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Mourning the Loss of a Pet (Who You Didn't Particularly Like)

On an otherwise-nondescript July morning while preparing for work, I noticed that my cat --

name of Boo, seven years old, inveterate destroyer of carpet and furniture -- seemed somehow

lazier than usual. He also seemed to be feeling some vague discomfort, made obvious by his

refusal to dart underneath my heavy footsteps like some feline Indiana Jones. Chalking it up to

yet another bouquet of flowers that he’d mistaken for a snack, I ignored it as routine indigestion.

Before locking the front door, I paused and thought, “I hope it isn’t the kidneys again.” This, it

would turn out, was a nasty bit of foreshadowing.

Two days later, Boo was dead, the victim of an aggressive kidney ailment that had been lurking

for the entirety of his short life. Try as my fiancee and I could to save him -- bottle feedings,

subcutaneous fluid injections, solemn prayers to Bastet, Egyptian God of the Cats -- there was

no use. In the time it takes me to recover from a Packer game, my cat had gone from healthy to


In the days immediately following his passing, we hit all the typical beats that follow such a loss.

I gasp-cried through a wistful Facebook post, then through a gut-wrenching litter change, and finally through the saddest vacuum filter replacement in human history. Once the shock subsided, we were left with the typical mix of grief and guilt, but for a mostly atypical reason:

Boo died young and probably painfully, leaving a nagging feeling that he deserved better.

And then there was this: I didn’t really like Boo all that much. He’d claw at my face while I slept.

His destructive tendencies were chronic and numerous. And, of course, it wasn’t cheap to keep

him breathing. Although we certainly fought like mad to sustain his life, his actual presence was

merely tolerated for the bulk of his days on earth.

So, how do we process something like this? Am I misremembering an animal whose only living

mission was to soil all of my favorite shirts, or am I just uncomfortable with the fact that Boo

might prove to be a better pet in death than he ever was in life?

In many ways, losing a pet that you don’t like is trickier than losing one you love to pieces. Say,

heaven forbid, that it’d been my dog who died. The experience would be vastly different. It

would be devastating, sure, but the feelings would be tidy and simple. Best dog on earth, I’ll

never love anything again, the end.

With a problematic animal, the feelings are more scattershot. Boo’s most endearing moments

were almost always followed by something to clean or replace. It’ll be tough to see his adorable

Christmas ornaments without also thinking of the ammonia-scented havoc he wrought on the

tree skirt every year. Even when he was ill, it was hard to separate the rapidly declining animal

in front of me with the one who’d caused so much frustration.

At least, that is, until we made the call to let him pass. At that moment, a lot of feelings

crystallized into something so plainly obvious that I might have missed it if he’d died less


For better or worse, Boo made me more patient. He made me keep my clothes off the floor. Boo

forced me to keep the kitchen clean. He taught me to sacrifice out of fatherly duty. And he’ll

never read this -- partially because he’s dead, and also because he was a cat -- but I’m grateful

in ways I’d never really realized.

So, in Boo’s memory, I think I’ll get some things that he would certainly have enjoyed, if only

he’d had more time: a few new shirts, new carpet and furniture, and a brand-new Christmas tree


August 2016

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