Let me begin by thanking everyone for the outpouring of love and sympathy offered to me after the death of my little kitty cat, Chimpy. I am truly overwhelmed and very grateful. I received e-mails, missives on Facebook and of course kindly comments on my website. It was my intention to follow up Chimpy’s tribute with a post outlining how my veganism has changed the way I think about all creatures on this earth and just much how these furry persons we know personally can impact our lives, whether they live with us or not. I am sitting down to do so now, with all your kind comments, condolences and best wishes floating around in my bruised heart.
Chimpy is not the first furry friend to whom I have said goodbye. In order of loss, not importance, there was Mom’s dog, Sal, our dogs, Bertha, Elfie, Mac, Lucy, my daughter’s cat, Baguette and my mother’s dog, Birdie. I had a relationship with all of these beings and loved them for their individuality, their personalities, their quirky ways and their varying degrees of return of affection to me.
I advocated strongly for all of these beings when they needed me. I provided those who lived with me a warm place in which to sleep, food, medical help and companionship. I will admit freely and a bit ashamedly that when our children were young and we were racing around doing what we thought we had to do “make” it in this world, we did not take our dogs for enough walks or play with them as much as we should have. But we did care for them in a loving way. And they rewarded us by being devoted, wagging their tails, being happy to see us and providing comfort for us when we did not feel well. Baguette, the little kitty cat graced us with her fun loving spirit and contended purrs which filled the empty spaces in our home. Most were more than happy to share a sick bed with us in the middle of the afternoon, in the middle of the week. That was always such a great and blessed feeling.
I valued the presence in my life of all these animals. It is crucial to note that while I was taking care of them I was also consuming their confreres enslaved on farms, wearing non human animal skin in the form of clothing, shoes, purses and wallets, visiting zoos and aquariums. I lusted after cars with “leather” (aka, hide) seats and furniture with that unmistakable smell and feel of skin, all the while keeping our abode and clothes and personal selves clean with products that had been tested on animals and most certainly contained the by-products of slaughtered animals.
There is a certain hypocrisy there that no doubt colored my understanding and acknowledgement of the inherent value my furry companions had and have for their own lives. We fast forward to present day and here I am an “enlightened” vegan having just lost a very good friend of mine-little Chimpy. But hey, this loss feels so different this time. It dawns on me slowly, like the spreading of ripples on a lake after a stone has been skipped on its glossy surface, that all feeling and sentient beings exist for their own reasons, for their own purposes, separate and distinct from any connection they may have with me. I had “book learned” this after becoming vegan and have, on occasion, expressed this view in writing. I never really understood it fully until a few days after I had looked into the eyes of a determined cat when he was fighting for his life and then, sadly, when he wasn’t.
It isn’t just about me and my sense of loss, because little Chimpy was here not just for me, but for himself as well and most certainly for others in his life. People ask me how my other two cats are reacting and I realize now that I made a mistake when I brought Chimpy home to be buried. Overwhelmed by my sorrow and my tears, I did not give Bella and Rosie the opportunity to say goodbye. They might not have understood the ceremony of a funeral, but they most certainly would have an understanding of death and must have been aware that their friend was not well. I wish that I had allowed them to see Chimpy’s body in order for them to have a bit of closure. Our serene Bella has taken to sitting in front of the patio door as if looking and waiting for Chimpy to come home. Rosie will stand in the middle of a room and cry, seemingly for no reason. I cannot say for sure they are mourning the loss of Chimp, but why not? I might be thought of by some as being anthropomorphic, but I beg to differ. On page 109 in his book, When Elephants Weep:The Emotional Lives of Animals, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson has this to say about other species and grief:
In the end, it hardly matters whether stags, beavers, seals, or elephants weep. Tears are not grief, but tokens of grief. The evidence of grief from other animals is strong. It is hard to doubt that Darwin’s sobbing elephants were unhappy, even if their tears sprang from mechanical causes. A seal surely feels sad when its pup is killed, whether it is dry-eyed or not….humans cannot know that the world of sorrow is beyond the emotional capacities of any animal. Sadness, nostalgia, disappointment, are feelings we know from direct experience; animals we know intimately hint at their parallel feeling in this dark world.
Annie’s Vegan View
With my somewhat enlightened eyes and heart, I will certainly not repeat the mistake of underestimating the emotional lives of the furry beings in my life and of all beings for that matter.
I have apologized to both Rosie and Bella for my insensitivity and mention Chimpy to them from time to time.
If, and hopefully when, we adopt another furry companion, I will show more respect for the family he or she is leaving behind – mother, siblings, cage mates, guardians. We took Chimpy away from his mother and Bella away from her sister without a second glance and I will forever regret that.
I am grateful for the enlightenment that comes my way from time to time in whatever form it comes. This time it was three little kitties who taught me something invaluable about the emotional lives of all species.
May all beings be happy and free.
10 thoughts on “Furry companions and all beings are here for their own reasons and purposes”
I had a similar experience with cats who came into my life (not from my own action but from others-including those dumped into a nearby park).
I think when you can look into the eyes of such a creature you are seeing a direct window into the soul of the universe.
Welcome to my website. I follow with great interest many of your considered replies on threads about veganism and advocacy.
I agree with you about looking into the eyes of species other than human. We see no hidden agendas.
All of my companions are rescues. We always adopt the one we feel is the most needy and therefore the least likely to be adopted by someone else. It is our way of trying to give back.
I’m so sorry that Rosie and Bella are sad, too, but that is normal. Even if you had been able to let them say goodbye, they’d still be sad so please don’t beat yourself up about that, but I totally understand your feelings about it. I’d say that you could put them in their carriers and take them to his resting spot to let them see it, but so many cats are traumatized by being put in carriers, that’s probably not a good idea. … This is such a beautiful post and I apologize that my comment/ won’t do it justice. It’s been a really tough few weeks here for various reasons and the words don’t come easily as I wish they would. But I so much identify with what you wrote. The dogs, cats, rats, mice and birds and a boa constrictor who shared my life with me when I was younger over the years and whom I loved very much were definitely not recognized as much as they should have been for who they were as individuals. Before I became vegan though, I lost a very dear soul to me (our cat Basil) and her death actually affected me more than any death I ever experienced before. Of anyone. Basil’s loss affected me so much more than anyone else I’d lost in my life, not because I didn’t love others (and I mean all living beings I lost) , but because she and I had connected at a level that I can’t explain here because it would be far too long…but I am stunned it didn’t occur to me to be vegan because of HER. Stunned. It seems so brainless now looking back. But sadly, it took me a few more years to get there.
My heartfelt condolences again to you and your family for your loss. I’m thinking of you all.
Good to hear from you and very sorry that you are going thru some tough times. I will send my best energy your way.
That you comment on my posts does do them justice. At least I know that my words, thoughts and feeling are resonating with good souls out there.
I am not beating myself up for not providing closure to Bella and Rosie, but I am cognizant of learning from my mistakes and recognizing that I do not know everything there is to know about being vegan and advocating for all beings who are suffering as we speak.
I understand what you say about the deep connection we can have with certain beings. I felt this way about my dog, Elfie, and my mother’s dog Birdie, and yes, Chimpy,even though I have loved and love all of my furry companions equally for their personalities and characters.
Making that connection between our love for other beings and their right to be free of human exploitation is often elusive, but life altering when it does finally make an appearance.
thank you for your good thoughts and I hope to hear from you again soon.
“I am cognizant of learning from my mistakes and recognizing that I do not know everything there is to know about being vegan and advocating for all beings who are suffering as we speak.” Your thoughts about that are something else that I also experience and you put it very well. … My cat Spike is another soul that I am as deeply connected to and we are having a terrible heat wave that is really taking a toll on him and it’s so hard. I’ve done all I can do, but he’s no longer lying on the ice packs, not drinking enough water….he’s just miserable and you can see it on his face and there’s no break in sight with the weather. It would take at least a few days of temps below 80 at this point, nights around 60 and we desperately need a breeze….sorry to write so much about weather, but it is taking a toll here and it’s hard to watch someone you love suffer and you’re helpless, as you of course know. Thanks for your good thoughts and energy! They are appreciated.
I am not familiar with normal weather patterns in Germany, but I am wondering if the hot weather you are having is out of the norm. We are having an extremely wet summer and am wondering if all of the changes we are seeing are a result of the devastation we are causing to the earth with rampant animal agri business. The makers of the film Cowspiracy say it is so as well as many other scientists like Oppenlander who are willing to speak the truth.
Our meat eating ways cause much suffering to all species, caught directly and indirectly in all of our death for profit industries, the earth and our own health.
Hope you and your kitty cat will soon get a break from the heat.
Hello Anne, thank you for your great post. I currently have my first cat, a little lady who I adopted when she was 12— she has complete changed my life in the best way. She is now older & slowing down & even thinking about her passing makes me burst into tears as she truly is my best friend.
Thank you for your life style choices- my whole family are “animal lovers” but yet contribute to their pain & suffering. I wish I could get them to see the truth. You give me hope that an older generation is awakening & compassion is not just for youth. Thank you thank you for spreading the word!
Rest in peace, Chimp.
I am glad that you enjoyed my post. How wonderful to adopt a senior companion. We have adopted furry companions of all ages and will most certainly adopt a senior in the future. We always try to find the most in need and seniors are certainly not adopted as often as the younger ones are. I am glad that you still have your ‘little lady” in your life.
I understand what you say about the disconnect. This is why I am trying to raise awareness that all beings of all species are here for their own reasons and purposes. I do feel that we are making progress but it is always too slow considering what is at stake.
Being a presence is an important role we all play. Thank you for doing that.
My main interactions with other animals are the wildlife around me and the neighbours’ cats who wander into the garden and the dogs I meet when I do my volunteer work on the pond site in the local park. I became vegan soon after the phrase ‘wholeness for all beings’ cropped up in a reading at the Unitarian church I used to attend in North London. The phrase would not leave me alone. I kept meditating on what it could mean, to wish, as we said ‘wholeness’ to all beings, whilst being someone who ate animals and funded industries which exploited them for a product. I began to see that other animals were, indeed, other beings, and that no matter what form they took, they were not simply things that humans could just use and abuse as they deemed fit. I had no awakening because of a relationship with a beloved companion animal, I had a gradual dawning of a sense of connectedness with all that is around me – with all beings – a sudden understanding that the pain I suffered was also their pain, that we were One. From that moment I decided I had to be vegan , and reading posts from a page called The Bloody Dairy Industry told me that my decision was the right and moral one, and that I should have made it many years ago.
Thanks for sharing your “gradual dawning”. While I love my furry companions they are not who led me to veganism. It was my daughter, actually, who first started speaking to me about the abuse of animals in all of our various death for profit industries. She told the truth: that animals are not here to be used by us. And I live by this. But it was not until Chimpy became very ill and died that I truly understood what it means to say that all beings are here for their own purposes and reasons. It was a huge awakening for me. When I could see in his eyes that Chimpy was fighting for his life and then he wasn’t, I was profoundly moved by his decisions. I had to respect the decision to stop fighting even though it made me very sad. Mainstream thinking tends not to ascribe this kind of decision making to other species, but I saw it with my very own eyes. Chimpy’s journey gives me newfound respect for the rights of all animals to agency over their own lives, for the ability to choose when to stay and when to go, who to love, who to trust, who to believe in. So, in a sense, Chimpy’s story is very much about the wildlife and cats and dogs with whom you commune when you are out and about.
Insightful comment Carol, I appreciate you sharing with us.