Just before Christmas 2019, the Sparkle Ellie team said a
heart-breaking goodbye to one of the founding members, Kuhie. Yes, Kuhie is a
cat but he was also a member of the family and one of the main reasons, the
Sparkle Paws and Glitter Trails section of Sparkle Ellie was born and exists to
Saying goodbye to a furry member of the family to “real”
pet owners, parents and lovers is as bad and heart wrenching as saying bye to a
member of the family. The devastation and loss you feel as well as the marked
absence of your beloved furry in your home, leaves you so raw, grieving, sad
and vulnerable to insensitive remarks. And unfortunately, not everyone gets it
– but the many people who do, who connected with an animal, who have cherished
them, loved them, included them as part of the family and have had to say
goodbye can testify it is equivalent to losing a dear family member.
If you are a true animal lover – you know that saying
that final farewell (with the grieving that goes with this) is the only downside
of owning pets. This downside sometimes includes making that earth-shattering
decision of putting your pet’s needs before your own and putting him/her to
sleep; then taking your beloved pet to the Vet and holding him/her in your arms
as their body grows limp (from the injection) and the light and sparkle in
their eyes fade into a dull glaze. And then the true and raw grieving begins.
The sobbing and the physical pain in your chest. It may be the only downside
but it is a downside which drives many pet owners to say “never again”… “never
again do I want to go through this and get a new pet” (which hardly ever
happens; the pets keep coming). The point is, having a pet pass away is a
tremendously traumatic experience for an owner.
A few things for people who don’t feel the same about
animals – please still respect the person and their
feelings when they lose a pet. Imagine if you lost a child, mother, father,
brother or close friend – how would you want to be treated, what would you want
people to say? If you aren’t sure what to say just say “I’m sorry for your
loss”. And whatever you do – don’t suggest the person get a new pet to replace
the “old one”. Remember, how you would feel if you lost a close loved one and
someone said: “just replace them with another person or friend”?
To the grieving pet owners – you are not
alone (not that this is a comfort). I understand that the memories aren’t
enough. The fact that they had a good long life with you is no comfort. None of
the other pets can ever replace the hole another pet leaves in your heart. I
know you grieve in solitude and earnest – in the moments you stretch your hand
to pat them and there’s nothing there anymore, the times you get home and call
for them or look for them and realise they aren’t coming, the moments you can
eat a meal without their interruption, when you don’t hear the patter of their
feet on the floors anymore and when you see their blanket and still picture
them on it but they are not there. The grief is real. There is no way out of
it, only through it.
Here are comforting words I received from Kuhie’s
My darling boy – my heart breaks when I think of you.
Your little body let you down. Your sisters miss you and still look for you. I
miss the sound of your nails scratching over the floorboards as you make your
way to me. I miss you trying to eat the food off my plate (even when you
stopped eating your food). I miss the moments you became cray-cray with your
soft blankies. I miss you waiting for me when I got home from work and when you
howled to the moon so often. I miss you hiding from me in the garden when you
knew you were due at the Vet. And the way you loved drinking at your water
fountain. I miss how you had Stockholm Syndrome with Lulubelle and that you
loved baking in the sun (or in front of the heater). I even miss cleaning up
your vomit when you weren’t feeling so well. I am so sorry I couldn’t do more
for you. And know the memories we have together aren’t enough. I will see you
in heaven darling boy – you better be first in line.
What happened to Kuhie?
Kuhie had been diagnosed with kidney disease a year or so ago. We managed the pain and symptoms of Kuhie very effectively since the diagnosis with weekly (sometimes biweekly) subcut fluids, pain meds and nausea injections. But two weeks before Christmas Kuhie lost almost a kilogramme. It had been a struggle to keep his weight on but up until this point, we kept it relatively stable. We did more tests and got a specialist to do a sonar. In addition to kidney disease, he had pancreatitis and irregular spots in his intestines (and several other places) with a high white blood cell count which most probably indicated cancer. We put him on antibiotics, but he kept losing weight. The Wednesday before Christmas, I took Kuhie to the Vet for his subcut fluids and when he lost weight again, I knew it was time – his body had had enough. So, I asked the Vet to inject with everything that would make his last few days awesome – Vit B, cortisone (we couldn’t previously inject because of the kidneys), pain meds, anti-nausea and a few other feel-good shots. We took Kuhie home to the family and spent two very hard days saying goodbye. He ate Nandos chicken. He ate tuna (not recommended for healthy kitties). But to be honest with all these injections, he was still waning away. The Friday before Christmas, after work, we drove to the Vet, told Kuhie we loved him, held him tight and then cuddled him until he fell asleep and went to heaven. It was extremely heart-breaking to see his little lifeless body and vacant expression. Even harder to return without him. But after a week of sobbing and private mourning, we realised it was in his best interest that we made the decision. He was almost 17 and had a good life (living through all the household milestones – matric, tertiary education, party phases, BC days, bad break-ups, depression, banting, insomnia, health and many personal victories). But still, this is not enough. He is sorely missed and deeply grieved.