My best friend lost her cat this week. When one is an animal lover few things are more devastating than losing a cherished pet. I am of the opinion that one can form connections with animals just as powerful as those one can form with humans, and sometimes more so. You can choose your family (or at least those family members you choose to interact with or choose to acknowledge the existence of), you can choose your friends, but one thing you can't choose is which animal you'll connect with on a spiritual level. They do that for you. Animals do come and go through one's life, and they are all special, but there are those who transcend special and become almost like an extension of one's soul.
Breyer was like that for my friend. This tiny six-pound Bengal cat became the one thing sometimes standing between my friend and utter despair. There were days, when she was going through one of her darkest spells, that she said Breyer was her only bright spot. She called Breyer her sunshine. My two best friends and I (the three of us have been best friends for over fifteen years) have gone through many pets over the years and comforted each other through many deaths, but there are those that stand out. They are the ones that form a deeper connection with us and the ones we feel the loss of just a little more keenly. I've loved all my pets over the years, but most of them have belonged to other family members like the two ferrets, Jesse James and Belle Star who belonged to my brother; my first German shepherd, Flag, who was really my parents' dog; the cats, Jasmine, Dukie, Splinter, and the Dachshund, Daphne who all belonged to my mother. When I moved to Wyoming I adopted two overweight cats, each missing a limb - one her tail, the other a leg. I loved both those cats but never fully bonded with either one. By then they might have been too old, dumped at the shelter after the death of the person who they probably really were bonded to. I do wonder sometimes if that is harder on an animal than it is on a human, to lose their soulmates. Usually they are unlucky enough to be dumped off at the animal shelter without a second thought. Many don't get a second chance.
Among my friends' pets were Baroness, Bear, Singer, Tanis, Chipper, and the dogs my friend in Texas went through that she never got completely attached to because she never knew when she would lose them. The ridiculous school of pugs that belonged to my Colorado friend's mother are in there somewhere too. At the height of that trend, I walked into their house and was immediately surrounded by at least fifteen snuffling, flat-faced little dogs, annoying but cute as hell.
I think of all these animals with fondness. They all have a place in my heart, but there are the ones that stand out, for me and for my friends
Mindi, the first cat I ever truly bonded with, was my blue-point Himalayan, my angel cat with mystical abilities.
Colleen was a four-week old tri-color collie puppy I fell in love with when I was fourteen, working at the animal shelter. My coworkers commented often that she only had eyes for me and would watch me constantly while I went about my work. I guess she imprinted on me, but unfortunately I lost her four weeks later to parvo.
Grey Lady belonged to my Colorado best friend (the one who lost Breyer), an independent, slightly crazy half-Thoroughbred mare who wouldn't let anyone rider her but my friend, though she'd love on anyone who'd give her the time of day.
Beauty was my Texas best friend's first horse. I never met her as my friend had her before we became friends, but she still talks about Beauty as the first and only horse she ever bonded with.
There was the nameless red heeler puppy my Texas friend imprinted on a few years ago at a flea market that she was unfortunately unable to adopt. She said it was love at first, an instant connection, probably a similar feeling I had with Colleen.
Constance, my Texas friend's black cat, was the only one out of forty barn cats her family owned when she was growing up that she felt that strong bond with.
Zulu is the Rottweiler with bone cancer who is the doggy soulmate of my friend here in Wyoming. She's shared her life with a lot of animals too, but Zulu is the one who's remained constant at least over the years I've known her, the one she describes as having the closest relationship with.
Of course there is Breyer whose bond my best friend can't even begin to describe, that's how strong it was. Fortunately among friends who know that bond, we are past having to explain it because words are clearly not enough.
And of course the four for me that are still alive - I love all four of them, but Puckett is the one I call my kitty soulmate. The only other two animals I've felt that strong of a bond with were Mindi and Colleen. All of my precious darlings get rushed to the vet the moment there is something allegedly wrong, but Puckett is the one I actually feel sympathy pains for, even when she's only faking it and using her status against me when she thinks I'm not paying enough attention to her. She knows me intimately enough to know how to punish me for leaving her for four days even though she loves me too. I am her savior after all, having pulled her from the animal shelter, practically hairless with an upper respiratory infection. Love can be painful and she is definitely no angel cat like Mindi. I still can't imagine my life without her.
That bond is what makes us swear we will never own another animal when we've watched a beloved suffer and pass on, yet we go out two, three months later and bring a new friend home, enriching our lives all over again.
It's a devoted pet owner force feeding her cat, every day without fail, a calorie rich diet and water in an effort to keep her alive because she can't bear to watch her starve to death, even when deep down she knows there is nothing else to be done.
It's curling up on the couch with a cat until four in the morning who is in the final hours of her life because that is the only comfort left to offer, until she finally passes on from kidney failure.
It's holding a disease-ravaged puppy in the vet's office as the injection is administered because it's the last act of love left, to be there as the life leaves her.
It's the guilt one feels for not being able to do more, for not catching the illness sooner, for not ending the misery sooner, or trying a different medication, or being supernaturally capable of loving the illness away completely.
And it's the knowledge that one's life will never be the same, but will always be a little bit better, a little bit brighter, and a little bit more worth it for having known them. We like to think we are their stewards and caretakers, but very often they are the ones taking care of us, keeping us sane and making our lives that much more bearable.
Here's to the animals, the ones that deem us worthy enough to connect to their souls and trust us enough to see into their hearts. They will never be forgotten and they can never be replaced. If one is lucky, they get to share their lives with any extraordinary animal. If one is truly blessed they find a Mindi or a Zulu or a Breyer or a Puckett. May you all be so blessed.