New pet to keep me company

Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.

– Vicki Harrison, American author.

I have a new pet at home. It is a small female puppy that one of my nephews, Kiong, requested from his friend. My niece, Chai Hong, has named it Bailey.

Initially, I thought I would stop keeping pets if the dog and cat I was rearing died. But I changed my mind after my one and only male cat, Mi Mi, died recently. It had living with my family for the past 14 years.

Getting used to the sudden silence in the house was hard after Mi Mi died. I missed it especially in the first three days of its demise.

Mi Mi was a loving but noisy cat which insisted on its daily diet of rice and canned sardine as well as its particular brand of cat food. It would not stop meowing and following me around until it had its  favourite food.

Do you know that a kitten that is 0-1 month old is equivalent to a 0-1 year old child and that a 14-year-old cat is equivalent to a 72-year-old man or woman? So Mi Mi was 72 years old when it died.

I was shocked to find the orange and white cat lying motionless in the car porch near to the front door when I returned home late from work one night. “Is Mi Mi sick?” I asked myself as I drove my car into the porch.

I found the cat had just died when I reached home. Its body was still warm and blood was oozing from its mouth. It must have been knocked down by a car.

That night, I left the lights in the car porch on and let Mi Mi’s body remain where it was.

That night, during our family Zoom call, two of my nieces, my younger sister and I cried as we shared our memories of the cat.

My niece, Chai Hong, said we picked up the cat from a street when she was in Primary 6. We were on our way to her school’s sports day at Jubilee Ground in Padungan.

“I was 12. Now I am 26. auntie,” she reminded me.

Everyone, at least all the girls and women in my family, cried each time a pet dog or cat died. You see, we considered them our family members.

Over the years, personally I have shed buckets of tears over the many pets I had lost to old age or sickness.

Anyway, in the case of Mi Mi, next day, before I rushed off to work, I called my son and asked him to pick up the body and bury it somewhere. “Please come with a cangkul (hoe) or buy one,” I instructed him.

My son picked up Mi Mi’s body just before I left the house. He told me that a crematorium for pets at one of the animal shelters had broken down and could not be used anymore.

“Just bury Mi Mi on an empty piece of land somewhere,” I told him.

On my way to work, it rained heavily. I remembered how our old folk used to tell us when my siblings and I  were young that if it rained on the day we buried a person, it meant that the person cried as he or she bade us goodbye. So I wondered whether my cat was crying and finding it hard to leave us.

When I stopped at a traffic light, I received a WhatsApp message from my son.

In it, he said, “I sent Mi Mi to a crematorium. He deserved better for being at your side when you were working from home. May he rest in peace.”

He also sent me the receipt for the cremation service.

I was immensely surprised and touched by my son’s message. I did not expect him to understand how I felt about the loss of my beloved cat

Yes, Mi Mi slept on the table next to my computer everyday when I worked from home for three long months during the movement control order. 

It loved sleeping on my newspapers and books. Sometimes, I found it sleeping on my computer keyboard and wondered whether it was a scholar in its previous life.

My male dog, Cookie, also missed Mi Mi. It refused to eat at all the day after the cat died and seemed to be looking around for the feline.

At my best friend’s suggestion, I have decided to adopt a female puppy to keep Cookie and I  company. I hope we will not be that lonely anymore.

Besides, Cookie is also not young anymore. Every night, it waits for me at the gate. One day, it might not be waiting for me there anymore.

Believe me, my friends,  it’s really hard to lose an animal friend. I am slowly getting used to not seeing Mi Mi around anymore. I guess that’s life. In life, all living things live and die.

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