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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Not Just a Cat


My childhood memories of Sunday School have become a blur of choruses of “Jesus Loves Me” (not the Whitney Houston rendition) and memorizing the Lord’s Prayer for prizes of candy bars and prayer cards. One particular lesson, however, still sticks with me.

The topic was heaven. We were not at an age where we had serious theological debates, but were nonetheless old enough to have some notion of death and the afterlife, at least as much as anyone understands such things. Some precocious child (it wasn’t me) asked if our pets would go to heaven when they died, and I remember distinctly what our Sunday School teacher said as she tried to answer the question. "Only people go to heaven," she said. "The Bible says that animals will return to dust.” She quickly changed the topic, content that we wouldn’t question the authority of statements that begin with ‘the Bible says…’.

I suspect she wasn’t expecting that question, and she was even less prepared for the discussion that should accompany it: the concept of soul. The notion of the human soul is problematic enough, but what about those of our four-legged friends? I remember that at the time, I couldn’t imagine my cat suddenly turning to dust and I also doubted that there could be a heaven that didn’t have puppies and kittens. I still have the same basic reaction as my eight-year-old self; I don’t want to go to any place, especially for eternity, where my pets wouldn't also be welcome.

These days, I’m not religious enough to dwell much on thoughts about eternity, but concepts like love and loss, birth and death have been at the forefront of my mind this past week. Since Ullrick left me on Wednesday, I’ve been asking myself if I made the most of the short time that I had with him. There could have been more walks in the park and more snuggles in the bed, but I can’t go back and change that now. It doesn’t help me, and it won’t bring him back, to dwell on such thoughts, but it can remind me that I have another cat who needs all of the love I can give her right now – and I need all the love that she can give me.

I’ve experienced a whole gambit of emotions – sorrow, disbelief, denial, anger, shock. At times, maybe there have even been hints of reconciliation and acceptance, but I don’t think I’m there yet. It mostly doesn’t seem real…Monday night he was curled up in his ‘puddy basket’ with his (not-so) little sister, Tuesday was an excruciating day at the vet’s, and Wednesday he was gone. Now it’s Sunday night and I’m still struggling to come to terms with it all. I've spent a large chunk of the last few days curled up in bed with Vessa and looking at pictures of Ullrick.

I’ve been very lucky this week in that I’m surrounded by animal lovers, both in real life and online. I’ve been very touched by the outpouring of thoughts and well wishes I’ve received in my inbox. Mamma Mu, a Swedish friend I met through my personal blog, was staying with me this week and was a lifesaver in that she went to the vet’s to pick up the empty carrier and pay the bill for me. I’m not sure I could have handled it myself.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the prevalence of “pet bloggers” and humans’ tendency to anthropomorphize their animals. (It’s nothing new; the ancient Egyptians even deified their felines in the form of the cat goddess Bast). Jokes about lack of opposable thumbs aside, there is a human behind every cat, and I think it’s our way of giving them a voice. It’s also a way to express our love for them, because it taps into a community of animal lovers who care for their pets as much as we do.

Although I miss him dearly, I don’t regret a single second of the last nine months I spent with Ullrick. He was still a baby when he came to live with me, and I watched him grow into a handsome cat. I saw his immediate affection for his little sister when we brought her home, and those big green alien eyes always seemed to see right into my soul, as if he could read my mind.

I’m glad I could tell when there was something wrong in his little body, and despite the sorrow, I know that the final decision was the right one. I would have figured out how to pay for it if there was a treatment that would have given him a fighting chance, but I have to trust that the veterinarian would have given me those options had such existed.

I know that sometimes people who have never loved or been loved by an animal might have a hard time understanding how you can be so shaken up over the death of a pet. “It’s just a cat,” they might say.

But Ullrick wasn’t just a cat. You see, he was my cat and I was his person. He didn’t belong to me; we belonged to each other. I’m counting on the fact that if there is a heaven, the souls that belong to each other will be together.

37 Comments:

At 11:50 PM, Blogger Derby said...

Leaky eye time again. The love we have for our beans and the love they have for their furkids is something special. You did right by Ullrick and he will be waiting for you to join him. Lots of purrs to you and Vessa.

 
At 11:57 PM, Anonymous Wendy said...

Rest in peace
/Wendy through mama Karin

 
At 12:53 AM, Blogger Les Trois Chats said...

We're so sorry. Our eyes are leaky, too.

There is no such thing as just a cat. Ullrick was so lucky to have you, a person who adored him and took care of him. You were lucky to have him, and he loved you all of his short little life.

Know peace in your grief.

 
At 3:57 AM, Blogger Miz said...

The Reverend Billy Graham once said that God will provide in heaven everything we need to be happy, if you need Ullrick, you will have Ullrick.

Sympathy for your loss.

 
At 7:30 AM, Blogger Max said...

Have you ever seen the movie "What Dreams May Come?" it poses the question of heaven and whether or not pets will be there. I kind of like the notion that we'll create our own versions of heaven, and for those of us for whom heaven won't be complete without our furry friends--they'll be there. And truly I think they're waiting for us at that bridge...

Right now Ullrick is enjoying a never ending supply of whatever Stinky Goodness strikes his fancy, he's playing with all the Pets Who Came Before, and he's waiting for you, hoping it will be a very long time before he sees you there.

~Max's Person

 
At 5:36 PM, Blogger InMyHumbleOpinion said...

He couldn't have asked for a better Human! When my Misty got sick this spring, I tried to spoil her, but how do you spoil an already spoiled kitty? Love them the best you can. Give Vessa a hug from me and the girls (April, Remy and Katrina)
- Nancy

 
At 6:41 PM, Blogger ML (Mary Lynn) said...

What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful kitten.

I remember reading that Dr. Graham said that our pets will be in Heaven with us.

Some of us will have a zoo, right!

No heaven will ever a Heaven be
Unless my cats are there to welcome me.
---Unknown

 
At 6:41 PM, Blogger Grr, Midnight & Cocoa said...

That was just beautiful. Of course you'll see him again. How could there be a heaven without cats?

 
At 6:59 PM, Anonymous Lee said...

I believe firmly that there is a place in heaven (wherever/whatever that is) for our beloved furries and they await us. If they aren't there, then I ain't going there. I take solace that the cats who have graced my life and died are waiting for my time. In our church's columbarium, we actually have a niche reserved for the ashes of beloved companion animals. (I figure four containers can fit in the niche.) Right now there's one family's dog's ashes. Lastly, don't deny the grief that one feels upon the loss of a companion like Ulrick. Our cats demonstrate for us unconditional love and carry us through so much of our lives. (I write as a clergywoman.)

 
At 2:30 AM, Anonymous David E. Francis said...

Don't let those who say "just a cat(dog)" bother you; they have never been fortunate enough to love and be loved by their cat(dog). To those of us that have been lucky enough, they are our kids and us their parents.

Ullrick had many friends who cared about him in this life. His is missed. We thank you for sharing him with us.

The pain of his passing will lessen in time. And the memories you have of Ullrick will bring you happiness. Magoo, Smudge, Bella, and Dolce's Dad wrote a beautiful essay on their blog along those lines as tribute to Ullrick. (As is yours.)

Eventually, you, Ullrick, and Vessa will be together again when you are reunited in Heaven.

Dee

 
At 3:30 AM, Blogger Edsel/The Pooch said...

my beloved Edsel is not my cat. he is my son. i don't know if there is a heaven. if there is, we will be together. Ullrick was well loved by you, his Mom. even though his life was short in time, it was long in love and happiness. you will always have happy memories of him. give Vessa lots of extra kisses. Ullrick is there, in spirit, with both of you.
-Edselsmom

 
At 9:52 AM, Blogger one of us said...

We are so sorry to hear about Ullrick passing, but we know you did your best and made the best choices. Our hearts are with you in your mourning. We honestly believe that no matter the animal-'bean or cat or rodent or bun or any other- the energy that makes a being who they are goes on somewhere, somehow and for us the Bridge is our vision of this. ~Poiland Tribe

 
At 9:10 PM, Blogger Skeeeeezix the Cat said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 9:11 PM, Blogger Skeeeeezix the Cat said...

I had my Food Lady reed this and it made her face wet win water leeked owt of her eyes. I came to liv with the Food Lady and Mr Tasty Face win a cat named Joonyer dide. Mr Tasty Face had never had a cat before, and he cride and cride win Joonyer wint away, and even now he can't talk abowt him. The Food Lady got me for him so that he cood heel better. I think I helped a littul bit. And they offin talk abowt wether cats go to hevin, and wether Joonyer is up thare wating for Mr Tasty Face. They haven't asked thare preest this qweschun becuz the preest is very tall and stern and mite think they were nuts and not being holy. But they think if hevin is a good place to spend eternitey, it shood probly have cats. Otherwize, they don't wunna go.

 
At 9:21 PM, Blogger Petey said...

Petey's mom here. I was thinking of you and the pain you are feeling. I've been through it myself and I've experienced all those emotions too. Cancer is a terrible evil and it steals those that we love long before we are ready to say goodbye. I've lost two to this evil and was prepared well in advance and it stil hit me like a truck. It was so much that we had to move to another state; even though we had 4 other cats who are loved and cherished; to escape the emptyness that Romeo's passing left.
There will never be another Ullrick or Romeo... But, there will be others and they will touch our souls in that way that only a cat can. And when the tears flow like rain; they are not only for the ones that we have lost ourselves; they are also for the ones that others have lost as well. See you on the other side...

 
At 12:34 AM, Blogger The Meezers said...

oh, mommy's eyes are leaky too. She says "no, they're never "just cats" they are part of us, and we are part of them". Don't worry Curiosa, you and your Ullrick will meet again - and you nefurr know, he might send you anofurr to comfort you like Ralphie sented Sammy and me to our Mommy to ease her pain. Give Vessa some big hugs and headbonks for us. - Sammy and Miles (and Meezer Mom Mary too)

 
At 1:44 AM, Blogger Fat Eric said...

I agree with the consensus - if my animals can't join me in heaven, I don't want to go there either. I've loved a lot of animals but had a special dog once and Fat Eric is the most special cat I have ever had and I really hope there is somewhere where we will all be together. I can tell that you cared so much for Ullrick and he could not have been better looked after. I am also sure that you will do a great job of caring for Vessa and she will be a great comfort to you. And I am sure that there will be other cats in your future who, even though they may not be as special to you as Ullrick, will be special in their own ways. Please let us know how you and Vessa are getting on.
Kate (Fat Eric's mum in London)

 
At 2:43 AM, Blogger Katt said...

I am so sorry to hear about the loss of Ullrick. I lost my ginger baby Friday night but in a different way (just as painful but far less expected)

I am sure Ullrick and Zander (my baby) are playing happily somewhere safe now.

Katt

 
At 7:43 PM, Anonymous Mary said...

Such a lovely tribute to a beautiful pet.
God gave us our pets to love and return love. I believe that our pets are waiting for us in Heaven and I look forward to having my own personal "zoo" there. There will be cats, dogs, squirels, rabbits, ducks, chickens, turkeys, goats, deer...

 
At 11:48 PM, Blogger Mia and Ghost said...

Curiosa - I agree with you totally... there isn't any such thing as just a cat. I believe our friends(human, feline, canine, etc...) will all be with us in heaven. My thoughts are with you.

Jen (Mia & Ghost's Mom)

 
At 2:16 PM, Anonymous Kitty said...

I'm very sorry to hear of the passing of your beautiful kitty. Know that you have the sympathy of so many, even though we're mere humans...

Also know that you gave Ullrick the best possible life, one that he could never have experienced with anyone but you!

- Kitty

 
At 8:09 PM, Blogger Badness said...

I am so sorry for you loss of Ullrick. He was a beautiful kitty.

Remember that only humans have the ability to wonder about the future and dwell in that past. That is what I love about animals. They are in the here and now. Ullrick, never thought, "I wish my mama would spend more time with me." He spent every moment he had with you enjoying it to its fullest. Every moment he spent with you was the greatest moment of his life.

Being the mere humans that we are, we regret not doing certain things for our animals. I know I do. But our animals don't think that way. You and Vessa were the whole world to him and he needed nothing more to be happy.

Let Vessa heal your hurts and you heal hers. Share memories and love of Ullrick.

Badness' Mother, Bridgett

 
At 10:40 PM, Blogger Patches & Mittens said...

We are all so very sorry......

I had eye surgery and had to look down for 12 days, so I wasn't on the computer. Just now getting around to visiting, again.

Our deepest sympathy, we are so sad.

CalicoMom Toni and the girls

 
At 7:17 AM, Blogger Gigolo Kitty said...

I am so sorry to hear about Ullrick. I will miss him and his campaigns against baths and his complaining about missing man-bits. He was such a lovely kitty. The GK sends many hugs to you and Vessa.

 
At 9:30 PM, Blogger Victor Tabbycat said...

Well spoken, Curiosa. Those who say he was "just a cat" have never been more than just a person who met a cat once.
May you and Vessa find strength and comfort in one another.

 
At 8:40 PM, Blogger Jake and Bathsheba said...

Beautifully said. I'm so sorry for your loss.

J&B's "Mom"

 
At 8:46 PM, Blogger Name: Mr. Hendrix said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. My mommy sais this website and the Rainbow Bridge story has helped her through the passing of the furries before me. www.petloss.com

Even though there are a few people out there that don't get "it" we are more than "just pets" to our beans. Luckily things are changing and we are being recognized as the family members we are.

Know that you are loved and have support in your grief. God created us all, loves us all, and when we pass, he wraps us all in his love together. You'll see your beloved Ullrick again.

 
At 2:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello,

Yesterday I was noozing around on the Internet looking for a blog with Norwegian Forestcats to link at my own weblog.
I did found you, and then I saw that you has lost your cat.
The NFO is a great cat. His temperament is not to compare with other cats en I really understand that you miss him.
It hurts.

Perhaps when you are in time to look back to Ullrick with a smile, you will blog again about his sister. A lovely NFO too.
My name is Henriette. I live in Holland and I have 11 NFO at my home.
I also have a blog
http://www.femherrersland.web-log.nl

I wish you happy memory's about Ullrick

 
At 5:52 PM, Blogger Eponine's Cowboy said...

Mia and Ghost posted on Eppy's site and they led me to you. I hadn't checked in quite some time.

So very sorry to hear of the loss of Ullrick. It breaks my heart. I understand your hurt.

Your words and support for me have been incredible. My thoughts and prayers are with you now.

We do make our own heavens. I feel so very sure of it.

 
At 2:24 AM, Anonymous DKM said...

I woudld be at a loss without my children - you're in our thoughts.

 
At 3:30 AM, Blogger bat & bandit & holly said...

like so many others who have read this, my eyes are leaking, too. ullrick sounds like a most wonderful and loved cat, and i'm so sorry for your loss. nonetheless, you have hionored him withthis beautiful and touching tribute.

B&B's mom

 
At 2:00 AM, Blogger Kimo & Sabi said...

WAcKy WedNeSDaY is back!

 
At 11:15 AM, Blogger Justin said...

Hi ullrick, how are you doing?? No blogging from you for a long time..

Anyways, keep blogging n check my blog too.

 
At 10:09 PM, Blogger feralone said...

Your post is very profound and filled with wisdom of a true cat lover. It does get easier over time, but there will be moments when something will trigger your mind and send a searing pain deep into your soul. That's when you collapse inside and remember that what you did was for the good of Ullrick, even if selfishly, you wanted to keep him around forever.

When their pain ends, ours begins.


Mary Anne

www.felinexpress.com

 
At 1:27 AM, Blogger Victor Tabbycat said...

Just thinking of you, Ullrick, and Vessa. Bonnie Underfoot died suddenly at the end of May. Victor has a new little friend, Nina. She's much more fun for him than Bonnie. Bonnie and Ullrick live on in our hearts forever.

 
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At 7:03 PM, Blogger ra husky said...

We found your bloggie today- don't know if woo come here anymore but we wanted to pause and offer soft husky woooos,

RA

 

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