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Rated: ASR · Non-fiction · Animal · #270373
My best friend died yesterday. I wasn't there for her.
(This item originally posted in the Brainstorms community.)

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My baby sister.  1982-2001.

I have to get a few things off my chest...

This is Pepper. I don't know when she was born; all I could say was my best estimate was that we had her before I was eleven. We recently found a picture from 1982, however, and there she was in it. I'd had no idea she had been around that long. She wasn't a kitten when we were given her. So she was at least 20 years old, possibly more.

We had to euthanize her yesterday.

I'm 25. I grew up with her always being there. Of course, I have some very vague memories of playing with the cat we had before her, but it's just one memory, of me tossing him in the dog's house and watching him run out the other door. (Smokey, the dog, was harmless. Pepper could attest to that; she always kept him cowed when they shared the basement in winter.) All my other memories are of Pepper.

She was literally my little sister.

I'm very painfully shy, and I have very many problems with trust. Lately, it's difficult even for me to e-mail people, and to respond to public posts. I feel people will always insult or hurt me, even if they've been nothing but kind; I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I'm desperately lonely, yet afraid of making friends, because almost every single one I've made, both online and off, has hurt me somehow, even if they didn't know or intend it. Just recently I lost two "friends"--one for some reason refused to respect my differing opinion on the war, and the other, when finding out how upset I was about his numerous false promises to me, ended up harassing me, sending abusive letters, and even threatening to sue because I had used the first initial of his username while writing about him!

What does Pepper have to do with any of this? In my 25 years, which to me is a very long time to have made and kept no friends, she is the ONLY one who was ever always there for me, who never hurt me. She was a brat, yes. And annoying and whiny and everything. But she was always there. I grew up with her, and she was never far from my sight. Now, after 20 years, I have to learn to live without her.

I don't know how I'm going to do it.

She was old, and her health was failing, it's true. A while back we had to take her in for a bladder infection. She was already deaf and partially blind by then. We discovered that one of her canines had vanished, possibly broken off. She had also suffered several seizures or "fits" in the past, in which she would flail about uncontrollably and chew on her hind leg, after which she would sulk as if embarrassed. Still, despite her inability to see or hear, and her fits (she hadn't had one in a while), she got around pretty well, and our only real problem was her tendency to go to the bathroom in inappropriate spots. That got very bad, but our house is already a mess...we were used to it.

In the past week she rapidly became worse, for some reason. It started with her becoming apathetic and lethargic, just lying around looking depressed. Her sides began to bloat a little. She wouldn't purr or meow as much, and when she lay down she looked uncomfortable; she wouldn't lie down on her side, but on her stomach, with her head leaning over. Her breathing became hard, and she stopped defecating. I was so worried watching her sides heave like that. She was still urinating and eating, however, so we just kept an eye on her.

I had to leave on an overnight trip and I felt so awful doing so, as she'd just gotten worse. I was so afraid she'd be dead when I came back. I'd asked Ma to call the vet the past two days running and she'd forgotten both times. We'd have to wait until we returned, and I felt she wouldn't be there for me.

When we came back, she was the first thing I looked for. She was lying on the floor in the kitchen by her food, still breathing, still alive. I picked her up and hugged her and cried, though I could tell she didn't like being held anymore. It must have been too uncomfortable.

Ma called the vet and described her symptoms. An enema was the most likely solution, and I dared to feel a bit of relief. I hoped it was the only thing needed. I've had pets suffer before, and I hated it so much. I always asked God to give their suffering to me, but He never did. He didn't this time, either.

Ma took her to the vet on Friday at three. I watched her scooping her up in my old towel and didn't leave my room to say goodbye; I had told Ma that if it was just an enema, to have it done, but if it was worse, to come back and get me. I didn't want her to die alone. I know how it feels to be alone, and I didn't want her to feel it. So many times people who have claimed to be friends were never there for me. I wanted to be there for her.

I went back to sleep.

Ma returned a while later and called at my door. I peeked out and could tell just from the way she was standing, even though I hadn't heard what she'd said. I had her repeat it anyway. Then I started to cry. Pepper couldn't be helped. Her kidneys, teeth, liver were failing, and the night before she'd hardly been able to walk; I'd found her sitting down in a puddle of her own urine, and later on had picked her up off the rug just as she'd started to go on my foot. They'd put her to sleep. And I hadn't been there for her.

Why hadn't Ma come home to tell me? Even she couldn't be in the same room when it happened. Smokey died alone, himself. And I KNEW something was wrong, with him. I'd heard sounds of fighting the day before, and when I went out to feed him later on he'd looked at me and whined. I'd petted him, but gone back inside; how could I have known WHAT was wrong, or what to do?

The next day Smokey was dead and Dad had buried him. I didn't get to say goodbye, or I'm sorry for not having been there.

They'd offered Ma the option to cremate Pepper for an extra $25. She'd refused and brought her home. She was still wrapped in my towel. Her eyes weren't shut. She looked tired. All I could do was hold her and cry. She wasn't very cold, despite the temperature outside being in the thirties. It looked like she would wake up any minute. She was so still and limp though. At first I was afraid to touch her, fearing the cold. But it wasn't there. I stroked her cheek and kissed her head and wept.

Ma left to go buy a Tupperware container as she had only a shoebox, and I couldn't bear the thought of shoving Pepper into it. When she was gone I cried harder. I don't think I've ever let out such sounds before. I talked to Pepper. I told her about all the things I remembered. The time she ate a mouse and threw it up and I stepped in it. The times I'd blown a whistle and sent her running from the room. The time I'd dressed her up to look like Robin Hood. I told her all the things I had loved about her. How scratching her chin brought out a purr. How silly she'd act in the fresh grass. How she'd run around the house in what we called "the weirdies." I told her I hoped she knew I loved her, I always had, and always will. I told her she'd deserved a better owner than me, but I'd tried as hard as I could; I hoped it was enough. I told her that I hoped she hadn't hurt much, and that she must be in a good place, where she would always get her chin scratched, always have a sunny spot to lie down in, always have fresh grass and catnip to nibble on, all the tuna and milk she could ever want, and all the walls in the world to claw. I told her I could never replace her.

Most of all I told her I was sorry. I asked her to forgive me. I hadn't been there when she needed me most. I always let people down, and now I'd let down the one I cared about the most, who cared about me. She was alone when she died. She didn't deserve that. Yet it's what she got.

When I was "done" talking I cried louder. I held her and wailed at the ceiling. It wasn't enough.

Ma returned with the container. I kissed her again and so hated putting her in it. "She needs some things," I said to Ma, and went to get them. This is a weird ritual of mine; when a pet dies I can't bury it alone. It has to have some of the things it enjoyed in life. I don't know. Maybe I get it from all my reading about ancient Egypt. For Pepper, I got a can of cat food she would never eat again and a bag of kitty treats. I couldn't find her catnip treats or any toys she may have liked. It wasn't enough. I went outside in the cold in my bare feet and mussed hair and picked some grass from beside the house. We used to tie her up there in her harness and she'd eat grass and vomit it back up and bask in the sun. I brought it back in and tucked it beside her. Her head and paw still peeked out.

It wasn't enough.

Ma closed the container. She had to go back to work. We said goodbye and she left.

I turned on the TV, then the computer, and uploaded a couple of pictures of her to a different website so others could see my one true friend, now gone.

Dad came home and I pointed at the container. "Pepper died?" he asked; I nodded. "How?"

"They put her to sleep."

He mumbled something about "for the best." He said he had a flat stone at work that he would bring home for her grave. Then he said he would dig it right now, right beside the house. Where she would eat grass in the summer. It was fitting.

I typed up some lyrics to a few songs on the computer--"Give You Back," "Against All Odds," "Once You Had Gold." I couldn't think of anything else; "Give You Back" was stuck in my head, and the other songs followed.

I need to know if you were real
I'd hate to think that I'd been fooled again
And when the vision fades
I'll say I was blinded by your eyes
I felt them burn

I printed the songs out, folded them up, and tucked them in with her. It wasn't enough. Dad took her outside and buried her in the hole he'd dug. I so pray nothing digs her up. I can't bear the thought.

Later on I surfed online, went to eat and get groceries, watched TV, danced to my music as I always do. Like normal. But all throughout the day there were these little things. I would hear a noise beneath the computer and nearly scold Pepper for sneaking under there. I'd glance at the couch as I walked past to see what position her dark shape lay in. I'd walk carefully on tiptoes to avoid kicking her in the dark. Once I heard something fall in the kitchen and I could swear it was her. But every time I looked, there was nothing there.

She's really gone.

I'm crying again, but not as hard. I've cried harder before. This is what bothers me. Am I in denial? I always feared it would be much, much worse. She's FAMILY to me. It takes days, weeks, even months to get over a loss of that magnitude, if ever. I shouldn't have smiled at something on TV. I shouldn't have danced to my music. I especially shouldn't have discussed going to the Humane Society sometime soon and getting another cat. (When Ma first asked me, while I still held Pepper and cried, "Do you want to get another one...?" my reply had been, "Part of me says to get another one right away, another part of me can't stand the thought!") I shouldn't be sitting here, able to type this out like it's just a small loss. Yes, I'm still upset. I still keep thinking, MAYBE she'll be there, I hope to God she'll just be there if I look over my shoulder, I'll just see her sprawling on the floor, I didn't notice her there before because she was beyond my line of sight. But there's nothing. And I'm typing.

I feel guilty for not having been there.

I feel guilty for thinking I can ever replace her. I KNOW I won't replace her, but just the thought of getting another cat...

I feel guilty that I just want something small and warm wandering around the house, the way she used to. It's so empty here.

I feel guilty that I'm lavishing attention once meant for her upon my rat now. That's the only small warm thing in the house at the moment, and you can only cuddle a rat so much.

I feel guilty that I don't feel SAD enough. A long time ago I even bought a book about losing your pet, to read for when she finally left me; I felt I would need this sort of self-therapy. I don't feel like reading it right now. I'd rather read my new book on borderline personality disorder than that.

I feel guilty that I'm sitting here thinking I have to get to work on the next part of my serial, rather than lie in my room mourning her exclusively, as I thought I would do.

I thought I would just shut down, inside and out, without her. I still feel I should. She gave me so much, I gave her so little. Even at the end I was selfish and would rather have slept than been with her. Animals are supposed to be stupid. But I so pray that she forgives me, because I can't forgive myself.

What is this feeling, do I sit here and wait for it to get worse? I don't feel UPSET enough. Is it denial? I do still keep looking for her beneath my feet, turning to rebuke her at every suspicious sound I hear. When does the REAL grief come? Will it ever?

Or am I not as upset as I thought I'd be? That makes it worse. How can I not be more upset? I love her so much, and it's so empty and quiet without her here...why can't I cry harder, curl up into a ball and retreat inside myself without her by me? Why am I thinking about myself, and not her?

...After all of this, I doubt anyone anywhere has any answers. To most people, "it was just a cat." I have so many pictures of her that I can look through sometime. But all these little things keep triggering emotions. I saw the cat food lid on the freezer and wondered if there was an open can in the fridge. I looked down at the kitchen floor and saw her bowls are missing. There's no dark shape on the couch and there's no dark shape on the floor and there's no dark shape I can pick up in my arms and scratch under the chin to hear a purr. That little dark shape is gone now, and she won't be back.

Have I not realized this yet?

I don't know what I'm going to do without her. But even worse yet, I don't know why I'm even considering doing anything. All things should have stopped for Pepper. I'm selfish in that I want to move on, so soon.

I'm sorry, Pepper. I hope that you can please forgive me.
© Copyright 2001 Tehuti, Lord Of The Eight (tehuti_88 at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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