Animal Death and Children

We bade a very premature farewell yesterday to one of our new house kittens.  Mallory had been with us for only 4 weeks, and from the very start had been Nora’s very favorite kitten.  It turned out that the little kitten cough we thought had been caused by a cold was, in fact, some extreme problem with the little kitty’s lungs, which the vet estimated were only doing about 30% of what they should.IMG_4500

Nora has seen a fair bit of animal death: a couple of chickens from causes unknown, all of last year’s meat chickens, the turkeys, and recently Opie the goat.  But they were livestock, not pets.  Okay, Opie was on the border between the two.

But Mallory was pure pet, and Nora’s special pet, at that.   So understandably, her reaction to the news that Mallory needed to be put out of her misery — after just four weeks, and the day before her birthday party — launched Nora into a condensed trip down Kubler-Ross lane:

Denial:  “It’s impossible that Mallory is going to die today” was what I heard from the backseat for the first half of the drive out to meet Amy and the kitten at the vet.
Anger: “I wish I’d never met that kitty, now that she has to die”.
Bargaining: “Mallory can die on Sunday, after my party”.
Depression: “I will never have another favorite animal on earth (until I can find another kitty who cuddles like Mallory)”.

IMG_4502She was so sweet and sincerely heartbroken.  We spent the second half of the drive to the vet planning memorials of various types.  The vet graciously offered to keep Mallory’s body in the freezer until spring, when we can properly bury her in our little animal cemetery, and we’ll have a little indoor memorial in the meantime.

Nora chose to watch Mallory get euthanized.  It was fascinating to watch her act like a very big girl when the vet was there, and bravely observe her little kitten departing this mortal coil.  Her analytical side – the same one that asked me to dissect the skull of one of the first chickens we processed so we could compare the size of its eyeball and brain – was observing the rational reality of the emotional event even as it happened:  “oh, her ear tips are cold already,” Nora calmly noted as Mallory’s weak body slowly shut down.

And then, acceptance.  Despite her promises last night to “not like at all” the other two kittens we got with Mallory, by this morning Nora was seeing her departed favorite in them.  “If I hold Sterling like this he cuddles with me, just like Mallory did.”

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