The President’s Corner

An Ode to the Ones Who Sing Our Special Songs

by Jaime Castle

I knew that the next thing that I would write about would be my cat and I have been struggling with getting through writing about him. Grief is a process and storytelling helps, I think, in helping us to process. So, this is an ode to my cat Enzo, and this is an ode to any special animal that has ever captured your heart as well. May you remember the joy and the love!

It’s springtime officially now and I think about the days that are finally nice enough when you can open wide the windows. I am longing for that fresh crisp air and the familiar birdsongs entering my home as my little white cat jumps up to the window to see what activity he will find at the birdfeeders just outside. Entering spring, we leave behind the very cold days, the ones when you would find him sprawled out in front of the lit-up fireplace, blankets laid out for him just so, to lay upon, eyes closed, smiling. No matter the season, any sunny day finds Enzo basking in the morning light pouring through the wide midcentury front window of our home.

Dinner preparation time is when Enzo is lying on his back with his front paws curled up watching from the middle of the kitchen floor as dinner is being made. Watching me. We have songs that we sing together, he sings along with his sweet meows. I ask him in song who is the fluffiest boy in town, and he answers MEOW! We have whole conversations. I am not allowed to close doors in my house because he needs to have access to me and if I forget, he will tell me loudly about his disapproval. He is my little shadow, just happy to be next to me while I work or rest. He sleeps in the crook of my right arm or sometimes on my pillow, his purrs lull me to sleep.

I had a white cat when I was a child, his name was Sugar, and he was just as sweet. He was the inspiration when I was looking to get a kitten, almost twelve years ago when I answered an ad on Craigslist for kittens. Enzo was a little white runt kitten and we also brought home his orange tabby brother that we named Oscar. The vet thought Oscar was a week older than Enzo due to his size. But little Enzo had the biggest personality for sure.

Through the years, through raising kids, through politics, through a pandemic, Enzo has always been there for me. Months back, I caught a moment. It was late and I was holding him like a baby, and he was letting me rub his soft belly. He really was the fluffiest boy in town! I thought to myself then: it doesn’t get better than this. The simple love from an animal bonded with you is so special and anyone who has lost that knows that you need to cherish the time that you have. The price that we pay to love something mortal is grief.

To grieve a person lost is easy for others to understand but to grieve an animal can be so underestimated. There is trauma involved and there is depression. I leave doors open because of habit and I feel his absence as I look for him in all of his usual places.

I lost Enzo the day after Christmas. He had been sick, but I thought that he would get better. I took him into the vet thinking that he would come home better, but an abdominal mass was found, he was in pain, and he would not get better. To make the hard decision to euthanize an animal is traumatic yet I know also compassionate. I knew that I had to be there for him at the end, but I cannot get the moments out of my mind.

I know many of us have felt love and grief for our animals. There’s something so unique and unconditional and pure and we know in our hearts that we only get them for so long and it’s never long enough. I want you to know that I see and understand your loss too if you are one that has been fortunate to have loved and lost. Perhaps we should design a special service for them, an All Souls of sorts for these special souls? 

I have a little altar at home now with his photo and I will plant a garden in the corner of the yard where he is buried. In time I will be able to open my heart again, just as I open the windows in the spring, desperate for fresh air and for sweet songs.