Uncertainty over pet’s fate changes grieving

BY RANDALL RIGSBEE
Posted 11/22/18

Grieving the loss of a pet is a singular pain of the heart that everyone, certainly all who have owned a pet, know.One of the things I find most poignant on Facebook – and it’s one of the …

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Uncertainty over pet’s fate changes grieving

Posted

Grieving the loss of a pet is a singular pain of the heart that everyone, certainly all who have owned a pet, know.
One of the things I find most poignant on Facebook – and it’s one of the few things I still find relevant about the social medium – are the posts I see, and they appear often, about the loss of a pet.
I say “one of the few things I still like about Facebook” because divisive politics, fake news, mean memes and such have made me retreat a bit from Facebook over the last couple of years. But about that topic, to quote the late, great Stan Lee, ‘nuff said, because that’s not what this column is about.
To get back on track, it’s about losing a family member, the furry kind.
Our pets leave us all sorts of ways: old age, illness, hit by cars and sometimes they leave us for no better reason than just because.
However the means, it hurts.
Two years ago, my wife and I lost our pet cat, whose name was Cat, when he suddenly left us, vanishing one day never to be seen again.
A rescue from a large litter of kittens born inside a warehouse in Pittsboro, Cat was a fixture around our house for seven years.
We watched him grow from a cuddly kitten to a morose teenager, then become a well-adjusted young adult before slipping into a sometimes cranky middle age.
It was around that middle age mark that Cat decided, of his own will and of his own insistence, to be an outdoor cat.
Leaving us little choice with his loud meowing and his persistent break-out attempts, we acquiesced to his demand to no longer be an indoor cat and we opened the door for him, and, though we worried at first, he soon demonstrated a strong ability to channel outdoor instincts.
While our worry eased a bit as months passed and he seemed to thrive as a (mostly) outdoor animal, that didn’t minimize the very real risks he – and any other animal in the wild outdoors – faced.
Once, Cat came home with a bad gash dangerously near one of his eyes, over which a swollen patch grew to a worrisome size over the course of the next couple of days. The vet fixed him up and Cat spent a couple of peaceful days lying about the house, recuperating. But he healed and was soon wanting to go back outside again.
A few months later, his full outdoor persona returned, Cat failed to show up for his late afternoon meal, which was unusual.
By sundown, his absence was notable, though not alarming.
When he still wasn’t home the next morning (we’d expected him to be meowing at the back door, demanding to come in) we started to worry.
A few more days passed, with no sign of our Cat. We’d talked to neighbors, of course, and walked around the neighborhood calling for him and looking for him or any signs of him, but there weren’t any.
As more days passed, we resigned ourselves to the likelihood that we’d seen the last of him.
There was, of course, the possibility that he was still alive, somewhere, but with no sign of him, and the growing sense that he wasn’t coming home, we grieved his loss.
Because of the uncertainty, our grief over lost Cat was a different grief than the loss of a pet due to one of those other causes I mentioned, but it was a painful grief nevertheless.
Around our house, we still miss Cat, still think about him, still wonder about him.
But there’s something else, too: hope.
Maybe, as I’m writing this, or as you’re reading this, Cat is curled up somewhere safe and warm on these cold, wet nights.
It’s nice to think so, as we head into the holiday season, which is, after all, the most hopeful season we celebrate.

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