Little Bear

Although this is not photography related, it is a story that is worth telling.

Yesterday I lost one of the best friends I’ve ever had. We called him “Little Bear”. Born in our home in a litter with 2 sisters, Bear was son of our other cat, a purebred Siamese, aptly named “Momma”.

I cannot ever remember a time when he wasn’t around to greet me either at the top of the landing as I came in the front door, or near the garage door, waiting for me to come home. He was my alarm clock, always making sure I got up and went through our ritual of sitting in front of the fireplace together. He’d sit on my lap as I drank my morning coffee. For breakfast, we’d both eat cereal – cheerios to be exact. He loved Cheerios, and as long as my wife Paula wasn’t around, he’d be right there sharing them with me.

I know it sounds silly, but I had so many conversations with Bear. Especially when I came home at lunch time from a morning at work, he’d really seem to miss me, and I’d have to talk to him. He always needed to be acknowledged in some way. Then he was happy. I could read him like a book. My wife often called me “the cat whisperer” because I always knew just what he was thinking.

Life is full of surprises, and when tragedy strikes, it’s never something we’re ready to deal with.

My wife Paula is currently away on a trip to the southern mainland and Vancouver Island, so when the situation hit last night, it hit me hard. I was alone.

Bear was fine one minute and the next, I heard a terrible cry coming from downstairs. I could hear the cat door opening and closing every few seconds. When I went to investigate, I found Little Bear laying on the floor breathing quite rapidly. Momma cat was frantically running back and forth through the cat doors trying to attract my attention. I discovered that Bear could not use his back legs. It was as if they were paralyzed. I examined him and did not see any sign of trauma, missing hair, cuts, bruises etc. And I could not feel any broken bones. I knew this was the situation I absolutely did not want to face. I had always told Paula that if something happens to the cats, I couldn’t deal with it.

I grabbed Bear’s blanket and placed it around him, constantly talking to him, trying to calm him down. I carried him upstairs where he’d be more comfortable. He even tried to eat a few kibbles of food, desperately trying to get back to some kind of normality.

After tracking our local Vet down, I arranged to meet him downtown in ten minutes. My friend Carson came to pick me up so that I could stay with and hold Bear in his blanket. As I walked out of the house carrying him in my arms, Momma was watching and wondering where I was taking her little boy.

It didn’t take long to arrive at a diagnosis. My little cat had no stimulus response in his hind legs, and no femoral pulse. It was explained to me that cats can sometimes have a heart condition that can cause a thrombus to be thrown from the heart or aorta. The clot gets caught at the far end of the aorta where it branches to the femoral arteries.

The prognosis was not good, and Bear was in obvious distress. I had to make a decision.

Over the course of the next few minutes, I held my friend and talked softly into his ear until he was actually quite calm and relaxed. He went peacefully to sleep and I never left his side. I told the Vet I was taking him home.
When we arrived home. Momma was waiting for her son on the front step. I carried him inside stilled wrapped up in his blanket, and set him on the top of the landing where he often like to wait. Momma cat knew. After a few minutes I watched her frantically gallop around the living room desperately trying to get Bear to come to life and play like they always used to.

I stayed with him for awhile, then went out to the garden in the backyard to dig a grave for my little friend. It was the longest winter we’ve had in a while, and I often watched Bear looking out the window to his back yard and could tell he was wishing it was summer so he could once again play in his little jungle where he loved to spend so much time. And although the leaves aren’t even on the trees yet, the snow is gone. And I was happy that he did get a chance to spend some final time in this, one of his favorite places.

When I left for work this morning, Momma was on the bed where she slept beside me all night, very listless, almost as if she was grieving. I suspect it will be weeks until she is back to normal.

He was the gentlest little soul I’ve ever met. He would never hurt a flea, and was always there to give unconditional love and affection. I cannot tell you how heavy my heart is at this moment. It’s going to take me a long time to get over losing one of the greatest friends of my lifetime.

Us humans very seldom if ever give any thought about what animals feel. Just like us, they feel hurt, denial, depression, and heartbreak and deep grief.

They say we’re the more intelligent species…superior to all other animals. I have my doubts, but if so, we need to use our wisdom and our hearts to take care of those who have no voice…those who cannot speak with words…those who give us back things we cannot place a specific value on, but need to make us better, and the world a better place.

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