I Never Liked Pets…
I Never Liked Pets…
I have an admission to make: When I was younger, I didn’t like pets.
Actually, nobody owned pet dogs or cats when I was a child in my poor immigrant neighborhood. Dogs were considered frivolous or dangerous, and were expensive. The feral cats in the local alleys seemed furtive and weird, and disinterested in human contact. When I saw either of these creatures, I was somewhat uncomfortable and kept my distance.
Allow me to fast-forward many years, after pets were foisted upon me by my family.
Our pet cat Cookie recently passed away at the age of seventeen years, which was devastating to our daughter with whom she had grown up. My wife cried and (even) I teared up.
Over the past few years we “owned” two female pets (perhaps “were owned by” is more accurate). Cookie was an Orange-Ginger Tabby Cat, and Daisy is a large English Yellow Labrador Retriever, although she’s white as the driven snow. Our young daughter bestowed their names which “stuck” as if preordained.
Cookie was a fearsome feline, a force to be reckoned with. She was “La Donna” of our household, which included three humans (decidedly lesser beings in her opinion). She was El Capo, Il Duce and the God Mother all rolled into her modest orange tabby cat frame.
Although often aloof, she could be loving and cuddly, but she tended to reserve those behaviors when she wanted certain needs fulfilled, like extra caressing or food. We were there solely to be used by this haughty and imperious Empress of her Domain (our home).
When she evinced an innocent-looking, even sweet demeanor, we were lulled into warm feelings towards her, momentarily forgetting her strategic plans. And if perchance what she received was not quite what she desired, she would become remarkably demanding, loudly meowling and howling miserably. She was also unpredictable, suddenly acting churlish and cantankerous, threatening us with hissing, scratching or occasionally biting.
Daisy, on the other hand, was Cookie’s opposite. She obviously hadn’t read the classic book, “How Labs Behave” because she eschewed natural Labrador activities: She would not deign to retrieve anything thrown for her to chase (so-o boring, couldn’t be bothered). She might allow her paws to get damp at a shoreline, but would never swim (so plebeian, too wet and cold). She liked walking slowly to inhale ambient hidden aromas, but running was abhorrent to her (so-o tiring, no smells).
Though not intellectually gifted, she excels at a few remarkable feats: She can sniff out smells from unfathomable distances and her olfactory memories are beyond belief, lurching towards the original sites months afterwards. She’s an insatiable eater with a voracious appetite for any type of foodstuff, especially if cringe-worthy or disgusting.
Daisy gives new meaning to the word ‘cuddle,’ as she loves to snuggle up to her “indentured” humans at home. But given the possibility of extra petting or food from a stranger, she immediately leaves our side and shows affection to whomever.
Daisy is friendly to all beings, the epitome of mellow and caring (especially when one of us is ill).
Daisy was physically much larger than Cookie, looming over the cat’s smaller frame, but she learned quickly that Cookie was the dominant partner. She showed Daisy she was not to be trifled with, by hissing or swiping her fore claws at her mellow Lab sister, who would calmly back away, deferring to her highness.
Surprisingly, these dynamics began changing over a few short months, and it became clear their relationship was evolving into a close friendship. They would sleep nearby, would nuzzle, lick, sniff nether anatomical reaches and groom each other. Cookie, wonder of wonders, even became friendlier to us mere mortals.
In her seventeenth year, Cookie visibly began to decline. She lost weight, her strength diminished, and her vocalizations became quieter and weaker.
She avoided Daisy, and even as Daisy would try to nurture her, Cookie would move away. Daisy was visibly confused by this change in her friend, and seemed somewhat forlorn.
After a few weeks, we were told by the veterinarian that Cookie’s lungs were filled with malignancy and she was uncomfortable. Surgery and chemotherapy were not viable options, and we were advised to “put her down” (euthanasia).
This was done in a most respectful and ceremonial manner, with her three human guardians present, who cried and grieved.
Daisy also visibly mourned, moping around with less zest. Even a month afterwards, each time we return home with Daisy, she immediately looks for her friend in her favorite haunts.
Cookie had been adopted as a kitten for my daughter and her mother, and I merely acquiesced. But even when she complained or hissed, I was more bemused than angry. I even came to love her…Now there is a void, and I miss her formidable presence.
As an original disdainer of pets, I have become at ease with them, even an aficionado and devotee. I’ve learned from my own experience and from science about their worth in promoting a sense of well-being, quality of life and longevity.
I also learned salutary lessons about life from Cookie as a result of her existence, as well as in her death. Despite her at-times difficult nature, she in fact enhanced our lives and our family.
In her passing, we all experienced and suffered the painful loss of a meaningful being and a force of nature in her own right. Cookie was an integral member of our family, a close and dear friend, a worthy soul.
I stand corrected.