Recently a friend of mine had to put down her dog. A dog she had had for a really, very very long time. Annie.
My friend posted pictures over the years of Annie on Facebook. She was a black lab and my friend took her everywhere she went. Annie kept getting grayer, and grayer around her sweet face in the pictures, and I kept thinking, shit, Annie is old as fuck and probably gonna die soon. WTF is my friend going to do. I hope she doesn't lose it.
I've known people who invest all of their joy in their pets. More than even the most important people in their lives, they love that goddamned dog. It's really easy to do because animals are fucking awesome and don't ask us for much more than to be near us and give them food. But sometimes people seem to forget, your pet is gonna die. Probably before you do, so quit acting like the sun rises and sets out of it's ass. Quit spending money on chihuahua Halloween costumes and take the damn thing to the vet and get it's fucking teeth cleaned. February is dental health month, they'll offer a discount. Jesus. Seriously. This is a pet peeve of mine. Your dog doesn't need a gel manicure. It needs to be spayed or neutered, checked for heartworm, and it needs vaccine updates and a prescription for Revolution.
Anyhoo... I've always tried to be pragmatic about my pets, even though unfortunately I have a rep for being a cat lady. But you know what? I don't throw them birthday parties, or make them wear wigs or funny hats, or have their portraits taken with Santa. Another pet peeve of mine (so to speak). That shit is for YOU, the pet owner. They only put up with it because it seems to be making YOU happy.
I'm only saying all of this so I can tell you that my entire life doesn't revolve around my pets (although FB and Instagram tell another tale), but still what a gut punch it was when my cat Turtle died. It's been 4 years and I'm still tearing up at the memory of it as I type this. I still mist up sometimes when I walk by the spot in our house where he died in my arms. The spot where I sat for an hour after he was dead and soaked his silky fur with hot tears and screamed inhuman sounds into his little soft neck. Nobody but MDH knew that until now.
I didn't think I'd ever recover from losing Turtle. It was a grief unlike anything I had ever experienced. More intense grief than any person I've loved who has died. He'd been sick for a long time and in the course of doing everything we could to get him better, my grief was compounded by the guilt of thinking I didn't try hard enough, or missed something we could have done differently.
He was the best fucking cat ever. I still believe that. He never shit anywhere but the litter box, he never jumped on the counters or tried to steal your sandwich. He didn't randomly knock shit on the floor for no reason. None of that. He came when you called him, and when you picked him up he'd put his paws around your neck like he was hugging you. He'd stay like that as long as you wanted. He fucking played fetch like a dog. I'm telling you, he was the best.
And no matter how cool or annoying your pet is you get used to having a companion like that in the house. They become part of your routine and how you live. They greet you when you come home and are often the first person (I meant person) you speak to in the morning and the last one you say good night to before you go to sleep. There are a hundred little rituals you follow that will create a huge, gaping, dark hole in your life when you don't do them anymore. Grief. Real grief.
After about 2 weeks of random uncontrollable sobbing I graduated to a few weeks of starting to say something to the air and stopping myself, and seeing Turtle sized shadows out of the corner of my eye every time I turned around.
Eventually, after a few months, I stopped missing the rituals and felt like I may be ready to look into getting another cat. MDH, who had gone through some grieving of his own, said he was cool with it as long as I was ready. So I started looking for the right face on Petfinder. I knew I wanted to adopt from a shelter, so I just kept looking for a face that looked like it needed me, and that's how I found Frankie (look how annoyed he is by life). Poor lad looked really put out, so I went to meet him and brought him home, and yada-yada-yada he healed me. A few months later we adopted Leroux and she healed MDH., who I didn't even know needed healing.
It doesn't work this way with people, but there's one more example of how animals are fucking amazing.
So my friend who lost her Annie just posted that she adopted another dog. She'll probably rename him, and they are getting to know each other. I was thrilled that she got him because I know how devastated she was when Annie died, but there's something about looking an animal in the eyes, when you know it's the right one and you just go... we'll rescue each other, that's the deal.