“What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”
I read a beautiful post today by Dr. Jessica Vogelsang (pawcurious.com) about the relationship between her terminally ill mother and her Golden Retriever during the last months of her mother’s life. Her words brought the first of the tears that threaten me daily this time of year.
My mother would have turned 70 this past January. She died on May 18, 1993, nine days after I had my fifteenth birthday party for the family in a waiting room at Sibley Hospital. Every spring, when May hovers close, its sweet green smell, hay fever, dogwood blossoms, and bird songs signal the imminence of Mother’s Day, and the anniversary of her death.
I once euthanized a lovely little cat that had nursed her owner through chemotherapy for lymphoma, and seen her through to remission. There must be so many stories like this and to protect myself, I often don’t ask to hear them, for which I feel selfish. My own mother spent her 18 months of chemo in a big blue chair with two cats and an afghan draped over her lap. Much later, I became (among other things) the agent who stands by while loving owners whisper goodbyes to the small warm caretakers of their daily lives. I can begin now to imagine how my dad must have felt when my mother’s lap cats died. They were her bodyguards and her pain medication, and sometimes I think they were the metronome behind her beating heart.
Pets aren’t for everyone. I believe there are some people who can never know, or desire to know, what it’s like to have an animal embed itself so deeply in your life and your heart that losing it will tear fibers apart that can’t be sewn together again. For those of us who do know, the pain is exquisite, but made bearable by the love.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Katie Berlin is a small animal general practitioner in Mechanicsburg, PA. She is also a reader, a rider, a runner, a lifter, a teacher, and an art lover. She graduated from Williams College in 2000 with a degree in Art History and worked in art museums before going back to school and earning her DVM from Cornell in 2009. She is an avid supporter of Fear Free practice and the battle against compassion fatigue in the veterinary profession.