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Norwich Bulletin - 1/27/2008

The Ten Commandments

Four months after losing our beloved Milo, I still can neither accept nor understand that he is gone. I go over in my mind all the things I might have done right or perhaps could have done better.

Should I have stopped the medications earlier before he had to give up the fight? Did I miss something in the early stages of his disease that might have saved him? I am doing all the things I tell my readers not to do.

I play the "what if" game all the time and I blame myself for whatever it was I didn’t do that resulted in his death. So in my grief, I revisit the Ten Commandments of care to make sure that Milo had the best I could offer.

1. Thou shalt not abandon me. Our animals give us the gifts of love and absolute trust and loyalty. My commitment to care for Milo never waivered, and as long as I was allowed to have him with me, he received the best of care. From the moment he came to be ours, to the moment he died, he always knew we were his people and we loved him as unconditionally as he loved us, and that we would never throw him away.

2. Thou shalt give me time. Whether you are bringing home a brand new puppy or kitten, or an older animal from a rescue situation, the human must understand that their new friend is scared and not sure of its surroundings or place in your household. Milo was only ten days old and totally dependent on us. With love and patience we watched him grow up to be a wonderful animal companion.

3. Thou shalt trust me. Give your love and trust honestly and freely. Animals sense your moods and what is in your heart. They depend on you – you need to depend on them. Milo always knew when I was sad and he would jump on my lap and look into my eyes and purr and purr to let me know that things were going to be okay and he was with me. I could always depend on Milo to be there whenever I needed him – he had such a wonderful heart.

4. Thou shalt not be quick to anger. You leave the house and go to work. You go out with friends, you go to the movies. Your pet has only you and you are the center of his universe. So when he has been locked up for twelve hours and perhaps, chewed up a chair cushion, climbed and tore the curtains or left a pile of poop on the floor, do not punish the animal.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. When Milo ate our wedding flowers, I laughed as it made a lasting memory of our time with him. When he was sick and could not make it to the litter, we never scolded him – he always looked so sad if he felt he was disappointing us so we never let him think that.

5. Thou shalt talk to me. Animals recognize their human’s voice and respond positively. This was an easy one – I always told Milo what was going on, what we would be doing next, where he would be going. I would ask him questions and he would look at me wisely, smiling and letting me know that I knew what I was doing, even when I didn’t. In fact, I still talk to Milo – even though I can’t see him, he is still with me.

6. Thou shalt treat me as you wish to be treated. The golden rule works with animals too. It was always easy to treat Milo as a Prince – he treated all creatures with gentle patience, and we did the same for him.

7. Thou shalt not strike me in anger. Before you go to hit your pet, think about a few things. One is that your cat or dog could crunch the bones in your hand if it wanted to, but probably won’t. Instead you will have succeeded in taking an animal who believes in you and crush his spirit by your actions. There was never a question that anyone would ever raise a hand to Milo (or any of our cats). Certainly, not me and if anyone dared to, they would incur my wrath (which can be scary).

8. Thou shalt not jump to conclusions. Before you scold your dog or cat for being lazy or uncooperative, check and see if something is wrong. Perhaps your pet is sick or just getting old and not as fast to respond to your commands as he was in the past. Whenever Milo did anything out of the ordinary it was a warning sign to me that something was not normal and I always researched it without assuming he was being bad. And there was always a reason – Milo never was being bad.

9. Honor me when I grow old. After having a beloved pet for ten plus years, if he forgets where the litter box or pet door is, clean it up and be done with it. After giving you the best years of his life, it is nothing less than criminal to dispose of your elderly pet because it is no longer convenient.

As Milo got older, he became more loving and needing of my attention. I think old cats are wonderful. Milo was so wise and he knew me so well, as I knew him – his companionship was so appreciated and is so missed -

10. Thou shalt say goodbye. Go with me on my last journey. Do not tell me that you cannot bear to watch me or let it happen when you are gone. Everything is easier for me if you are there. Remember that I love you and have always been there for you. After a lifetime of love, trust, companionship and friendship, do not leave your terminally ill pet at the vet to die alone. This was the hardest.

I held Milo most of the night he was dying, telling him what a great pet he was to me and how much I was going to miss him. I reminded him about all the special times we had together and all he accomplished. I went with him to the vet to be by his side as he closed his eyes for the last time. When his spirit left this world, Milo was not afraid because I was right there with him.

So, I guess I did do the best I could for my gentle spirit – perhaps this knowledge will eventually help soothe my soul. But not now – not yet, I am still deep in mourning for the cat who should never have had to suffer the way he did during the last months of his life. I am still angry and I still cry.

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