On Friday, my cat died. I’ve had him since I was three, and he lived over two decades with my family. It’s going to be strange going home to the house I grew up in for the holidays and having him not be there. He’s always been there – for as long as I can remember living in that house.
I’ve lost other pets in the past. My two birds and our hamster when I was in middle school, our guinea pig when I was in college, and our family dog just a few years ago. Yet, losing Snowball is the hardest of them all. He was my childhood pet, my friend and confidant. He was my Christmas dream come true. My parents tell me that even the vet was shocked he’d lived this long, that we must have given him the best home imaginable. I wish I could have been there with him. He was always there for me; it just doesn’t seem right. I haven’t seen him since I was home last Christmas. Maybe that’s part of why this is so hard: I wish I could have known then that that would be the last time I’d ever see him.
When my mom first called me to tell me the news, I couldn’t stop crying. I felt a little silly getting so upset over a cat, but I couldn’t help it. He was a part of my family as much as any person is. He knew when I was upset. He snuggled with me late into the morning over summer vacations. He helped me believe in Santa Claus as a kid.
All I asked for for Christmas that year when I was three was a kitten from the North Pole and some food and toys to keep him happy. I still remember standing in the hallway waiting for my parents to let us out into the living room to see our presents from Santa and hearing his tiny kitten mews through the wall. My mom assured me I was hearing things, but I knew. I knew my wish had been granted.
Snowball let me dress him in my baby doll clothes. He let my little brother carry him around the house upside down. He came out from under my parents’ bed for salmon treats, and I didn’t even mind lying on my stomach with my hand outstretched to entice him for hours. He used to curl up in my dad’s laundry basket even though my dad’s allergic to his fur. He used to perch on the back of the couch in the living room and lick the blinds that hung in the window. He used to chase the laser pointer when he was little, and he even managed to develop a Florida sun tan on his fur. He loved lying in the window of my parents’ bedroom looking out at the backyard, and I’m pretty sure that spot of carpet will forever be covered in his white fur.
When I got home that night, I was trying hard not to think about it, but I was still pretty upset. After sharing the news with a friend of mine, she assured me that the best thing we can do for our pets is to give them a happy home while they are with us and shared this story with me.
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water, and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon you face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together…
I’m not sure about grassy meadows, but I sure hope Snowball has a nice big water bed to sleep on and his favorite little catnip-filled teddy bear that he loved more than any other toy we ever bought for him. I hope he has plenty of 90s-licious pink blinds to lick and some cat food cakes to devour every day (not just on his birthdays now). I hope he’s found our dog, Ginger, so he can continue to smack her on her head with his windmill paws, and I hope he’s got a nice big laundry basket full of dress shirts to snuggle in. I’m sure he’s found a sunny window to claim as his own and a little tunnel in which to hide when he just wants to be alone.