Animals have always been a big deal to my family - we grow up with them as brothers and sisters, when we are grown they are our kids, they are family. I grew up with Annie, a nine pound white pound rescue miniature poodle that my mother and grandmother brought home when I was eighteen months old to replace my grandfather's gorgeous black pedigreed toy poodle Nikkie who had just passed away. Losing Nikkie had reduced my grandfather, a typically strong stoic type (though plenty warm and loving) and veteran of two awful wars, to pieces - he loved that dog. When my mom and grandmother brought Annie home, she was malnourished, terrified, unwell, horribly dirty and matted up and looked more like an overgrown spider than a dog. He didn't want her because there was no way that frightened raggedy little thing could ever replace his beautiful Nikkie but he knew that if he sent her back to the SPCA, she would be immediately destroyed as she had been deemed 'unadoptable'. So they took her up stairs, gave her a bath and cut her hair - in the process they discovered she was not, in fact, black but snow white. She spent the next week hiding under the kitchen table too frightened to come out. Then, one morning, as my grandmother was coming downstairs, she heard my grandfather burst out laughing from the kitchen where he always had his coffee and read the paper at the kitchen table each morning. She went rushing in not knowing what to expect only to find that Annie, tired of being scared and ignored, had screwed up her courage and lept clear through his newspaper into his lap and Pa just couldn't stop laughing he was so pleased! She barely left his arms from that day until the day he passed away four years later - then she came to live with us and we adored her just as much until she passed many years later at the age of eighteen.
Since then, my mother and I have taken in three feral cats, which I helped raise for seven years - then when I got married and my husband and I let a flat of our own, we adopted an eight year old female tuxedo cat named Peanut. She came from the retirement home where my mother worked - her 'dad' had passed away and the family wanted to have her destroyed... So we snuck in one evening and smuggled her out in my coat. I know I am biased -I love animals and I simply adored this cat- but she was a truly wonderful little creature - so full of love, so beautiful and very smart. Her health was never strong but we were fortunate enough to have almost five wonderful years with her. Three weeks ago, the downward spiral began - not even the vet realized it at the time (because there were so many other issues he was monitoring and trying to fix) but her heart had started to give out. I realize now that, at the same time, I started to exhibit the same symptoms - most noticeably, I usually run five miles every day with weights on... That week I could barely go two before growing dizzy, desperately short of breath and almost too exhausted to get home. Then, one night, I was hit with the worst migraine of my life - the pain was astronomical, I could barely speak and I could not walk or stand... It almost felt more like a stroke than a migraine. I had just laid my head on the pillow when I heard my husband calling me frantically from the kitchen - the fear in his voice instantly had alarms going off. I half stumbled half crawled with all the adrenaline fueled desperate strength I could muster and found him knelt over Peanut as she convulsed wildly. My hands were shaking so badly that it took me three attempts to dial the emergency vet and when they answered, I couldn't get words out well enough to be understood, my husband had to speak to them and take her in while I stayed home waiting in agonies of worry. He brought her home in the wee hours of the morning, the prognosis was grim... Fluid in her lungs, congestive heart failure and likely brain cancer on top of her pre-existing conditions. The next day we took her in to her vet... He told us to keep her alive would be unfair and miserable. That was exactly what I had been fearing I would hear. She trusted me so implicitly and I would have to hold her while the vet slid the needle into her vein to end her life. It broke my heart. I held her on my shoulder, her body draped across my chest - just where she always felt safe and the happiest- and he did what needed to be done. In a few minutes, he came to check her heart... I could see his eyes widen a bit... What he heard was my heart through her body - racing as though it was trying to keep both of us alive... He had never heard that before. We had been so connected... But she was gone. Leaving without her was the worst feeling of my life.
All that night, I wept and prayed that if there is a heaven, my grandparents, Jane and Pa, would find her there and take care of her. The nightmares were terrible but every time I shook awake, I would return to that same prayer. The next night, I took a sleeping pill in hopes of keeping the nightmares away. Late in the night, I woke up because I felt Peanut jump up on the bed as usual and could feel her little feet walking up the bed. At first it seemed so normal... Then the last few days came back to me... I kept my eyes closed. And I felt her come up and curl into my chest just like she always did. I felt her sigh and settle in to sleep. I was so afraid that if I opened my eyes she'd be gone so I just laid there for what felt like an hour or more until I fell asleep again just feeling her there with me.
The next day, my mother called, she doesn't believe in the paranormal in spite of various overwhelming personal experiences, but she told me that, the night before she had awoken from a dead sleep to the sound of her father's laughter... Just like on that morning when Annie jumped through his newspaper. I'm fairly sure that's his way of letting us know that he found Peanut.
That day, we decided it was time to bring home another 'baby'...maybe two... We went from shelter to shelter - four in all - and called a half dozen more looking for kittens. Wouldn't you know it, during 'kitten season' in all of Hampton Roads, the ONLY kitten we could find just happened to be a little female tuxedo...
Sorry if that was a lot of wind up for a very small and all together minor experience but, I put it out there in hopes that other readers who have lost their pets may find comfort in it.