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Friday, April 10, 2009

Source for pet loss support group story offers own insight

Today I'm working on a story for Sunday's paper about a local pet loss support group.

The monthly meetings are designed to provide some insight into loss and mourning.

The next one will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 16, at Animal Hospital Inc., 2735 S.O.M. Center Road, Willoughby Hills. Participants are encouraged to tell their stories and bring pictures of their pets. To reserve a seat, call 440-946-2800.

To give my article a more human angle I called former participant Gene McAfee, who lost his cat Jonah (pictured above) in February, to learn how that month's meeting affected him.

We spoke for an hour Wednesday night. He told Jonah's story, and I reflected on my own experience with Sky. Guess we "pet people" are like that.

I can't fit most of what he said into the paper. But of the quotes that have fallen to the cutting room floor, I'm posting a few of my favorites here. Not only did Gene speak passionately and eloquently -- possibly a result of his work as the pastor of Faith United Church of Christ in Richmond Heights -- but our conversation seemed a great precursor to the meeting. These touching insights ring true for most pet lovers, I think.
"The first time we went down (to the Animal Rescue League in Boston) nothing happened. The second time I went down it was in mid-December, I was looking at the cats, and I looked in the cage and there was this gray tiger cat curled up. He lifted up his head when I poked in the cage, and I said could I hold him. So I picked him up -- he seemed to be very socialized -- and put him up on my shoulder sort of like you would burp a baby, and he began to nurse on my ear and that was it. It was love at first sight. ... He did it until just a couple days before he died. I would pick him up and he'd just go right to my earlobe."

"His name was Melody. I thought, 'A male cat named Melody, now this is a little odd.' When I brought Jonah home my black cat, whose name is Nick, was curled up on my bed. Jonah started creeping around, checking things out. ... Poor Jonah got backed into the dining room. It took Nick about two weeks, and then one day I came home and there was this ball curled up on my bed and half of it was black and half of it was gray."

"Let’s face it, nobody loves your pets the way you do because they don’t spend the time with them the way you spend time with them — they don't know their idiosyncrasies, what upsets their stomachs. Often times you’re the one who thinks they’re beautiful and you’re the one who takes most of the pictures."

"He loved to be outside, and often times when he went outside if he wasn’t ready to come in it didn’t make any difference how much I called him. Sometimes I had to go to work and he wasn’t ready yet, and that’s when I would say little prayers: ‘Please, God, don’t let today be the day I see him in the street.’ And usually when I’d come out of the car that was when Jonah would come out of his spot and come to the back gate meowing irritatedly, like, ‘Where have you been?’ We’d have this little routine. ‘OK, you ready to come in?’ This little step-to. But he was completely forgiving."

"One of the decisions I made years ago was I would not have my cats declawed. I could either have fine furniture or have my cats with their claws, and I had my cats with their claws. When you make the decision to get pets, you should not then try to act as though you don’t have a pet. It’s one of those things you have to decide, how much of the animal’s personality am I going to respect?"

"The love that people have for their pets is the purest form there is, because unlike children it’s really very hard for people to create pets in their own image. You respect the rabbit for what it is, and you love the rabbit precisely because of its rabbitness, just as I love my cat not because I thought he was a little person but because he was a cat. And I think in that sense, I think there is much less ego involved than there is in parenting."
I hope you'll check out Sunday's paper for the preview story, featuring more from Gene and better information about the support group.

Going through a pet loss? Think about attending. I plan to go and blog about my experience Friday, April 17.

At least for me, I know that talking about it helps.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,


Blogger News-Herald Blogs said...

Gene adopted two kittens Thursday, April 16, from the Berea Animal Shelter and will pick them up tomorrow after their last round of baby shots. "They are beautiful - has anyone ever seen an ugly kitten?" he said.

All three of you - and Nick, too - will be fortunate to have each other, Gene. Congratulations.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

April 18, 2009 at 2:54 PM 

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