Back in 2010, after attending the Dog Whisperer show, I got to speak with Cesar Millan. I asked him how to move forward after my dog had passed away. He told me this – “To lose an animal is very painful. Very painful. However…to close yourself off and not allow yourself to love another animal…I find selfish. The best way you can honour the memory of your animal is to pass on that love to a new animal. An animal that otherwise might not have a loving home. To me, passing on that love is the greatest way we can honour and remember our pets.”
The cat pictured above my Tsunami. For 17 wonderful years, she was my very best friend. She was given to me a few days after Christmas in 2004 (she was 3 months old). A month earlier, I had to make the difficult decision to move away for work. I was miserable. After receiving Tsunami, she had given me a purpose. She was my baby and I had to care for her. She saw me through those first rough years, saw me fall in love and get married, was there when my children were born and watched them grow, saw us through our move back home and was there for me during all of our ups and downs. She was the keeper of my secrets and her purr could calm the worst of storms. On November 17th, 2021, Tsunami passed away in my arms at home, surrounded by family.
For three days I simply couldn’t function. All I could do was sit and cry. For 17 years Tsunami had been my rock…the one constant in an ever-changing world. I couldn’t imagine taking the next steps in life without her. I was truly heartbroken.
About a week later, my kids were asking when we were going to get another cat. I couldn’t even speak. A new cat? Are you kidding me?! It was WAY too soon…wasn’t it? Over the next 24 hours my children, especially my Daughter, became beyond excited over the prospect of a new cat. She even had a discussion with our Elves (We have 3 Elves on the Shelves!) asking them to tell Santa that she didn’t want anything for Christmas except for a new cat.
Now you have to understand…Christmas is my thing. I am a 24/7, 365 days a year Christmas person. I listen to Christmas music all year long, my bedside lamp is actually a small Christmas tree (complete with decorations) and there are certain decorations I leave up all year long such as my Christmas countdown. So a request to Santa is a huge deal for me. My Daughter was willing to give up her Christmas wishes for a new cat and that tugged at my heart strings.
I spoke with my friend about my conflicting emotions. On one hand it was just too soon. Tsunami had been gone for just 8 days. On the other hand, it seemed that everyone else in my family was ready to welcome a new cat. Who was I to hold them back? It was then that my friend gave me some good advice. She explained that Tsunami was my cat. I got her when I was single without a family of my own. She was my family…my first baby. Perhaps a new cat didn’t have to hold the title of “mine” but would become a family cat. Perhaps I could get a new cat for my children and not for me.
That night I could hardly sleep. What was the right decision? It was then that I remembered Cesar’s words – the best way to honour the memory of your animal is to pass on that love to a new animal. My family has so much love to give, so I decided to be open to the idea of getting a new cat.
The next day I went to our local SPCA with my Mom. I wasn’t really looking for a specific cat. I just wanted to see if I could be around other cats without crying. Thankfully I handled the experience just fine. In fact, while was there a little white cat reached out to me (literally!). Honestly, a part of me wanted to turn away. I didn’t want to like another cat. However she persisted and even went out of her way to jump up into a cat perch to get closer to me. A few days later, on a separate visit with the kids, the same white cat ran over to me and proceeded to climb into my arms to be cuddled. I didn’t pick her up, she jumped onto the perch I was standing next to and stepped over onto me! My kids fell in love with her and my invisible wall chipped a little.
That evening I spoke with my cousin. Years before, her dog (her first baby) had passed away and I knew that she would understand how I was feeling. After listening to the events of the past few days she said “You don’t have to worry about whether to get a new cat or not. Don’t you see? She’s already chosen you!” My cousin was referring to the white cat at the SPCA. It was so true! She had gone out of her way to come to me and reached out twice. She knew that we were her family. She had made the decision for me.
A few days later, we honoured Tsunami’s memory by welcoming Noelle Hope into our family. She is named “Noelle” for my love of Christmas and “Hope” for the hope of a happy future. She…is an amazing cat. She lays in bed with each of my children as they fall to sleep (they have different bedtimes), she gets along great with our two dogs and she is so easy-going with my youngest who has special needs. She is respectful of our Christmas trees and decorations and she loves cuddles. But most of all…she has completely broken down my wall. From day one, she refused to take no for an answer and wiggles her way into my arms each day to show me how much she loves me. That love has already helped me through some challenging times in December. I love Noelle very much.
So…when is the right time to get a new pet after a loss? The answer is simple. There is no “right time”. It’s whenever you and your family feel ready. It could be a few weeks, it could be a few months. There is no rule book stating how long you need to grieve. Adding a new pet to your family doesn’t signify the end of the grieving process. Make no mistake, I’m still grieving the loss of Tsunami. The day Noelle joined our family was the same day that I got the call to pick up Tsunami from the vet (I had her privately cremated). I hold her urn each day and tell her how much I miss her and how much I still love her. I still cry sometimes when I talk about her. But grieving Tsunami doesn’t mean I can’t love Noelle.
The love for a pet is the same as the love for a child. I have three children and my love isn’t split between them. As I always tell them, each of my children have their own special love. In my eyes, it’s the same for my pets. My love for Tsunami will never go away or diminish. The love I now feel for Noelle is a brand new love that’s her very own. It’s not stolen or borrowed from my puppies. They each have their own special love too. Love isn’t divided, love grows.
Welcome to the family, Noelle Hope.