My cat died last summer. He had been sick for a year, more or less, but had a good prognosis so when the situation took a turn for the worse it all was quite sudden and unexpected.
I always thought I’d make a big post when this happened but here I am, writing about it many months later. I remember, though not verbatim, how in King Lear Cordelia says that if she felt less intensely, she could speak about her love for her father more easily. I’ve always felt identified with those words.
You see, the good thing about animals is that you don’t have to talk about feelings. You don’t have to talk at all – even though that didn’t stop me from doing silly talk to Nino. In these last 3 years I’ve lost people I deeply cared about – real and metaphorical deaths – but the absence that hurts me more is that of my cat. I miss his constant and quiet presence, his feline calmness. I miss the smell and softness of his fur. His purrs. I miss his friendship, for he was that, my best friend.
I miss this type of friendship, of wordless communication. The relationship with our animals is pure and simple love, unadulterated feeling, untainted by human expectations or obligations. Mammals interacting with each other.
Very often, relationships exhaust me. I’m a classic introvert, I need my own space, my alone time. This can be a couple of days or a month. This doesn’t mean I don’t care about my loved ones but there are many ways of loving, all having the same result but I can understand how some people might feel hurt or confused. I’m also liable to those feelings myself, I’m much more sensitive than what I’d like to admit.
This is why I feel at home with animals. You can love and respect each other while you’re peacefully ignoring the other.
Also, animals don’t give a shit. They don’t care if those shoes you’re wearing are new and cost you a small fortune but will lay down in bed with you when you feel sick, tired and everything around you seems to be collapsing. They might wake you up in the middle of the night and still you love them because you love them. They only want a carer, a bowl of food and a roof. They won’t be with us for long and yet we jump into these relationships because that kind of love won’t hurt us, won’t make us feel raw or vulnerable. Your pet doesn’t expect an anniversary dinner. You don’t welcome a pet into your life thinking “Ah, at last I have my mini-me” or “Now I feel whole”. When you introduce an animal into your life, you end up realising you had been complete your whole life. And that you could love selflessly, no matter how much it hurts. Love for love’s sake.
I learned a lot about myself through Nino’s life, but also through his death. The moment that remains in my head is the night we took him to the vet to put him down. He had been hiding the whole day; it was painfully obvious he could no longer fight so the decision had to be made. I expected him to be silent and passive when we took him but instead he surprised me by meowing really loudly, just like any other trip to the vet. It was as if he was telling us “My body might be broken but my spirit is whole. I am me, I’ll always be me, and nothing is going to change that. I am ready for the next thing.” Indeed, the only calm mammal in the vet’s surgery that night was Nino. It was as if he knew his end was near and that’s how things were meant to be.
Or maybe this is just wishful thinking from my part.