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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Reverence for a Lost Companion: Reflections on the Life and Death a Pet

I never really realized how special pets could be until nearly a year with one culminated into one fateful day, the day my wife and I decided to euthanize our favorite little Kingston. And though the rest of these words will be about a couple important things I learned from the little guy, at the outset, at tear falls for I just miss my friend.

End of life care for a pet is a difficult one indeed. Intellectually, it makes sense – they are simply animals, and we eat animals for food, we see them dead on the side of the road, we curse them when they poop on our shirts. But emotionally, it is much more of challenge to understand and it is a decision which brings in to focus the idea of how much humanity do we each find in a beloved animal.

Some of the questions I find myself pondering are: what did I learn from my companion? Did I want to his suffering or my own? Can an animal really gain any benefit from suffering? Of course ultimately everyone has to make up their own mind on these matters, and like most of the decisions and thoughts I deal with at this point in my life, I let myself be guided by my Faith.

Kingston taught me a lot about love. I'm talking about the kind of love that we are called to display toward one another. The kind of love that greets you when you come home, with a smile, and a sense that he couldn’t be happier to see me; the kind of love that accepts gifts graciously; the kind of love that cuddles you when you are feeling down; the kind of love that just sits and shares space with you because just sharing space is sometimes all I need; the kind of love that is completely content with these simple measures and no more. This is especially a cool realization to me because this is the kind of love that I believe God has for me, and the kind of love I am to have for others. How neat for daily reminders to come in the form of a cute cuddly 5-pound kitten.

And really, how did I come to the point of euthanasia when completely against it in the human arena? I guess I have concluded is that physical pain in an animal does not bring it any further spiritual or emotional understanding, which I believe is one of the points of human suffering. Thankfully, I am able to gain a deeper understanding of others from suffering, able to gain a deeper appreciation of things I cherish, and able to deepen my belief system – all through suffering. I don't believe that is possible for a cat. Animals live in the moment and never wrestle with the daily anguish over life and death. These differences are part of what makes humans and animals special in their own right.

Ultimately, I admit that it is hard not to project at least some humanity onto Kingston - especially after living with him so closely for so long. Heck, he probably thought of me as a cat (that is, if he had the capacity for thought?). Yet in spite of it all, I am certain that he was given to me as a gift that I may not only benefit from his unconditional love, but also to test and prove my own. I have no doubt that my friend Kingston in all senses of my understanding fulfilled his duty here on Earth as a cat and as a pet and I only hope that I fulfilled my duty as an friend to him.

As always, thanks for reading :-) AMDG