When your family loses a pet, your ENTIRE family loses a pet. Not just your two footed bi-ped members, but your furry four footed ones as well. The purpose of my writing today - a friendly reminder to take care of your furry friends (as well as yourself) during this very tough time.
I’m ashamed to say that when we first lost Newton, I was so lost in my own anguish that I forgot this all important thought.
Of course, I kept up with their daily routine and was a good parent – but not a present one. I was stuck in a self-centered sad bubble of a life for a little while. Thankfully I went home to my parents at Christmas time to
drink a lot of wine and cry heal. This was a change of pace for Stewart and Frankie and they got a ton of attention they so deserved.
Merriam-Webster.com describes grief as;
2. a cause of distress (as an unsatisfactory working condition) felt to afford reason for coplaint or resistance
Obsolete, so final and definitive. Exactly how I felt.
The point I’m getting at is that for those first few weeks, I was lost. I was grasping for reason, some semblance of normalcy. I’m not beating myself up about this, as I was learning my way. Nonetheless what I should have been was a better, and more present Momma, to the two wonderful fur kids I still had.
To help give you some understanding of our story, I’ll share a little bit about my two lovely fur-kids.
The story of Stewart and Frank “the tank”
Stewart has always been the more resilient of the two. We had him from around the 4-6 week mark of his life. He literally found us and chose us to be his.
Stewart’s always gone in the car (LOVES it in fact), he’s gone on road trips, spent time with other members of our family, goes with us on our week long summer getaways. My point – Stewart has always surprised us with his acceptance of change.
In case you don’t believe me…
Most importantly, when we introduce new members into our family, he stays as cool as a cucumber. Here are some pictures of his first minutes with both new family members.
Frankie on the other hand, does not deal well with change.
We adopted Frankie almost 3 years ago when my fiance and I were volunteering at the SPCA. We were looking for a furry friend for Stewart, and found Frankie. He had been named “Gadget”. He was born and lived all 10 months of his life thus far in the kennel at the SPCA. We fell in love with him instantly. We found out that his hind end muscles had never developed properly, and he was left unable to jump, sprint or walk in a straight line. We chose not to be sad about this fact, it was just Frankie.
We like to think that as Frankie ran face first into the plexi-glass when he first saw us, he was giving us a sign… I mean COME ON… A cat trying to jump through fake glass to get at you?
We got approved for adoption and took him home almost immediately. Once Frank the tank was cozy, he showed us he does not like his routine disturbed. He’s actually kind of a jerk sometimes (albeit, our own lovable jerk). Wherever we went, he marked his territory by seeking out each and every corner of his new temporary home and hissing at it (obviously terrifying all the spiders lurking in the corners). Even so, I considered Frankie my little lovebug from the start, he snuggles whenever and wherever he can.
We both cheered him on as his back legs developed muscles over time. As he eventually learned to jump and run stairs for the first time, we were witnessing milestones really.
However, due to his temperament and aversion to change, I believe he was affected more then Stewart by Newton’s sudden departure from our lives.
During those first 2 weeks home, anything I saw of Newton’s made me burst into tears. I took everything that was “his” and placed it in the spare bedroom and shut the door. I couldn’t look. I noticed Frankie’s change immediately. He snuck around the house, my own personal “velcro”, then would let out what I can only describe as “yowls of death”. I thought something was seriously wrong with his health.
Then I had a thought.
I brought back out one of Newton’s dog beds. Immediately he curled up and stayed there for almost two days, leaving only to eat and use the litter box.
“I’m a terrible person for not trying this sooner”, I thought to myself. I lifted him off the dog bed and “traded”. I brought out one of Newton’s old blankets, which I folded and tucked into a basket. Four weeks later, Frankie still lays in his basket, with Newton’s blanket inside. He lays beside the couch from 7:30 pm – 11 pm every night
while I watch terrible reality TV. He does not come to bed with me like he used to, but I know he’s content where he is. There are no more “yowls of death”, and he acts like his happy self. Frankie still cannot run a straight line to save his life, but what really do you require that skill for?
The main thing is he’s back to playing with Stewart, inquisitive about new visitors and eating normally. So, why did all this happen?
My cat was grieving.
I’m not writing to make you sad, even on such a topic. I’m sharing this with you all to hopefully learn from my mistakes. I should have been aware earlier on, and helped make the transition for all in our household, as easy as possible.
Cesar Milan writes,
“A dog that has lost a companion may show signs of emotional distress with a lack of appetite, aloof behavior, or even be demanding of attention and affection. We have to remember that when a living animal relates to another for a long period of time, they do develop relationships; they do create habits, routines, boundaries and even rules around each other. When suddenly one of the ‘partners’ is no longer there, the dynamic changes.”
I think this can also pertain to cats as well. Frankie, never great with change, must have had quite the shock.
Messybeast.com further remarks,
“Though it may seem an odd question, how are you responding to the loss? Cats are sensitive to changes in human emotions, behaviour and routine. If you are upset, your cat will respond to this and may become anxious, depressed, agitated or physically unwell.”
Of course I was a mess! Not a hot mess at that… A cat is never “just a cat” and a dog is never “just a dog”. They are important members of your family. An important part of ours abruptly went missing, we were not whole. I was anxious, depressed, easily agitated and did not go back to my normal routine of work, gym, dinner, family pet time. Things had changed, and I had too. How could I not expect my furry friends to pick up on this? We needed to find a new normal. So we are picking up the pieces.
If you’ve lost a furry friend, I’m so very sorry for your loss. There is no time limit for grief. Take all the time you require, but make sure you do not get lost in it. Do not let it define you. Whether you like it or not, you will have to find your new normal.
My advice to you, should you go through this terrible ordeal, is observe your other pets’ behavior. Sometimes I’m sure what they need is to feel some semblance of normalcy – just as you do. Just as important, is to ensure you take care of yourself in this difficult time. I’ve offered suggestions that have helped me here. I should have also added to ensure that you give your pets some extra TLC. It’ll make you both feel better, after all snuggles never hurt. Do not feel bad if you find your feelings of grief do not subside. Know there are many groups and professionals available and ready to help.
Wishing you all happy days, it will get better.
Thanks for reading,