The Poultice for My Heart

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 (Richard Friedlander)

Six months ago, my cat died. Frank was only twelve years old. I had never truly grieved for a death before, including that of my parents. Frank was the best of best friends, and more. I called him "the Poultice for my Heart".

I have since learned I am not alone in taking the death of a cat so hard. 'Why' is easy. Every cat is a true Other. Utterly unknowable. We can only take them for what they are, and since we can't blame them, they can't disappoint us. If they disdain the scratch pad, preferring to claw the rug, so what? They give by just being. Anything more is frosting. Mistreat them, however, and you will get back the nothing you deserve.
Most people I've talked with whose pets have died have sworn off getting another - at least, for a while - and for six months, I agreed. If ever I wanted to cry myself to sleep, all I had to do was conjure up Frank to feel his absence.

Shortly after his death, I began to volunteer at the no-kill animal shelter that had harbored Frank. Many of their cats, like Frank, were abandoned. I don't do much there. I am, ahem, a "Cat Socializer". For an hour a week, I keep them company, hoping to increase their chances for adoption. They look up at me and go straight to my heart.

Some, admittedly, don't. One particular feline, a large, handsome two-year old, had been there six months. He was about to be sent to the foundation's spacious sanctuary a hundred miles to the north. A haven, but hardly a home. Zu -- that is his name -- was melancholic and unresponsive, but my love for Frank got me to adopt him. Frank had made our home so much better, and this Zu, whoever he was, needed a home. He wasn't exactly happy in the carrier. But when we set it down on our living room floor, what leaped out was a thirteen pound kitten, brimming with life and affection. Yea, the frog had verily become a prince! And this was before I kissed him.

Now, if only I could accept people for who they are. Oh well, baby steps.


With a Perspective, I'm Richard Friedlander.

Richard Friedlander is an East Bay mediator and actor.