Saturday, January 28, 2012

Four-Legged Therapists

It’s been almost two weeks now since Shadow left us and the house is eerily quiet.  Shadow wasn’t a noisy dog.  She rarely barked.  She rarely whined.  About the only noise she made was when she would “talk” to Dean as he prepared her toothbrush in the morning, and, of course, the clicking of her toenails on the wood floors as she followed him from room to room ― or when, in the morning, she walked from the bed to the door, to the bed, to the door, to the bed and back to the door, then the bed, then the door .... long before the alarm was set to go off. But even so, without her, the house seems much quieter.

Shadow and I got off to a bit of a rough start.  We already had a dog.  I didn't want another one.  I didn’t want the shiny black dog that Dean “thought I wouldn’t notice” prancing and bouncing in the back yard.  But Dean and Shadow had bonded like a super glue finger sandwich within seconds of meeting each

other and separating them would have been as painful as ripping that flesh apart.  I’ll be honest.  It was a long, long time before Shadow and I became friends, and we were never devoted to each other the way she and Dean were.  We were always a bit wary of each other – especially during the times she was eating remote controls, ripping the couch, chewing through bannisters, sneaking any food left on the counters and demonstrating her skill in the fine art of escape.  Whenever Dean was away and her attempts at fleeing from me failed, Shadow would lie by the front door patiently waiting for his return.  If I happened to walk by she’d follow me with her eyes, and I know she was thinking, “when will he come home and save me from that woman?”

During the last couple of months of Shadow’s life, as she declined and spent more and more time sleeping, the cats got quieter too.  They had reached one year old and I thought maybe this new demeanor meant they’d left the kitty antics behind and had reached that dignified, mature, and somewhat boring, adult cat stage.  But now I’m beginning to think they had sensed Shadow’s illness and reacted accordingly.  As Shadow grew weaker and the sadness in the house increased, they became more subdued.  They slept more.  They quit chasing each other.  They didn’t wrestle with each other.  They didn’t play with their toys.  A lot of nights, instead of sleeping with us, they chose other places.

The day the vet came to put Shadow to sleep, Sophie sat nearby.  I don’t remember if she stayed through the whole process, but she was there, watching, when it started.  Maybe she was just curious, but I think she knew there was some serious stuff happening.   I like to think she wanted to be there for Shadow.  And maybe for us too.  The days after Shadow died the “girls” seemed to sense our sorrow and spent more time in our laps and once again started sleeping with us.  

And then, all at once, they began playing.  They wrestled with each 
other – in the dining room, in the family room, on top of me in the middle of the night.  They chased their balls and threw their little mice around.  Their paws pounded the floors like a herd of mini elephants as they chased each other.  On top of all the playing, Sophie decided to take over Shadow’s job of the early morning wake up call. Unfortunately she doesn’t tell time quite as well as Shadow did and has begun pawing on the bed around 

5:15 a.m.  If I wait too long to pull my arm out from under the covers and pet her she begins pawing at my head.  And then she grabs a chunk of my hair in her teeth and yanks.  The only way to stop the pawing (and prevent baldness!) is to continually pet her, get up, or throw her out of the bedroom.

Here’s what I think.  I think they decided it was time to move on.  I think they decided we needed to try and be normal again.  To laugh.  To make some noise.   So we are.  The house is still too quiet but there are

more and more bursts of kitty antics and laughter.  Like the other day.  Sophie was running with Maisie hot on her tail.  She tore around a corner only to find Dean blocking her way and when she tried to put the brakes on she ended up sliding on her butt right between his legs.

We miss Shadow.  I miss Shadow.  But just because Shadow isn’t here anymore doesn’t mean she isn’t with us.  And as the days go on we are remembering her more with smiles than with sadness.



Art Elser said...

I'll bet writing about your emotions over Shadow's "leaving" has helped you heal. I know it will probably take longer for Dean to heal, but the memories of good dogs and cats and friends are also comforting.

I'm glad the cats are leading the way and teaching you with their comical behavior.

Al said...

Our pets are far smarter and in tune to us than I think we will ever realize. Sometimes I think they are more aware of our emotions than we are of ourselves.

Glad to see the girls have made the executive decision to lighten the mood.

If you need some help with that my Scotch order came in last week. ;)