I’ve started and stopped writing this blog all day. I have a running list of topics I’d like to write about, from marriage to kids growing up too fast, the meaning of home, and kindness. I’ve learned to jot down thoughts when they strike me, so I can always go back to them later. I no longer trust myself to remember.
But today, my notes weren’t enough…because yesterday my cat died.
Her name was Sofie and she was 13. She came to us as a one-day old kitten, when we took in her mama and sister as fosters for a local rescue group. She was tiny and white and oh so sweet, and for a long time we laughed at what a sound sleeper she was. When we walked into the room, mama cat and sister would startle and look at us, but sweet Sofie would sleep on…as if she was completely oblivious to us. It wasn’t long before we realized that she was. Like many white cats, Sofie was born deaf.
Time came to put the kitty family up for adoption, but…we just couldn’t do it. We already felt so protective of sweet Sofie. We worried about what life might hold for her. About how vulnerable she was. About what would happen if she ever got outside…
So, yeah. Sofie never went anywhere. She opened her eyes into our world, and in our world she stayed…until yesterday.
But that’s not what I want to talk about…yesterday. The end. How hard it was to say goodbye, and the emptiness we all feel. The second guessing…and the soul-gnawing guilt. Well, actually I probably do need to work through all that, but right now, I’m more focused on the other side of the coin. Not on the loss, but the love.
I have no memory of a life without furry friends. I grew up with cats, adopting my own as quickly as I could once I moved into my first apartment. From there one cat became two, at times three. After I married, we branched out and brought canines into our realm of felines, and we’ve had a mix of both ever since.
And now I find myself sitting here, reflecting on my furry friends, and all that they brought to my life. When you share your life with a furry friend, you’re never alone. We tend to think that we care for them, but in so many ways, they care for us. They’re there. They’re always there, bounding to greet us when we get home, following us from room to room, crawling into our laps when we sit down, nuzzling us when we desperately need contact. They make us smile and they make us laugh, they give us love and make sure that we’re never alone. They love us. Unconditionally. They love us when we’re happy and nice to them. They love us when we’re busy and don’t have time for distractions. They love us when we’re angry or stressed, when we turn away or shut them out, when we don’t want to be bothered. They love us when we’re sad or broken-hearted. They just…love us.
And through them, our furry friends, through that pure, pure love, we learn far more than we could ever teach them. We learn about loyalty and forgiveness, about vulnerability and innocence and trust, about companionship, about silliness and simplicity, about being in the moment and loving the moment, about not worrying what tomorrow may bring, about the importance of hanging out and relaxing, about friendship. And love. They teach us how to love, what it feels like to be loved, and to love in return. Unconditionally.
Four years ago we lost our ancient black lab, Clyde. We went six months without a dog, before my (then) seven-year-old daughter started hounding us for a puppy. Kids today have way more resources at their disposal than we did. We had to look at classified ads. Kids today have the Internet, and my girl knew about Petfinder. She’d hunker down at my laptop, key in her criteria, and presto, she had an endless supply of puppy candidates at her fingertips.
My husband and I, however, were like….a dog. You know, all that work. The poop in the backyard. The vet and boarding bills. The training…. But after our initial reluctance, we realized allowing our daughter to adopt a puppy was about way more than poop and bills and work. It was about…her. Our daughter. Her childhood. It was about allowing her (and our son) to have experiences my husband and I had already had. It was about letting her love and be loved, about letting her learn and grow. And so Roxie, a clumsy white puppy who became a big white dog, came into our family.
And so I sit here now, my heart raw after a rough ten days, but so very, very grateful for the thirteen years we had to love our sweet Sofie. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Because no matter how badly goodbyes hurt, there is no greater gift, than that of unconditional love, them to us, and us to them. That is their legacy, and it’s worth all the dirty litter boxes and piles of backyard poop in the world.