This is going to be one of my non horsey posts. So apologies.
Last night we had the toughest evening of our grown up lives. Probably our whole lives because we’ve both been privileged enough not to endure any hardships.
I had gone to bed, in an attempt to catch up on some sleep before the 3am wake up kicks, when the doorbell went. It was a neighbour, to tell us that a man had just been to his door to tell him that a black cat had just been hit on the road.
Knowing our black ones, particularly Willow who quite often invited herself into his house through their dog flap, he came straight round to us.
Matt came and woke me up, garbling about Willow. After all, it couldn’t be Penny because she was already tucked up in her bed. I followed him downstairs and waited an agonising five minutes (pretty sure it was closer to five hours), shaking with nerves or the cold air until I saw Matt coming back, cradling a lifeless body in his arms.
“Is she …?” I asked, letting him in.
“I don’t know. I think so.” He sobbed. One look and I could see that our beautiful, energetic, cheeky black cat was gone.
I wanted to cry, but tears weren’t ready to come. So as he stood in the kitchen, holding her like a baby as we’d always done, and being the emotional one, I found a cardboard box and instructed him to put her in there. Penny had gotten up to see what was going on, so I let her peer in to see her half sister. Then at least Penny could grieve too.
We put the box in the garage, and I said we’d bury her tomorrow. Under the apple tree or somewhere.
Practicalities done, the floodgates opened. It’s awful, feeling so sad, shocked, and unable to explain why the world would be so cruel to take away that bundle of energy. Whilst also logistically thinking, that it was quick and painless. And she was off adventuring, which she loved to do. In truth, I’ve always worried about her. She’s like Judy from Seven Little Australians (read it – it’s an Aussie classic).
Eventually we went to bed. Matt took it hardest I think. She was more his cat, while Penny has always preferred me. And this is his first pet to lose. The first is always the worst. It never gets easier, you always grieve, but the mind can analyse and process things better. You can tell yourself you gave them the best life possible.
Probably one of my first memories is when, aged three, we returned home after visiting family to find a note from our lodger to say that Henry, our black and white cat, had been run over. I just remember Mum crying as she read the note.
We were looking forward to becoming a household of five, and I could see Willow being very good with the baby. Letting it tug her tail and all of that. Now, it will be all down to Penny to teach our baby to love and respect animals.
While I was lying awake last night… this morning… whenever it was, I began to worry. I can’t even find the right words to comfort my grieving husband, how am I going to explain death or comfort my child? They will have worries, scares, and questions about the bad guys in this world. How do I make them feel safe? How can I protect them from hurt? Or even just ease the heartache?
Perhaps regardless of how difficult it is, having pets will enrich their life. They’ll learn to love and care for another being, and see the full circle of life. And when we get to that bridge, I’ll somehow find the words to explain why.
I won’t bore you with anecdotes of her too-short life. We’ll talk together about how she terrorised the vet at ten weeks old, or sat on our shoulders purring in our ears, or would devour any human food going in particular chilli con carne, when we’re ready and the pain will ease.
Being a parent though, it’s not going to be easy. Our biggest challenge yet. In the meantime, rest in peace Willow, our crazy chilli-eating cat.