If you have ever lived with an animal, you know the sense of connection you get from living through the years (good and bad) together. If you aren't an "animal person" this may sound ridiculous to you, but research does suggest that pets can strengthen our sense of connection, well-being, and boost immune system function. They provide unconditional love and are always happy to see you when you get home. Kato would curl up with me in bed and be sure to get me up at the ass-crack of dawn for breakfast. He sat on my lap when I worked and laid beside me when I was sick. We lived together for a very long time....and last Wednesday afternoon at 4:30pm, I had to say good bye to him.
Kato was superhuman (or in the case, superfeline) as he lived his 17.5 years illness and injury free. He smelled like baby powder, never sprayed anything anywhere, never had fleas, and always kept himself neat and tidy. He was a good lookin' guy always dressed for the occasion in his tuxedo black and white. I never was a "cat person" before I met Kato, and I never will live with one again, but the time we had together is full of great memories, laughter, horror (as I remember the many fights and potentially dangerous situations he got himself into). Kato was my Machiko Kakka Matsza (Sex and the City reference for those who speak the language).
Unfortunately, as life would have it, Kato developed a tumour that couldn't be treated and (very quickly) became very sick. Last Wednesday as I said goodbye to him, my heart broke into a thousand pieces (seriously, it physically hurt). My house is now silent, my grief is painful, and his absence is felt everywhere I look. I have always had a little being to care for and now I have only myself. I spent the last week crying when I felt the need (I no longer have eye wrinkles as my eyes have been puffy now for 5 days...bonus!). The one thing I have learned through the death of my father and step father is you must grieve. You cannot "keep busy" or buy another pet or work until it's bed time....grieving will get you through.
When my dad died, I poured myself into the grief and death research. I read every book and paper written by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross author of "On Death and Dying". I highly recommend this reading for anyone going through or about to go through the grieving process. This process is based upon stages and when you know it like the back of your hand you can almost tick off these stages as you move through them.
The first stage sucks the life out of you and makes you wonder around the house whispering "I can't believe he's gone" for hours on end. Shock and denial, coupled with the ugly cry Oprah talked about, is the first crappy stage to go through. Many people want to skip this part. They will do anything to avoid it and I don't blame them. It sucks. It physically hurts, you look like crap, and end up burying yourself in a heap of tattered, soggy Kleenex. You also may avoid certain parts of the house. In my case, all of Kato's stuff is down in my basement that I have yet to even venture into for fear of crumpling into a ball of goo (and there are spiders down there...I can't risk it). If you avoid this stage...I guarantee you it will manage its' way back into your life somehow (usually at the most inconvenient moments). I know...I avoided grieving my father and paid for it years later.
Anger, bargaining, and depression are the other stages I get to enjoy until finally I come to accepting the reality that Kato is gone. Of course, there are many who challenge these stages and some believe that we don't grieve through stages at all....but I hang onto my checklist knowing that soon I will feel some relief (plus the fact that I'm a check list person...it gives me something to work towards).
Thanks for everything, Kato! You were a great buddy, fabulous roommate, and amazing listener!
PS. After a month away, I will be back to post again soon!