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Grief is itself a medicine

31 Jan

This is my blog…my happiness blog. I write in it for you, the readers, but I also write in it for me. It’s therapeutic, and I enjoy documenting my life, especially the things that are most important to me, which make me happy. Unfortunately, I have withheld writing about certain things for one reason or another, and after some thinking, I am not okay with this. This is MY blog, and I should be able to write about whatever I want to write about. YOU choose to read it, and if you don’t like what I write, then it is your choice not to continue reading.

I don’t think I have talked about my cats at all. Maybe I mentioned them once, but I have not developed them as beings at all. I have two cats, Max (Pookie) and Stinkie, male and female, respectively. They are nearly 15 years old, yet they are not siblings. We got Stinkie first, and after many sleepless nights due to her wanting to play in the middle of the night, we opted to get her a friend, so we got Max a couple of months later. He is two months younger than Stinkie. When we brought little Max home, Stinkie was SO excited to have a playmate. So excited, however, we were scared to leave them alone because we thought Stinkie was going to crush baby Max. He was so tiny! He found a way to fend for himself…hiding under our TV stand where she could not get to him. Soon after, they became great friends. Writing this makes me laugh because now Max outweighs Stinkie by probably 10 pounds. His nickname is Fat Max. 🙂

I have had these cats for nearly 15 years. They have stuck by me through several relationships (and breakups), 7 moves, and a huge dog. They have been the ONLY constant in my life during the past decade and a half. They are geriatric, but still kitten-like; it’s amazing. Give them some catnip, and prepare to laugh uncontrollably.

I grew up with cats. Yes, we had a few dogs when I was very young, but I don’t remember having any sort of friendship with these dogs. Then we got cats, three: Pearl, Frisky, and Precious (in that order). Pearl was a stray who we ended up feeding, and adopting. Frisky was bought as a bribe for my little sister, and Precious…I don’t remember the reason we got that cat. I think my mom and sister went to a cat  show and bought her there? Pearl was beautiful. She was tabby with a racoon stripe tail and the most beautiful green eyes I have ever seen on a cat. Frisky was the UGLIEST kitten ever. She was scrawny and just very unattractive. However, she grew up to be absolutely gorgeous. She had long blonde hair, and the most amazing personality of any cat I have ever met (including my own, sorry, Max and Stinkie). She was affectionate, sweet, cool, personable, she knew tricks, and she liked to eat the glue on post-it notes. She was one cool cat. Precious was a Persian. She was tiny. Her tongue was always hanging out of her mouth. I think it was too big for her mouth. She was a one-person cat, and my sister was her person.

We had to put Pearl to sleep a few years ago. She was old. The vet came to our house to put her to sleep. My sister, Annie, was holding her during the process. I went upstairs and locked myself in the bedroom and cried. I didn’t want to see that. I was very, very sad when she died.

Frisky died last spring. She had been sick for a while. I wish I would have had one last goodbye with her. I was extremely sad when I heard the news.

When Frisky died, Precious mourned. She got sick not too long after, and died on the way to the vet. 😦 Even though I didn’t have much of a relationship with Precious, I was still sad.

All three of my family cats were close to 18 years old when they died. They lived good, long lives, and they are very happy now.

I grew up a cat person, so it was an automatic decision to get my own cats. And I loved having my cats. When my ex and I broke up, however, I tried to have him take the cats. He was more attached to them, but he didn’t want them, so I gladly kept them. I didn’t hate them, by any means, I just really didn’t want to have a tie to my ex anymore. I wanted a clean break, and no reminder of my ex.

Fast forward four years, and I meet someone new, and I decide to move in with him. Again, I try to give my cats away, to no avail. So, they continue their lives with me, and soon after a puppy, Pablo, enters our lives. Never had they been around a dog, and it was traumatic for them at first, but they had a safe spot to go to, and they adjusted rather quickly. Soon, they were all able to hang in the same room, and even on the same couch! Pablo was great with them. He knew they were the bosses, and Stinkie, never let him forget. Never, not once, did we ever worry Pablo would ever harm the cats. He grew up with them from when he was 6 weeks old, and all he wanted was to play with them, although they simply weren’t having that. When they told him in their kitty language to leave them alone, he always did.

Enter another breakup and a decision on what to do with the jointly owned pet, this time a dog. We shared him for a while, until it was time to make a clean break. We decided it would be best for me to take Pablo 100% of the time, which meant no more visitation from the ex and no more help from him. It was time for everyone to move on, and it was time for Pablo to have some consistency in his life. He had been shuffled back and forth for too long, and his behavioral issues were not benefitting from this.

So, since July, I have  had full responsibility of Pablo. Pablo is MY dog, and all decisions surrounding Pablo’s care and well-being are 100% mine. I needed to completely readjust my life to fit in my 100 pound friend. A choice I willingly made. Pablo is the, hands-down, best friend I have ever had. I was excited to have him in my life full-time, and happy to be able to include him in all the fun things I do. I took Pablo EVERYWHERE with me: to work to hang out with Baby H, to my friends’ houses, floating the river, hiking, to the lake, to my friend’s cabin so he could play with other dogs and be off leash and run to the lake, on a road trip to California for my birthday to visit my sister, and with me to run errands. I made sure Pablo ate the best food, switching his food to a fish formula when his skin issues weren’t clearing up. This change improved his skin, and gave his coat the most amazing shine.  He had the yummiest treats, and the squeakiest toys. His bedding was washed regularly to remove any poo and/or dirt. He got a walk every…single…day since July, rain, snow, wind, or shine. I had his second birthday party at my house and invited his favorite friends, both humans and dogs. I enrolled him in an aggressive dog class to help get him over his dog-agressiveness. I even bought him a muzzle, which was required in the class. He made friends in the class, so I set up doggy-playdates/walks with his friends. I took lots, and lots, and lots of pictures and videos of my furry friend. I fed him frozen blueberries, and salmon skin, I scratched his arms, and massaged his shoulders and neck. I bathed him. I brought him to my parents’ for Thanksgiving dinner. I brought him to my coaching appointments every other week. I bought him a life jacket so he could go boating with me. I did all these things because I wanted to…because I love him, and because he is a part of my family, and I wanted him to be with me whenever he could. I did this because I knew he wanted me to, and because I know he loves me, too.

Last month, the unthinkable happened: Pablo aggressively went after Stinkie. Why? I don’t know. Luckily, he didn’t hurt her, and luckily I was there to intervene. It freaked everyone out. I was clawed all over my upper body from trying to grab Stinkie. I melted down. Why did this happen?? My life changed dramatically at that moment. Gone were the days when I could leave my house with the cats and the dog cohabitating. Gone were the days when I could come home and relax with all my animals at the same time. Gone were the days when I enjoyed coming home to greet my animals. Your home is supposed to be your sanctuary, a place to go to unwind from life’s stresses. My home was a place I wanted to avoid now. If I left, I had to either put the cats in the bedroom and close the door, or put Pablo in his crate. I didn’t like doing either. I didn’t want to have to lock up my pets, but I didn’t have any other choice. I did not trust them all in the same room any more. I tried once, and Pablo went after Stinkie again. It scared me.

I blamed myself: I obviously was a horrible doggy mommy. I wasn’t paying enough attention to Pablo (I had started dating someone new, and I was taking a GRE prep class). I was stressed, and it was rubbing off on Pablo. I hadn’t set enough boundaries with Pablo. Whatever. You name it, I thought it. I felt like I had failed, and it was a horrible feeling. I wasn’t mad at Pablo…how could I be? It was my fault he was behaving like that.

I lived like this for a while. I was upset, unhappy, stressed, and I always had to make sure to separate my animals. It was not a way to live. I wasn’t sleeping. My body was in constant pain. I was entering a deep depression. It was not good, and I am sure my mood was not making Pablo any happier.

After too many unhappy, hopeless feeling days, I made a decision. It was a tough decision, but it was the only option at this point. I decided I needed to simplify my life or else really bad things were going to happen. I had come too far in the past year to go where I was headed. First: I ended the relationship I was in. Second: I put grad school on hold for a year, so no more GRE prep classes. After making these two decisions, I already felt myself relax. But the third decision…the most difficult decision I was to ever make, was also the most important one: I had to find Pablo a new home.

You might say: Why not find your cats a new home? You obviously have a much stronger relationship with Pablo. How could you possibly think about giving away your best friend, when the cats are the problem, and easier to say goodbye to? I thought about that, but that’s not the answer. My decision to give Pablo away is the best decision for Pablo. I can’t give him the life he needs and deserves anymore. My decision is based on: what is the best thing for PABLO.

After I made my decision, I took my time finding the best option. I knew what I didn’t want for Pablo (shelter, random person on Craigslist, etc), and took it from there. I had my fears: will anyone even want a dog-aggressive dog? Will I be able to trust anyone with my precious friend? Is this the right decision? All my fears were quickly put at ease when I found the perfect solution. I did my research…ooh, boy, did I do my research. I asked all the questions in the world that could be asked, and I grieved. Oh, my, did I grieve.

There were a limited number of people who knew about my decision, and each and every one of them lovingly supported me in my decision. They kept reminding me it was the BEST thing for Pablo, and it was also the best thing for me. I was told this was an absolutely selfless thing to do, and it was apparent how big my heart was and how much I loved Pablo. Pablo deserves a life with someone who can be calm/assertive with him, someone who has experience with big dogs, and someone who has experience with dog-aggressive dogs, someone who has a big fenced yard, who is around much more than I am, and someone who can love him as much as I do…or even more (if that’s even possible).

I was told and reassured that I was NOT a bad doggy mommy at all, but that Pablo needs a pack leader, and if that is not established from day one, it is difficult to establish. Pablo knows I am a softy and a sucker, and he feels like he needs to protect ME. I tried very hard to be the pack leader, to be calm/assertive with him, to be the boss, but Pablo knows better. This doesn’t make him a bad dog at all. He looks to me for nurturing, which I am very good at, but I am not a very good disciplinarian.

In the weeks before I said goodbye to Pablo, we spent nearly every single moment together. I let him ride in the front seat again, I let him sleep in his day bed next to my bed, I made him even more salmon skin, I took even more pictures, and last, but definitely not least, I made several paw prints. I will someday soon get a tattoo of his paw print so I will always have a part of Pablo with me.

So, recently I had to pack up ALL of Pablo’s things, and say goodbye to my best friend. It hurt. The night before our goodbye, I had him sleep in bed with me. He has never liked the bed, but he stayed in bed, and we cuddled all night long. I tried very hard not to be outwardly sad on our last day together, but I felt like I was dying inside. I could not believe I was actually going through with this, but it was something that had to be done. I kept reminding myself it was the best thing for Pablo…it IS the best thing for him. He is still so young, and he will live the rest of his life with someone who desperately wants him, and whose lifestyle is a perfect fit for him.

Saying goodbye to Pablo was painful, but as I drove away, I didn’t feel sadness. I felt relief. For the first time since we brought him home when he was only 6 weeks old, I didn’t have to worry about him anymore. I didn’t have to worry something was going to happen to him, or whether he was happy, or whether I was giving him enough attention, or whether I was a good doggy mommy. I completely, 100% trust the person he is with now. I know he misses me, but this is going to be much harder on me than it is on him. I was reminded that dogs live in the moment, and at this moment, he is getting a ridiculous amount of attention and love.

I miss Pablo…a lot. I miss his snores, his farts, the sounds he make when he eats, his slobber, his kisses, his cuddles, but most of all his companionship. My cats are trying hard to make me feel better, but cats just aren’t the same as dogs. I have always been an animal lover, but Pablo has turned me into a die-hard dog fan. I feel blessed to have had Pablo in my life, albeit a short time. He showed me what true love is. He was loyal, respectful, loving, funny, and he never yelled at me. The perfect man. 🙂 I WILL get another dog someday. No one will ever be able to take Pablo’s place, but I have been shown how amazing a friendship with a dog is, and I will find a similar love again.

Before I said goodbye to Pablo, I wrote 8 pages of Pablo’s favorite things, his fears, his dislikes, and his quirks. I sent these pages with his new family. I want to ensure they know Pablo and don’t have too many questions. I don’t doubt my decision at all. I know it was the right thing to do. It doesn’t make me miss Pablo any less, but it helps me feel okay. I will be sad for a long, long time, but I know Pablo is happy, and that makes me happy. When I am not so sad, I will watch all the videos I have of Pablo, and I will listen to the recordings of his snoring, and I will find comfort in these sights and sounds.

I was told recently that a lot of my sadness is because I don’t have anyone to care for anymore; caring for someone is how I feel loved. Now is the time to care for myself, because I deserve to love myself, and I think I am pretty great. 🙂

“The turning point in the process of growing up is when you discover the core of strength within you that survives all hurt.” – Max Lerner

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Posted by on January 31, 2011 in Pablo

 

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