4/11/03

Lesson Five

Dead puppies aren't much fun

One of the saddest things I've ever heard is that animals don't know death. The thing that truly separates humans and animals is not that we have language- it's that we know death. If animals had language, yes they could know death, but they do have a fundamental language, based probably on instinct/mating/and warning sounds. Animals do no know death, and therefore lack the ability to have a proper death, but while they do not know it; they still fear it, whatever it is. Hence instincts. Still, I think it's so sad, especially with the amount of animal death I've known.

I love animals. Some people would say I love animals with a scary devotion, which is only half-true. While I love dogs, they've always come second to cats. I love cats more than I love people, probably by about ten-fold. If I hit a person with my car, I'd be afraid that I'd be in trouble, how much it was going to cost me, if I was going to go to jail, but nothing deeper than that. If I hit I cat, I'd probably cry and try to find its owner, or take it somewhere if it looked like it could live, and generally be remorseful and upset.

I have always had cats on as much of what I own as I possibly can. I have cat plush toys all over my room, kitties on my bathrobe, lion slippers, in most of my artwork, on every card that my friends give me for birthdays or Christmases, and I've always had at least one real cat living with me. I was too young to truly appreciate having my own cat- that and he was given back to the humane society two days after my parents got him, because he was shredding my comforter- and my parents kept having so many kids, that I never had my own cat. Every year I asked Santa for my own kitten and every year Santa failed to come through.

The cats that I did have, though not completely mine, generally liked my mother and I the best of our family.

I have known three of my pets to be put to sleep. The others died of unnatural or nature causes. The first animal to be put to sleep was Tyra, a good old German shepherd. I visited her at her doghouse every day. I knew she wasn't going to make it very long. She had been a good, playful, loyal dog when she was young. She deserved to be treated kindly as an old dog.

I visited her every day. Every day but her last one.

I came home from school, and went out to the garage where her house was. She was old, and the cold nights weren't kind to her, so my parent's let her sleep in the garage. I went there to say hello and pet her, and talk to her like I would before school. But I had forgotten that morning, and that afternoon she wasn't there.

I never got to say goodbye. When I told my father, he said "Oh. I thought you would stand in our way."

No! I knew she was old. I knew it was what was best. I just wanted to say good bye.

My father brought home a cat once, an alley cat. A raw, off the streets of Lowell alley cat. Kitty was such a nice cat. He was probably six years old by the time my father decided to stop feeding him at his office and just take him home and make him a pet.

Kitty was as tough as they come, or at least, you could tell that was how he used to be. He was never tough with us, or even bit anyone. He loved us, because we had offered him somewhere warm to sleep and a full dish every morning. We had Kitty for five years, until age started to catch up with him.

He had urinary and vision problems. My parents got him help several times, but after a while, as he got worse and worse, they realized we couldn't afford to keep fixing him only to have to fix him again. He was in pain. He was hurting. It wasn't fair to keep him around any more.

My father told me in the morning that he was taking Kitty to our vet, Dr. Ali. I said "Ok." I knew what he meant, so I spent the day with Kitty. I pet him as I lay there on my bed. I was so upset. Here was my cat, enjoying being loved on, and tomorrow he would be gone. He would cease to exist. I knew all of this, and cried and hugged him, but I had to make my time count. I had to be a thought in his mind on his last day, if only to make myself feel better about it.

Then, lying there on my bed, I had the most wonderful thing happen. All my life, since having cats, I had wanted a cat that would fall asleep on me while I fell asleep. Crying, I barely noticed when Kitty first put his paws on my stomach, but finally I did. Then I saw; he had his upper body on my stomach, his head resting on his paws, and his body curled tightly against me. Kitty was asleep. He had given himself to me as a lap cat, on that his last day. He had offered me what I wanted, only to be taken from me because of age and pain.

I didn't mind though. He had given me that. It's one of the reasons I respect animals, and know that they have some sort of connection with their people. They can sense things, even when we're not trying to project anything. Strong emotions and animals are more powerful than people give them credit for.

Tyra had a playmate that was several years younger than her: Ginger. Ginger was a playful mutt. She was like a puppy throughout all of her life, up until the end. She was a beautiful dog, even though no dog breeder would agree with me. Her golden fur was sleek, and her black fur looked like velvet. Her ears were soft, her eyes were a black-brown, and she had a good nature to her that radiated from her body. She could fetch a stick and catch treats if you tossed them to her, though sometimes she'd have to jump in the air to make the catch. Most of the time, I thought she was just showing off.

As Ginger got older, a cancerous lump grew on her side. Like Tyra before her, Ginger had started to bite her ankles and legs raw. The cancerous lump was beginning to get too large. Ginger was too weak, and for the first time she lost the spring in her step, and started to look like the old dog she was.

She had to be put down. My father told me this, that he was taking her that afternoon. I didn't… couldn't bring myself tell the little kids, but I thought it only fair to tell my brothers what was going on. I had my sisters come out and play with Ginger. I took pictures of her, such a good old dog, and she played with us. She ran on her run, and made silly but brave attempts to jump a bit, to show her delight. I like to look at those pictures, which mercifully don't show the lump on her side or the raw bite marks on her back legs, and remember the understanding her and I had with each other.

I often wonder if maybe Ginger would have been a bit healthier a bit longer if people hadn't forgotten about her. Like Tyra, I had made it a point to visit Ginger, but I was getting older and staying out longer. I didn't come home from school everyday at the same time, and sometimes had too much homework. Sometimes, I hate to admit, I forgot about her. It makes me feel better that I at least made the effort when I'm not even sure if my little sisters Jacqui and Megan will even remember her in five years from now.

After a certain point, no one played with Ginger. Even I didn't. I came and pet her and sat down with her. I threw her dog treats to catch, and she would do so with relative consistency. I didn't have the desire to play, even though I probably recognized such a desire behind her eyes on more than one occasion.

If we had played with her, I'm sure Ginger could have been alive longer.

Mitty. Baby Kat. I miss my Patches. She was a tabby cat. She was eaten by a Fisher Cat. She loved me, and I could feel it. She protected me; she felt safe with me. She curled up at night on my head. She would sleep on my stomach. I know Big Kitty's energy sent her to me. I know she sent me Auggie and Sabine. It just took a while, that's all. She was such a nice cat… it makes me very sad to think about how my mother heard the attack in the woods. It makes me sad to think…. I heard it took. But I thought it was cats. Two cats, fighting, mating. The noises sound the same. I would have gone to her, had I thought. I usually have an instinct for that sort of thing. I would have gone, and risked injury myself, to get that damn thing away from her. How dare it eat my kitty! Any fisher cat I see in my property, if I get a home when I'm older, is being shot in the fucking head. Eat my cat will you…

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As of 6/23/03, this is all I have of this.

Until,

Ollie