Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Crying on the Cat Food Aisle

The reminder cards came in July.  I procrastinated until August.  Then, Mom fell in her kitchen which precipitated her need to move to Lubbock.  The month of August was dedicated to  sorting, packing and/or selling the contents of her house.  While I was in Waco, I got the call from Alan who could barely speak as he delivered the news.  "Pepper didn't make it."  We had chatted the day before.  Pepper, our border collie, had been really slowing down over the past few days and panted heavily as she lay sleeping.  She died at the animal emergency center during the night with Alan by her side.  

I was surprised by the magnitude of my own reaction.  Having never considered myself to be a "dog" person, I realized that I was fully a "Pepper" person.  Once I was back in Lubbock, the reminder cards continued to sit on my desk.  I just couldn't bear the thought of packing up Lily and Dixie, our 2 black and white cats, and making the trek to the vet for check ups and shots.  So, I set the reminder cards aside indefinitely.  I knew that everyone at the vet's office would ask about Pepper.  I couldn't even mouth the words.  I dreaded the thought of sitting in the waiting area with two healthy cats crying my eyes out.

On Saturday, Alan and I ran into PetSmart to load up on cat food and to buy a new cat carrier.  The store was humming with humans and dogs.  There was lots of oohing and ahhing going on.  "How cute!  Can I pet him?"  "We had a dog like that when I was a kid!  What a great breed!"  I felt the tears coming.  My throat grew tight as I hurried to the cat aisles thinking that being surrounded by kitty litter and Purina Cat Chow would serve as a cheerful distraction.  I decided to look at the cat carriers while Alan filled the shopping cart with cat food.  The cat carriers were very, very small.  Not large enough to transport 2 cats the short drive to the vet's office.  With Alan by my side, I ventured to the back wall of the store where the dog carriers were on display.

Standing there trying to decide which carrier was the right size, my eyes began to well with tears.  I grabbed a carrier, handed it to Alan, and said, "I'll be waiting in the car."  I dashed out of the store hoping that no one saw me crying over a shopping cart filled with bags of dry cat food and a medium sized dog carrier.  As I sat in the front seat of the car brushing away my tears, I wondered how long it will take for me to fully grieve the loss of Pepper.  I got all choked up on Christmas Eve thinking about how much she enjoyed sitting in piles of discarded wrapping paper.  It's been 5 months.  I had no idea that I would still miss her so.  I grieved the loss of my sister pretty heavily for 2-3 years.  It was a long, long time before something stupid like seeing a box of Brach's chocolate covered cherries or hearing John Denver sing "Grandma's Feather Bed" no longer made me sob.  In comparison, I'm almost embarrassed that I'm still feeling so emotional about Peppy Doodles.

Today, Jonathan kindly loaded up Lily and Dixie into the new cat carrier and carted them off to the vet for their long overdue shots.  Alan and I had to help him wrangle Dixie into the carrier.  She is a fighter, that one.  We finally cornered her under our bed.  With all three of us wallowing on our bellies reaching and a broom "guiding" her towards outstretched arms, Alan finally managed to clasp enough of the scruff of her neck to drag her from her hideout.  Before Jonathan headed out the door lugging the plastic carrier that had become a growling, howling boom box, I had to swallow hard before I could even whisper, "Make sure and tell them about Pepper."  "Tell them what about Pepper?" he asked looking a bit confused.  "Tell them that she's no longer their patient because she's in heaven."  Unfazed he answered, "Oh, OK, Mom.  I'll let them know."

Perhaps next week I'll put myself through a PetSmart Desensitization regimen.  I'll park in the parking lot, walk in the door, stroll through the store, and then, get back in my car.  In and out I'll go until I am able to casually amble up and down each aisle with a smile on my face.  Once that is done, I'll tackle walking into the vet's office.  When I make my first run into their office, I will pass a note across the counter which reads, "This is a desensitization exercise.  Do not utter the words 'Pepper' or 'Border Collie' until I give you a hearty thumbs up."


tanya said...

I am so sorry.... we also put a cat down last year and she loved sitting under the Christmas tree....it was lonely under the tree this year.
I sobbed so hard at the vets that day they refunded my money for the visit after I left, so the next pet's visit we had a credit.

Carolyn Lackey said...

I don't think that Alan sobbed loud enough to get a refund. If I had been there, they would have probably offered me a bonus to leave the premises...

Karen Monroe Walker said...

Pets touch our hearts in such a special way. I am so sorry for your loss - she was a very special furry member of your family and that takes time to heal. Today is our Dixie's birthday - she's a miniature dachshund and is now 9 years old! Yet reading your words took me back to Heidi - we had to have her euthanized in November 2001. I can still cry over her and look how long that's been. Pepper sounded like a wonderful, special Peppy Doodle:) Hang in there - it will get easier day by day.

Carolyn Lackey said...

Thanks for your sweet words, Karen!!


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