Everyone has a set time here on this Animal Planet. When we take in a new family member, we know there are good chances we will be there for their whole life and still be here when they have moved on. It’s a normal part of life and we buffer our emotions by planning ahead for the inevitable with common questions like:
“How old are they in dog years?”
Every time we ask, we are making ourselves aware their existence here (as we understand them) is usually faster then ours. It’s a mechanism to prepare us early for what’s to be lost. I’m hit with it more often than most. Earlier this past week I was at work a little worried about my cat’s recent behavior when a little girl at the penguin exhibit asked me:
“How old are they in like dog years? I mean, you know, like penguins years? Like it’s 7 dog years for a people year.”
A common simple question from a curious guest, I appreciated her thinking beyond “cute penguin” and (just so you all know the answer) I’ve loved penguins that have lived into their 40s, so it’s about 2 penguin years per people year in good care.
My life has been filled to the brim with countless animals coming and going into my life either by natural timeline or a change in jobs. Saying goodbye is never easy but this week was a rogue wave. I had been making a lot of extra wishes for the safe keeping of our kids by throwing a lot of pennies to the bottom of my widowed well but time was ready to come and collect some of the dues.
Clayton and I have 2 children together – Roan, our dog, and Stallone our cat. Both were rescues. Clayton adopted Stallone before we were together. A last chance at adoption for a severely malnourished and abused black kitten with F.I.V. and, in pure Clayton fashion, he had to help the underdog (or should I say “undercat”). Stallone would hide all day and only come out to eat under the cover of night. When Clayton and I blended families, it was amazing to watch how quickly Roan and Stallone took to each other. A brotherhood was born. When Clayton was near his last days, he worried so much about our boys and I promised I would take care of them.
Two days after that little girl asked “How many people years?”, Stallone suddenly stopped eating. I brought him to the veterinarian hoping he just had something that could be treated. Three hours later they called to confirm why animal intuition was tugging on my heartstrings with thoughts of goodbyes. We always knew that his FIV would shorten his “people years” but never thought it would happen so soon and so fast.
So there I was holding our son who, just like his other dad, was hit by an acute onset of his time ending. We couldn’t talk about his fears. We couldn’t talk about his confusion. I couldn’t explain why we weren’t at home. I told him how much he was loved, how glad we were that he was part of our family and to not be scared because he’d just fall asleep, leave his suffering behind in my arms and wake up healed in Clayton’s arms.
It’s never easy to loose a loved one. It’s never easy when you know it’s that time and the right thing to do. I’ll miss you my little boy but the hardest part is I can’t explain to Roan why his brother, just like his other dad, won’t be coming home…