One of the unfortunate facts in life is eventually you have to deal with death. When you’re a kid, it’s most likely a beloved pet, and while this is no joyride it’s painfully necessary so that you can deal with the bigger deaths you’re going to have to experience later on.
With any luck, the first few pet deaths are sort of baby steps — fish in the aquarium, given a burial at sea — on the path to pets that you get more attached to, the ones with fur. But once you reach the point of letting a furry friend go, there’s really no turning back.
Several weeks ago, one of our outside kitties disappeared. Jaded adult that I am, I assumed that, in the manner of cats, we would not see this cat again. But then she showed up last weekend, much worse for wear. And although I could tell this cat was on her way out, we still had to go through the motions of taking her to the emergency vet, where they wanted $500 to do a whole battery of tests. Tell me, how do you weigh $500 spent on a stray cat against the barely contained hysterics of an 11-year-old? My husband and I may seem cruel for this, but we opted out of the expense. I took her to our regular vet the following Monday.
Doc pretty much confirmed for me what I could plainly see — the cat was running on fumes. I left her with him and went home to discuss What To Do with my husband, particularly with regard to how to handle Spawn in this case. In the end, we decided to put the cat down and be very vague about it, only telling Spawn that she didn’t make it. My husband came home and buried the cat in the back yard before Spawn and I got home that evening.
How does one go about breaking the heart of a child? This was definitely one of the toughest things I’ve ever done in my career as a parent, especially knowing that I will have to do it again, and again, many times over the course of my child’s life. And each time it will be a bigger deal, right up until we reach the pinnacle of death-telling, the grandparents. Which could come sooner rather than later, who knows.