Half-Empty Chair and a Broken Heart

It’s been almost two weeks and still half of my chair is empty. For practically as long as I can remember, the other half had been reserved for my family’s pet, Cooper, our 10-pound long-haired Himalayan who left us on Nov. 5.

Sitting at the table with us was as much a ritual as my morning cup of tea and bowl of cereal. My husband and I would playfully fight for our boy’s attention. He naturally would start on my husband’s seat, his whiskers peeking up over the table as my husband ate. All I had to do was talk to Cooper in my trademark high-pitched voice and within seconds he’d be on my seat, forcing me so close to the edge that half of my rear end would be off the chair. I feigned annoyance, but loved the attention.

While I worked, he would stand on my lap, with his body facing my computer, yet contort himself in such a way that he’d be looking backwards to face me. As I think about those times now, it makes me sad that on too many occasions, I pushed him down or resituated myself, causing him to jump down. I’d give anything to share my seat with him now or to see him look up at me.

I never thought I would feel grief over a pet. I mean, it’s only a pet – at least that’s what I always thought. Especially

Have you ever seen a more beautiful cat?

Tara was the most beautiful cat and her temperament was just like mine.

where Cooper was concerned. We rescued him and his sister, Tara, in August 2008. I loved Tara the instant I saw her.

Her doll face, bright blue eyes and friendly demeanor drew me to her. I told my husband I wanted the one with the pretty eyes.

“The one with the scrunchy face,” he asked, referring to Cooper. But, to me, Cooper was anything but pretty. An extreme breed, his pushed-in mouth and nose reminded me of a bulldog or the grumpy cat. I didn’t want him. My husband did. The family settled it for us. If we wanted to take Tara, Cooper was part of the package.

So, home we went with our new furry additions. Tara was mine – in every way – and Cooper was my husband through and through. Tara was high strung and angered easily, especially while grooming her long hair. She’d meow angrily and let us know that a bite would soon follow. She would pick fights with Cooper, seemingly for no reason or to mark her territory. For the most part, he’d run away or avoid her. When backed into a wall, he’d stand up for himself, but it was never his immediate reaction. Cooper’s personality perfectly matched my husband’s. He was the peacekeeper, easygoing and flexible. When our daughter was born the following year, he’d let her “hug” him and carry him around like a baby doll. The look on his face said he was hating every minute of it, but he tolerated the mauling.

I don’t think I truly appreciated Cooper until Tara died in May 2016. Until that point, he had always been second-best and the cat I didn’t want. Her death allowed me to see how sweet he was. I went from not wanting to bother with him to fighting for his attention, showering him with love, holding him like a baby (he did not enjoy this, but was a trooper) and then worrying about how I would cope when he was no longer with us.

I pushed the possibility of death out of my head. Even though he was two months shy of 17 and had breathing issues resulting from his pushed-in face, I couldn’t think about being without him.

The last week of his life his visits to our seats became fewer. He went from following us into the kitchen, circling our feet as we got breakfast ready and inviting himself onto my husband’s chair to not responding when we called him. Most mornings he was sleeping and the last few, we found that he could no longer make the jump. Still, my husband picked Cooper up and put him on the chair. It didn’t feel like breakfast without Cooper there.

It’s been almost two weeks and still my seat is half empty. I remind myself that Cooper is gone, but somehow I still can’t sit in his spot. Doing so feels so final. Like accepting that he’s gone. I’m not ready to do that.

 

Tell me, how have you coped with the death of a pet? How long did you wait before getting a new pet?

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