The death of a pet (and how it relates to religion)
07/02/09 [A draft written in some haste, so bear with me if it's not polished.]
Why is the death of a pet so hard on us animal lovers?
Today, in my home, we are facing the death of my daughter’s much beloved, 8-year-old calico cat Chip. She was my daughter’s 8th birthday present. Of course she’s much too young to die. We expected many more years with her sweet, purry, nature. Now this beautiful creature will pass from our lives before sunset. For whatever reason her kidneys have failed, and there is nothing that can be done. It quite took us by surprise. We have a photo of her walking about in the yard less than a week ago and she seemed OK then.
Today Chip is here. She’s so lethargic. We’ll take her to be put down once the summer school day is over and everyone is home. Right now we are so quiet. At various times we sit down and pet the little sweetheart and tell her how sorry we are for this, and tell her how much she is loved and always has been. We think how shocked we feel that one who so recently was wrestling with her fellow cat could now be so obviously ill and dying.
How and why does all this hurt so?
I think it’s in part because good pets are always decent and good. Oh sure, they have their quirks. They may chew on things, and knock things over, and not always come when you call.
But when you’ve had a lousy day, they’re there. You can just pet them and talk at them, and they just let you. Maybe they nuzzle you, or purr, or lay in your lap or at your feet. They don’t care if you had a bad day, or if your ugly, or anything. They accept you. They ask only food, shelter, and a little attention and kindness.
Like few things in this world, you can count on a good pet like few other things in the world.
That’s part of the pain of losing I guess. You’ve always known you could pet, cuddle, and enjoy this loving creature. And now he or she is gone.
Never to see that beautiful, mostly white, calico coat. Never to hear her loud purrs. Never again to touch her sort fur. Never to have her nuzzle a face or hand. Never to look into those big, yellow/green eyes.
And it’s one more thing that reminds you that nothing on earth lasts forever. When your beloved pet goes, you miss them so and at the same time there’s an awareness that everything else will go too. You can’t count on wrapping yourself in your job, or friends, or family, or house, or sports club, or anything; because by and by bits of pieces of it will all pass away.
Losing that precious little beastie hurts because you’ve lost something lovely and lovable, and you can’t help but know that everything else is impermanent too.
That explains a lot of religion. A desire for something permanent that you can rely on, no matter what happens in this life. It’s part of why religions have always been, and always will be, part of human life. We’re all justifiably insecure. We want an anchor.
Wish there really was one.
Meanwhile, we are going to mourn and miss Chip. Poor, little, loveable sweetheart.