There is no easy way to start this honestly. And in some ways, the connections I want to make in this piece, the two ideas that feel related to me, maybe they aren’t. They both deal with loss. And myself and people around me lately are experiencing loss.
First, I want to tell you two short stories. They are about two animal companions I kept. Within a month both of them died. Well, one of them died and one of them I had to put down. Until this moment, I haven’t really had the opportunity to process their loss. My house in their absence has been much more quiet. My responsibilities have changed. I still have one furry friend, but he’s always been quiet, distant. He’s a great cat. He’s been pulling more emotional weight than a cat should. I’m grateful for it.
It was around 2003 that Cash Mama adopted me. I was living in an apartment complex with a young lady. We went to change our laundry in the basement and this little black cat was there. She started to cry at us and we gave her some attention. She had a collar and tag that indicated she lived in another building in the complex. We went back upstairs with our laundry. Minutes later, my girlfriend asked if I heard a noise. We opened the door and Cash walked in like she already lived there. After finding out that her previous owners had abandoned her and a short stint at my mothers, Cash became our family member.
She was not quiet. Her name, my mother gave her in honor of June Carter Cash, was the perfect moniker. She sang all the time to express what always seemed like her displeasure. She was the alpha, not just of the other animals but of the house. She cuddled on laps, next to sleeping heads, and seated bodies.
Her last day was horrible. She could no longer eat after two and half years of degenerative digestive issues. It was a Sunday night and I knew it was pretty much over. But, the discomfort and pain finally took its toll. She died in a little bed I made for her as I pet her little head.
Fuzzy’s story is one of the most unusual I’ve had to tell about pets in my life. There are a lot of things about his life that I’m not going to talk about publicly. But after his former owner passed he became my charge. But I knew the moment he walked into my house he would be mine for the rest of his life.
I’ve never been much of a dog person. They are exited, loud, big and they smell weird. Even when they are tiny they seem big. Fuzzy was a scrappy, dirty, gross dog who loved to dig holes in my backyard and lay in the dirt. His face was all busted up with a huge over bite. He was totally loyal. Nothing loved as much as that dog and I have never felt as much love from another earthling as I have that dog, and I have a mother who loves me very, very much.
Fuzzy started acting weird right before Cash passed. We thought he had developed arthritis. A month later he wasn’t eating either. I thought he was still getting used to his medication. Turns out all his internal organs were breaking down. He was bleeding internally. I had no choice but the euthanize him. It felt and still does like a betrayal. I laid on the floor in the vet’s office as they injected him. He didn’t want to leave me. He wasn’t done with his job in his little dog mind. Apparently he had long been in pain and only in the last few weeks could not hide it.
Both animals were in there mid teens, which is a long time for a domestic animal. We don’t treat animals well in our society. I have a lot of mixed feeling about being a pet owner. Owner being a word I’m not comfortable with. But I am charged with taking care of them as I keep them in captivity. I think I feel more guilt about having them in my charge than anything.
Relationships with animals grow in a weird kind of intimacy. We project personalities on them, talk to them, rely on them to endure emotional labor that they do without question. Their loyalty is something we take for granted. We do the same thing with people too.
2016 seems to be the unraveling of many things we once held to be true. As such, I am seeing relationships unravel. From romantic, to professional, to familial and personal many people’s lives are being changed. Whom and how we rely on them these days is changing. Our needs and often our discomfort with our needs are becoming more important.
Watching relationships fall apart, slowly rotting away, remnants of what was there being covered up in the dirt and the bullshit is difficult to stomach. Seeing exhaustion in friends eyes, or hearing it in the words they say even when they are trying to say other things is sobering. Sometimes these little deaths are just as tearing as the bigger ones.
My entire life has been built on the ideas that resilience and momentum can always get us through. However my velocity has been slowed considerably and in that decrease of drive I found scars and wounds that maybe I wasn’t aware of or didn’t take the time tend to. And I see in the weary faces, here in the trembling words, watching as faces drop that I am not alone in all of this. Maybe it is time we slow down, tend to the lashes that life has given us and, more importantly, that we give ourselves. I’m not sure what stopping means, I don’t even know if that’s possible.
The Warmers song “Walking Solves It” plays in my mind over and over and over. keep moving. keep moving. keep moving. It’s all my brain will tell me to do, but maybe it is time to decrease my pace from what feels like a full on run, to a walk. Observe what’s around, recognize my direction, contemplate my destinations and see who else is on the path. And to those faces walking near me, on similar paths all their own, I see you. Thanks.