My girlfriend’s cat is dying.
The vet has given her three months. They found a bunch of tumors in Muchie’s abdomen and think that this is a terminal situation. She also has had diabetes for years. When Jessica visited me for three weeks this summer she drove up from Atlanta with both her cat and dog. She couldn’t leave the cat by herself because sometimes she doesn’t drink enough water and needs fluids. Plus, you have to test her blood sugar and all of that.
Just the other day Muchie was prescribed some pain meds. The next day, while eating, she fell over. Essentially she’s been listless, and has only eaten laying on her side. It’s very sad.
The vet suggested to take her off the pain meds to see if that improves coordination. Either way the end is near.
Jessica has been crying off and on for the past two days. She is devastated like one is when a family member is dying. I consider pets family members. But, then again, I’m also the guy that rides his bike to work with his dog in a backpack.
When I was getting divorced there were times that I felt my pets were all I had. Obviously, this is not true, as my friends and family were really the key to me pushing through that pain. But to come home and not see my wife was heartbreaking. I was able to be comforted with my dog and cat who would sleep with me. (hmm… there probably is a way to have worded that better)
As a man my inclination is to look for imperfection and suggest solution. If my girlfriend is speaking about a problem she’s having, I have the answer within seconds. I can’t wait to tell her exactly what to do. Obviously this is a poor strategy.
So, while she’s crying I find that for a second I want to tell her what to do to cope with this upcoming loss and how to give the cat some pleasure during her final days. Then, the urge passes. This woman is wholly capable of taking care of herself. I know this. Since she is not asking for me to solve her problems all I can do is listen and empathize. I feel powerless to fix this situation.
Sadly, there is no solution for the cat, nor a solution to cope with loss except to dive headfirst into pain. I remember reading A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis back in college. I thought emotions like anger and sadness were “bad” and the whole way through I just wanted him to “get over it.” I thought that was just practical. Emotions were untrustworthy.
When my family dog died (who was really my dog) at 18.5 years, I didn’t cry. The previous two years I had prepared for her death, so when it came I felt nothing. When my parents were beside themselves with grief I thought they were just being immature.
I know how insane that sounds, but it’s true. This is why I do all the work on myself. I need it. Today I can empathize with someone’s struggle. I can get angry to defend a boundary. I can stay with fear and not shame myself. In short, I’m a human being with emotions.
I love my girlfriend, and in the time Muchie was in my condo, I fell in love with her. It’s a pet – you have to. And over time, everybody leaves. Either alive or not alive. Being with my girlfriend and witnessing her pain is difficult. But staying with the pain, and being present for someone else’s is intimate and supportive.
That said, you have been through a lot of my pain, too. I appreciate it. (I write pretty awesome dick jokes, too)