We have six cats. Except soon we’ll have one less.
“Tiny tragedies waiting to happen” is how George Carlin referred to owning pets, and he’s right – when you lose a beloved companion it is never easy, made harder by their shortened life spans and the aching hole left in your life after they’re gone. It’s something that you have to accept as part of being a pet owner, but when it’s time to say goodbye to an animal that’s been a member of your family for the better part of a decade it’s still heartbreaking.
We don’t exactly know how old our eldest cat Eden is. We rescued her – or she rescued herself – when the wife and I were living in New Paltz over eight years ago. She was a fully-grown adult cat even then, though she had been much the worse for wear after at least a year or so outside. I pulled into our parking lot one day, opened the door, and blinked as she jumped into the car with me to escape the rain. Even then we didn’t bring her inside, though we did set up a cardboard box with some food on our porch for her. However, once the rain gave way to thunder and lightning my wife found her cowering under our porch, shivering and terrified – and that was it.
She was a raggedy thing when we finally brought her inside, thin and weak and covered with ticks. We nursed her back to health and we were delighted at her progress – she filled back out, became playful and healthy, and charmed us with a meow that sounded like a cross between a quack and Carol Channing complaining about something. We called her our Grey Lady, the grande dame of the household. A bit standoffish with other cats, she was nothing but affectionate and loving with us, though she sometimes would show her love by walking over our heads in the middle of the night, purring all the while. She also loved toasting her little pink toes by the heater, warming her old bones happily.
Our daughter and Eden bonded particularly well. Wherever she was before she came to us she must have been in close proximity with children, because Eden didn’t even bat an eye when we brought little Ellie home. In fact she was the first of our cats to warm to our daughter – and when you’ve got a wriggling infant that grabs everything in order to put it in her mouth, that’s saying a lot. Eden was always gentle and patient with Ellie’s not-so-tender ministrations, greeting her with a purr and even a headbutt. I’m glad that she and Ellie had so much time together.
Eden is old and tired. She’s earned her rest, especially after living hard for heaven knows how many years before we rescued her. I can only be eternally thankful that we gave her such a warm, loving home for so long – and that she shared her love with us so completely. I will miss her terribly, as will my wife – but we would not trade this grief it if meant never having had her in our lives. The joy outweighs the sorrow, and it always will. It just takes time for that fact to become evident.
We’ll miss you, Eden. We love you very much.