I killed off two of my long-term pets this year.
Pussy Willow and Ray.
Let’s start with Pussy Willow.
At the age of 14, I started asking my mum and dad for a cat. Repeatedly. And they would refuse. The interaction was highly predictable and boring:
Mum, can we get a cat? NO!
Dad, can we get a cat? NO!
At the age of 15 I stopped asking for a cat and started dating a guy called Greg*. He was 23 years old and he would pick me up in his Skyline on school nights.
For my 16th birthday I got a cat.
Dad took me to an animal shelter and told me to choose whichever cat I wanted. It was heaven. Pussy Willow was hidden in the back corner and she snuggled into my neck when I picked her up. She was six or seven years old when we got her, fiercely independent and nameless.
To my parents’ disappointment, I didn’t stop going out with Greg in order to spent more time with Pussy Willow. But she was a great little companion and I loved her to bits. She’d always choose to sit on my lap and sleep on my bed.
Then I neglected her. Completely.
I left home to go to uni and never returned. Pussy Willow became my parents’ responsibility (and my mum is really not a cat person).
But Pussy Willow remained wide-eyed and ever so gentle over the years. And she was always happy to see me. I knew exactly how to scratch her under her chin to make her purr like a tractor……….
Eventually, her hair started falling out in tufts.
Then, she started look listlessly into the middle distance and shaking uncontrollably.
She developed a few stray lumps on her jaw and her back.
She slept all day – literally all day.
And it was time to say goodbye.
Mum did the hard bit. Found a vet, signed the forms, went through the procedure. I went to work that day. Waited for mum’s phone call to say it was all over. But she never called.
Pussy Willow would have been 17 or 18 when she died – quite old for cats, I’m told.
Ray was a beautiful Ryukin goldfish. I got him on a whim when I was 19 and bored during uni holidays. I didn’t expect him to live for ten years.
For the first few years I tried to make sure Ray always had a little goldfish buddy. But he outlived them all. The other goldfishes usually died during the night and I felt so sorry for Ray, having to share the tank with a corpse bobbing lifelessly on the surface or among the rocks at the bottom for hours.
Then I went overseas and left Ray with my parents. So they had to look after both Pussy Willow and Ray for a while.
When I returned from my travels, I moved into a tiny apartment and didn’t have any room for poor old Ray. But I didn’t have the guts to do the deed, so I got my boyfriend to flush him down the toilet.
Yep, I am an evil person.
I keep reminding myself that I eat salmon and tuna and every single variety of seafood, with great enjoyment. So why feel bad about one single tiny goldfish?
But to this day I do feel guilty and I often wonder how long he would have kept living.
Oh and re: Greg – it didn’t last long.