The following is a post from an old blog – I think I published it (on another site) back in 2008 or so. I decided to repost it again – you’ll understand why when you get to the end. It is particularly meaning for for me today.
A Perfect Unconditional Love
I found out today that one of my closest friends, Jan, lost a much loved member of the family – her cat, Onyx. I’m so sad for her. Onyx had been part of their household for over 15 years, and had recently been having some difficulties; he appeared to have had a series of mini-strokes, and had been losing weight. Jan struggled with how long to put off what she knew would be inevitable – the decision to have him put down – which is, as any pet owner knows, one of the most heart-rending decisions you ever have to make. Being a “cat person” most of my life, I could relate to Jan’s experience. I have had the pleasure of having a series of interesting and loveable felines share our home. There was “Stevie”, “BJ”, “Spike”, “Pirate” and most recently, “Thelma” and “Louise”. Each one that we’ve lost (Louise is still with us) has been a different experience, but always so very painful and difficult.
Cat, dog, bird, bunny, hamster, whatever – our pets become so much more than just companions. They become true members of our families; ones we cherish as much as any other member, arguably more. Our pets are reliant on us for food, water, play and companionship. But unlike the human members of our family, they can’t tell us when they’re hurting or sick. Sometimes the only way we know is by observing how they’re behaving; changes in their routines are often the first signal that something is wrong. When we get that first signal, there’s always a question of knowing when to take action, when to get them medical attention. Then, once we learn that there’s a serious problem, how do we know when enough is enough, when they’ve been helped as much as is humanely possible, when it is time to let them go? And finally, why is that decision, once we know it needs to be made, so very, very difficult for us?
I’m sure there are many opinions on this, but I think it’s because our pets love us unconditionally. Who else loves us that way? Certainly not even our closest human companions! There are always conditions, negotiations, compromises, judgments, comparisons, etc., in our human relationships. But not with pets. No matter what we do, they love us anyway, even when we don’t deserve it – like when we don’t take them for a walk, or forget to feed them, or neglect to give them a little lovin’ when we come in the door at the end of a long day. It’s a powerful and comforting feeling, knowing that there’s at least ONE living being who will forgive you pretty much anything! And as soon as you know that fact, you find yourself loving them unconditionally back.
There’s always a hook, though, isn’t there? Here’s the hook – with that perfect, unconditional love comes a huge burden of responsibility, of knowing that when the time comes (unless the decision is taken away from you by accident), you will likely be the one to have to end the relationship and their life, simply because they can’t. It’s a formidable responsibility, and one we don’t often think about until it becomes clear that circumstances are headed in that direction.
I’ve had to make this decision myself in the past, and so I know just how Jan feels. Each time I’ve been through it, I’m so heart-broken I swear I’ll never get another pet because I just can’t imagine ever having to go through this again!
Yet, after a while, I always go out and find another furry, lovable friend to share our home and our lives, to become a member of our family. After all, once you’ve experienced it, who can deny wanting – even with the burden it brings – that perfect, unconditional love? I know I can’t. And I know Jan can’t, either. For now, I know she’ll take comfort in enjoying their other two cats, but when the time comes, she’ll make the right decision about them, too. And she’ll probably swear not to get another cat…..but eventually, she’ll find another beautiful feline to add to their family and will gladly take on the responsibility of accepting their unconditional love.
We lost our beloved Louise 3 years ago. A few months later, as predicted, we brought two new furry companions into our family – Angel & Monty. They have brought such joy into our lives! Unfortunately, we lost Monty yesterday, after a very short, very intense illness. It was such a shock to lose him so soon! My heart is broken, once again…but I will always carry Monty in my heart and remember the unconditional love we shared!