In the last two years I had to put down my 14-year-old beagle Lucy and Tuesday my 16-year-old cat Thomas, who within a matter of two days diminished into a cat I didn't know. His kidneys just went. Needless to say I am numb, broken-hearted and grieving.
I don't think our culture honors the transition of dying that one shares with their pets. Death is a rite of passage. Ceremonies and rituals are celebratory and healing. Death can be beautiful. A eulogy praises someone. An obituary is an announcement of the death with a biography. Animals touch our lives, souls and hearts in ways that human beings can't. This is a combination of both eulogy/obituary for my animals Lucy and Thomas honoring them both in life and the transition into death. It is important. Here is who they were, their personalities and how my affected my life.
In 1996 I was a single woman living in a studio apartment in New York City. I was a professional dancer, an entertainment gypsy. I lived many places and moved wherever the next job was and had no plans of retiring that lifestyle. New York was another temporary stop on my journey to the next show, so I thought. Walking around town, without consideration, I walked into a pet store “to look” at the puppies, and Lucy picked me. I wasn't looking to adopt a dog, I had no information about the beagle breed. I didn't grow up with a dog. When I looked at her, my spirit knew, we were meant to be together. I took her home.
Within a week, impulsively, I don't know why, I found myself in a taxi going to the ASPCA to get a kitten. I hadn't been thinking of adopting a cat. I thought gray kittens were cute?? That's not what I got. I walked in to see the cats and there she was, the kitten I came for, gray and white, sweet, a delight. Very calm and easy-going. “I pick her” I told myself. I wandered over to another cage just “to look” with four of five kittens in it. Thomas, named “Adonis” at the time, was the rowdiest one in the bunch. Black and white, full of sass. Every time I put my finger through the bars, his paws would latch on to it and he would start play biting. He was funny and he kept meowing at me. He was completely the opposite of my gray kitty. I looked to her, she was sleeping and I said to the lady “I'll take him” and I brought Thomas home.
I had adopted a puppy and a kitten within three days of each other. They loved each other and were soul mates, became best friends and co-created my family. They changed my life, who I was, and who I would become. They loved me unconditionally, until I learned how to love myself, they taught me that. I had been set on a path that I didn't design. I would travel down it, my next new gig. At 29 years old, I would start to grow up.
Lucy embodied Wisdom. She had big sweet soulful eyes. She loved to chase squirrels in the park. They would out run her to safety up a tree. Lucy would then proceed to stand with her two front paws on the trunk of the tree, white-tipped tail in hunting position and howl and howl at those squirrels. If I let her, she would have stayed there for months. I knew nothing of the breed so when I walked her, she would want to smell everything, and I let her. I felt guilty when I tugged her away. I told a friend and wise words were spoken, “Mary, there's always another smell,” I got it. Lucy was patient by nature. Very patient except when it came to chicken. EVERY time I roasted a chicken she could not control herself. She would stand in the kitchen and tap dance for her dinner, the nails in her paws would persistently tap-tap-tap, haranguing me until I gave in and gave her some. She could ruin an entire evening whining and tap dancing for that chicken. Yes, she ruled the roost. Lucy was a dancer too.
I had very dark days, and she knew. One time I remember I was quietly sobbing in the shower on a different floor and she came and laid down outside the tub. That wasn't the first and it wasn't the last time she gave me the will to live. She always new, she always came to be a presence, holding the space, staying by my side. She was Wisdom and Love.
Thomas was an explorer. Another animal that had to be heard. My studio had a ladder to a loft I could crawl into and sleep. Literally the loft was three feet high. I used it for storage as well. Thomas used it as a playground, every time I tried to sleep. He was exhausting. As a kitten he learned to climb the ladder. He would stretch his tiny body, leaning on the wall, and do pull ups, rung by rung. Unbelievable. He was a rascal. Lucy didn't have the skill of scaling the wall so I would crawl to the ladder, climb down and carry her up fire woman style. I never crated my animals, we had a family bed, up to the end. Thomas was a boxer too. Lucy would engage him every night at 5 pm. Happy hour was on. They would chase each other around and around barking and tumbling. Thomas never backed down. When necessary, he would pull out his paws and starting swinging. “No dog would take him”, Lucy never won. Thomas would then proudly saunter off, both animals knowing they were playmates.
There are many stories I could write about, like all the times we moved, when I had my children, when I adopted my other dog Henri who is seven now or how they transformed over the years but gratefully I had many years and experiences with them. To many stories to tell. The essence of who they were, never changed. Lucy was Wisdom and Love. Thomas was spry and courageous. I loved them dearly, words are inadequate.
Both deaths were beautifully sacred, full of light and love. Myself and my two boys had the opportunity to prepare ourselves, as much as possible. We said goodbye in our home, creating personal ceremonies with candles, flowers, blankets, and toys that our pets loved. We spoke words of tenderness, endearment and thankfulness holding them. We communicated with our souls.
We decorated the vets room as well and carried out services, being fully present when the final injections took place. It was a privilege and an honor. There is beauty in death if one chooses to accept it as a transition and honor the process. Both animals left being thanked with gratitude and love. This doesn't take the pain away. Grief does not have an expiration date.
When Lucy passed the first thing I did was write a poem, here is an excerpt. I wrote this is 2012, straight from a heart of grief:
The moment we met and now 14 years later we never have had a fight. I’ve ripped into her a few times that's true but she responded in pure loving light. My agenda to bring her into my life was I knew that I needed a friend. What she’s brought to my life has been so much more I’m in debt to her up to the end.
See she saved my life literally yes she did, I was living in darkness alone. I was isolated, confused, abandoned by me, I couldn’t even pick up the phone. Depression moved in, I was starting to spin, light too much for my soul to bare. But when I brought her in she was bigger than me and I had to deliver on my plan.
I was in New York City a hustling bustling town I had made that city my home. The people the sites the noise and bright lights and yet still I felt alone. The glamour, the people, the culture, the vibe; laughter interaction is right by my side. How could this be with excitement everywhere that I would be stricken with my soul’s despair?
So I let her move in and we started a life I would wake up and grumble I don’t have the fight. She would just nudge me and patiently wait till I got on my feet to start a new day. “A walk in the park sounds like fun” she would say and I so had to fight the words “please go away”.
“Just one walk at a time it might change your mood” and it did she was right we began a routine. Three times a day we would go to the park and slowly I crept on out of my dark. Sun, rain, and wind we would get up and go, out of the door and on with the show. I always had her by my side when I felt awkward talking to others standing by.
What she taught me is get up and get out, get moving, all is well if you only will start. That first year of friendship she changed my life I lived in the daytime and not the nightlife. Our relationship continues it is bigger than me Every big event wedding, babies, divorce, moves, she never craggy. She just flows how I roll and is always just she...
I am grieving the loss of Thomas now. The pain is fresh. I took myself to the ocean the other day and added a few gallons of tears. I am depressed, but I know, this too shall pass. The impact these precious souls had on my life is life itself, they gave it to me. They were my reasons to live. We grew up together. We were constant companions. We had our routines, our favorite places to nap and our own language. I still say “here Lucy” and my son will say Mom you called Lucy and I realize I did. I want to call out to my Thomas now. The tutututu sound with my tongue that called him or my scratching the bed to come join me. “Our talk,” but he's not here, in the physical, and my heart yearns and it believes that we will meet again. My best friends.