Thoughts by Richard Bleil
As much as I enjoy the artist, this article is actually not about him. Actually, today I will be writing about my very good friend overseas who lost her very good feline friend Escher today (as of the writing of this, about a week from when it will post). Escher died today from cancer. It came on very unexpectedly, and he passed shortly after being diagnosed. He was struggling with balance and seemed uncertain, but we hope it wasn’t a painful experience for him.
I’m heartbroken for my friend (and for Escher, who was, after all, a very cool cat). Pets can be so much more than animals to the humans with whom they share their life. They’re actually family for many of us, and I know this is true of my friend. It’s losses like this that demonstrate just how weak the English language actually is, as there are no words to express the depth of grief involved, and the heartfelt sorrow of people like me for my friend.
For some reason, cats are not the same as dogs. We open our hearts to our dogs, but cats have to claw their way inside. Perhaps it is because cats always seem so independent and aloof, whereas dogs are nothing if not excited about seeing their humans. My friend had a dog who, far too recently, also recently passed. They adopted him from a shelter, knowing he was an older dog and uncertain of how advanced in age he was, or how much longer he had. When their canine family member Huxley passed on, my friend was devastated. I wished I could find a way to help her pick up the pieces, but I simply could not. Escher could. He was there for her, sensing her pain, and suddenly spending more time cuddling with her as if he were trying to comfort her in her time of loss. He was a great friend to her.
Animals have an uncanny knack of sensing when their humans are in times of need and offering comfort as best they can for their hurting human. It’s such a tender and touching time when they do this, and a great reminder that we are their family just as much as they are ours. Scholars have speculated as to how and when the symbiotic relationship between humans and our pets began, but it is as much a relationship of protection as much today as no doubt it was when it began. I don’t know if animals still think protection from predators is still a part of it, but certainly pets provide for us critical protection from pain, suffering and loneliness. Just as we humans tend to come running any time our pets seem to be in distress, they also come to us in our times of need.
I wish my friend had another fur family member to help her in the healing process, but she never did get another dog, and I think this was her only feline family member. I know her well enough to know that she’ll need time to grieve before she even considers getting another pet, and that breaks my heart as well. I know how I felt when I lost my furry friends, Sir Purrsalot and Bella. Sir Purrsalot went first, and Bella was there for me. In fact, she was with me through many difficult times, and when I lost her I was truly alone. I am happy that my friend is at least with love in her life, surrounded not only by her friends, but she also has a wonderful husband. I know the two of them will help each other through these difficult times.
I truly hope my friend doesn’t mind that I’m writing about her loss. For what it’s worth, it’s a labor of love, and a way for me to handle the loss of my babies as well. I’ll not speak of metaphysical possibilities here, but in a way, I don’t think we ever truly lose our pets. It’s been several years since I lost my Bella (my last fur baby since getting Star last year, about six years after Bella passed) and I still miss her and Sir Purrsalot pretty much every day. Star is a great companion, but I knew she wouldn’t be a replacement. Every cat and dog is unique and different, and while they cannot replace the pets we’ve lost, they can still help us to move on past our pain. But the two who I lost will always hold a special place in my heart, and although I miss them tremendously and feel the pain of their loss, mostly at this point I remember the love, the happiness, the joy and the fun we had.
If you have fur family, think about Escher and Huxley and give them a little bit of extra love tonight. Although they won’t understand, be sure to tell them it’s from me, my friend, Sir Purrsalot, Bella, Huxley and Escher.