A long time ago, I started writing pet letters for friends and family whose pets had died. The reason I began doing this was because a dear friend of mine sent me one when I had to take my darling gray cat, Billie, to the vet for the last time.
I found her on the street in front of a laundromat I used; there she was, sitting on the sidewalk as if waiting for me. I scooped her up and she nuzzled into my arms. I took her into the laundromat and asked if she belonged to anyone; no takers.
I took her home with me and made a stop for a litter box and litter, food, a bed and a catnip mouse. She was hungry, and ate up everything in her bowl, washed her face, and jumped up on my bed to sleep. I named her Billie (after Billie Holiday) and she pretty much took over my life from that point on.
We had a great life together in my first apartment in Goffstown, NH. We lived happily there for years. She was good company, and she made me laugh with all her funny little ways. Her usual greeting to me each day was a melodious trill.
She was getting on in years when I moved to Dallas, TX years later. Gradually I noticed that she was losing weight and fur, and she didn’t eat much any more, but drank more water. When the vet told me that she was dying, it broke my heart. I called a friend of mine, and she came right over to comfort me.
A few days later I took her to the vet to put her out of her pain. My friend went with me, and I grieved for days. One day I got a letter in the mail with a return address reading “Pet Heaven.”
I opened it, and read a letter from “Billie,” assuring me that all was well and that she was thoroughly enjoying her time in Pet Heaven. The letter went on to say that she had already made friends with my childhood cat, Henny, and that they were having a great time together. She said that there was plenty of good food in Pet Heaven, as well as lots of people and other cats to play with.
By the time I finished the letter (which of course was from my friend), I was laughing. The letter was full of love and funny memories, and promised a wonderful reunion when I too would join her.
That letter changed my life. Not only did it cheer me up and put things in perspective, but I then began writing letters from Pet Heaven to anyone I knew who had lost a pet. I hoped it helped them as much as that first letter helped me.
Silly, I know, but it’s funny how something like this can comfort and cheer. A wonderful vet I used to know once told me the reason why our pets don’t live as long as we do. He said, “animals are much smarter than we are, and they learn all they need to know much faster than we do. That’s why they can go on before us; they know it all, and they are ready for the next transition.”
But perhaps their greatest gift to us is to leave a space in our hearts to eventually love and adopt another pet. Love has its painful moments, but I would and will gladly suffer that brief pain of losing a dear old pal in exchange for all those days and months and years of all that love and companionship.
To all my dear old pals in Pet Heaven, Merry Christmas!