Adopting, Loving and Letting Go: A Personal Story
If you’ve loved and lost a pet, you know the pain I’m about to talk about. Let's be honest, just the thought of writing this post is causing tears to well up in my eyes. Putting these thoughts into a blog post may be more of a therapeutic release for me than a valuable read for you. But it’s my thought, that maybe… if you’re going through loss, you’ll take comfort knowing that you’re not alone in your pain.
I see you, I’m with you and I know it hurts.
"With great love, comes great loss."
The words my dad gently spoke to me, will forever echo in my memory. As I held my cat in my arms and watched him take his last breath, my dad reminded me “with great love, comes great loss.” Although I felt frozen in time, lost in denial that Garfield was actually gone, those words gave me enough comfort to catch my breath. The only reason this hurt so bad was because I loved so deeply.
Some of you might say, it’s “just a cat.” But damn, this little guy was my best friend. Garfield was a Hawaiian kitty, born & raised. My college roommate was his "original" adopter. We snuck him into the dorms (sorry university, we broke the rules!) and shared the responsibilities of pet ownership. When I eventually left the islands, Garfield flew with me up to Washington and consoled me through the hardest break-up of my life. When times got tough (they always do!), Garfield was there. Always.
I learned a lot of lessons from my orange-eyed kitty while we moved through the world together. Here's just a few.
Live life belly up. Being goofy, vulnerable and showing your true self is the best way to build friendships. And life's always better with friends.
Take a walk. Normally you'd take this advice from your dog, but this cat knew how to enjoy the sunshine, play in the snow & revel in the beauty of the world around him.
Always show affection. Garfield never hesitated to snuggle up and show everybody just how much he loved them.
Garfield was so full of life, I didn't see it coming. He was spending the night at the vet to receive routine treatment for a UTI when I received a phone call that he was having seizures. It was Christmas Eve and family festivities were halted to pick him up from our regular vet and take him to an emergency vet. His seizures were back to back. He’d rest momentarily in-between episodes, but barely open his eyes.
The emergency vet kindly gave me hope that they'd give him medications to help the seizures slow down and eventually stop. Sadly, they never did. After a couple days and unable to accept that this was his fate, I took him to a veterinary neurologist, who confirmed what I already knew.
It was time to let him go, the day after Christmas.
Six years later, the pain has eased but a piece of my heart is still missing. It always will be. Nobody knows why the seizures began in the first place and I've struggled with wondering whether he'd still be here today if things had been done differently. He was only 6 years old.
One of the hardest lessons I was forced to learn from Garfield was finding acceptance and forgiveness in his death. Forgiveness of myself. I didn't do anything wrong. I gave him the best care I knew how. And acceptance. Acceptance that the veterinarians did their best, too and ultimately, acceptance that with life, comes death and with love, comes loss.
But damn am I grateful for all that love.
“Life is amazing. And then it's awful. And then it's amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it's ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That's just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it's breathtakingly beautiful.” - L.R. Knost
Rest in Peace, Garfield. December 26, 2014
Owner of K9 Ascent