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Remember Your Purpose.

Losing a pet can be as awful as losing another family member.

Please, share your stories of your wonderful animals.

Sebastian was a foster fail. My fiancee and I took in he and his two kitten brothers after they were dumped in box outside our Humane Society. Sebastian and his brothers were tuxedo cats, their black fur so shiny and soft. Sadly we lost one of the brothers, George, early on from a terrible respiratory infection.

The other brother, Bellamy, stole my Love’s heart. Another foster fail.

But Sebastian…Sebastian was mine.

pet loss tuxedo cat

While we were supposed to be fostering them until they were adopted, we just couldn’t let them go. Our family of 4. So 4 became 6 – we’d become a foster-fail family, and we loved it.

Alex and I were outnumbered by cats but we wouldn’t have had it any other way. We got them fixed and they settled right in.

Sebastian became affectionately known as “Bash” or “Limp Noodle”. Whenever you picked him up he went limp and let you hold him however you wanted.

Sebastian wasn’t quite two years old when we first started seeing signs of lethargy. One day, that same lethargy led to a temperature check. While it was supposed to be 99.5-102.5 Fahrenheit.

It was 106.

We raced to the emergency vet only to hear the devastating news of Feline Leukemia. We were distraught. but It was a road we had been down before and understood. We lost my fiancee’s first kitty love to feline leukemia.

The emergency vet suggested that we put him down. We just weren’t there yet.

We felt he still had more time and we wanted to look into to doing something, anything that might help Sebastian. As he was also fighting a secondary infection due to the lowered immune system caused by leukemia we started my sweet foster fail on antibiotics. His regular vet suggested an immuno-reglan booster –  $26 a shot on a strict schedule. Not a problem.

We were willing to go into deep debt for this guy.

The first several shots brought on massive improvement; it was like he was a kitten again, jumping and playing around with everyone. We thought that maybe, just maybe, he could have some quality of life. Then came another secondary infection.

He spent 3 days in the hospital fighting it. Got to come home and continued his shots, but they were no longer working. He was spending his days sleeping and hiding in cabinets.

Not two weeks later, his infection came back and back he went to the hospital.

This time he stopped having any interest in food.

The Thanksgiving holiday was coming up and after three days in the hospital, the vet thought it might be getting close to time. He gave us a choice, put him down or wait through the holidays and see if his appetite returns.

We chose to wait.

I look back on that now and wonder just how selfish I was being. We just kept hoping that our pet wouldn’t die.

The following Monday there was no change. We took some final precious moments with our baby boy. He lay on us and meowed at us when we spoke to him. He was tired and he had fought all he could. He was letting us know it was okay and that he knew it was his time. He went quietly and peacefully.

tuxedo kitten before pet loss

I had been through the loss of fosters before, but never one that became a pet. He was my first foster fail.

I loved him so much; missed him so much, that I cried for three weeks almost every day.

It’s late August and I’m crying as I type this.

Pain can lessen, but it never fully goes away. Not when the loss is so intertwined in your heart.

Recently our Humane Society shut down. We’ve affiliated ourselves with another rescue and have continued to foster cats. We end finding a lot on our own through people who reach out via Facebook saying there’s a kitten here or a litter there. We’ve also started working with a group of people who TNR ( trap/neuter/release) feral cats.

Our city here in Arkansas has a horrible cat overpopulation problem.

One night after doing “surveillance” on an area we are hoping to trap some adult cats to TNR we noticed a tiny little kitten head poking out from behind a bush. We stopped and spoke to the kitten who became very chatty with us. He was not a feral, he was entirely too friendly. Someone had dumped this poor baby.

Alex opened a can of wet food and approached him. He was apprehensive at first but eventually she was able to pick him right up.

Alex came back to the car with him and was nearly in tears. “Look at him,” she said.

It nearly took my breath away.

This four month old baby looked exactly like Sebastian.

He’s been with us for three days now. He’s a goofy thing. And I swear walking through our apartment and running into him I think it’s Sebastian. I don’t know that we will keep Cooper but I will be forever grateful to him, for reminding me of my sweet boy and that I serve a purpose here.

Tuxedo kitty pet loss

Save and fight for those who have no voice. Love the forgotten and uncared for.

Losing Riley

Having a beloved pet die can be as challenging as the loss of a person. We at The Band want to share your stories of your animals with us.

This is Riley’s Story:

I still remember the day we picked Riley out of what seemed like a million golden retriever puppies.

See, our border collie mix, Bozley had been put to sleep not long before, so my best friend’s husband worked it out so that we could get we could get a male unpapered goldie from his dad who bred them.

It was like something out of a movie. My mom and I walked into this tiny trailer with dozens of dogs.  They opened the back door so we could pick our puppy and it was stampede.

You could literally feel the floor vibrating under the weight of the puppies’ paws.

Life with Riley couldn’t have been better.  He did have his faults of course, he did chew a dent in the wall when he was teething, he got a hold of a loose piece of wallpaper and pulled a chunk of that off the wall. He never got crate trained. But, that dog could smile. He’d smile at everybody.  A genuine puppy smile, lips lifted and everything.

golden retriever

 

He never met a baby, toddler, or child that he didn’t like or who didn’t like him.

The night my sister-in-law went in labor, Riley got really sick.

He just slumped over.

We rushed him to the emergency vet where they told us that he most likely had a tumor in his stomach. Surgery would be performed the next morning.

The next morning came and we were still waiting for Brayden Michael to be born when I got a call from the vet.  Riley, sadly, didn’t make it through the night. He was only 9 years old. Telling my dad that our beloved dog Riley was dead is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Our grief over Riley’s death was tempered by the fact that not long after that devastating phone call, my nephew was born.

Sometimes, I still sit on my bed sobbing over that dog and his untimely death.

In fact, writing this at work, I have small tears rolling down my cheeks.

He was a once in a lifetime dog.

RIP Riley Marcus.

See you on the other side.

 

Ask The Band: Heartbroken

Sometimes, you lost something so devastating that you don’t know if you’re going to be able to breathe. The Band is paying tribute to the losses you’ve had. Please share with us a loss you’ve experienced (doesn’t have to be a person, can be a dream, or a pet, or an item).

Click here to add your post.

I am infertile.

We have been trying to have a baby for years to no avail. I will spare you the details, but I was approached by a potential birth mother who is a friend. She is pregnant, doesn’t want the baby, was going to have an abortion and decided she didn’t know if she could go through with it. She asked if we might be interested in private adoption.

YES, oh YES, it would be a dream come true.

I did it. I got my hopes up against all logic and warning from everyone.

I got a text today that says she is not going through with the pregnancy and is having an abortion. I am so sad right now. I am heartbroken at the needless loss of a life that could be my baby.

I had such a tight lid on this I never let myself feel this hope or dream. I let the lid off and now I am devastated.

Where do I go from here?

Losing My Sister

Sunday will mark five years since my sister died. I had a hard time losing my sister to bone cancer. She fought for over three years with bone cancer that caused her daily pain and stress.

Her life ended when she’d had too many surgeries and her body couldn’t keep up. Losing my sister is the hardest thing I’ve experienced.

I don’t feel bad for her now, because she’s free from all of that. But I do miss her; more than I miss my grandparents who have passed away. Her death was a trauma for me, as her 27-year-old soul was ripped away from my family and we were left with a forever empty chair at the table.

Now, I have a daily regimen of seven medications that keep me here on this earth from antidepressants to mood stabilizers and sleep aids. I fight suicidal thoughts and feelings near-constantly during this time of the year.

I have two girls; the younger one is my lifeline. I was pregnant with her when my sister died and I live in fear that she will die and leave me just like my younger sister left my mom.

My faulty logic says that little sisters die; I am so afraid that I will lose her. Her presence is one of the biggest comforts to me, which makes me love her more than her sister.

losing my sister

There, I said it: I love one kid more than the other.

What can I say? What else is there to do but keep pushing on, trying to move past a pain that is so old and yet so fresh.

I love you, Wends, and I will see you one day.

Conversation Killer

Being a bereaved parent is lonely. We’ve been through what most people believe is one of the worst things anyone can experience. We are permanently, irrevocably changed. We’re trying to figure out who we are now that we aren’t the us of Before.

We are parents and always will be.

But when someone asks in casual conversation “How many children do you have?” what was once an easy question is now loaded with considerations.

I find myself doing quick calculations in that moment:

What is the likelihood I will ever see this person again?

Do I have any inkling of how they would respond to the full truth?

Is this just polite small talk?

If I don’t think I’ll see them again, if they seem uninterested, if this is standing-in-line just-passing-the-time talk, or if anything seems unsure, I usually keep things very simple.

“Three” I say. “Two boys and a girl.”

If this could the beginning of a longer or deeper relationship, the person seems genuinely interested and willing to stick around to talk awhile, or something just seems sympathetic about them, I’ll tell them the truth.

“Four” I’ll say. “Two boys and two girls, but our oldest girl passed away last year.”

But my calculations can be wrong.

And there’s no conversation killer quite like death.wall of baby loss

It Scares Me In A Way

I see the elderly woman approaching us from across the mall. She is looking past me and at my children with that smile. My kids are at the perfect age to attract these smiles. They are just at the dawn of human interaction. Their speech is still garbled; their language and actions both aped from adults. They, in their search for the right phrase or movement, are often accidentally adorable.

Children at this age still act as if nobody is watching, and adults love them for it.  We are drawn to this innocence, I think, for the same reason we are interested in the behaviors of chimps or sleepwalkers.  We want to see what it is that people do when they don’t realize they have an audience.  We want to see what we would do if we didn’t think so much.

She walks carefully and slowly over to accept the imaginary ice cream cone my son offers up and wins my heart by pretending to eat it.  Taking the interaction a step further, she asks him which flavor it was.  He tells her it’s chock-lick and her smile deepens with amusement. I am scanning her face, watching her the same way I watch the face of every stranger who approaches my children. I am waiting for the clues that all humans throw off.

I’m waiting to see why she’s doing this.

And so it is that I observe her lined face slip gradually from delight to despair.  A line grows deeper across her forehead and her milky eyes fill with tears.  Her painted smile is the last to go, proof in my mind that she didn’t even see the sadness coming until it was already written on the rest of her face.  I realize that I am moving closer to her as her expression shifts, so that when the tears start to roll down her cheeks I am all but cradling her.  She leans against me, frail yet adult-sized.  I am not in the habit, anymore, of being needed by people who are not my children.  It takes me a minute.  I don’t know why she is crying.  I only know what she needs.  And I have it to give.  So I hold her.

She wipes the tears away and catches her breath.  “My husband of 49 years passed away 7 months ago.  Seeing your children makes it hurt more.  Even though they are beautiful.  The holidays make it hurt more.  Even though I love them.”  I hold her tightly, softly offering my condolences.  My son asks me why the old woman is crying, and I stumble for a second.  I don’t lie to my children, but I don’t throw around words like “death” either.  I tell him simply that this woman will not be able to celebrate Christmas with someone she loves.

And that it makes her sad.

As I say the words, my voice shakes and my own eyes fill unexpectedly.  I close my eyes against the tears, while granting myself one full minute to be overwhelmed with this unforeseen grief.  The woman catches me with my emotions and apologizes for making me sad.  I shake my head: clearing it, emptying it. “The holidays can be hard,” is what I say as I help her right herself.

They told me back then that I needed to grieve my brother as though he were dead, but to expect the process to take longer, since he is not, in fact, dead.  And although I am the type of person to tear at her flesh in hopes of getting the pain on the outside, in order to move past it, I am shocked to find that some days it is as if time has not moved at all for me.

The woman shuffles off in one direction as we continue in another.  We meet up later, at the fountain, as I am explaining to my children the concept of wishing on thrown pennies.  I have a wallet full of potential wishes, and so I do not need to accept those that the woman offers us.  But I do accept because I sense that it will give her something to be able to give to us.  I bend down, tuck my children in close.  The woman steps in, and we all throw our pennies at the count of three.

You can’t wish for people to come back.  It doesn’t work that way.  Pennies can’t move mountains.  A wish is only a goal, a direction in which to focus your thoughts.  In my world, you can only reasonably wish for the things that you have some control over.  So I toss my penny in and I hope, for all of us, that the future brings fewer and fewer moments when we are brought to our knees by our pain.  We will carry it with us forever, and we should, because it makes us who we are and it honors where we’re from.  But more and more we will be able to live with it.

The holidays can be hard.  I have always known this.  I push myself off my knees, smile at the old woman and grasp her hand for a minute before exchanging it for my daughter’s. We walk out into the cold air and breathe in the last few breaths of 2010. Soon there is chatter and laughter and bickering and sunshine against the cold.  I rub my hands together for warmth, raising my face to the sun.

And it is enough.

It is more than enough.