Ode to Greta, and other furry friends

gretaGreta got to the end of her leash.

My long time friend, Barbara is probably my best friend considering we’ve managed to stay in touch after bouncing in and out of each others lives for 23 years – including some small and large emergency situations, which now includes pet hospice.

Over the past few years, I’ve grown to know her German Shepherd, Greta, pretty well – good company, great traveler, friendly, attentive and smart. Your basic good dog.

Neither of us have children  which is one thing that binds us together and as such, I feel bad about Greta. Losing a pet is certainly not the same as when a close relative dies on you, though.

I relate to Barbara losing her dog. It was emotional. Losing my cats was emotional.

george and gracie smallMy tan and gray tabby cats,  George and Gracie, were given to me by a coworker when I was in Lander, Wyoming close to 40 years ago. Both were the runts of the litter. I fed both with a medicine dropper until they were able to get around on there own.

Both took a liking to me.

They better have.

Gracie stayed mostly indoors, but George was an outdoor cat and would  be gone for a week or more at a time. I’m pretty sure he had a second life some where else, but he’d always come back like nothing happened.

Every morning George would sit on the sink while I was in the shower. I don’t know what it is about cats and bathrooms.

One day, he wasn’t there.

It seemed like he lost his self esteem, was depressed. I started finding him laying in his litter box.

A friend of mine, John Mionczynski from nearby Atlantic City, Wyoming was a pet herbalist. John most recently is well known as a cable TV Big Foot expert. He came over and diagnosed George as having cat leukemia.

He prescribed a goldenrod mush. That worked for a while and George perked up for a few days.

In retrospect, it wasn’t the best choice since the treatment prolonged his agony. I picked up George and put him in the basket where he liked to sleep. The next morning I found him lifeless on the kitchen floor.

The loss of that cat was hard on me, harder than any of the other critters I’ve had to put down over the years.

I went through that alone.

I haven’t heard of many animals who die naturally, as George did. In Lander, there was a vet who made house calls. He was gentle but very matter of fact.

I asked about an autopsy. He told me not to worry, which sounded like he would take care of George.

I didn’t want to be a “crazy cat” guy and bury him in the back yard, but it wasn’t a very ceremonious departure. The vet placed George in a black trash bag and hauled him off.

As for Gracie? After George died, I moved to another house and she disappeared, probably got lost trying to find her previous home.

As for Greta?

I helped Greta to her bed on the porch. She had degenerative myelopathy and lost the use of her back legs and bladder. She was still with it, checking out the horizon, sniffing the air. She couldn’t hear much anymore.

After scratching behind her ears, I bade her farewell. Barbara had a couple other friends over for when the vet came.

Over the past year, I’ve been to memorials and wakes for three family members – my Uncle Rich, Aunties Jeannie and Elsie.

Those three relatives went out with little notice. They didn’t want a big fuss, considering that past funerals in my family were pretty big deals.

When my dad was in hospice care at the hospital, I had a good talk with him when he was still lucid and conversational but I wasn’t present when the plug was pulled.

I was unemployed for the first time and finally landed a job. We talked about that and both agreed I should show up to work for the first day on Monday.

He must have taken a fast turn for the worst because he died that Sunday.

Dad had a good run, but a miserable life the last few years with COPD. I think I had what he had, but his was misdiagnosed. I came out of it because of better technology – namely the Video-assisted thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS) lung biopsy.

I probably should have stuck for an extra day to support my mother. She died of a massive heart attack in her sleep three months later.

Deaths are for the living.

I wonder why dead people try to control others from the grave. In both my parent’s cases, they wanted people to get together. Those were a couple pretty good wakes.

Funerals are about the only times all the cousins get together anymore, at least the ones within a few hundred miles. Auntie Elsie denied us of that, because she didn’t want what she considered a big todo, it actually had the opposite effect.

It’s odd that it takes a tragedy as an excuse to get people together. 

Pets on the other hand, alive and dead, are all about their people and happy we’re there regardless. Closing out a pet’s life is way less complicated than all the paperwork that goes into being sure a human is actually dead.

When the vet arrived, I imagine Greta didn’t know what was coming, but I know Barbara is okay with my mourning and the well wishes of others. I’ll always remember that dog.

As for me, there’s now Moon the cat who will likely out-live not only me, but everyone else.

Forget estate planning, who’ll take care of the cat?

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