Recently I took a long bus ride for a two-day, whirlwind trip to Washington, D.C. with my daughter’s 5th grade class. To keep the children entertained the teachers played all three Lion King movies so I have had “The Circle of Life” song in my head ever since then. It got me to thinking about my own circle of life. I am blessed to have healthy parents, three wonderful children, three siblings and many friends that feel as close as family. But I know we are all at the mercy of the circle of life and death.
We visited Arlington Cemetery as well as many war memorials while in Washington, D.C. It was very sobering to think of all the young Americans who have died fighting for our freedom.
My daughter was asked to help lay a wreath on the tomb of the unknown soldier. The whole ceremony was very quiet and awe-inspiring. I wonder how their fifth grade brains process all of this?
Currently in my life I see this cycle most acutely in my pets. Unfortunately pets tend to live shorter lives than us. Last year my 15-year-old cat, Eve, passed away and I am now going through the same cycle of aging and death with my beloved Siberian Husky, Kika, who is almost 14. These pets are such amazing companions! To think that I had both Kika and Eve before I ever got married and had children. They have sat patiently by my side through three different screaming babies and all the chaos of daily life.
Eve, my curmudgeonly cat doing what she did best, napping. Or at least she was attempting to while I took her photo in the studio.
When my cat, Eve, was growing feeble last year I spent several months watching her decline. Up until that point she had always been a healthy and low maintenance pet. I hired a mobile veterinarian, Dr. Adriano Betton, so that I would not have to drive her to her frequent veterinary appointments. The whole process of putting her in the car carrier, getting on the highway and then waiting in a strange room stressed her out to no end. It took her days to recover from each appointment. So it was a great to have a competent, kind professional come to us. Dr. Betton diagnosed her with hyperthyroidism. The treatment would be $4500 and would require that she live at a clinic for several months to receive the treatment. I quickly decided that it would be cruel to put her through that so my attention focused on keeping her comfortable.
I asked myself three questions. Is she still eating? Is she still playing and purring? Is she relatively pain-free? I knew that if I started to answer no to any of those questions I would have to make a move to euthanize her. Eventually the negatives outweighed the positives and I was thankful that she died at home in my arms, with the help of Dr. Betton. That is the best we can all hope for, to meet our end after a long life in a peaceful place with loved ones at our side.
Whenever an animal passes away in our family we all gather in the garden, pick a bouquet of flowers and choose a headstone. One of us reads, “The Rainbow Bridge,” this kind of hokey but sweet poem.
My very regal, quiet dog, Kika.
So now I spend my days working, taking care of my kids and keeping an eye on Kika. She is better some days than others. She has a particularly hard time when it rains and has taken to running away as soon as there is a shift in the barometric pressure. I always find her shaking on a neighbor’s doorstep, whining to be let in. It is as if she forgets which home is hers and she is not even sure who I am either, but she slowly walks home with me. But there are other days in which she is alert and playful and she always looks forward to mealtime.
So, overall I am very grateful to be taking part in this cycle of life and feel like for each heart-breaking ending there are many more bright beginnings.
A few months after Eve passed the kids begged for a new cat. Cleopatra has been a sweet new beginning for all of us, even Kika. The kitty sees our old dog as her favorite playmate and snuggle buddy.
Thanks for reading! I am always looking for great photo stories to tell in the Chapelboro area. If you know of someone or something that should be documented, please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.