How do you say good-bye to someone who has given so much happiness in her short life, so many occasions for laughter, or for unadulterated adoration? Mitzy and her sister, Bitsy, came into our lives over the summer. As my husband and I walked each day, followed by our guardian cat, Hochito, we were soon joined by the fluffy, bright kittens who ran down the hill to join us. Their long white and tabby fur seemed designed to enhance their appeal. They begged us to pet them, and the entire neighborhood was in love with them. We didn’t know that we would become their adoptive parents in the fall.
The Fluffies soon became members of the household. They suffered disapproving hisses from our two older cats, but never lost their affectionate dispositions or wide-eyed innocence. They loved us gently in turn, trading laps and purring softly. Sometimes they lay on their sides, paws almost touching. Then one would reach out and draw her sister’s head close and wash her lovingly. Or they would chase each other down the hallway, pouncing in ambush and instigating tussles.
Mitzy was the larger of the two, almost identical, girls, but we learned to recognize her by the polka dot marking her neck and the tiny freckle by her pink nose. Yesterday morning as I petted her, I never dreamed it would be the last time.
I was working on my latest story when I looked out the window to see a car stopped on the road between our wildwood yard and the pasture across the street. A small white form lay on the gray asphalt, and I instantly knew it was Mitzy. Bill heeded my call, and when I came outside, he was holding her close, his head bowed. He stayed there a long time in the freezing weather while I burst into tears and finally brought out his jacket. We came inside then, Bill still cradling her in his arms. She was perfect and seemingly alive. Not a single mark of violence marred her beauty, and her eyes were open and clear. Her body was warm and her silken fur soft to our touch.
Today, while tears still slide down my cheeks, it seems I can see her yet, here, there, and everywhere. Bitsy is quiet, subdued. She has seen her sleeping sister, but knows that Mitzy will not jump up to play with her again.
Why do our hearts break so easily when a pet dies? Is it losing their quirky little personalities, their unquestioning love? Or is it the sense of how much they depend upon us, and yet ask so little; food, a kind hand, shelter from the storm?
One reason may be the simplicity of the relationship. Love between humans, with the exception of infants and children, is complicated, filled with judgments, expectations, demands, and a degree of uncertainty. A careless remark to a friend could become a grudge, a thoughtless act lose a lover. Yet when we trip over the dog, step on our cat’s tail, or leave them locked in the house or garage for hours on end, we don’t worry. Forgiveness is never a question.
We won’t forget Mitzy, the graceful little cat, who brought beauty and joy into our lives. We will remember her gentle paws and the oh so gentle kitten kisses on our fingers, the trill of her morning purr telling us it’s time to get up. She will live in our memories, and we will not begrudge our tears as we recall the happy little face that looked so lovingly and trustfully into ours.