As I was out walking recently, a man and his dog walked past me in the opposite direction. The man was talking – I assumed he was using a Bluetooth or some similar device as I didn’t see a cell phone or a headset. Not intentionally eavesdropping, I noticed his matter-of-fact tone of voice and assumed he was talking to a colleague. But, then I heard “and you’re a good boy.” Hmmm. That’s an odd way to compliment a co-worker. He reached down to pat the dog on its head and continued with his conversation. The dog trotted alongside, listening intently, and apparently agreeing with everything its owner said.
Two days ago, we lost our elderly cat, Taggy, to a trio of diseases that came upon her within one year. She was almost 18 years old. Her first 16 years of life were lived free of problems – never sick, never injured, never lost, always lively. And talkative. She had more to say than our beagle ever said! She out-talked our Siamese cat whose complaints seemed endless, and all our other (many) cats whom we have outlived. She talked about everything – from the weather to her food, from birds who perched at the front window to rainy days, from stray cats who wandered through our yard to our resident crow; and she talked about our beagle, Pippin (aka That Damn Dog). She used vocalizations that my spouse, my daughter, and I have never heard from any other cat. Some people say that pets imitate their owners’ tone of voice, but I don’t recall ever quacking at my daughter or spouse, or they to me. I know she imitated Pippin. She would bark back at him after she was done hiding under the bed (he was loud). She squeaked, squawked, whispered, chirped, and as already mentioned, quacked. She meowed occasionally, too. And, of course, she purred. But the sound I will most miss, and enjoyed most, was her mooing.
Taggy had a favorite perch in the house where she would sit and talk to us as we walked by. Sometimes she meowed – she and my daughter had many meowing conversations – but most often she would moo in a deep, quiet voice. So, like any crazy family, we mooed back. Tag’s mooing phase lasted less than one year but it was fun. I think she enjoyed it as much as we did.
As her health deteriorated most of her vocalizations truncated to quiet, worried meows. Occasionally, she would meow frantically as she followed me around the house. All of us tried to calm her, and at times we were successful, but her discomfort prevailed. The last two weeks of her life were spent by being held, comforted, attended to, and spoken to. She didn’t sleep more than 2 – 3 hours at a time and demanded to be fed every 1 – 2 hours. Cancer’s a brutal disease, and she kept us informed each step of the way. And she told me, as clearly as I’ve ever heard, that her time to leave us had come.
For all who own or have owned pets, you know the wide scope of emotion they bring. They fill our lives with love, humor, worry, joy, fear, and comfort. But most of all, they give us companionship. We are wise to accept this gift as is, with all the joys and sorrows, quacks and moos.
Because, after all, their love is unconditional.