As a long time pet parent, I know all too well that the time they spend with us is just not long enough. Every September on Pet Memorial Day I find myself remembering my furry family members who have left their paw prints forever in my heart.
This year, however, the loss is still quite fresh. Over Labor Day Weekend we had to say goodbye to our sweet Turtle, aka Turtie Cat.
Our loss was sudden and unexpected, though I don’t think it would have been any easier if we’d had time to prepare ourselves. Turtle was always happy, friendly, and full of fun right up until the end. She saw the vet regularly, which is how we knew that she had mild cardiac disease that our vet was monitoring. There was no outward reason to suspect that her condition had progressed to the point that her life was in danger.
We had been out to dinner and returned to find that she had lost the use of her hind legs. We rushed her to BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Tampa, where she was seen by Dr. Benjamin. He diagnosed her with an arterial thromboembolism that had blocked the blood flow to her hind legs. While I’d never heard of it, it is a common occurrence in older cats with heart disease. And there’s little treatment that is feasible.
The staff at Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners was amazingly sympathetic and compassionate and urged us repeatedly to take our time and to ask as many questions as we needed to. After many tears and much kind counsel from Dr. Benjamin, we made the difficult decision to let her go. She passed away peacefully in my arms.
This year Pet Memorial Day was September 9. Even though it’s still difficult to talk about our loss, I wanted to dedicate this post in memory of my sweet Turtle.
Not many people know this, but Turtle and her sister Olivia came to us following a tragic loss. A dear friend of ours lost her life the day after Thanksgiving 2012 in a freak horseback riding accident. In the aftermath, her wonderful husband Danny sought to find homes for many of Pam’s beloved pets so that he could sell the farm and move closer to family to begin his healing. We had recently lost our cat, Tank, to old age, and we had been thinking about adopting another cat. But this horrible loss of our friend made us decide we wanted to help however we could. So we adopted Turtle and Olivia.
No two cats were ever more different! Olivia is sassy, loud and demanding (in a cute and lovable way), but Turtle was sweet, soft spoken, and just happy to be in your presence.
Turtle was our first tortie and also our first tiny cat. For some reason, all of our previous cats have been large, or “big boned,” as they prefer to be called. But Turtle, at about five pounds of sweetness, was such a tiny delight. She was beautiful inside and out.
Sweet, Friendly, and Fun
Turtle was a people cat, and she provided our guests with plenty of love and amusement. I’m sure anyone who has ever stayed with us will remember her “hospitality.” She had her own bedroom, which we also used as the guest bedroom. Turtie was only too happy to greet her visitors, sit in suitcases, and snuggle on their heads as they slept. Our pet sitter, Kasey, recalls how funny it was to be woken every night to the sound of Turtle crunching kibble at 2 AM!
One of the things I will miss the most is my morning “Turtie Time.” Turtle and I would cuddle in the recliner and watch the morning news while I sipped on coffee with one hand and rubbed her head with the other. Morning just isn’t the same now without her.
Turtle spent her evenings with my husband, Paul. His fondest memory is of her chewing on his hair while he sat in his chair watching NCIS reruns!
Chilly loved Turtie because she would play “hide and chase” with him. She was really good at it. Even though she was getting older, clumsy Chilly could never catch her!
The first couple of nights Turtle was gone, I slept in her room just to feel closer to her. The house will never be the same without her, but I feel blessed that I got to have her as a part of my life. Turtie girl has given us seven years of wonderful memories that we wouldn’t trade for anything, and those will always be with us.
5 Ways to Remember a Beloved Pet
Our pets are an important part of our lives, and when we lose them they leave an empty space in our hearts. Finding meaningful ways to remember them can be an important step in the healing process.
1. Write a Letter or a Journal
Writing can be a therapeutic way to express feelings and to relive happy memories. Whether you choose to write a letter to your beloved pet or compile a journal of the silly, funny, or touching things your pet did, you’ll be creating a permanent reminder of the happiness they brought to your life.
2. Display a Picture
Many of us have a photo or two that totally capture what we loved the most about our pet. Framing it and displaying it can be a comforting reminder. Some pet parents even decide to have a portrait painted. A professional pet portrait artist can create a work of art that you’ll treasure forever.
3. Plant Something
Planting a tree, a shrub, or even a whole garden in a pet’s honor can help keep their memory alive for years to come.
4. Wear a Special Piece of Jewelry
A bracelet, a necklace, or a keychain with your pet’s name or photo can help you keep their memory close. It’s one way to bring a piece of them wherever you go. Some jewelry can even hold a tuft of fur, a photo, or a small amount of ashes.
5. Make a Donation
What better way to honor your pet’s life than to improve the life of other animals? Making a donation to a shelter or a rescue group is a great way to memorialize your pet. If you can’t make a monetary donation, you may consider volunteering or donating other goods.
Finding a way to memorialize our pets can help us to move beyond the grief and hold on to the happy memories. And though we will never stop missing them, it’s through those memories that they will continue to bring us joy forever.