Friday, March 22, 2013

Betsey and Ross: Their Absence Makes My Heart Grow Fonder

Betsey and Ross died one year ago today. Well, I guess technically it was tomorrow because it was the 23rd, but it was Friday, so I think of it as today.

I remember thinking I'd never get over that loss.

They never judged me. They never said I let them down, disappointed them, or didn't live up to their expectations. They were never embarrassed by me. Of course, they couldn't say any of those things. They were cats, after all. But I knew they didn't think them either.

All they wanted was to love me and to be loved by me. They didn't care if I didn't wear make-up or failed to shave my legs. They would snuggle with me anytime, any place. They loved snuggling up next to me when I was writing or reading and they always purred me to sleep at night. They helped me work and gave me regular weather reports from their perch in the window, where they also guarded the house from blowing leaves and other threats.

I'd never before felt the kind of unconditional love that pets give us.  I'd never felt that kind of unconditional love before, period.

I don't have kids and probably never will. Betsey and Ross were my kids.

The last words I said to each of them were, "Thank you for letting me be your mom."

A year later, I still miss Betsey and Ross. Don't misunderstand me, it's not as intense as it once was. Mostly, I just think of them fondly when I see their pictures. Once in awhile, though, something will happen that triggers some sadness.

A few weeks ago, for example, I was awakened in the middle of the night by a sound I hadn't heard in almost a year. Zoey was getting ready to throw up, just like Betsey used to do regularly. Of course, I couldn't stop Zoey from coughing up her hairball, but as I knelt on the floor cleaning up the mess at 2am, I was immediately taken back to the nightly clean-ups of Betsey throwing up and I started sobbing. That bottom of the gut uncontrollable sobbing. Sure, it was a little ridiculous, but I just couldn't stop. All I could think of was how much I missed Betsey.

I remember that afternoon in the vet's office like it was yesterday.

Betsey was first. I did not want to say good-bye to her, but her little body was just worn out. She could not digest or keep down any food and her quality of life was pretty low. I just held her and talked to her until she was gone, and even then, I didn't want to let go.

The vet took Betsey out of the room and while he was gone, I just cried and cried. I questioned whether I made the right decision and wished I could take it back.

Then he returned and I had another decision to make. I wasn't 100% sure I was strong enough to say good-bye to Ross at the same time I lost Betsey, but he was terribly sick too.

I took him out of his crate, still wavering about what to do, and that boy just about broke his neck looking for his sister. I could barely keep him in my arms. I looked around the room at Craig and at my vet hoping they would give me some guidance. Neither did. It was my decision alone. As Ross continued to hunt for Betsey, I knew what I had to do. If I took him home, he'd die of a broken heart, I had no doubt. I was certain he'd look for Betsey forever and his loneliness and stress would cause his already uncontrollable diabetes would get even worse.

Just like with Betsey, I held Ross and talked to him, through my tears, until he was gone. He held on longer than Betsey did, but it wasn't more than five minutes. Again, I didn't want to let go of my boy.

In the end, I walked out of the vet's office with two empty cat crates and sobbed all the way home. Luckily, I wasn't driving.

Today, my house is filled with the sounds and energy of growing kittens. It's a happy place, once again filled with the unconditional love of pets. We remember Betsey and Ross with lots of love, fondness for all the joy they brought to my life, and the life lessons they taught me.


  1. As friends we laugh and find joy together, even if from afar- and as friends we share our sorrows. I am all teared up as I read this. Betsey and Ross were always a joy to see in photos and to read about; I was often reminded of when I had two cats at once, Simon and Schuster.

    Our beautiful animal companions fill our hearts so. As you say, their love is rather unconditional, and their presence is such a joy.

    And saying goodbye is the hardest thing.

    I'm so glad that Sammy and Zooey have brought joy, and hairballs (part of the deal!) to your life. It is a reminder that our sorrow helps create the space which our joy will occupy, when it returns.

    Sending you all my good thoughts and wishes always!!

    P.S. - you left a comment on my Facebook page the other day, and my reply is that I wish we could go to Rome right now!! :-) There are a lot of cats in Rome!!


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