This is the absolute worst part of sharing your life with animals. We've lost two of our family members within 48 hours of each other this weekend. L's beloved guinea pig Brave Sir Rob died on Friday and our characterful cuckoo maran chicken Rennie went this afternoon.
Both had reached a ripe old age for their respective life-expectancy and in Robin's case I'm pretty sure his heart just stopped and there was no suffering. Rennie hadn't been well for a few days and I was better prepared for her passing - I dreamt last night that we'd lose her today so it wasn't a shock as Robin was. Both of them will leave behind significant holes where they should be.
I suspect if you do not have animals the loss of a guinea pig and a chicken is probably quite hard to empathise with, but I spent most of Friday evening in tears over Robin and found the emptiness in L's bedroom when I tucked him up that night almost unbearable. Robin has been part of our family for five years; he's marked L's transition from little boy to teenager, which is emotional in itself. He's lived in L's bedroom all that time (apart from summer days spent outside in the garden) and been his constant companion. He's made his bedroom safe from monsters and chatted away whenever anyone's gone up to see him. He has been an absolute part of bed time routines and lay cuddled up against L while he was learning to read. Later on when L got into bed Robin would lie down on his side in his house, close his eyes and listen to the story. If I stopped reading he would crack open an eye as if to say "I'm still awake" so I would continue to read and he would shut his eyes and go to sleep. When he stayed with my mother while we were on holiday he would come out of his house on their kitchen table whenever they ate a meal and eat his food at the same time they had theirs. If anyone brought the wrong greens upstairs of an evening he would squeak indignantly. Mostly it was the lack of cucumber or grape that brought this reaction and many's the time I've trudged back down three flights of stairs to get the correct vegetable quota complete with grape/ cucumber from the kitchen while a furious squeaking followed me.
I will miss him.
My one comfort at the end of this weekend of tears is that these two have gone together and are not alone.
Despite the sadness that losing them inevitably means, I wouldn't be without our animals. They bring something indefinably good into a home. They love you whatever mood you're in and however you are looking. They are friends and companions no matter the season or time of day. Their absolute reliance on you for food, warmth, shelter, good treatment and survival, teaches you something you don't get from anything else in life and gives you back so much more. The fact they don't talk English matters not at all: you find a way to communicate, you learn each other and a bond is formed so that when they pass your life is less rich than it was with them in it, and you mourn them. For me personally I'd hate to live in a world populated by people alone.
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." Ghandi
"Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That's the problem.” A A Milne