When my kids were young, we adopted a pretty gray kitten named Fritz, whom we lovingly called Fitzy, Fritzy, Fitty-Fatty-Kitty-Catty, Fritzeroni with Cheese and a ton of other funny nicknames. He was a friendly guy who enjoyed spending time with the family — even the kids. They treated him respectfully and, in return, he enjoyed spending time with them.
One day when Fritz was three, he started demonstrating strange symptoms, and we took him to the vet for a checkup. After blood work and other various tests, we were completely unprepared for the news we would receive: Fritz’s kidneys were failing very quickly. She told us he’d continue spiraling downward, and — at that point — there was nothing they could do. She said he was likely born with a kidney illness, and it had progressed over his too-brief life. After much discussion and research, we saw his quality of life was indeed getting worse, so we made the difficult decision to help him cross the Rainbow Bridge.
At the time, Fran was nearly six and Ben was four. They didn’t want to go with us to the vet’s office for the appointment, so we went while they were in school. The visit was heartbreaking. My husband and I held sweet Fritz as he passed, and then sobbed while we petted his soft gray fur. We’d brought his favorite fleece blanket so we could wrap him in it for the ride home. We wanted to bury him in our backyard.
When the kids came home from school, we gathered as a family and talked about our kitty. Fran and Ben wanted to hear a little bit about what happened at the clinic, but not too much. I’ve always been a “processor,” and encouraged everyone to share their feelings, letting them know grief is OK — it’s perfectly normal to feel sad when you lose a loved one. We talked about the burial — how we wanted to do it, what we wanted to include with his body and if we wanted to invite anyone else to share the ceremony with us.
We chose to invite a family with whom we were close. Their kids had never experienced the death of a pet, and they knew Fritz, so it seemed like a meaningful closure for them as well. Fran wanted to make sure Fritz had all his favorite “things” to take with him into the afterlife. She was especially set on locating a hefty supply of pipe cleaners. Fritz was a complete fanatic about those things. She also chose a can of food and some treats. She wanted to make sure he had enough for himself and enough to share with any other angel kitties he ran into in the great beyond.
My husband John dug a deep hole at the far end of our backyard and chose a large rock we’d place on top of the site once we buried our kitty. He approached the tasks with the utmost care and love. When the little grave was dug, John carried Fritz, wrapped in his blanket, to the site, and we followed behind with our friends.
We circled the spot where Fritz would be laid to rest, and each took turns sharing a few of our favorite memories. Most of them involved pipe cleaners and his ridiculous amount of silly nicknames. When it was Ben’s turn, he didn’t have anything to say — instead he had one request: He wanted to touch Fritz’s eye with a stick. He didn’t want to poke it or gouge it — he was just a curious little boy. And so we granted his request, and he gently touched his old friend’s eye with a short branch. It sounds weird, but there was something incredibly touching about that moment.
John then wrapped Fritz in cozy mummy-fleece and gently placed him into the ground. Fran asked once more if John had included the kitty’s precious belongings inside the fleece blanket, and he assured her he had. Fritz would have plenty of pipe cleaners, food and treats for himself in the afterlife … plus some to share.
How has your family responded to the death of a pet? Share our story in the comments.
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About the Author: Angie Bailey is an eternal optimist with an adoration of all things silly. Loves pre-adolescent boy humor, puns, making up parody songs, thinking about cats doing people things and The Smiths. Writes Catladyland, a cat humor blog, Texts from Mittens (originated right here on Catster) and authored whiskerslist: the kitty classifieds, a silly book about cats wheeling and dealing online. Partner in a production company and writes and acts in a comedy web series that features sketches and mockumentaries. Mother to two humans and three cats, all of which want her to make them food.