We Love Our Pets, We Are Better for It

There have been a few Priests lately on rants about people loving their pets too much and treating them like people. I think we all realize they are not people, but we love them. It seems so odd to me that anyone would think we should not love all living beings. There can never be too much love in the world. I say love your pets and provide them the best care you can. They journey through life with us and for me have made my life happier.  To those obsessed with us loving our fur babies too much I say, maybe you should focus on the starving children, the victims of abuse, racism, murder, or nuclear disarmament. There are big issues in our world. Loving our pets isn’t one of them.

This was my husband’s obituary to our cat Chaucer. Judge me if you will, but I loved him and still do. He was kinder than many of the people online.

Early this morning my cat, life witness, and buddy, Chaucer died.  He was 18.  For those 18 years, he has stood as either a silent or meowing witness to a long segment of my life river.  He was there as I studied and obtained my Ph.D. in psychology, and I am at times inclined to think he channeled a dissertation to me.  He was there when I married.  He witnessed my comings and goings from Tucson, Arizona to Batavia, New York to Phoenix, Arizona to Minneapolis, Minnesota to Vienna, Virginia to Atascadero, California to Dubuque, Iowa to San Antonio, Texas. He witnessed me starting my private practice.  He waited for me when I did a postdoc in Minneapolis.  He sat at my feet as I wrote book chapters, reviews, and articles.  He was kind enough to meow approval as I wrote, but only if he was in a good mood.  Despite it all, he never let me get a swelled head.  He slept on top of Roberta.  If I wanted something warm, I had to make do with a pillow.  He has died in San Antonio.  Before today, he had waited to move with me and Roberta to St Robert, Missouri.  It is that trip he will not make.  Instead, he waited one last time, this time a ghost, as Roberta and I dug his grave in the garden.  A statue of the Buddha will guard him from a distance.

Of course, Chaucer was no Buddhist.  Buddhism teaches the cessation of desires.  Chaucer was devoted to their satisfaction.  If feeding his desires created new ones, he was fine with that, provided Roberta and I made the right effort to satisfy them.   In many ways, he was an odd buddy for me.  For example, we could never agree on capital punishment.  I hate it.  He was all for it, and had a long, long list of crimes that he viewed as capital offenses, especially living in his space without paying rent or at least tribute.  When we lived in Arizona, I am convinced he would have attended militia meetings if I had let him.  I also suspect the absence of firearms in the house was an affront to his martial sensibilities. 

For the first 16 years of his life, he did what most mammals do.  He started thin and ran to fat.  When thin, he loved to hop up onto my shoulder.  He enjoyed perching there as if he were a parrot, and having me cruise about the house to give him an elevated view of his estate.  And he liked getting fat, even if the lard robbed him of spring in his legs.  He had a taste for expensive chevres, and ignored the Kraft that I would eat.  He had no use for beef, but was keen for Chilean sea bass at $25 a pound.  He also showed his solidarity with my father’s co-religionists by being mad for lox, though he preferred his lox with cream cheese on it.  He liked expensive ice cream as well, but only when placed on a wood to give it the flavor he liked.

Goodness is slippery.  The gods are ironists.  Against Chaucer’s loud protests, Roberta and I had him vaccinated.  At heart, he was a Christian Scientist with no use for vets or their practices.  And he was not shy about expressing it.  One vet wrote in his record, “Nasty cat.”  Chaucer didn’t care.  If a vet wanted to examine him, it was the tank first.  I see the gallows humor in it having been a fibrosarcoma that blossomed from one of Chaucer’s vaccination sites.  This cancer was a savage cannibal.  Chaucer never backed away from him.  When he was diagnosed, the vet reckoned Chaucer had 3 to 6 months to live.  Chaucer stood firm for 19 months as this cannibal tumor ate him.  Perhaps he would have died sooner if not so fierce when facing a remorseless killer.  And the vet had not understood the skill and devotion of my nurse wife.  For these 19 months, she has fed Chaucer prednisone, cleaned his wound, changed his dressing, and held him as he died.  Chaucer was never abandoned.  Roberta held him in love until the end. 

Eighteen years is a long time in any human life.  If I am lucky, I may live another 18 years myself.  Roberta almost certainly will.  Despite our good fortune, our lives will have a gap in them, even though we will carry the memory of Chaucer in us.  It’s been a long journey we all have had together before we stood together at his grave.    I thought back to how he got his name.  He was a handful of kitten.  I found him curled on a Penguin copy in my library of the Canterbury Tales.  From then on he was Chaucer, though Chaucey and Mr C would also do.  I write in his memory so that others may also remember by buddy and witness—Chaucer.   I loved and love him.    09 May 2014, San Antonio, Texas

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