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The Fur Kids: How Important Pets Are To Our Family

Today is a day of celebration for my partner and I. Today, we welcomed a new member to our family. He might be small, about 13 weeks old, has fur and a tail, but we couldn't be happier.

Since my partner and I met close to 14 years ago, we've had pets in our lives. Within the first year of meeting, I had adopted a little fur ball named Caspar and that cat took us from being a couple to being a family. We adored that kitten as he was cheeky, tenacious and certainly had a sense of humour. Some of my favourite memories of Caspar as a kitten range between him chasing my partner around the house by biting at his ankles through to playing this game with us where he would attack anything that moved under the bed cover.

When Caspar was one year old, we adopted a second fur child; Sambuca. We did this because we thought Caspar could be getting lonely and we had come to the conclusion that pets were often better in pairs. Watching the two grow up together brought us so much enjoyment, happiness and love. Funnily enough, over time, Sammy became very attached to me while Caspar took a real liking to my partner, Anthony. This may or may not have something to do with the fact that Ant would feed Caspar however the relationship did run more than that. Every morning around 4am, Caspar would stroll into the bedroom, a cat on a mission. He would begin this tirade of meows that would be a non-stop audio assault until he would eventually get up onto Ant's shoulder and gently brush his paw down his face to wake him. If this didn't work, he would then begin to purr directly into Ant's ear at a volume that made the room feel like it was vibrating. Caspar had the loudest purr on him and while Ant hated it, I absolutely adored it and I have to admit, it often sent me into an even deeper, more comfortable sleep. That cat knew how to send me into trance better than some humans I know can.

Caspar was so smart, so intelligent and, amazingly, often very funny. You would catch him doing things beyond what you ever thought a cat could do and he did it with absolutely no shame or reservation.

Around July last year, Caspar became unwell. No specialist could figure out what was wrong with him. All the tests seem to contradict one another. What followed was two months of absolute torture. During that time, Caspar stayed mostly in CARE - Centre for Animal Referral & Emergency, an amazing specialist unit in Collingwood, Melbourne. It came at a most inconvenient time as my partner and I was due to travel to the US the following week. We debated about if we should cancel the trip or not and, at the 11th hour, we made the decision to go. During that two week period that we were in America, we had almost daily communication with CARE, either via email or phone, to gain an update as to what was happening, what the latest test results showed, what options we had and even a Facechat hook up with Caspar thanks to our friend Lily who was keeping an eye on our home and Sambuca for us.

When we returned from the US, it was almost daily visits to see Caspar and to gain as much insight into what we could do as possible. We were determined to fight for our little kid as long as he was prepared to fight too. After two months, a test result came back that could no longer be ignored. Some of the treatments that were being used were now counteracting some of the other treatments. While we could never figure out what was actually happening for our boy, it had now been decided that the treatments were no longer sustainable, everything had been done (including two blood transfusions) and we were told, sadly, that we had about a week left to be with our boy.

I remember going in the night that I was told this heartbreaking news. It was a Monday night. I sat with Caspar in one of the clinic rooms and I just cried, looking into his eyes. He kept blinking back at me softly. In a strange way, it felt like he was the one comforting me that night.

We brought him home the following day. I had to be taught how to prepare his food in a blender as he now had to be fed via a tube in his neck. This had to be done every 6 hours - 9am, 3pm, 9pm, 3am. It felt like it was going to be a long, long week. On that Wednesday, it felt like Caspar was giving us one last day of 'classic' him. He was sitting in his favourite places, spending time with Sambuca, and came up to both Ant and I to cuddle with us one-on-one once again. I have this wonderful video of him climbing up onto Ant's chest, as he always used to do, and the look of love between the two of them is undeniable. I cry every time I watch this video.

On the Thursday, we could see that Caspar was becoming weaker already. He was even slower to move and he was now so incredibly thin - such a former shadow of the once glorious cat! He was hiding away a little more in his cat cocoon, clearly struggling to continue being social. On the Friday morning, we knew something was different when he threw up after his 3am feeding. Things didn't seem right. It became clear as to how not right it was when he collapsed in front of me whilst standing in front of the heater. I phoned Ant, who had just left for work, and told him he should come home as I felt like we were about to say goodbye.

By 9am, Caspar was on the couch, barely able to move, breathing heavy. We were around him, giving him gentle strokes, talking to him softly, and letting him know it was ok to go. We had arranged for a vet to come over and assist in the process however they didn't arrive in time. Just before 10:30am, we watched our boy pass away in front of us. It was one of the most traumatic things either Ant and I had experienced in a while.

I can't put into words how unexpected the level of grief was that we were to experience. I've lost family members in the past and the pain that I felt in losing Caspar was equal to losing those family members. There are articles online of people talking about how the loss of their pet caused them as much grief as losing their parent and I can say that there is a part of me that agrees with this. On the day that he passed, I helped to deal with my grief by making a little photo montage tribute to him, reflecting on his life from kitten to this beautiful adult boy who was taken from us well before his time. I shared that video and the response I had from others mirrored my grief; people understood what I was going through. I ended up revising that video four times, each time finding pictures that I felt were better and that captured the spirit of this 'cheeky little shit'. Even still to this day, I will often have a thought of Caspar and feel the pit of my stomach sink rapidly and tears form in my eyes. I rationalised the experience at the time, saying that the level of grief I felt was only equal to the amount of love that I offered, and it is true. I began to realise that there were a few different types of people in the world; the ones who understood what it was like to lose a fur child and the ones who couldn't understand what the fuss was all about.

I looked up online and realised that I wasn't alone; that there are so many others who were overwhelmed by how much grief losing a beloved pet could cause. These animals come into our lives and we often feel this sense of unconditional love that comes with them. They seem to know how to give us comfort when we need it, companionship when we're unwell, playfulness when we need our moods lifted. They are, undeniably, a part of our family.

Six months on and my partner and I decided that it felt like time to bring another soul into our family. We were concerned about how Sambuca was during the day when we were at work and keen for him to have companionship. I believe Ant truly missed having that 'buddy' that Caspar was to him and he was keen to have a new kitten in our lives. We had gone down to Ingrid's Haven, where we had picked Caspar once before, and she had greeted us with a kitten in mind. She brought out to us this beautiful little red fur kitten who had one 'bunk' eye. It would seem the kitten had been potentially dropped on the head shortly after birth and, as a result, had damaged his eyesight. The result is this one stuck eye that, to be honest, gave him the look of constantly being sad. It was love at first sight.

Here we are, now a mere five hours into our lives together, and he is a shy, nervous little kid. He is hiding in a cat cocoon that I had bought for Caspar when he was unwell and I am sitting in the study with him but giving him space at the same time so that he can adjust to his surroundings. He has yet to meet his brother, Sambuca, as I am keen for him to be comfortable in his own space first before freaking him out more. It's the start of a new relationship and one where hopefully he will be as enriched with his life with us as we will be having him.

UPDATE: Four days on and Van Gogh (or Van / Vanny) has fit into the house well. He worships the ground Sambuca walks on and they seem to be getting along famously with only the occasional hiss. This comes more from Sambuca wanting space from an overly eager kitten than from a need to show dominance. The cat pen was dismantled within 48 hours and the boys have spent two extended periods at home alone. We're feeling confident already that they're living well with each other, which is a wonderful feeling so sooner after adoption.

Seven Top Tips For Dealing With The Loss Of a Pet

Here are seven tips taken from the article, 'How To Cope With Losing a Pet'.

  • Know that it's normal to grieve for the loss of a beloved pet
  • Don't try to bottle up your emotions or feel ashamed
  • Seek support from others who've also experienced the pain of losing a pet
  • Ignore people who try to devalue your loss
  • Understand that the grieving process happens gradually
  • Learn how to help a child cope with losing a pet
  • Think hard before trying to fill the void by immediately getting another pet

Release Hypnosis Melbourne Hypnotherapy

Since 2016, Lawrence Akers has been working under the name Release Hypnosis offering Hypnotherapy and ACT based work to the people of Melbourne or an online service. Based on St Kilda Rd, Release Hypnosis is an easy and convenient location to get to and accessible by the ANZAC station train and tram stop. Release Hypnosis can help with a wide range of presenting issues, and I offer a free 30 minute no obligation discovery call for those who are unsure if hypnotherapy is the right way forward for them.

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