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They Precede Us and Then We Follow

by S.J. 10 months ago in feature
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Why even though it hurts when they leave us, the brief time that they are with us is always worth it.

A week ago I was flying high; I was walking out of a stellar interview with a positive attitude and the mindset to lay out in the backyard and soak up the gorgeous sunlight. A week ago I was flying high.

And then before the night ended my world collapsed.

We were watching tv in the living room, enjoying how lazy we were all being. I was enjoying how normal it felt, all of us just being together... I was enjoying how, for the first time in my life, I was experiencing being happy.

And then above the laughter and mesmerizing flashes on the television screen, we heard this heartbreaking choking sound coming from the other room. It was my 3 year old Maine Coon; he was having a heart attack.

He had been unusually lethargic all afternoon, but not enough to raise an alarm. Just enough to take notice.

The moment I took him into my arms I knew. I desperately needed to be proven wrong… But the moment it happened, I knew.

He looked up at me for a brief moment before he convulsed and started shaking. My teary pleas to the heavens went unanswered as I ran for the bed- logically I knew better, but I hoped that he was still with me as I laid him down and pressed my face into his fur. I prayed that he felt how much I loved him and how desperately I wanted him to stay with me.

There is a genetic heart disease that is common in Maine Coon cats… A fact that I have never been aware of. Apparently, according to my novice research abilities, Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, also known as HCM, is a disease that most Maine Coon cats possess. It’s a genetic heart condition that leads to the muscles of the heart to thicken and eventually results in a heart attack.

A week ago I was flying high.

And then my baby was taken away from me.

And I didn’t get the job.

And now I’m sitting here looking at his favorite sleeping spots wondering if it was something that I did.

And then I wonder if it’s because I didn’t make the bed that morning… Because making the bed is an accomplishment and it’s how you start every day successfully.

I know I did nothing wrong. But he was mine and he was my responsibility.

He was my baby.

I miss him so much.

What I would give to bury my face in his unbelievably soft fur and hear him trill and purr just one more time.

He was a beautiful animal that had been born in NYC and had the attitude and personality to prove it. He was there during my dark time. He was there through my healing time. And I was able to have him with me when I finally discovered happiness…

Why do we put ourselves through these heartbreaking situations?

Next month marks the 3 year anniversary of when my Siamese developed kidney cancer because of the wet cat food that I gave her.

A little thing I’ve discovered… If you see commercials for the product, the product is probably not good. In fact it’s probably terrible. Just don’t do it. Don’t.

I don’t think I’ve cried so hard in years. Three years to be exact.

Why do we put ourselves through these heartbreaking situations?

In the midst of my agonizing (and definitely embarrassing- I can only imagine what I looked like with mussed hair, a wet, swollen face, and snot all over on top of that.) My best friend called me and answered my question.

Why do we put ourselves through these heartbreaking situations?

Because the amount of pure, unadulterated love that our pets give us makes up for all of the heartbreaking things that come after they leave us. Because our pets, when they imprint on us, and when they decide that we are the center of their entire world, are the ones who truly teach us what it means to love unconditionally.

My boyfriend’s 13 year old daughter wants nothing more than a kitten for her birthday.

Her birthday was over the weekend.

A few days after my baby passed away.

The hugs and sympathetic support that she has given me has made this awful heartbreak a little easier.

It is still too soon for me.

My heart still aches when I hold his collar in my hands and my vision still gets blurry when I look through the pictures in my phone.

But she has been kind and understanding.

She sees the sadness and the emotional turmoil.

She’s 13 years old and she still knows that it is all worth it.

To have a pet is one of the most beautiful gifts that a child can receive. However, it is very important to match the type of pet with the specific child (or person). Someone who is introverted should not have an active pet, and vice versa. And it is important to instil the knowledge of how important it is to care for a pet, to not only be responsible for its life, but to value it as well.

Last week I was flying high.

And then my world crashed as my cat, my pet, my baby lay still in my arms.

This week I am slowly healing.

I would not trade a single moment. Every cute trilling purr that I received when I walked through the door. Every cute little game that we played- hide and seek, throwing jangly balls across the room… Or when I would return home with my laundry bag filled with freshly folded and pressed clothes- he would jump onto it with his muscled legs and hold on as I pulled it down the hall.

The first time I slipped the harness around his body I thought he was going to rip me to shreds with his angry meows. But the second he got to run the length of the backyard and chase the fireflies, his world exploded into a million colors and feelings. He was experiencing the outdoors.

The second time I brought out his harness, his body was positively vibrating from the purrs that he couldn’t hold back. He threw himself down on the carpet, completely elated that he was getting another chance to go outside.

The emotional pain. The tears. The nearly unbearable congestion and stuffed up nose that comes from the crying and the sobbing… I would not give up a single moment that I had with my pet in order to avoid these heartbreaking things. In fact I would double the pain if only I could have a little more time with him.

So, if you are wondering if it’s worth it to invest your heart into having a pet… Think long and hard about all of the responsibilities. Not everyone is meant to have a pet- and that is perfectly acceptable. Like having a child, having a pet requires a lot of time and consistent attention and work. And love. It requires a lot of love from you. If you are unable to provide that, then please reconsider putting an innocent animal in a neglectful situation.

Last week was hard.

This week is a little less hard.

And next week will be easier.

Atlas was a beautiful Maine Coon with gorgeously soft white fur and he loved me. And I loved him so much. My heart aches and my vision gets blurry when I think of him, but I know that he is somewhere above in Heaven with Lucy and Sassy and Sheba… And together they are with all of the other pets who preceded us waiting for us to follow.


About the author


I've lived in many different environments and have experienced many lives. I have also encountered even more stories.

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