Pet Parenting…Again

Pet Parenting…Again

It’s probably safe to say most of us love having pets. They’re expensive little attention whores who make huge messes and constantly demand our attention. But we absolutely adore and pamper our pets. They’re family.

I’ve always been an animal lover. I grew up having cats and kind of thought of myself as a sort of “cat whisperer” when I was a kid. In fact, I had one kitty that let me dress her in doll clothes, tuck her in a blanket in my doll carriage and take her for walks around the neighborhood. Another one followed me to school every day and sat outside the classroom waiting patiently for me to return (I know, it sounds like a nursery rhyme, but it’s true!).

When I married my ex, I gave up my precious kitties because he was allergic to them. I remember my family constantly asking me why he wouldn’t get allergy shots so we could have a pet. The answer was simple, he didn’t want to have shots and he didn’t want a cat. “But what about you?” they’d ask. I’d shrug and tell them it wasn’t that important to me, that I loved my husband more than I could ever love a pet.

Eventually, we learned that there are hypoallergenic dogs who have hair instead of fur. My ex-husband allowed us to adopt two Cairn Terriers, Cosette and Angus. Poor Cosie wasn’t healthy and she died young. But Angus lived for 15 years. He was partially deaf and blind as a bat. He walked into walls and grunted because he didn’t have the energy to bark anymore. He was sweet and affectionate and I loved him. He was family.

Then on a cold January night, as I was reading in bed with Angus snoring on his little cushion on the floor beside me, I heard a loud pop and a scream. When I went to investigate I saw my ex-husband run past me in flames. He had doused my home in gasoline and set it ablaze, accidentally igniting himself in the process. And that blaze spread so fast that even though I tried twice to rescue Angus the smoke overpowered me and I failed. I watched my house burn knowing my loveable little family member was dying. For three years I’ve been coming to terms with my grief and my guilt for leaving him upstairs and then not returning to save him.

A couple of months ago, Joyanna and I got a cat, a 1-year-old little girl named Luna.  It took no time for us to bond and we’re enjoying being her “parents”. Like all kitty mommy’s I think she’s the prettiest, smartest, most loveable cat on the planet. She’s family. But even new pet parenthood is marred by intrusive memories of Angus and worse still, moments of complete terror and panic. Three or four times now, the smoke alarm has gone off in our building. And as I hear the sirens approach and I’m frantically looking under the bed or behind the couch for Luna, I can vividly see Angus dying on my old bedroom floor. Then I think to myself “If I can’t catch Luna, I’m staying here. And if I stay here, Joyanna will stay here. And if there’s a real fire, we’re all going to die. But I can’t fuck this one up and leave her behind!” I usually fall apart until Joyanna calmly guides me and Luna out of the building.

Like any new parent, I have fears for Luna’s safety. The reality of being ultimately responsible for that little life can be daunting. But MY reality also includes intrusive memories and irrational fears of losing another family member who I love so much. I have to be stronger than my PTSD. I have to will myself to remain calm and to take responsibility for this little life. I have no choice. As terrified and overwrought as I may be, abandoning her is not an option.  Sempre la Famiglia.

 


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