THE DEATH OF A PET
I love cats and dogs. I love having a pet but do not have one, but as age catches on and your children have gone away, you feel the need for something that would cuddle beneath your feet and sit on your lap and look at you with kind eyes. A pat on the head or a scratch behind their ears would be enough to enhance that feeling of togetherness and belonging. You may wonder now why I still do not have a pet.
Way back in my childhood I did have two pets though they never stayed with us at home. The first one was a cat, a beautiful white cat and which I had named as Snow White. Yes it was a female cat. I must have been nine or ten years old. I can never recall when she came into my life and when she left. Now when I look at the classification of cats, I can say she was an outdoor cat for she used to be out most of the time during the day coming only during mealtime. She used to come back at night and park herself in a bin in the backyard and which in course of time became her dwelling place. I do not know how many kittens she delivered in that dwelling of hers. But I remember that every time I used to look into the bin after she had delivered, she would look up at me with those kind eyes and purr softly conveying that she trusted me completely. In course of time the kittens would grow up and find their own way but some would not survive. It was sad seeing her hovering around her dead kitten and then look at me and purr softly, mourning. It was an age when I could not fully comprehend what death was, but Snow White taught me that. I cannot recall whether I cried, but now after so many years when those scenes come back I can feel that intense sadness which comes with the passing away of someone dear. It was after three or four years, that she stopped coming back home, she had disappeared. Every time I saw a white cat from far I would go running there to see if it was her, only to be disappointed for I knew those eyes too well. My grief has always been that I could never really give her a proper send off.
The second was a squirrel. I found it lying injured on the ground in our backyard. I picked it and took it inside the house and tended to it. This was right after my cat had disappeared and may be I was looking for something to fill that void. I named the squirrel Squeaky which for me at that time seemed most appropriate. I put him (to this day I have always presumed it to be a male) in an open cardboard box and which became his house. Squeaky picked up in health soon enough got used to his surroundings. I used to pick him up in my hands and gently stroke his back. I knew he liked it for he would always run on my arms and land up in my palm. I remember taking him with me in my shirt pocket to show off to my friends in school. He would climb on to my shoulders and then come back to rest inside my pocket. The time I spent with Squeaky was very short but enough to ensure a close bonding between us. Then one day he fell sick for he stopped eating and was lying exhausted inside the cardboard box. I did not disturb him though I left some water and a banana inside so that he could have them when he felt like it. A day later I found him dead and stiff and as I slowly lifted his lifeless body from inside something snapped and I started crying. My mother understood and let it pass. The grief was greater than the disappearance of Snow White for by now I had understood what it was to lose a dear one.
Ever since I never had a pet nor did I go in for one. A very close friend of mine lost his golden retriever dog some time ago. I felt sad on hearing about it and can imagine what his family and especially his daughter would have gone through. The last time when I had been to his house, I found the handsome bouncy big fellow come sniffing around my legs and then with a leap parked himself on his master’s lap. One morning they found him dead in the garden after having eaten something on which insecticide was sprayed.
You see the relationship with an animal is entirely an affair of the heart. There is no mind involved and as such no expectations. The only thing that it wants is food and affection in return for affection and loyalty. The life span of a domestic animal being much lesser maybe a sixth or seventh of a human, the chances that one will experience the loss of a pet is very great. This could be traumatic in the case of a child and a deep sense of loss in adults. As long as the pet is young and healthy they can be great stress relievers but as they grow old and sick and exhibit the symptoms of an aging parent, our concern also grows.
I read somewhere that parents while choosing pets for their children take the life expectancy of the pet in to consideration, as the child is more likely to be emotionally distraught if the pet dies, while some others might see a pet’s death as a chance to teach their children about death. But I do not know how far this works. For me I did not choose my pets, it just happened. They chose me.