Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Loving Goodbye


Puck's First Photo

When I lost Libbey in 1997, I was inspired to start a pet care business.  I also accepted an opportunity to work with the veterinarians who had cared for her during her final months.  One day, shortly after she died, I headed to the hospital for my shift.  Earlier that morning, a local rescue organization had dropped off a kitten in hopes of an adoption.  It was a male, roughly five and half months old, who had been captured in the boiler room of a frat house at ASU. Weeks after treatment in a different hospital, he was healthy but still frightened.  He was so frightened, in fact, that a towel had been placed in front of his cage to help calm his nerves.

A tech walked by the front desk and asked if I had checked him out.  I had not.  Everyone knew about my recent loss, so she said "You HAVE to go see him."  When nobody was looking, I casually walked to the back and stood in front of the towel.  Slowly, I raised up one corner, revealing a moment I can still see as clearly as that day.  Cowered and pressed as far back into the corner of the cage as he could, he looked at me with the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen... and hissed with all his might.  All I could do was smile.

I remained cautious.  After all, I had lost Libbey only two months prior, and we had a friendship that spanned two decades. No cat could replace her... I wasn't ready. 

And so I did what I knew was the right thing to do.  I put him in a carrier and took him home.

Compromising by agreeing only to foster him,  I set up the den with all of the essentials. I closed the door and placed the carrier on the floor but did not remove him. I wanted him to feel safe, so I merely unhinged the door. I sat down and spoke to him softly. His big eyes seemed to absorb every inch of me. As afraid as he was, he was the only kitten of the litter to survive. I knew this meant he was strong and had a remarkable will to live. I remained patient and, after sitting with him for nearly two hours, he crawled out of the carrier without making a sound.  He used the litter pan and looked up at me, unsure of what came next. I picked him up, placed him on the sofa, and kissed his precious face.

I didn't want to love him, but fostering was out the window.  He was mine. Puck now had a name and was locked firmly and deeply within my heart.

Can you see him?
It didn't take long for his fun personality to emerge. My pretty and shy little boy would grow slowly, into a beautiful gentle giant of 18 pounds by age two. During that time, his rich amber eyes would soften into a mesmerizing green. More like a dog, he loved to play fetch and was loyal to me and me alone. He wanted to be wherever I was and, if I wasn't home, he would stare out the window... watching and waiting for my return.  I can still remember how sweet it was to arrive home from a walk and see him with his paws in the window and his face pressed against the glass. I couldn't hear him, but I could see his mouth let out a mew as I approached the door. That routine would carry over to everywhere we lived. He was more loyal than anything or anyone I had ever known.

In the end, Puck and I rescued each other. He was nothing like Libbey, yet he was cut from the same cloth. To this day, I believe she brought us together. Puck was a beautiful and good boy. He may have been timid, but his gentle soul made the love he gave larger than life.

His will to live remained as strong his last month as when he began his journey from that boiler room. In the end, his veterinarian told me he was holding on for me. That level of commitment is humbling and was an amazing gift, which is why I knew exactly when it was time to put his needs first.  As quietly as I did that first day in the den, I spoke to him softly... and whispered my goodbyes.

I. Love. You.

When Libbey died, my life was changed forever. Out of her death I became an artist, and embarked on a new journey of self discovery. Although my heart is breaking by Puck's unfortunate and untimely death, I look forward to how I will grow from his loss. I don't know where I am headed from here, but I know his love, loyalty, and gentle spirit will inspire me to greater heights. In honor of him, I look forward to seeing how I evolve and who I become.

It's amazing what love can and does do... which is precisely why my heart is more open now than it has ever been. 

My dearest Pucky Bear, I love and miss you so very much. Thank you for being there no matter what we went through together. For making me smile. For making me laugh. For comforting me. For inspiring me. For everything. You made my life brighter and, for that, I will never forget you.

Through my heart... through my art... you will live on. 

Whether or not you can empathize with my deep connection to Puck, I am grateful for your understanding and patience during this grieving process. Navigating loss of any kind is never easy but, despite the tears, I am doing my best to move forward. 

Please return soon to see my love for Puck transformed onto canvas... I'm feeling creative.


September 22, 1997 - October 18, 2011

Update:  "Deep Within My Heart" is the painting that resulted from the healing process following his death.  It sold the same day it was posted online and hangs in Sacramento, CA.