We’ve all experienced loss; whether it’s the death of a family member, friend or pet, or something more mundane like relationships, life changes, etc. Death is no stranger to any of us in its various forms.

On Wednesday, June 16, we had to make the difficult decision to put down our cat Pumpkin (a.k.a. Hunny Bunny). He was 14 years and eight months old. We didn’t want to admit it, but Pumpkin was declining very slowly for a long time. Pumpkin was in our family since I was 19 years old. My mom and her girlfriend at the time picked Pumpkin out at the local shelter as a gift for me to have a companion at home. I must say, I was more than a little disappointed—I wanted a dog. In a typical bout of teenage spite, I treated Pumpkin exactly like a dog. I trained him to sit, stay, roll over, fetch and beg. Pumpkin was one of the most intelligent animals I’ve ever known. He had a comical way of knowing when he was being talked about and if he didn’t like what you were saying he let it be known with an angry tail-flick or a nip of teeth. He was incredibly responsive to tone of voice and body language and always seemed to know exactly what you were saying to him.

Pumpkin did not dole out affection easily. If he did not like you, you knew it. He had a very distinct way of allowing people into his inner circle and it often included getting bit or scratched, especially when he was younger. My friends developed a saying over the years that you weren’t “officially my friend” until Pumpkin bit you. The best way to know if he accepted you was when he let his guard down, rolled over onto his belly with all four legs in the air and purred completely exposed and defenseless. You couldn’t touch his belly, of course, you were just supposed to be grateful enough to look. Pumpkin had other habits as well: he loved eating bugs, going outside in the quiet of night, laying in sinks and he had an odd penchant for wearing people’s shoes. Pumpkin was one of those cats that was just tough, resilient and always there. We never like to think about the end of things and I’m certainly no exception. I was not ready to think about the days when Pumpkin would simply not be there.

I was at work, the day it happened. Life continues on despite everything, as we all know. It was rough to get that phone call, to say the very least. The vet said it was likely liver or kidney failure. We received a plaque with a card and an imprint of his paw that they took before cremating him. I was irrationally angry when I saw it—as if that small paw print was enough to commemorate Pumpkin’s entire life. I’m sure in time I’ll grow to appreciate the memento, but grief must go through its stages, I suppose. My mom told me while the vet was putting the medicine into him that Pumpkin complained loudly and tried to bite her. The vet said, “Oh, Pumpkin, a fighter to the end, huh?”

 

Writing this was certainly cathartic, and I hope it helps in some small way to lessen the pain of others going through loss. All in all, I wanted to celebrate Pumpkin, to share his life and a bit of my life while they were intertwined. So, here’s to all the pets that touch our hearts and become part of our lives, and here’s to Pumpkin, my sweet Hunny Bunny, a fighter to the very end.

Reading Recommendations

Here are some books on pet loss and grief for adults, teens and kids that can be found at our library. There’s also one or two that are more lighthearted and humorous because laughter can sometimes be the best medicine.

 

Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa

The story of an unusual cat, the patients he serves, their caregivers and of one doctor who learned how to listen. Heartfelt, inspiring and full of humor and pathos, this book allows readers to take a walk into a world rarely seen from the outside, a world we often misunderstand.

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Lost Companions: Reflections on the Death of Pets by J. Moussaieff Masson

Masson takes a very personal, heartfelt approach to this difficult subject, allowing readers to explore their own responses and reactions, suggesting ways through and out of grief, as well as meaningful ways to memorialize our best friends.

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Pet Loss: A Thoughtful Guide for Adults and Children by Herbert A. Nieburg

Offers unique advice for owners faced with an animal’s passing, from the difficult decision to put a pet to sleep to dealing with a veterinarian or making funeral or cremation arrangements.

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Goodbye, Brecken by David Lupton

An evocative and somber telling of a girl’s feelings of loss, sadness and grief after the death of her dog. With this loss comes her first experience with grief and profound sadness.

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The Smart Kid’s Guide to Losing A Pet by Christine Petersen

Discusses what happens when a pet dies, explores ways to remember a pet and provides strategies for coping with grief.

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When Harry Met Minnie: A True Story of Love and Friendship

A memoir of love and loss, of being in the right place at the right time and of the mysterious ways a beloved pet can bring people together.

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Harry & Hopper by Margaret Wild

Eyes will not stay dry as readers experience this beautifully written, gently illustrated story about losing a dear pet.

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Sally Goes to Heaven by Stephen Huneck

A wonderful, joyous book to help provide gentle insight into the natural cycle of life of a pet, or to share with young children who have recently experienced the loss of a beloved animal.

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I Could Pee On This: And Other Poems by Cats by Francesco Marciuliano

Cat lovers will laugh out loud at the quirkiness of their feline friends with these insightful and curious poems from the singular minds of housecats.

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Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron

The charming story of Dewey Readmore Books, the beloved library cat of Spencer, Iowa.

Find it now