Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Goblin Brain: Veterinarians Can Send Your Pets to Valhalla

I... don't know why I insist on starting every one of these audio posts with such a pained, drawn-out "I".

Hello, dear Burrowers, if there are any of you out there still. My apologies for vanishing again.

I'm still alive! Fortunately my Narblesnard went as well as can be hoped, and my acorns were enough to sate the squirrels this year.

I had myself another bit of a spiral over here, which coupled with the cold weather to ensure that I wrote nothing and wanted to write even less than that. But I'm still breathing, and doing things like making phone calls and reorganizing my bedroom to maintain the illusion of having meaningful control.

You can rest easy, or alternatively become annoyed to know, that I will be returning to periodic posting again soon, and that they will be far more relevant to my blog than these Goblin Brain episodes. I'm just tacking this onto one because it is a very overdue draft that was sitting on my dashboard... among thirty or forty others.

So, stay warm out there, depending on your hemisphere and particular climate, and thank you for listening.

I've never technically owned a pet.

Of course I've lived in a house with pets whom I interacted with, past and present.

And on at least a few occasions I've been mistaken for a pet, though that's a story for another time.

Or, probably not, actually...


I've never technically owned a pet. They've always belonged to my parents, and they've always been the ones chiefly responsible for all of the duties that pet-having entails. Not from a lack of willingness to participate on my part, but because my parents always found it easier or at least simpler to just do the things by themselves rather than teach me and set me up to do them properly after that period. Like they had a unique, noncommunicable technique for cleaning out the litter boxes, or for changing the water in the fishbowl, or what have you.

I think they did a lot of similar sunk-cost calculations with regards to my upbringing, come to think of it...

Lacking any real responsibility for the pets we've shared our home with over the years, I probably had a markedly different relationship with them than normal, er... goblin children do. Coupled with the fact that all of our cats, or a full two-thirds of the pets we've owned, were strays we took in and fixed up, it's always been the norm for me to have an awkward, distant coexistence with pets.

Like having a roommate who's always twitchy and nervous and might scratch you, and vomits a little too frequently on the carpet.

Even so, I came to befriend our last batch of cats a good deal.

We currently have a psychotic female tuxedo cat, but a year-and-a-half ago we also had an overweight female longhair, and a gingery, neurotic male tabby. They came to us at different times and ages and had vastly different personalities that lent themselves well to inventing bizarre voices for, as pet people are wont to do. Some of the most amusing conversations to ever go on in our house were done through the cats.

(People do that, right?)

I had an affinity for the tabby in particular. He would claw his way into my bedroom to demand obnoxious amounts of pets from me. We would bunt by headbutting at the dinner table often. I was usually the one to voice his persona. For the record, he was a clueless, blustering, but well-meaning old man from NYC's Lower-East Side who had a tendency to barge into the room to incorrectly correct someone's pronunciation of a word, make a lousy pun, or beg for ham.

My mother jokingly said he was my little brother.

He was the first one to be euthanized, in autumn of the year before last, if my memory still serves me. Conjunctivitis from scratching himself in the eye, and necrosis of the jaw tissue from us being poverty-stricken fools who didn't know enough about cat dental health to take him to the vet we couldn't afford often enough.

I wept like a family member had died. I suppose one did.

Our big, tubby, stupid sweetheart of a longhair went a few months later in the winter, due to a combination of the condition apparently known as megacolon, and--you guessed it--poor dental care.

It hurt just as much, but my eyes were drier that time. It felt like I didn't have the right to mourn, not while my mother and father were despondent and angry with guilt.

We'd made a friend in the vet who looked at both of them, though. A young, tall man, fabulously flamboyant man, who'd done everything in his impressive ability to fix our mistakes for both cats. He was saddened, but also consoled my parents for making the right choice in putting each of them down when those days came.

It was likely at his urging that the vet staff all got together to sign a card specifically designed for the occasion of dead pets. I didn't know those were a thing.

I also didn't know anything about those apparently well-known poems from the '80s and '90s about pets entering into heaven by crossing a rainbow.

The poem we got for our tabby was like any of the others, well-meaning and stomach-achingly saccharine. Our cat had apparently entered an idyllic meadow fully restored to health and happiness, among many other former pets, all waiting at the foot of the rainbow that bridges the gap between earth and the afterlife. When the owner finally dies, they're reunited for good, and make the crossing together.

Of course, being the mythology nerd that I am, I had a very different context for a poem involving a "rainbow bridge".

I immediately pictured him stepping onto the Bifröst, schmoozing his way past a bemused Heimdallr, getting lost in his wanderings through Asgard, and eventually winding up at the feet of Freyja in Fólkvangr. Sure he'd be too small to help pull her chariot, but he could tag along anyway, and the skogkatts could show him the ropes before long.

It was a comforting thing to pretend, even if it was only that.


  1. Sadly, I can only offer sympathy about your cats, not any meaningful resolve.
    Our first cat died at 19 after six months of IV feeding caused by kidney failure and we pampered our second cat rotten because we couldn't refuse them anything.

    1. Those must have been a very rough six months for you. 19 is impressive, though! Our tabby was 14 when he went in for his first surgery. In retrospect it's a good thing we didn't prolong it more than a few weeks.

  2. Okay, so I'm sitting on my couch and I put this on to listen to while I typed another post. Instead I spent nearly seven minutes tearing up.

    1. There is nothing wrong with your post, don't blame yourself. Sharing grief could be difficult but what you feel is nothing to be ashamed of.

    2. It is very human to feel sad at the lost of pets. In fact, if you didn't care, that would be worrisome!

      My dog is probably a bit past the mid point, and it makes me sad sometimes to think of his passing away in a few years from now :(

    3. Does it ever diminish your interest/readiness in having future pets? I often wonder if the experience is worth the ending.