On July 4 Eve, I had to make the very difficult decision of helping my cat find her way to the Rainbow Bridge. Anyone who has had to put an animal down prematurely probably knows about the Rainbow Bridge. It’s a poem written about the place animals go when they die.

Don’t read it if you’ve recently lost a pet. You’ll end up in tears – that I can guarantee.

My cat had reached the age where she was disintegrating healthwise in numerous ways – she was senile, arthritic, had allergies, couldn’t groom herself well, used various rooms of my home as her personal litter box and was just about on the precipice of losing whatever continence she’d been holding onto.

Abby was probably more than 20 years old. I was the envy of friends whose cats had only reached their young teens before they left this mortal coil.

Abby

And to be sure, Abby was a wonderful companion. She would lay with me on the couch in the evenings and watch TV. She purred during my before-bed meditations, to help set the relaxed mood. It seemed to make up for all the mornings where she would literally be bouncing off the walls, caterwauling obnoxiously for her moist food.

I cried all the way to the vet and all the way back when I knew that she had reached the end of her life. I was with her when she breathed her last.

As much as she made a mess of my house, day in and day out, I hated to part with her. She had become a part of my regular routine. Feedings in the morning. Following me up the stairs at night to get her treats.

I would turn my head to look for her and there she would be, laying on the couch or rubbing a corner of the wall from the dining room into the kitchen – a spot she had rubbed so often, the paint had literally come off the wall.

I have these little, worn spots in my house where she’s left her mark.

After so many years, I find myself petless. I’ve had animals living with me in my home since my mid-20s. First it was the cat. Then there was Pete, the beagle from the Michigan Humane Society. He was characterized as a life support system for a stomach. Given the opportunity, Pete would eat until he exploded. Being the good pet-mom, I didn’t let that happen.

Pete

Incidentally, Pete passed away on Thanksgiving Eve almost five years ago. Have you ever tried to figure out what to do with a dead dog on a holiday? I shake my head at the remembrance of this. It was a crying shame.

Now that I have no animals left, I won’t lie. My house smells a good deal better than it has in a while. And the hair balls that used to collect and roll around my house like tumbleweeds have pretty much been cleaned away. I think for the time being that I’m going to enjoy my home with no animal smells.

But I have to admit that Pete and Abby did a tremendous amount to enhance my life. They were like children to me. Losing them, I cried harder and longer than I did than when certain members of my family passed on.

I think that says something about the power of pets.

And so to you, Pete and Abby, rest long and rest well. Though you are no longer here, I will always cherish thoughts of you both.

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