Thousands dead overseas. A perspective.

We had to put down one of our cats.

Well, not even our cats, really. One of our older son’s cats.

We have two sons. Lets call them Rebo and Zooty. (2 points for the obscure pop culture reference)

Rebo is older by 2 years. He went away to college and left us his cat. In college he moved from the dorm, which did not allow pets into an apartment which didn’t allow them either, but he and his girlfriend got one anyway. Then he graduates, marries, and moves back to the area into an apartment that would charge him $1000 a year for him to house the cat there. So we get another cat. Two cats are not really any more trouble than one if you have gotten used to the notion of having a cat in the first place.

The cats we’ll call Frodo and Sam. (Easy reference this time, no points)

Frodo was a gray and brown tabby mix and Sam was an all black Manx. Nice cats really. Frodo was very friendly and affectionate, especially to my wife. He was her little fuzzy friend, followed her all around the house, would jump up into her lap and lick her face when she went in to feed him in the morning. Very friendly. This made it all the tougher when he became incontinent after 6 years. At first it was little spots of urine. This was a pain, but we could deal with it using a lot of carpet cleaner and deodorizer. We tried vets and the animal hospital. No help. It seems that he was part Manx, which would account for his bob tail. But the muscles that move the tail also close the bladder sphincter or valve or whatever cats have. Anyway the little guy could not be fixed. We tried this drug designed for dogs that supposedly strengthens those muscles but either it didn’t work on this cat or, since he didn’t like it, even with the tuna flavoring, he just spat it out. Eventually the spots became puddles and the puddles began to contain blood because the urine was burning his little cat parts. Ouch. And one day after cleaning up a whole trail of blood across the kitchen floor we made that hard decision.

The animal shelter has an option of letting you be with your pet to comfort it. Why make it’s last moments be spent with stangers? So we were there with the kitty, petting him as he went to sleep. Not the world’s best experience. Having lost pets before I know that folks will grieve over animals, maybe as much or even more so as they grieve over people – and this will seem alien to a lot of people. One would think in our supposedly “Christian” society that the loss of a human would naturally overshadow that of animals. The reality is that people are not so nice to each other, despite all our religious philosophizing. There was once a commercial on television for some forgotten product that noted that “Dogs don’t start wars. Dogs aren’t crummy to another dog because of where he came from or what color he is…” And maybe that accounts for the affection most people have for their pets. Fuzzy friends that are always there for us, that read and adapt to our moods. They are never too busy to sit with us, and are always happy to see us. Yeah, they are always happy at mealtime, but all the pets I’ve ever had seemed happy and overjoyed just with my company. Who couldn’t love a friend like that? And who wouldn’t miss them when they die?

We live in a troubled world. You’d think that what with hurricanes and earthquakes and such there would be enough natural disasters to keep folks busy that we wouldn’t need wars. I wish that when I hear that some person in some far off land has died I could feel a loss as I felt with little Frodo.

ADDENDUM 2/20/09 For anyone interested in seeing photos of the cats, my wife, Kathy A. Albetski, has posted them on her page here. They are under their real names; Nugget (Frodo) and Chairman Meow (Sam).

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Adriel Hampton

I’m sorry for your loss.
To your larger point, empathy is terribly important, but it can also be overwhelming. If I felt the personal pain of each loss of live – and I know about way too many because of the modern media – it would be psychologically overwhelming (this is why people who live under dams stop worrying about it – if we as humans couldn’t shut off those feelings, we’d be overwhelmed). I guess the key is not allowing that mass saturation to totally kill our empathy, and to keep acting for the good.

Ed Albetski

Adriel: Thank you. Good point. I wrote this I think as a thought piece for myself. In getting older I’ve been examining my own feelings more and more. When I hear about death tolls in the hundreds and thousands I’ve never appreciated the loss so many people must feel. I don’t want to be one of those who just shrugs and turns to the comics.

Steph: No Zappa’s kids are Dweezil and Moon-Unit. Rebo & Zooty are a comedy team played on the science fiction show Babylon 5 by Penn & Teller. Zoot zoot.

Rita Rich

My deepest condolences. Making that hard choice of when to let a pet go is hard. I cannot imagine how I’d feel about having that responsibility for a human being.

While I agree with Adrial’s point I think there’s a less deep reason for the enormous feelings we have when a pet dies. When we take on the responsibility of living with a pet, we invest, both emotionally and monetarily in the outcome of that relationship. We provide food, medical care, and truly, creature comforts for our pets. In return they provide hours of amusement, companionship and that unconditional stuff that is so mesmerizing.
You can hold a four legged creature on your lap and have it in bed with you on a cold winter’s night to keep yo warm. You walk in the door and, yes, even cats, will show their pleasure in your arrival. Try getting a good morning from a person you see day in and day out as you come and go from your office building. It doesn’t always happen.
Don’t be surprised if you feel overwhelmed with strong emotions because of the loss of your pet from you and your family’s lives. Your pets were part of your family. The masses killed everyday by war, terrorism, famine and natural disaster are two-dimensional compared to the real loving beings that you live with and that’s the key to your emotions.

Ed Albetski

Thank you, Rita.
This post was more from the gut to work out my own feelings about a number of things. One motive was as an explanation or a backlash to those who cannot comprehend anyone grieving over an animal. When I heard that Leona Hemsley had left 20 million dollars to her dog my eyes rolled, but I could not deny that I understood the feelings behind it. It’s complicated.

L P O'Neil

I think Zappa’s kids are Moon Dust,…. no Moon Unit… and Dweezil? Dweeb? Something like that.

Just wanted to say that I’m sorry about your loss. Change, life, death, thriving, failing, mutating, composting — all part of the wheel. All sentient beings are worth our consideration and kindness.
Christian-ism doesn’t have a monopoly on loving kindness.
Jesus of Nazarath, on the other hand, was good to people, as far as the reports go.