December 25th, 2014 by Tiphani Davis
IDA invites you to read this touching column about the recent loss of a beloved animal companion on our Sustainable Activism Blog by guest blogger and IDA volunteer writer Tiphani Davis, who is a freelance writer and animal activist.
Patricina knew me for 12 years. She came to me when I first returned from Brazil in the dead of winter and, comforting me, sat in my lap the first time I left home for a new city. She journeyed with me through loves gained and lost, and was there through the births of both my daughters. For 12 years she travelled with me, from the rolling hills of Kentucky to the streets of Baltimore to the misty mountains of Pennsylvania. For 12 years she was my staple, an ever-present reminder of who I am and why I believe what I believe. But now I have lost her.
It was a late February evening when she came to me, small and starved and broken, so white I could barely differentiate between her and the snow-covered ground. I picked her up and wrapped her in my arms, giving her a name of strength and power, a name that would come to define her. I nourished Patricina, brought life back to her weak body, and she brought life back to my spirit. She was the first I ever loved unconditionally.
From a curious distance she watched as I brought in Dido, who would become her greatest friend. For Patricina, Dido was another to care for, reminding me that she was meant to be a mother though never given the chance. She was mischievous and majestic, stoic yet playful, blending with other animals as though she were a queen among them. She was my “first born,” my first attempt to create my own family.
The moment I realized I would lose her, I felt like the breath had been knocked out of me. Her kidneys failed, refusing to do what they were supposed to do. Even with constant IV fluids, she was losing and I, along with her, was drowning. I was prepared to do whatever I needed for her, shots, special diets, constant monitoring. I was willing to change my entire life for her just so I could have more time. Selfish I know, but I wanted more time, both for her and for me. I wanted more time to love her. Her demise occurred over three days. I never got the chance to take her to the outside aviary. There are so many “nevers,” yet only one forever, that she is gone from me.
The human world views the loss of a cat as sad, but replaceable. So many people have told me they are sorry, that I should just get another cat. But what they don’t understand is that Patricina was not MY cat, I was her human. She was my companion, my sister, my child. Her death is not a loss of thing or a possession; it is a loss of a part of my life.
We often overlook how intricately woven our lives are with our animal companions. Their schedules dictate our own. I fed her first thing every morning, before my coffee and my own breakfast. Where I slept in my bed was in direct proportion to where she slept. She was a thread in my life and her absence leaves a hole that I must now mend.
The weight of this loss has a heaviness of which I am unaccustomed. It has been two weeks and I still think I see her out of the corner of my eye, hear her walking through the hall, scratching on my door to let her in. There is not one minute where I am not reminded of her. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I will wake and forget she is gone. For just a brief moment, everything is back to normal. The forgetfulness is beautiful and warm, but then I remember, and the house seems empty. That split second of realization is piercing.
It was because of her that I began my journey as an animal rights activist, the reason I first contemplated the moral agency and emotional complexities of non-human animals. Patricina felt and loved deeply, but she also let her frustration be known. She knew to guide new kittens and protect them from our dog, but she also knew how to lure the dog into cuddle. I was her guardian. I kept her warm and safe, but it was she who was the true guardian of me, she fed my soul and my spirit, she made my life better. When I kissed her one final time before her eyes closed, I thanked her, both for loving me and letting me love.
Tiphani Davis is a writing instructor who has worked as a freelance writer, editor, and copywriter for a number of organizations. Tiphani’s passion is to fight for non-human animals’ rights and protection, a philosophy by which she lives her life. She believes that it is our moral obligation to work to protect non-human animals from exploitation in the food, medical research, and entertainment industries.