…is that they don’t stick around nearly as long as they should.
My mom called me a little while ago to let me know that my cat, Elton, had just died. If you know me, you know that I don’t handle death well, whether it’s a person, pet, or even a character I like in a book or a movie. I turn into a pathetic mess. The passing of Elton is no exception.
Two hours ago, it was easy to hold back the tears because I had just finished climbing with my friend Nate (who is actually one of the few friends who ever knew this cat, though I’m not entirely sure he remembers) and we were about to go grab a beer. On my way home, however, there was no more holding off as I thought about my sweet, sweet Elton. It’s funny how with pets, as with family members, you immediately feel guilty for their death. Like, if we had just loved him a little more he would have kept living forever. I know that’s not true–he was 15 years old, and hadn’t been doing so well for the last year or so–but I can’t help but think it anyway. And I’m sure that the moms and Laura are probably feeling it too.
The news of Elton dying is particularly hard to handle, I think, because he was my first “real” pet. I had wanted a cat or a dog so badly when I was younger, but my dad is allergic so we couldn’t have one. But when my mom and dad divorced and I acquired a second mom and a sister, I also acquired a cat. His name was Tigger, and I did love him very much…but he wasn’t mine. About a year later, though, my sister and I sat awake one night listening to the most pitiful noise outside. We had no idea what it was, but it was heartbreaking. The next day as I was walking home from school, I heard the same noise and discovered a tiny kitten in my neighbor’s driveway. Since the neighbor hated cats, I knew it didn’t belong to her so I scooped him up and ran into my house. I don’t remember exactly what happened next, but I do remember the moms eventually agreeing to keep him, which meant I finally had a cat of my own! I also remember wanting to name him Toughie (because I’m terrible at naming things and was 11 years old), but I was overruled and the moms dubbed him Elton–the first of four cats to be named after musicians.
Throughout middle school and high school, Elton was my baby. He went from being a pathetic, tiny kitten to a huge cat with lots of attitude. He was an annoying little brother to Tigger until we had to put him down (another sad day…and that time I couldn’t even turn to beer to try to put it out of my mind), and then he quickly became the man of the house. When I got to college, the worst thing about it was that I couldn’t bring Elton with me, and only saw him when I went home for breaks.
For the last five-ish years, I’ve only seen Elton when I’ve gone home for holidays or birthdays or doctor appointments. I’ve missed him all along, but I had two cats in Massachusetts with me to fill my need for small, cuddly creatures. But now I feel terrible for not snuggling Elton more (kind of like how I felt awful for not visiting my grandfather more before he died…but that’s a story for another time/one I’ll probably never tell). I guess I can only hope that Elton knew how much he was loved, and that someone figures out a way to make pets live forever before Kitty and Booker (and my moms’ three other cats) get too old.