All Akimbo: All cats go to heaven

By Kim Blakely, animal lover and Mojo’s mama

zooie100b2850.jpgMuch of the fretting I’ve done about how Mojo would be hurt over the loss of a pet seems to have been for naught. Or maybe all my fretting just ensured that he would be prepared. I don’t know. Either way, he’s handling it all just fine.

A week ago on Saturday, I dragged myself out of bed, having spent much of the night sitting up with our very sick cat, Zooie, just stroking her head and telling her how sweet and pretty she was. I trudged downstairs and into the kitchen to make Mojo something for breakfast … and that’s when I realized that Nothing, our beta fish, had died overnight. Great.

I had, of course, already been wondering how best to broach the topic of a pet dying and had actually asked a friend to pick her mother’s brain for me. (My friend’s mom is more qualified even than most mamas about such things – she’s a child psychologist.) Her mother suggested that I give Mojo a basic explanation of death well before such an explanation is needed – using something like bugs as an example. So, as we played in the backyard one afternoon, I looked for dead insects and told him that all creatures live for a certain amount of time and that when they get old – or sometimes when they get sick – their bodies stop working and they die.

He listened intently, and from the conversations we had it seemed like he understood. But when I broke the news that Nothing fish had died, he … well, he ignored me. He had a healthy dose of denial.

I waited a little while and then told him again, and suggested that we say some nice things about Nothing fish, put him in a box and bury him under our azalea bushes in the backyard.

“Can’t we put him in a box and keep him in our house forever and ever and ever?” he wanted to know. “I just want him to stay and stay and stay.”

We talked some more, we cried together – he shed tears for his loss and I shed tears for his pain – and then I ended up burying the fish by myself while he watched from the window.

Fast forward a week … our little Zooie cat went to Heaven on Friday, and Mojo has handled it all in stride. In fact, though I set out to comfort him, he has done his best to comfort me.

I had been struggling with the idea of taking Zooie to the vet for euthanasia (I don’t dare say “to have her put to sleep” because what would that do for our bedtime routine?!). It’s not exactly that I’m opposed to euthanasia – I understand that sometimes it’s a necessary evil. But I was having a tough time with the concept that I might have to be the one to decide when it was Zooie’s time to go. She was obviously sick and very weak, but throughout the last two or three weeks, I thought several times that the end was near, only to see her rally and do wonderful things like gulp tuna, jump onto the windowsill for some fresh air or run onto the front porch or the back deck to loll in the sun. I certainly didn’t want her to suffer, but how would I ever know when she had enjoyed her last good moments? How would I know when she had reached the point of no return?

As it turned out, I didn’t have to make that choice.

After I collected myself, I wrapped her in a soft blanket and put her in a box, and then I went to pick up Mojo. I had told him several times since we took Zooie to the vet the last time that she was really sick and I had told him she might not get better, so when he came home, I told him that her body had stopped working and she had died. His first questions were about whether she would be coming back when she did get better. I answered that, no, he wouldn’t be seeing her again.

“Should we cry now?” he wanted to know. Geesh. I told him he could cry if he felt like it but that however he felt about it was A-OK.

I managed to keep a relatively stiff upper lip through our discussions, but Mojo caught me sobbing later as I retreated to the bedroom to sort some laundry. I told him I missed Zooie and that I was sad that we wouldn’t see her anymore and he said he was, too.

Next, he said he wanted to give me a hug so I wouldn’t be sad, and then he blew in my face. I asked what he was doing, and his response was: “I want to blow away all your tears.”


The silver lining in all this is the very thing I originally saw as a big dark cloud – the need to focus on getting Mojo through these hard lessons has made my own grief a secondary thing. I’m sad, still, but I am also grateful for the good things in my life that somehow try to balance it all out.


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