Left Behind: The Tragedies of 2011
(Los Angeles, CA)
I was feeling pretty refreshed with a brand new year and having turned 14 years old recently. Life was, as I considered it to be, a "beautiful thing" at the moment. I had two parents, a sister, and three loving pets: my 8-year-old best friend named Tiger, a 19-year-old cat named Tigger (called Boo-Boo out of affection), whom my parents had brought home as a street kitten when they were still dating, and a 7-year-old Labrador Retriever named Bailey. From this you can pretty much tell that I basically had it all, at least, everything that I wanted.
Anyway, it was the morning of January 15, and Tiger had to go to the vet's office for a checkup. For the past week or so, we, my Dad in particular, had noticed some strange behaviors coming from Tiger, along with a seemingly unhealthy amount of weight loss and a nasty odor that we had no idea where it was coming from. A couple of days before, I had even walked in on Tiger sitting in my Mom and Dad's bathroom in the dark, a place we would normally never find him. But I somehow remained optimistic, and could not see anything bad happening to him or to our family. Right before he was taken, I saw him sitting by the staircase. Not realizing that this would be my last moment with him, I sat by him, and ran my hand down his back, shocked by how easy it was to feel his spinal cord. He smelled terrible, and did not look happy. The green in his eyes was not there, but I felt that the vets would figure out the problem, and he would be fine. "Don't worry buddy," I told him, "We'll find out what's wrong and take care of you. It'll be alright." And he was off.
An hour went by, and then two. I sat with my Dad and sister in the kitchen in the meantime. Finally, the phone rang from my Mom calling. My sister picked up, and after a few minutes, her face fell. I knew the news was not good. After Dad spoke with Mom, I was informed that it "did not look good for Tiger." That didn't stop me from thinking positive though, as I thought that we could treat him here at home with fluids like we were with Boo-Boo. The phone rang again shortly. This time,Dad answered. I wasn't sure if it was just me, or if I could hear my Mom talk between sobs. Then after Dad ended the call, I struggled to take in the unthinkable words "complete kidney failure", "no hope", "must be put down." I broke down, right there, in front of everyone. It was unbelievably sudden. "No," I breathed between sobs, ""No!" Disturbed by the lack of tears from the others, I cried harder. Dad decided that we should all go down to the vet to be with Tiger in his dying moments, but shortly insisted that I stay home, since Mom was already as devastated as I was. I went up to lay with Boo-Boo, and the car backed out of the driveway.
About an hour later, the front door opened. As soon as a tearful Mom came to me it was official: Tiger was gone. Dead. No more. The green in his eyes remained gone from the moment I noticed it in my last moment with him.
Days went by. The house seemed incredibly empty. My buddy was gone. I cried in the morning, in the afternoon, and at bedtime. I could not stop expecting him to jump up on my bed and curl up under the covers with me or hound me for food or protest when I tried to move him from my spot at the TV set. A week finally passed, and then another, and then another.
In that time, Boo-Boo began to suffer from extreme weight loss and the inability to use the litter box. Kidney failure was a chronic illness in his case. I watched him go from needing fluids through an IV twice a week, to being fed baby food due to his inability to eat regular cat food. Soon, he refused to eat. Dad decided it would be best to put him out of his misery soon, and a second nightmare started. On his last day, February 8, Dad fulfilled Boo-Boo's lifelong wish to go outside and explore the backyard. Through the years, we would catch him trying to sneak out, and have to lift him back into the house. Bailey was apparently very excited to see him out there, and followed him around as he sniffed the plants, climbed the hills, and laid in the grass. Before taking him in, Dad wanted me to videotape Boo-Boo in his arms in order to get a last listen of his famously loud purring on tape, which I happily, but painfully, agreed to. I held Boo-Boo one last time, and he slipped away from us forever.
All we had left was Bailey, whom we hoped would help pick up the pieces after our recent tragedies. Suddenly, the litter box was no longer needed, the cat food was thrown out, the cat dishes were put away, and the furry blanket on the couch was removed. Even though it was Boo-Boo's time, it was too much. However, about three weeks after Boo-Boo's death, just as we were beginning to adapt to the healing process, Bailey suddenly did not want to run around anymore, nor did she want to eat much, or eagerly climb the stairs with us. For some reason, we still maintained a little of our optimism, and thought that Bailey was grieving with us as well. That was until she began to stumble while going up the stairs as well as show signs of lethargic tendencies. After a few trips to the vet, Bailey was diagnosed with an unknown autoimmune disease. From then on, I sadly watched her slip away physically and decline in basic motor skills. Finally, on the evening of March 7, a school night unfortunately, it was concluded at the Thousand Oaks Pet Emergency Hospital that no treatment would be guaranteed to restore Bailey to full health. It would not have been fair to keep her alive if she was suffering, especially after spending thousands on treatment that would turn out to not even work. Bailey died that night with Dad, my sister and myself sitting with her.
Desolated and empty, I dragged myself to school the next day. Unfortunately, this was when I saw for myself just how uncomfortable society is when it comes to death and grief, especially in terms of animals. As a person raised in a house with animals with loving parents, I was taught that pets are family members, and losing them can be just as horribly devastating as losing people. However, not all people are raised to think the same thing. Except for a handful of students and teachers kind enough to offer a little comfort, the support was sorely lacking. Most of those who comforted me only did it for a day or two. Some even tried to help by telling me to just "go buy another pet," but I politely declined the offer by trying to explain my view on animals. Somehow they just can't see an animal as being valued as a member of a person's family. Rather, they see them as being material objects that can be replaced when lost, just like how a toy or CD can. Setting aside the unconditional love of an animal is a truly big mistake, I believe. I have come to realize that they, just like humans, have feelings, and can express emotions. The problem is that they cannot speak their minds like people can, and that is why they are overlooked and seen as having no more a mind than a piece of furniture does.
Not surprisingly, the lack of sympathy was terrible, and added an overwhelming amount of extra pain to my sorrow. At home, I tried to find a reason, a meaning, to keep going or to find peace. At this point, my life depended on it. Left with boundaries set for me as a teenager and the inability to drive, I was stuck in my ow thoughts. I constantly asked myself, "How am I supposed to get passed all this?"
But I did get passed it in the end. As the months went by, I began to balance crying with thoughts on the many years spent with Boo-Boo, Tiger and Bailey and all the happiness and joy we shared together. I learned to ignore society's views on the importance of animals and, instead, value the views my family and I have developed. Animals mattered to us, and that was all that I cared about.
In mid-June of 2011, we decided that a petless home was too much to bear. We searched dog breeders online, and eventually found a breeder of Golden Retrievers in our hometown. On a warm afternoon, Mom, my sister and I drove to the breeder's house, where we met an almost two-month-old Golden . She was jumping around playfully in her playpen, and had just urinated on the floor, away from the newspapers set out. She had also just fallen into her bowl of water. I climbed into the pen and let her climb on me and shake water off her soft puppy fur. She had sharp teeth, and could not help getting a bit mouthy at me, but it was all out of pure happiness. As I touched her, I felt a great sense of peace moving throughout my body. The smile on that puppy's face as well as her lively actions made me feel relaxed.
We named that puppy Lilly, and brought her into our lives on July 1. Throughout the time I have had with her, I have come to feel as though it was worth the devastation of losing Tiger, Boo-Boo and Bailey since I can recognize how fortunate I am for having known them. Of course, i will always miss them terribly, but Lilly's happiness makes me feel as though they are all with me through her.