It's all part of life
You know, I've had animals almost my entire life. My mother was fanatic about having pets, and it was just another aspect of our household. as such, though, I've seen many pets come and go. Some to age, some to sickness and infection, some to cars and/ or accidents... and yet, it was one cat who changed me in a very direct way.
We had a cat named Bonita (it means beautiful in spanish) who moved in with us when her other owners decided to move to florida, into a house where they weren't allowed to have pets. We had watched Bonita a few times before when they left for vacation, so it was no trouble acclimating her to the house. She had been with them for nine or ten years before staying with us. she was wonderful, loving, kind, and one of the more personable and affectionate felines I'd ever come across. That's why it was so hard to deal with when we woke one morning, and realized by that afternoon that Bonita was nowhere to be seen. After a couple of hours, we finally found her, lying behind a cabinet that sat out from the wall. she didn't look too good, so we called a friend of ours who was a vet to come check her out (benefit of knowing a vet: housecalls) It didn't take him long to tell us that there was nothing wrong, other than she was finally letting go. We'd had her for nearly four years after getting her, and it was just time. The doc left, and no one in the family wanted to deal with it, so I did. I sat there and pet Bonita for a good three hours as she seemed to slip farther and farther away, occassionally purring for a breath or two before it was just too much. When she finally passed, I couldn't help but sit and pet her a while longer, part of me thinking that maybe she would spring back to life and prance around again. I'd never actually been with any of my pets AS they died, and to this day count it as almost the hardest day I've ever had. I buried her on our land, to join the rest of our crew that had come and gone over the twenty years before, and probably cried about half the time. By the time it was finished, though, I noticed this hope inside me somewhere... even though she knew she was going, and had chosen to be alone, maybe somewhere I helped her ease into it... I pet her for over four hours straight that day, hearing her last purr and watching her take her last breath. No matter how hard it was, though... well... i keep thinking at least I was there for her. there's no real end to this story, other than the obvious, and the thought I want to pass that it's not always how long they live, how long you've had them... it comes down to spending time with them. They are family, and they deserve at least that much. -cdp