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Opinion: An ode to Gabby

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This is certainly not the column that I had planned to run in this week’s edition. In fact, I had a column already written. However, in view of something that happened in our family over the weekend, I changed my plans. This column is on a strictly personal note. I am writing this (maybe even somewhat selfishly, I guess) in order to help me cope with the loss of our dearly devoted and much loved pet cat “Gabby.” We lost Gabby this past Saturday afternoon. My being able to write about this here and now is also a healing mechanism for me too. So, please forgive me in taking the liberty to personalize this space for this week but for all you pet owners and pet lovers out there, I know that you most definitely understand. In fact, I know that you all have been there too. Most unfortunately, many of us have been there multiple times. I have often thought about how great it would be if our pets lived a lifespan similar to ours, but that is not how it works…that is not the way that God designed it.

It is never easy to deal with the loss of a pet. When it happens in your family, it feels as if you are all alone or as if yours is the only family this has ever happened to. However, we are not alone. We all have many friends who have been there too. Our friends care deeply about us and care for our loss. And, as such, they want to show their love and concern for us at this time. To all of us, our pets become members of our family. It is in many ways impossible to imagine life moving forward without them.

RandyGabby was only six years of age. For sure, our time with her was way too short. She ran the household (and everything in it). There is not a single part of the house that she did not use or take advantage of in some way and at some point during her day. Gabby was diagnosed with cancer back in August of 2014. The vet did surgery on August 13th. In the post surgery report/diagnosis/prognosis, the vet said that she removed all of the tumor that she could, but couldn’t get all of it and there was nothing more they could do short of chemotherapy (which she said seldom works in animals, was terribly expensive and most importantly was terribly rough on the animal). The vet gave Gabby just a short time to live, but she lived exactly 5 months and 4 days after her surgery. She lived this extra time with us by the grace of God, our care and also as the result of lots of prayers from family members, church members (pastors) and friends. We feel so blessed that Gabby was able to hang on with us through Christmas. She truly loved Christmas and opening presents so that she could play with the boxes and wrapping paper. Gabby loved the simple things (as most cats do). A wadded up piece of paper, a jingle ball (with a bell inside), a twist tie, a rubber band, etc. However, her very..very favorite thing was a box….any kind or type of box. I have many times seen her force herself into a box that was way too small for her…just to be in a box. My Mom’s Christmas gift from me was a new dishwasher and Gabby set up camp in the huge dishwasher box for the last month or so. Many nights, she was waiting up for me when I came in from the office or from covering a late night sporting event. She always waited up on me so that we could play chase with her mouse/laser pointer. When we began packing up her toys on Saturday afternoon, it was one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do.

The vet said that she had never treated a cat so young for cancer. It is hard for us to understand why this happened. However, we have no doubt that all things happen for a reason as a part of God’s plan. God never wants bad things to happen to any of us or for us to be sad or hurt. When these things do happen however, HE wants us to know without a doubt that we can turn to HIM.

This is a tough..tough thing to go through, but I know that all long time pet owners have been through this many times before. Times like these are all a part (and a most unfortunate part it is) of having pets in the first place. Again, they are a member of the family. We had plenty of time to prepare for the eventuality of Gabby’s prognosis, but it still doesn’t make the reality any easier to handle. Mere words can not express how helpful and comforting everyone has been during this time! May you Rest In Peace dear sweet Gabby. You were truly a joyful pleasure and you brought us so much fun and good times in the years that you were with us! You are now at peace and not suffering from the horrible cancer any more!

Several years ago, a relative shared a poem with us when we lost our Black Lab “Baby.” This poem has meant so much to me and also to our family through the years. As such, I have shared it with many friends that have lost pets over the years. This poem is written for the loss of a dog, but in this case, I am substituting the appropriate words for Gabby! In all the years of using this poem, I have never found an author. So, I guess the credit is anonymous, but these are GREAT and most helpful words! The poem reads as follows:

“I explained it to St. Peter,

I’d rather stay here

Outside the pearly gate.

I won’t be a nuisance,

I won’t even bark (meow), I’ll be very patient and wait,

I’ll be here, chewing on a celestial bone (chasing a piece of paper in my cardboard box lying in the sun),

No matter how long you may be.

I’d miss you so much, if I went in alone,

It wouldn’t be heaven for me.”

If you have not seen this poem before, please use it and share it with others in your life when the need arises. It is one of the most helpful things that I have ever found in dealing with the loss of a pet. As such, I read this poem often thinking of all of the pets we have lost through the years. I have always believed that we will see our pets again in heaven. I have also read this in columns by Billy Graham and many other religious leaders of our time. Even the movie “Heaven Is For Real” portrays this concept. However, I have never found any reference to this concept in the Bible. Again, however, I truly believe this and to: Gabby (the cat), Baby (the cat), Maggie (the cat), Mollie (the cat), Mipa (the Chinese Shar-Pei) and Baby (the Lab), until that day arrives….please wait on me!

Randy Brown is Publisher of the Bossier Press-Tribune. He can be reached at rbrown@bossierpress.com