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Good Grief

Humor is the most effective coping method I have developed to deal with stressful situations. When that situation is sad, morbid humor is sometimes all that is left at my disposal. Anyone who has lost a pet knows that there is nothing funny about it. George Carlin said it best, “When you purchase a pet, you are buying a small tragedy.” We all know this going into the relationship, but we do it anyway.

When Oregano and I rushed our beloved 15-year-old cat, Sam, to the veterinary ER in the wee hours of the morning, we knew he wouldn’t be coming back home with us. The vet prepared the injections and said, “This first syringe has a sedative.”

I looked up at her, “Do you have any extra for the humans? Sam’s really calm right now, but we could both do with a little sedation.” I was trying to lighten the somber mood. Within seconds, Sam slipped away peacefully. Well, as peacefully as he could, what with our wracking sobs disturbing every creature with ears.

Sam trying to help us pack for a trip.

Sam trying to help us pack for a trip.

As we drove home from the animal hospital, it occurred to me that veterinary emergency rooms should also staff a medical doctor. It really makes perfect sense. Most humans who find themselves in the ER with their pets are consumed with worry or fear and would certainly benefit from some pharmaceutically assisted coping methods. There are probably all sorts of legal and medical complications that prevent this from actually happening. At a bare minimum, if prescription drugs aren’t available to the humans, the veterinary ERs can apply for a liquor license and employ a 24/7 bartender. Of course, driving home from the ER distraught and tipsy is a bad idea, so they would also need to run a taxi service.

I always wonder what is going through the mind of the surviving cat when we arrive home with an empty carrier. Is he thinking, “Holy shit! What happened to the other guy that lived here? They seemed to like him. What could he have done to be banished? I better crank up the cuteness factor or I may disappear next.”  Cats are intuitive. Linus realized we could benefit from some extra attention which he was more than happy to supply in exchange for some back scratches and brushing.

Not long after we arrived home, our friends and family began using all manner of electronic and human contact to offer their sympathies. There is no more empathetic group of people than other pet owners because we all know we’re going to be in the same position one day.

Later that afternoon, Oregano was checking emails and I was trying to distract myself with the voluminous weeds in my garden. When I came in to cool off and have a glass of iced tea, I walked past Oregano at the computer and noticed he was on the Petfinder website.

Stunned, I turned to him and said, “You’re already looking at other cats? There are still tissues wet with tears in the garbage can and you’re shopping for a new pet?!”

“Why not? We know we’re going to rescue another cat. I thought it would make me feel better to look and see which kitties are available for us to love,” he said trying to convince me. “You’re going to miss Sam and be sad no matter what. You can still do all of that while we give another kitty a loving home.”

Despite how awful I felt, I knew he was right. We’d be stupid enough to sign up for this kind of heartbreak again. I just wasn’t planning on shopping online the same day.

As he scrolled through pages and pages of adorable cats with sad, hard-luck stories I asked, “We haven’t finalized our wills yet have we?”

“Huh? Where did that question come from?” he asked me looking away from the screen with a quizzical look on his face.

“Well, I know we discussed do not resuscitate provisions in our wills, but I think I’m going to have to ask the lawyer to add a clause to that section,” I replied.

“What are you talking about?” He seemed really confused.

“I think you shouldn’t be allowed to have a smartphone or any internet access if I am on life support,” I said.

“What does this have to do with Sam’s death?” he asked.

“Sam just died. If you are already on Petfinder, I’m worried you’ll apply the same philosophy when I’m dying. I fear you’ll be sitting by my death-bed with one hand on the plug while the other hand is on the computer keyboard searching JDate or eHarmony for your next beloved wife. Call me crazy, but I think it would be tacky if you showed up at my funeral with a date.”

“I would never do that to you. I’d wait at least until after you were buried to start dating again,” he said sweetly.

“Jews are supposed to be buried the next day,” I said.

“Exactly. I’m willing to wait a day or two before I start dating.”

“Isn’t that a generous, thoughtful concession to make? You could combine my obituary with a personal ad for yourself and turn sitting shivah into a new type of speed dating. I’m such a sport; I’ll even help you write the obituary/personal ad.”

Paprika died leaving behind a cute husband with a great sense of humor who is now available for dating women between the ages of 30 and 60. In lieu of flowers, please send photographs and a brief description of yourself. All prospective dates must love cats.

We both laughed out loud for the first time all day. Like I said, sometimes morbid humor is all that is left, but it’s still humor.


Here’s a clip from George Carlin who applied the same philosophy when it comes to losing a beloved pet.

About Paprika Furstenburg

I was born with an overly developed sense of humor and poor coordination. The combination of these two character traits has taught me humility and given me the perspective to find the funny in everyday experiences.

34 responses »

  1. oh Paprika, i am still in the works of catching up on blogs after my 2-month+ hiatus, and i am sorry to hear of your loss – and Oregano’s and Linus’ too. Because cats miss their furry pals too.
    your humour was touching, and yet i can remember saying good-bye to three beloved cats and how hard it was. it is true that no pet can replace another, and at the same time, the best thing you can do after losing one, is to offer your home to another one. not to take the place of the one you just said good-bye to, but simply because there are sufficient ones out there who do need a loving home. guaranteed, the new cat will be nothing like the old one, and the longer it is with you, the more that becomes evident.
    there was a cat-gap in our home for a number of years for various reasons. but i think the most important one turned out to be that we were able to adopt Timmy when he needed a home, and he very much needs to be the only cat in the house. so for his sake it was best that we were still looking to adopt.
    anyhow, i cheated a bit by coming at your blog from the front end, so i already know all about Oolong, er, Otis, and i must say i am thrilled for you all. but still just wanted to let you that i am sorry you had to say good-bye to Sam. that really does make for one lousy day, doesn’t it? but how wonderful that there were so many great days.
    and going forward, here’s to enjoying the new great days still ahead!
    Timmy sends purrs.

    • Thanks for your kind words.

      I knew we’d eventually get another cat and I believe we honor Sam by giving a loving home to another pet in need. It’s just hard to mourn the passing of a beloved pet while refereeing fights that occur when two new cats are introduced. Thankfully, Otis and Linus are getting along now. They’re not exactly best buddies, but the daily hissy fits have decreased significantly. Otis is definitely more comfortable at home now and he loves the attention, toys and belly rubs he gets whenever he wants them.

      I’m glad that Timmy, Otis and Linus have found their forever homes. Here’s to many more happy years full of purrs for all of us.

  2. Paprika – this could not have come at a better time! God in his wisdom sends us the words and experiences of others to take along our own grief journey. We just lost our Max last week and are still grieving the emptiness in our hearts and home! We know he is in a better place, healthy and whole again, running and enjoying what sun he can find. We are the ones in the darkness, lost without this little bundle of life. For the first time in 28 years we are cat-less and are choosing to remain so. But like Oregano, I too found myself on PetFinders just yesterday, then feeling guilty that I could so readily start a “replacement” process. All that did was remind me again of what was gone; not what could be coming. Then the vet’s office calls to let us know Max’s cremains have returned home to us; his urn arrives Saturday and he will sit next to our beloved Molly, his “sister cat”. We will let time heal us, joyful memories of Max replacing the heaviness of the loss.

    • Margie, I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m glad this post could bring you some comfort when there is so much sadness. I have my moments when the rational part of my brain takes over and reminds me that Sam is happy and healthy once again, but then my heart takes over and the tears start.

      We did rescue another kitty within a week of Sam’s passing. Oregano had a very valid point. (Don’t tell him I said he was right.) Adopting a new furry family member did absolutely nothing to diminish my mourning of Sam. No other cat will every “replace” him, but it did my heart a world of good to know that we rescued some other kitty from an unfortunate, unhappy situation.

      I’m sure your love of Max and his sister, will eventually lead you to open your heart and home to a new furry family member. Hang in there.

  3. I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your cat, Sam, Paprika. About 5 years ago, we took our cat, Bond … Jane Bond, to the vet for her final visit. I sat and cried like a baby as I held her. My husband was pretty shook up, too. It’s never easy.

    But, I’m glad you and Oregano have a wonderfully warped sense of humor. That does get you thru trying times and sad times. 😉

    • Thanks, Judy.

      It doesn’t matter how old you are or how many times you’ve had to do it in the past, saying goodbye to a pet never gets any easier.

      To cheer me up, Oregano tells me that we had years of wonderful days with Sam and only one really, really bad day. That helps to put it in perspective.

  4. I am sorry for your loss, Paprika. Thinking of you . . .

  5. You certainly do know how to use humor to make a situation bearable. Humor is a great stress reliever that helps to put things in perspective. That same humor that comes from love will help you give that same love and affection to another living thing.

  6. Bunny... also Kinz

    Long time, no comment. This was a great post for anyone trying to cope with loss. I think you have the right idea in trying to inject a little humor. Our pets bring us such great joy and it is nice to smile through the tears. Also missing a certain friend who has moved and am dealing with those “loss” feelings. We had a ball for over 40 years… and I think we will keep in touch.

    • Great to hear from you again, Kinz 🙂

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I seriously considered not posting it because I thought it was too depressing for a humor blog.

      I know you are feeling the geographical loss of your friend. With all the modern technology at our disposal, you’ll still be able to keep in touch.

  7. My sympathies to both you and Oregano. But he is right — after we lost. Our dog Cooper last summer, my husband mourned and wouldn’t consider another dog. If he HAD, we would be nearly done with puppyhood by now instead of just beginning!

  8. I am so sorry to hear about Sam. Your post did make me smile, however. It’s obvious that Sam had a good life AND a funny one (with you as his mom he couldn’t miss).

    Hugs, Paula

    Sent from my iPad


  9. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your kitty. I hope when the the times feels right you are able to add to your furry family again! Honey the dog is 14 and Blackie the cat is 15 so we feel at this point that we are living on borrowed time with both of them. Sigh. And yet, I know, we will eventually dive right back in in spite of the heartache. Wishing you all the best.

  10. You and George are the best!


  11. Susan Feibush

    Sorry for your loss. My only advice is for you to do what is comfortable for you both. I still recall loving memories of all my pets that are now in pet heaven. Take care.

  12. I love your relationship with your husband and so enjoy reading your humorous banter. “Call me crazy, but I think it would be tacky if you showed up at my funeral with a date.” I may have snorted a little Diet Dr. Pepper up my nose. LOVE the obit! You know, I never wanted a pet. I thought they were really cute … on calendars. But I never wanted the clean up. When you have a human child, there comes a time when that kid goes potty, wipes themselves and flushes it too. If you ever would have told me that some day I’d be cleaning cat litter or going on 3 mile walks holding a bag of my dog’s poop, I would have laughed hysterically. I was like Lucy (“Eew, dog germs”). But my husband and daughter wore me down, and now we have 2 cats and a goldendoodle named Mayzie, who I let lick my face! (didn’t see that one coming). They told me if I raised a puppy, I wouldn’t be afraid of it when it got bigger. That dog follows me around everywhere. She rises, when I rise — as if I were the queen. I look into her soulful eyes and tell her my sorrows, my fears, my joys. And her smile lights up my world. I now understand what it means to love an animal. And I know saying goodbye to her someday will be so hard, because all she has ever done is love me and show her undying devotion. Nobody greets me at the end of the day, like Mayzie. My coming home makes her day. I’m sorry you lost your sweet Sam.And I’m so glad you are smiling through the tears.

    • Thanks, Parri. I was so unsure when writing this post. I thought it might be too depressing for a humor blog. I’m glad you enjoyed it so much.

      Your Mayzie sounds precious! I know exactly the feelings you described because that was my relationship with Sam. We adopted him when he was almost 7 and if he hadn’t already known his name, I would have changed it to Velcro because he was always attached to me. He slept on me every night. He would follow me into the bathroom and wait while I took my shower. If my asthma was acting up, he had a special meow that he made to let me know I was wheezing. Poor thing hardly got any sleep this winter when I had pneumonia. I suppose if you aren’t heartbroken at the loss of a pet, you probably shouldn’t have had the pet to begin with.

  13. Great story, Paprika! I’m glad to see that you agreed to Oregano’s idea! Love your blog!

  14. What a coincidence! I wrote a post on pet death today too. Great minds are in the same trolley track! One time I had a cat that was high strung. The vet gave me some valium for the cat. I asked if I could take it if it didn’t help the cat. She didn’t think that was funny.

  15. And also… we lost our Merlin this year – our 21-year old cat. Although he had outlived all expectations, and he was a big pest for all those 21 years, it was still really hard. He was OUR pest.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about Merlin. It doesn’t matter how old the pet is or how long you’ve had them, it’s still hard to say goodbye. Our pets are such omnipresent parts of our lives that it is difficult when they are no longer with us.

  16. About the human medication: When I was a little girl my two great-aunties (sisters who shared a home) had a little parakeet. They had Petey for several years. At the end of his life the vet instructed my aunts to give him a little brandy in his water dish. I don’t remember why – maybe simply to ease his pain. When he died, I remember my old Aunt Lora saying, “I felt so bad I drank all of Petey’s brandy.”


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