Poison was ruled in. He spent the weekend in the veterinary version of the ICU. When we left him to their care he was not capable of understanding what had happened but was in severe pain. His pain was relieved. Every effort was made to make him comfortable and to save his life.
Over the weekend the vet ran tests he didn’t charge for. And a few he did. That’s fair. Today we learned Garfield had no chance of survival. As a former nursing home social worker, I was all too aware of the medical terms being slung around. This was Garfie’s swan song.
Cat Mom and I were with him when he died. We spent time with him before the lethal dose was administered. He purred and cuddled with her and I stroked his fur one last time. His death was painless and almost instant.
There was not a dry eye in the room.
This crippled old abandoned cat had people who are friends of mine from around the country donating for his care. People who live where I live were donating. Children were pitching in nickels and dimes.
In a world where there is so much wrong, it sometimes takes a small, but personal tragedy to cause us to dig deep into our hearts, minds, and souls to recognize all of us (humans and our companion animals) deserve love, care, and compassion.
Animals are often the best of us. They teach us unconditional love and acceptance. They teach us to roll with the punches. And, if as happened with Garfield, we are surrounded by those who love us at the end of our days, that is the best any of us can hope for. He left this world in the arms of love. So many don’t.
Hug your companion animal tonight. Hug your partner. Hug your loved ones. Oh, and if you live near Tyler, Texas, I recommend Starnes Animal Clinic on South Broadway.