Even in loss, our pets can bring us joy
We lost a family member a few weeks ago. I say this with the emotion that only a “pet person” can feel. We buried my little cat.
He was a stray found down at the office complex back when I owned Madagascar Coffee Company. The girls kept giving him saucers of milk so he stayed. I adopted him and made him my “office cat” for a while, but I was afraid he would get out and hit by a car on the adjacent busy road. Consequently, he became a house pet.
He was important for a host of reasons.
I named him Egbert Bailey Clark IV. My father was the “Third.” Thank God, my mother spared my brother and I that title. However, I felt it appropriate and justified to name the cat after him, since the poor creature couldn’t tell the difference.
Sadly, my father died a decade ago and “Bert” was the connection. Now that tie is gone as well.
I suppose my feelings of loss are tied up in the symbolism represented by his mere presence as much as his physical existence. With his passing, the flood of emotions surrounding the death of his namesake, my father, well up from their secure compartment in my soul. Most of the time, we are able to keep those deep feelings packed away, salving what is always a wound very close to the heart.
Events that seem unrelated to the outside world are tied together in our psyche in ways we frequently don’t understand. Bert’s death somehow made it OK to demonstrate emotions that I had learned to over the course of a life time to keep buttoned up. We need such outlets to keep ourselves in balance.
Pain and grief are as much a part of life as joy and pleasure. Despite the current feelings of loss, our pets, and we have a houseful, have the ability to brighten your day simply because they are there. They are beside themselves with infectious joy just because you came home. To see one of our pups trot up with his favorite stuffed animal in his mouth is priceless. “See Dave, I brought you ‘monkey.’ Doesn’t that make you happy?” Yes, it does.
For such reason alone, Bert held a very special place in my family and in my heart. He was an annoyingly affectionate creature. He would inch his way up into your lap and simply purr…loudly. Often, you could get fed up with his neediness, but in the end all he wanted to do was give and get love.
I wish that the human world was half so simple. For us, such pure emotions are inevitably complicated with trivial issues like appearances and social standing. Animals don’t seem to have such hang-ups. Our pets are happy to sit in just about anyone’s lap so long as they will pet them. That comment makes me think all the more fondly of that stupid little grey cat. Even now he can bring a smile to my face without even trying.
I have read that animals do not sense time in the same way we do. Humans are unique in their ability create artificial measures of time such as minute and hour. We use episodic memory in order to recall past events and look forward into the future. It appears that animals understand a more limited concept of time. For example, “My water bowl has been empty since the family left.”
Our pets are equipped with a natural instinct to live in the moment despite having an understanding of the concept of time. It’s that carefree attitude that allows them to forget about what happened yesterday (good or bad) and not worry a bit about what will happen tomorrow.
In that, there may be wisdom for us all. It is well and good to be human: to grieve, to remember specifics about events and people and to feel loss. Yet perhaps, we should also be less human and grasp that today is different. It is not dictated by what has happened before. It is a new day and can be just as full of happiness as the previous one may have been full of sorrow.
I was blessed to have that little creature in my life. So today, I will choose to be happy.