Benny was my best friend for 13 years. This past week, I lost him to sudden heart failure, just 24 hours after losing our oldest cat, Tucker—Benny’s closest bud—to old age and kidney malfunction. Though their absence hasn’t fully sunk in as I struggle through midterms and a full work schedule on campus, I’ve been reflecting on how losing my childhood pets is almost as painful as the death of a close relative or family member. Pets are our speechless companions who can perceive our emotions, bring a smile to our face in the darkest of times and soothe the feeling of overwhelming loneliness that life can sometimes bring.
Here are the reasons childhood pets are the G.O.A.T. and why losing them so suddenly can be complete garbage:
1. Their antics are hilarious and their fuzzy faces are so darn cute.
This is usually why we get a pet in the first place—that little face, the soft fur, the curious rambunctious personality. Though the honeymoon period doesn’t always last very long, they’re still just as fuzzy at six weeks as they are at 16 years. You find yourself reaching for your phone camera every time they chew on a straw or jump in a box or climb into your appliances. Because it’s just so flippin’ adorable.
2. They were our after-school friends.
How many afternoon snacks did you eat while watching TV next to your dog or cat? Whether you were sad from being bullied on the playground, getting bad marks on your test or just vegging after a long week of self-imposed stress in high school, you had a fur baby by your side.
3. They taught us how to be responsible.
Yes, mom. I’ll take the dog out and scoop the litter box and change their water bowl. Seems annoying at the time, but learning how to care for an animal gives us a sense of responsibility over the survival of another living thing. That’s a powerful and rewarding notion.
4. Losing them makes us realize how much we take for granted.
Life is incredibly fragile and, at any point, health can decline, cellular and metabolic processes can begin to go terribly wrong and soon, a 20-year life expectancy is shortened to 13 years. We don’t realize the magnitude of a person or animal’s contribution to our lives and our happiness until they’re gone. I did not get to see my cat, Benny, before he passed. Tell your pets (and your people) that you love them, take 30 extra seconds to snuggle them to your chest and don’t ever live with the regret of not saying goodbye.
5. They prepare us for the feeling of loss that will only become more prevalent as we age.
Having pets conditions us for the process of grieving. It’s completely terrible to lose something or someone you care about. But loss is a great reminder of the support you don’t even know you have in life. As we age, the people we know and love do, too. The scariest aspect of life is the inevitability of death, but our limited time on Earth can be fulfilled any way we choose. Don’t live life fearing its end. I miss my kitties more than anything. But they are at peace, resting eternally next to each other in the backyard they once made their kingdom of outdoor adventure.
RIP Benny and Tucker. I will love and remember you forever.