Becky writes regularly at From Where I Sit. This post was originally featured there.
In early January, I had to make a difficult decision about our cat, Inky. She had begun to lose control of her body and could not take care of herself. I was worried she was suffering and thought it might be time to let her go.
The vet agreed.
For nearly seventeen years, Inky was part of our family. Beyond entertainment and companionship, in the early years of her life she helped me teach my kids about handling responsibilities as they took turns feeding her and tending to her litter box.
She also gave me some great writing material. She was brave, outlasting the foxes more than once in my backyard. She was inspiring, steadfastly determined in her routines. And although she didn’t take to strangers very easily, she and my dog, Tripp, enjoyed a détente relationship of mutual respect—although I think Tripp respected Inky a little more.
Once the kids left for college, the family cat became my cat; the family dog, my dog. It’s funny how you get used to the routine an animal requires. With no more carpools or family dinners to anchor the day, their needs become a primary consideration, often structuring our plans.
Inky’s requirements were a sunrise feeding of dry food moistened with water, a pristine litter box, and a daily reservation on the warm sunny spot on top of the couch she claimed as hers.
Like children, our pets teach us how to care for them. We learn to read their signals, and Inky’s were quite clear. She had the you-better-feed-me incessant meow; the I-need-to-go-outside meow; and the always feared, you-better-put-me-down-now meow.
We listen. We learn. We try to train them, but mostly they train us.
Inky was finicky, easily earning that reputation by eating only the food in her bowl, never off the floor, should a morsel spill out. Tripp loved her leftovers, dashing back to the bathroom where I fed his persnickety sibling as soon as he heard me open the door for her to go outside.
Since she left us, I keep hearing her hungry meow, and Tripp still rushes in to check the empty spot of her food bowl on occasion, but slowly we’re adjusting to life without Inky.
Then a card came in the mail.
With a handwritten address and return address—so rare these days—I thought it was perhaps a belated New Year’s card. But when I opened it, instead of a bold cheer for the year ahead, a beautiful dark purple flower greeted me, opened toward a muted light. A drop of water rested on one outstretched petal, sparkling. Around the edge of the card were patterned tracks, the faintest of paw prints.
Still puzzled, I opened it to read:
And I cried.
I swallowed hard, reading on. The vet and her two assistants not only signed the card, but wrote personal notes to me, expressing sympathy and hopes that memories would soon fill the emptiness.
How thoughtful. And how right they were! Without Inky, the cadence of my life has changed. Still, I am grateful she is not suffering, grateful she was in my family’s life.
Now it’s time to let the memories win.
How about you? Have pets touched your life? Tell me about it. I’d love to know.
Becky (Nana B)
Sign up here if you’d like to receive Thoughtful Thursdays via email.