|My furry boy & I|
This is Day 4 of my #6MonthsOfGrief Project. To learn more about this practice, feel free to visit Day One, where I explain this project in more detail.
Yesterday, I posted about the Tools of a Widow. Today I want to talk about the healing power of furry companions. Not everyone resonates with the four-legged furry ones (or the winged, or the reptilian), but if you do have a connection to animals, having a pet in your life is a life-saver as a widow.
I have twin tuxedo cats, who have been in my life for the last 5 years. After my beloved kitties Monkey and Mouse passed away within a week of each other, I was in deep grief. My husband let me feel my sadness for a couple of months and then finally, without telling me, he drove me to our local animal shelter. When we suddenly arrived at this place full of animals needing homes, I started crying and yelling at him. "How can you bring me here?" He responded that he had never understood how important an animal's unconditional love was until he lived with me and my kitties. He witnessed how soothing and comforting they were. He felt how welcome and loved they made him feel, when he would return home and I wasn't there. "It's time," he said. "We need some new furry love in our life."
When we walked into the shelter, we spent time with many, many different cats. One snaggletoothed old Persian named Dumbledore almost won our hearts, until we heard some chirping in the corner. In a cage that was far too small for the two of them, we saw what would soon become our sweet pair - Vixen and Dasher. The boy cat, Dasher, was doing pull-ups, like a frustrated inmate would do in his prison cell. And Vixen was vigorously washing her white belly, every now and then glancing up at us to make sure we were watching and noticing how pretty and clean she was.
|My girl cat, Vixen, loves to hold paws with me...|
We asked why they were jammed in to such a small cage together, and the animal shelter worker said that they panicked when they were separated, to the point where they would reach their paws out to touch each other, when they were in separate cages. We asked about their names, and it turned out that they were part of a huge cat hoarding rescue, with over 200 cats taken to various shelters across California. This particular shelter had gotten a litter of 9 Tuxedo cats, and since it was the day before Christmas when they arrived, they were named after Santa's reindeer. Their brothers and sisters were Dancer, Prancer, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and of course, Rudolph. Apparently someone wanted to adopt Dasher, but they didn't want a girl cat named "Vixen" (that's how deep our slut-shaming, sexist culture goes!) and the shelter knew how connected and close these two were, so they refused to separate him.
When we took them out of the cage, they immediately started climbing all over us, continuing with this funny, chirp/purr sound that they still make to this day. They kissed us and rubbed us and settled into our laps and it was immediately clear. These two were our new furry babies.
At this time, we were also going through fertility treatments to try and have a baby. Eventually, we stopped trying (and did an UnBaby Ritual honoring that choice), and our furry kitties began to get all the parental love we had been saving for our unborn child. And when my husband suddenly passed away, my cats noticed. They would stand on his side of the bed every night and meow loudly at me. This made me sob, as I tried to tell them, "Daddy is gone. He isn't coming back."
The picture at the top of this post, is of my boy cat, Dasher (and if you want to see an animated GIF of this photo, check out my Instagram feed). He's always been a wild child, dragging home gophers and mice to eat in front of me. He spends most of his waking life outside on the four acres of land we live on. But when he realized that my husband was gone forever, he started coming in and spending more time with me. He cuddles up against me whenever I am sitting down and gives me kisses and rubs whenever I will let him. Not to mention all the extra gophers and mice he brings me to eat! Both my kitties have been caring deeply for me in my grief and I am surviving in large part due to their love.
Do you have a beloved animal companion, as you sit with your grief?
- The poetry of John O’Donohue
Thank you, and see you tomorrow.