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.
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.