Our cat, Tino, passed away in October. His was a slow, gradual decline and he was in his late teens when his health finally failed him, so his death didn’t come as a surprise to any of us. But Tino’s death was the first death of a pet that my children have experienced.
We’re huge animal lovers in my family. I’ve been an animal lover my whole life, and one of the things that first drew me to my husband was his love for animals. So, it stands to reason that our offspring are lovers of animals as well. We currently have three cats (Thunder, Gary, and Stewart) and a dog (Angie). Our pets rule the roost in our home and tend to be the central topics of our dinnertime conversations.
So, when Tino’s health suddenly declined and we knew that he “wasn’t long for this world,” I began to prepare the kids for the inevitable–for not only Tino’s passing, but, what is arguably the worst part of being a pet owner: the decision to have them put to sleep when their suffering is too great.
Our last couple of weeks with Tino were a blessing because the kids got to spend time with him and soak up his remaining days with us. And, as the day approached when I knew we’d have to make that horrible decision to put him out of his misery, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t tearfully whisper in his ear, “it’s OK to go toward the light, Tino,” in an effort to avoid having to make the ultimate call.
Alas, our sweet Tino held on until the very end and, finally, when the day came to make the decision, we went, one last time, to the vet, who helped Tino pass on over to that “Big litter box in the Sky.”
I had been very strong through all of this, but the day that we had Tino put to sleep, I was so incredibly sad. My daughter and I decided to go out to eat and drown our sorrows in copious amounts of sushi. It was there, at the sushi restaurant, when I finally cracked. I cried all over our Spicy Tuna and Nigiri, while my sweet daughter gently patted my hand and reassured me that we’d made the right decision.
As parents, we feel this need to put on a brave face and not get too emotional, so as not to scare or upset our children, but maybe we’re doing them a disservice when we hide our sadness. Grief is a natural part of life and I hope that in showing my children how sad I was about Tino’s passing, I gave them permission to feel sad, too.
Because I can think of no better way to honor the life of our dear pet than to cry tears of joy that we knew him mixed with the sadness that we lost him–and there’s no shame in that.