The most difficult thing to determine when a pet dies and leaves the household is the effect it will have on the other animals still alive. Ellipse and Ruby were quite close to each other. In this photo, taken in September 2009, Ellipse is grooming Ruby’s muzzle. Ruby is just a little over one year old in this photo. We got Ruby as a replacement for another Lab we’d lost Christmas 2007, a big beautiful chocolate named Babe. Max the yellow was still with us and we felt he was getting lonesome. We’d waited so long to replace Babe because Babe’s lose was sudden and traumatic to the humans in the household, and we were looking for a breeder close enough that we could go and pick out a pup (or more precisely, so the right pup would pick us out). When eight-week-old Ruby finally arrived the prior October, Ellipse took an immediate interest in Ruby.
Ruby at first didn’t know quite what to make of Ellipse, and would bark at her and then hide in a corner or in back of me if I was around. Ellipse was bright enough not to push it, such that by the time Ruby was six or so months the two of them would be found snuggling next to each other on the sofa. Once that bond was forged, it remained unbroken until the end.
This wasn’t the first time one of my cats bonded with one of my dogs. Max and Lucy had a very strong bond, so strong that they both left this Earth together at the same date, same time, at our vets.
So far Ruby hasn’t shown any particular agitation on Ellipse not being around. She’s got Annie, her canine BFF. The two of them are tight as can be, and still play hard with one another. I’m sure that helped soften the (possible) loss Ruby might have felt over Ellipse.
And then, of course, there was the gradual decline and change of behavior in Ellipse. Ellipse did slow down as she got older, especially over the last three years of her life. Ellipse slowly began to keep more to herself, keeping to the kitchen area most of the time. In hindsight this was right at the same time I lost both Max and Lucy. I doubt it was purely coincidental. A quick autopsy after Ellipses’ death revealed what we had suspected, that Ellipses’ spine was filled with arthritis. That would have made flexible movements, such as climbing and jumping, both difficult and painful. But she kept up that kind of movement until the very last. The week before Ellipses’ death, she had climbed up the cat tree into one of the crows’ nests for what would be her last time.
Ellipse was also suffering from a feline heart condition. For several years I’d been giving her half of a Enalapril 2.5mg tablet every evening. I’d pull out a pill, break it in half, and then grind it into powder in the bottom of her food dish. Then I’d put her evening meal on top. No matter what, when I’d check in the dish the next morning the powder was gone, licked up by Ellipse. She might not eat all her meal, but she always took her medication.
She’s gone, and I’ve managed (so far) to not let it hit me like the others have. Lucy, being my first real cat (she picked me one day by walking in my front door and then rubbing up against me) was also my first experience with feline sickness and eventual death. It hurt so much because we were closely bonded. Lucy would come to teach me a lot about cats, both how they lived and died. Lucy always wanted to be with me, no matter how ill she got. Her trust and love were rock solid. I came to believe over time that she knew I’d always take care of her and do the right thing by her, no matter what.
All the animals I believe have felt that way, and still feel that way.
In a world that seems to be increasingly overwhelmed by human cruelty, it’s one of the few ways I can be kind, and have that kindness be both effective and appreciated. That’s one reason, among so many, to care for a pet.