Last June, my family said goodbye to our beloved cat, Snowbell. It was one of the hardest days of my entire life. If you have ever met me, you’ll know the impact Snowbell had on my life.
Photos of him rest on my bedroom walls, a smile paints my face with every story about Snowbell I tell, and even in November I still feel bitter, deep sadness as I remember his passing. Snowbell was loving and compassionate in a way I’d never experienced in an animal before. He possessed a reputation for always finding the unhappy person in the house, and remaining by their side. Always.
His purr was as loud as a locomotive train, and whenever Snowbell found himself in loving company, he would knead the ground with his front paws. So many times I cried with him curled into my side, so many nights studying were spent in his company.
Photo Credit: Cait Meyer
I was in second grade when Snowbell first walked into our life, literally. We had seen him roaming around our backyard and inside our barn for the past couple weeks, and after a couple days of feeding him tuna, a blizzard hit. As the wind pushed gusts of snow and hail in all directions, and an unceasing chill fell upon my town, we found Snowbell on our porch. My mom opened the door and told him he had one chance to come inside, and that is exactly what he did.
While I must confess, I named him Snowbell thinking he was a girl. Not to mention I wasn’t particularly creative – we did adopt him during a snowstorm. But from that day forward, Snowbell was ours. He was ours to love, and to receive love in return.
Everytime I left home to come back to school, I found myself hugging him close, tears falling down my face. Not having Snowbell in my life for those brief months in Boston brought the same heartache I felt saying goodbye to my parents and sister. After all, when you live with someone for so long, so long you can barely remember life without them, they accompany you through the very best and worst of emotion. Snowbell, along with all of our other pets, was family. When I really lost him back in June, I lost a family member.
Photo Credit: Cait Meyer
Saying goodbye to a pet is profoundly painful, and it is both necessary and okay to mourn. Even if animals can not speak, through every tail wag, tummy rub, and purr, a connection is built with them so deep it does not require words. What is love if your heart does not burn and ache upon saying goodbye?
For those who have not owned a pet, the loss felt by grieving pet owners may be hard to understand. That is okay too. How can we expect you to understand a connection you haven’t experienced? All that I ask is that you respect the mourning process of those around you.