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Lisa Lee
 
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“But it’s only a pet!"

29 April 2014, 19:20

The number of times I’ve heard these words (and amount of restrained smacks around the head) is ridiculous.

In fact, one of the perks I find in no longer working in an office environment is not hearing those words from at least one person when I’d come into work sobbing, after the loss of one of my beloved animals.

My animals are not ‘just pets’. They are my family, my kids and precious souls that have shared their lives with me. Often I get teased for feeling like this.

Don’t get me wrong-I have a lovely network of animal lovers that support me through these times-but there’s always that one tactless (insert rude name) who calls me the “crazy cat lady” for going out of my way to rescue animals, sitting up all night to bottle feed day old kittens them, hold unknown strays while they are being put to sleep, and for being torn to shreds when I lose one of my own. On the contrary-I am not a lonely, crazy old woman who relies selfishly on the love of animals to keep me going.

I don’t own a thousand cats and sit on the sofa watching my soapies in a filthy home full of weird cat ornaments. I am in my twenties, I am happily married and I have a beautiful two year old son. I live in a normal house, I have a job and I have 4 cats and 2 dogs. But hey-if that makes me a crazy cat lady-I’ll wear the badge with pride.

This morning I took my cat to the vet for his check up. He has a chronic fungal infection which has eaten away at his nasal tissue, but is being treated and monitored on a bi-monthly basis. Today, after 6 months of treatment, my vet said the words I’ve been dreading for months. “He isn’t responding to treatment, and I wouldn’t fight you if you chose to euthanize.”

I sobbed like a baby in the vet’s room. I would be embarrassed but poor Dr Smith has seen me cry too many times to mention.

I found Noodle in a pet shop (side note-I do NOT support pet shops), in 2007 when I was 21.I had just been diagnosed with depression. My mom and I walked in to buy something, and I saw three tiny white kittens huddled together in a cage. The cage was cruelly small, and their water bowl was swirling with faeces.

One of the kittens smushed his little face at me through the bars, and he had the most beautiful eyes-one blue, one green. Next thing I knew I was plodding out of the shop with this awkwardly beautiful kitten in my arms.

His name went from Pooh Bear, to Noodle, to Baba over the years. He was my first pet as an adult. Noodle has been through 7 years of turmoil with me - bad relationships, illness, a violent robbery which had me begging the intruders not to hurt him while they ransacked my room (he didn’t leave my side through the entire ordeal), and 5 house moves.

He has taken to every rescue I have brought in, even going so far as to cuddle with the very sick and disabled ones like a protective mom. He knows when I hurt. He loves me unconditionally.

7 years is a long time. To know that he’s not going to be here for much longer feels like a knife cutting through my heart. I will be there when he goes to sleep, and I will have him cremated, and keep his ashes. If that’s “creepy” or “weird” so be it. He is my family.

I personally feel sorry for people who haven’t allowed the love of an animal to impact their lives to such an extent. I know when the time comes for him to go, I will be inconsolable, and people will think I am dramatic, or childish, or silly. It’s only a pet after all, right?

For those of you who feel like I do when you lose a furry family member, know this. You are not silly for being devastated, for grieving, for crying yourself to sleep. You are blessed for having loved and been loved by one of the beautiful angels we are given on borrowed time.

Lisa Lee is a writer and researcher for Body and Mind.

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