There is an unwritten rule in the Lamb household that once a pet comes to reside with us, said pet stays for the duration of its life. The rule has been broken only once—for a rabbit—so said rabbit, rightly named Rascal, could go to a better home with her own cabbage garden and cats to play with.
Our animals grow up, grow old, and eventually they leave us. Saying good-bye is always sad, and we struggle with the loss. One thing we do not struggle with is knowing that while they were a part of our family, they had good lives.
Our three most recent losses have hit us pretty hard. I’d say the first of those losses, in April of 2011, probably took the wind out of me. Archie was my boy. I was there when his mother gave birth to him and to his twin sister, Pitty Pat. I was there when six years later Pitty Pat cried out and fell into my arms, dead from an aneurysm. After Pitty’s untimely death, her orange tabby brother, Archie, became my “Orange Boy,” and my “Puddin’ and Pie.” He slept with his head on my pillow, always the one to get the center spot in the bed, and he purred me to sleep each night.
So in December of 2010 when I noticed he wasn’t well, I panicked. God wouldn’t take Archie from me, would he? If he did, it would kill me. More than any pet in a long time, Archie owned my heart. We sought our regular vet, and when he couldn’t find out the problem, we sought the help of a vet recommended to us by my cousin, another pet lover. Both vets were fantastic to us during this time. Archie received acupuncture. He was given sonograms and ultrasounds—many of the tests at the expense of both vets. Archie was just that kind of little fellow. Everyone loved him. When the time came, we even tried a feeding tube. We knew there was a blockage or a mass near his intestines, and toward the end, our wonderful vet offered to operate, but she told us if it was cancer, they’d let him go quietly. Afraid to lose him, we held to hope, and we prayed.
Only a few weeks later, we rushed Archie to the vet. He was leaving us, and I had to let him go. I’d had his precious little life in my hands for eleven years, and over the previous five months, I’d held him, and fed him, and made sure he knew he was loved. So, when the vet told us it was time, I allowed Archie to slip away.
Because we didn’t know what in the world had overtaken him, the vet offered to do a free autopsy, and before my husband and I arrived home, she called me. I still remember her exact words, “Mrs. Lamb, Archie was one loved cat. He shouldn’t have lived eleven months let alone eleven years. He had a birth defect where the line from his bladder and intestines didn’t quite meet. Archie’s life was a miracle.”
I swore that day I would never let another pet’s death impact me the way Archie’s had. I steeled my heart against it. Since that time, we lost two precious dogs. Baby was a Maltese rescue we took in. She developed bladder cancer, and again our fantastic vets (both of them) did everything they could to give her a month longer than her life expectancy. Surgery would not have saved her life, but we worked together to provide her the proper foods and supplements. And then there was Herbie, a Chihuahua my father rescued from a woman who kept him chained to a porch in Arkansas. Herbie had a zest for life that many people do not have. He was at least nineteen at his death, and his loyalty and his love are greatly missed.
When Archie died, I swore to my husband the animals that were left were the last of the Lamb family four-legged children. I didn’t want anymore. I was tired of the care. We had five. They were the last five. With Baby’s death we had four that were all thirteen years or older.
Last famous words. While I was in North Carolina, my husband Face-Timed me. He wanted me to see what he found inside our closed garage. I could just imagine. Marc had returned home, and he’d been met by a cat. We assume that someone didn’t have the time or the money or just decided they didn’t want him, and everyone knows the Lambs love animals. So, why not just put the cat in the garage when they leave. Someone said they believe our house has an invisible sign only animals can see. A feral cat who refuses to come inside, peacocks, raccoons, and possums—they’ve all been to our front door, and they are all fed and given water.
On that day when my husband turned his phone so I could meet our newest little interloper, a sweet meow met my ears, and a little orange face with green-gold eyes stole my heart. So, we were back to five…for a bit. Herbie’s loss brought us back to four. And Oliver—that’s the new one’s name—he has been told that he is not Archie. He will never replace Archie in my heart, though he’s really trying. He will never make it, but I have a feeling he will carve his own niche there.
What am I saying? He already has.
By Fay Lamb, Write Integrity Press Author: The Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt (Co-Authored December, 2012) Amazing Grace series: Stalking Willow (Release: May, 2013) The Ties That Bind series: Charisse (Release: July, 2013) www.amazon.com/author/faylamb; www.faylamb.com