In July we lost our pet of nearly 18 years, a little black kitty named Dexter (or C.K. Dexter Haven - from the Philadephia Story. I've been thinking of him a lot the last few weeks. I've stumbled on some pictures recently, and others that I know have recently lost pets and it brings the feeling back.
Hubby and I were always adamant that we not be called Dexter's Mom and Dad...I never really understood why people did that. But yet, he was a child of ours in many ways, totally dependent on us for his care and feeding, subject to our moods and whims, and a part of our emotional health.
They say that pets can lengthen your life, lower your blood pressure, reduce your stress, and provide you with comfort simply by allowing you to stroke their fur, walk them around the block, listen to them purr or snore. I believe it. After his death, our house felt so very very empty at first that it was almost unbearable. It actually no longer felt like a welcome place to be. It was uncomfortable and silent. You see, Dex was antisocial with everyone except us. With us, he couldn't get enough. He always wanted to be with us - he loved parking on my desk - often wrapping his body around my laptop, enjoying the heat from it and watching my fingers on the keys.
But time changes things, and you adjust to the new normal. I think over the past six months we have stopped seeing him in every shadow on the floor, stopped waiting for him to come around the corner, ceased feeling a phantom jumping on the bed when one of us moves a certain way. There are moments, however, when I just cannot believe that crazy animal is gone. When I walk in the door at night, I feel it. For nearly 18 years I would walk in and he would run to greet me, and my greeting to him would be, "Hello Monster." Because he was a monster in so many ways. A bit of a sociopath honestly. But he was our sociopath.
It's funny to realize that our little Dexter witnessed our early years of marriage, several apartments and homes, and all of the events of our 20's and our 30's, eventually seeing us both turn 40. Far from being just a bystander, they are witnesses and participants in our lives and help us mark the time on this earth. We see them grow older more rapidly than we do - almost as a precursor to our own aging, often facing illnesses that may bring more suffering than quality of life can bear. Would that someone would show us the humanity of helping us depart the world in dignity as we can help our pets when the cure is worse than the illness, or when the pain and suffering gets to be too much.
I miss Dexter. He was a good companion, and always a good source of anecdotes because of his crazy antics. I think we gave him a good home. I think he had a good life. I think he would understand and hopefully appreciate that we put him to sleep knowing his life had little joy and a lot of suffering. I wish we could have allowed him a death in his sleep at home, curled at the foot of our bed, warming his fur in a sunspot, but we didn't have control of that choice.
I've found myself checking out websites for shelters in our area...looking at cats that need a new home. I think we're almost ready to do this again. Maybe we'll even get two cats this time. One for each lap, one for each pair of feet, a duo that can keep one another company while we go about our human business.
This time, we'll have animals who will witness our 40's, 50's and maybe even as we turn 60. If they are like Dex, they will give us as much care as we give them - and will comfort us, quiet our stress, and make us laugh. They may even drive us a little crazy, destroy a few loved pieces of furniture or bedding, and frighten our guests. But they'll be OUR little monsters, just the same.