When I was 16, my dad and sister bought a dog. I was at a friend’s house, and my little sister took great pleasure in calling to tell me (as only little sisters can) that we now had a dog and it’s name was Princess.
I came home in a rage (mostly because I hadn’t been involved), determined to hate this dog. I would like to take this moment to remind my audience that I was 16. Not exactly the most rational beast alive I’m afraid.
Naturally, because I was committed to not liking this dog, she followed me everywhere. I was an extremely heavy sleeper (and my sister was a kicker) so I would wake up most mornings with the dog at the foot of my bed. I would ignore her haughtily, literally holding my nose up in the air. Half a year after Princess joined our household, I was given permission to paint my bedroom. I was delighted as I had been asking for several years and I had been allowed to choose the colour scheme myself. I had finished up the green and orange walls, and was moving onto the yellow that was going to be applied to the wall surrounding the bay window and window seat that faced the road. After several hours of painting, it was getting quite hot and the fumes were doing me in. I opened up the windows wide and had just loaded my paint roller when a group of loud kids on bicycles went screaming by our house. They were just playing, but it caused my dog, who had been sleeping on my bed while I laboured on the walls, to jump up, launch herself out the window, and to leap off the roof.
I dropped the roller, threw myself into the hallway and screamed “MOM, I’VE KILLED THE DOG!! I’VE KILLED HER AND I NEVER TOLD HER I LOVED HER!”
Drama queen that I am, I fell to the ground sobbing while my mother tried to figure out what the hell I had done. Once she extracted the information, she bravely headed outside to collect the remains of our battered puppy. I remained in the hallway sobbing and beating myself up, when suddenly I was greeted by a miniature tongue bath. I squeezed the ghost-made-flesh dog like she was a stuffed animal and ranted with fury and elation. When I finally pulled myself back together, my mother explained that she had indeed launched herself off the roof, but from there, onto my dad’s car that was sitting under my window, and had raced after the kids who had seen the whole thing. Not only was she fine, she was now a super-dog in the eyes of all of our neighbours.
Needless to say, I love my dog. A little something inside me breaks as each one of the pets come and go from our family and as Princess approaches her 16th year, I am steeling myself for the inevitable.
When Cas and I moved in together 11 years ago, we decided to add a pair of cats to our family. It’s a whole other dramatic tale of how we ended up with Fatso cat #1 (Griffon) & #2 (Cloud), but I’ll save that for another day. We had Cloud for 6 wonderful years before he became sick and died 2 years ago. I’m still pretty broken up about it, and as much as I try to convince myself otherwise, I blame myself for his getting sick. I try not to think about it much, but eventually I know that I’ll be able to remember him as a healthy and happy part of our family.
When I discovered that Griffon had gone missing at 11PM last Saturday (Cas’ birthday party, of course), I lost my shit. I had been the one to open the window to try and cool down our apartment on the second hottest day of the year. Again, Griffon had never gone out on the ledge, so I didn’t think twice when opening the window. I spent an hour circling the building, searching under furniture and calling out to our usually vocal feline. The remaining guests from Cas’ party were awkwardly finishing a boardgame as we searched. Finally, something snapped in my head and I decided that I had also killed my second cat. The cycle of negative thoughts swirled through my mind. I killed my cats. Thank goodness I don’t want kids. I’m useless. What’s the point?
Let me tell you, depression + a precocious cat are not a healthy combination. I could see that I was stressing Cas out, but I couldn’t bring myself to react without a breakdown in front of my guests. I sat “cat”atonic upstairs until our guests left, and even though my friend Davor stayed to help us search, I had given myself over to despair. I went for a walk about a few more times as I couldn’t sit still once everyone had left, but eventually a new thought popped into my head. He wasn’t just my cat. Cas would be upset as well and my acting crazy wasn’t just hurting me. In retrospect, I’m quite proud of the revelation. When in a negative thought loop, it can be very difficult to introduce new thoughts and that I was able to see how my behaviour was affecting others was a sign that the therapy I’ve been doing is helping. I headed home to comfort my equally distressed partner and we came to terms with the fact that he was gone. Unable to sleep, we still circled the neighbourhood for hours, but this time hand-in-hand.
At 4AM, we gave up. Our legs had turned to rubber and we were exhausted. Cas was certain that he wasn’t going to sleep, but we still stationed ourselves downstairs on the couch beside the open window to try and get some shut eye. We dozed on and off, stirring at any little noise. The brain is a wicked thing.
At 5AM, a quiet knock came on our front door. Cas’, wide awake, headed to the door. When he opened it, our bleary eyed neighbour was apologizing for waking us. Before the words escaped his lips, a furry, grumpy, fat bag of cat rushed in the door and headed directly for the litter box. Our neighbour had not noticed when he shut his door before going to bed that he had captured a stowaway until he awoke to the sound of hissing and spitting downstairs. Our cat had bullied his poor 2 cats into a corner, and finally decided to vocally drive the terror home. Our neighbour was equally disoriented because the only cat that roams the hallways is our neighbour’s docile cat Rhea. When he opened the door and our cat wandered the halls aimlessly – he was at a loss…until he saw our Missing Cat poster on the door.
7 hours later, our cat was restored to us and pooping contentedly at home.
It’s been a rough couple of days as I’ve tried to shake off the episode. Needless to say, Cas and I are entirely too attached to our cat, but the episode has made me decide to go to the doctor and try antidepressants/antianxiety medicine. I’ve been putting it off for some time, hoping that self-directed worksheets and exercise would make it go away, but it was finally my cat who drove it home. The fact that this little furry animal could make me consider the worst both illustrates that I have a big heart, but also that I need some help getting my thoughts in order. This should have just been a funny little escapade, similar to my Princess the flying wonder dog story, but instead it’s had me physically unwell and unable to concentrate for the past 4 days. So this is it. I’m taking the jump. I’m asking for help. But I know that I have a loving family, maddening cat included, and supportive friends who want my wellness as much as I do.
It’s my hope that at next year’s party, we’ll be celebrating not only my partner’s birthday, but also toasting my commitment to health and wellness. I’m holding off announcing a potential menu of BBQ’d cat until then.