And by not-so-great, I mean those that are prone to misbehave, to chew on furniture/pee on expensive handbags/eat food off the counter that’s still in a plastic bag, etc. If you’re lucky, you’ll have known one or more of these creatures. Very recently, my good friend found himself saying goodbye to one, the noble cat Arthur, aged 21…that’s a really long time to live with a companion, and suddenly have them be gone. If you’ve spent any amount of time with an animal that you’ve loved, you know how overwhelming it can be when they leave us — not at the door when you come home, not on your pillow at night, not rattling around quietly in their habitat, in the background, always there.
I recently read Jon Katz‘s new book Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die. I’ve had quite a few animal companions: several dogs, a hamster, hermit crabs, mice, numerous fish, eight cats, and a backyard snake that I named Brownspots and believed that he was my snake, and that he smiled at me every day. Right now, I have six cats that range from 9 to 16 years old–some in the glory years of their plush, kibble-filled lives, others in their dotage. I know what’s coming, and I’ve been through it before, but sometimes I feel like I need some help getting ready for it, being prepared. I picked up Katz’s book not knowing if I would like it, but thinking that it might offer me something without being dismissive, treacly or new-age. It ended up being incredibly helpful for me. Among many things, it helped me to understand that my emotions and worries about my pet’s dying are mine, not those of my pet — they live life in the moment, right up to the end, and that is where my focus should be. It also reminded me to remember all the years that came before the end, to not let the (sometimes scary/stressful/painful) last moments overshadow everything else.
There’s a lot more to be found in this slender book, and I recommend it to anyone who’s loved an animal. The author is the owner of Bedlam Farm, and his books are full of interesting and honest insight about animals and humans, life on a farm, and life in general.