A Pet's Passing - Confusing & Unfair
By: Anna Steeves-Reece
(Reprinted with permission.)
Illustration: Aaron Sullivan
My family had two cats since before I was born, Tyrone and Pole.
Tyrone was special. Though very shy, he would sleep at the end of my bed, and we would wake up most mornings at the same time. I told Tyrone secrets and stories, and asked him questions. It was almost like having a diary.
Tyrone wasn't just a cat to me. He was a friend and a member of the family. He understood my feelings and moods better than any human ever could. He could sense when I needed him.
One day, I learned that Tyrone had a brain tumor. Seeing him suffer was one of the most difficult things I've ever experienced. He stopped eating, cleaning himself and sleeping. It was clear that whatever we did, he wasn't comfortable and had a lot of pain.
Making the decision to end Tyrone's suffering was agonizing. There were so many questions and no clear answers. How many veterinarian opinions should we get? Was surgery an option? Would we have a funeral? Why are animals usually euthanized under circumstances like this, while people aren't? And how could we betray Tyrone in this way when he trusted us so much?
It all seemed incredibly confusing and unfair.
I remember the drive to the veterinarian. I had one last chance to hold and pet Tyrone, to tell him how much he had meant to me, and how he had been my friend for as long as I could remember. It was so hard to let him go and to know that I would never get the chance to pet or talk to him again.
I cried when we had to leave. But at the same time, I felt guilty and stupid for caring this much about a cat.
A few weeks after Tyrone died, we got Simba at the Lane County animal shelter. Simba is still young, acts like a kitten and makes me laugh. He is not shy like Tyrone, but just as sensitive and sweet. He didn't replace Tyrone, but he definitely helped me move on.
Pole (pronounced 'Po-lay') is now 19 years old. I'm beginning to face the same issues with her that I did with Tyrone. Pole is deaf, has lost most of her teeth and has difficulty eating. She is also extremely forgetful.
Sometimes she gets lost in dark places and howls loudly for one of us to rescue her and help her get oriented. I know that she doesn't have much longer and that I should start preparing for that day now. But despite the logic of this, I know that when the time comes it will not be any easier.
Tyrone, Pole and Simba have taught me that a pet is far more than an animal for which an owner is responsible. It sounds cheesy, but a pet offers a type of unconditional acceptance, trust and empathy that no human can.
My mom buried Tyrone in our back yard under the apple tree just behind my room. I wasn't home at the time, and looking back now, I think she knew that I didn't really want to be there. I still look out my window often and remember Tyrone and how much he gave me.