Unconditional love: A cat’s tail
By Jim Bucher
It has been almost a year since my new career path took me to the doorstep of the Dayton City Paper, and it’s been a fun journey so far. Going from a TV reporter/dude for almost 25 years to pages in print hasn’t been that difficult of a transition.
The best part? I don’t have to wear a tie to write.
If you have been along for the ride, I thank you for welcoming me into your homes, on your iPads or wherever you read the paper.
If you are a regular reader then you know I am a pet lover. At one time, right out of high school, I wanted to be a veterinarian, which I think would be rewarding. Meeting all kinds of animals, diagnosing and treating what ails them would be great. But the part I don’t think I would be good at is putting someone’s beloved pet to sleep, even though most vets will tell you that’s the one thing they do not mind doing. It is the most humane way to end a sick animal’s life, as opposed to other means, which we won’t go into here. This brings me to the crux of the issue.
No matter how many dogs and cats I’ve had in my life, there is always the inevitable: the end of theirs.
I think back to my best bud, Tinkerbelle the boxer. She lived 15 years – a good life, full of fun and frolic. The end is never good, and even though I debated whether to stay in the room when the shot was administered, I’m glad I did. Don’t get me wrong, it still haunts me. Did I make the right decision? Could I have prolonged her life even though she was suffering?
If you have never been through it, let me tell you, it is gut wrenching.
My friend Doreen Harkema went through this a few years ago and it is still raw and emotional for her today. Doreen, by the way, is a MIX 107.7 personality and a good friend of mine. She is one of those close buddies where we text pictures of our pets back and forth like proud parents. Many of those pictures are of her “bestie” feline friend, Shooter.
“I was about 26, child-bearing age, but I could not have children,” Harkema said. “My dad went with me to choose a kitten to adopt from the Humane Society. I looked into a cage with five grey kittens, about 7 weeks old, put my finger up to the cage and one of them came over and immediately wrapped both front paws around my finger. I thought to myself, ‘Don’t choose the first one you see.’ My dad said ‘Too late, that one already chose Doreen.’ He was right. I bonded with that baby boy the second he wrapped those little white-booted paws around my finger.”
What about the name Shooter?
“Well, we got him home and he very sweetly crawled up on my (now) ex-husband’s
chest and proudly peed on him,” Harkema said. “‘Shooter!’ I yelled, ‘That’s his name!’ He’s been with me ever since, moved with me from Michigan, [went through] my divorce, re-marriage, step kids. When I suffered a herniated disc in 2007, he rarely ever left my side.”
Shooter was a loyal friend and companion for many years, but, like what happens to all of us, life happened.
“Around 2008, he had slowed,” Harkema said. “He wasn’t eating or using the litter box and after many trips to the vet I was certain this latest visit to the doctor wasn’t going to be good.”
“When his test results were in, the vet broke the news without Shooter in the room,” Harkema said. “He had cancer. We started with the questions. ‘Can we have them removed?’ ‘Yes, but they will grow back and not give him much quality of life.’ ‘What if we don’t do anything?’ ‘He will eventually starve himself to death.”
Then came the decision each and every animal lover dreads.
“I just looked at the nurse and she knew it was the time,” Harkema said. “She put the shot into his IV. It didn’t take long and even though she listened for a heartbeat, I knew the second
it happened. I saw his aura – his soul, whatever you want to call it – leave his right eye, into his left eye and out his left side and disappear. No one can tell me pets don’t have a soul. I saw Shooter’s leave.”
I guess if you’re not a pet lover, you cannot relate. If you are, you know exactly what Doreen went through.
So why get a dog or cat when you know the inevitable?
“Wow, good question,” Harkema said. “Well, I wouldn’t give up the sunshine just because I know someday it is going to rain. Our pets give us so much unconditional love and I can’t
speak for anyone else, but that is something that I need. It’s OK to grieve your pet. You are not alone and you are not silly for crying over your pet. They are family members and who doesn’t grieve when a big part of your family passes away?”
Exactly – sunshine is a good thing.
For more than 25 years, “Buch” has been a local television icon. Known and loved by thousands in the Miami Valley, his followers describe him as trust-worthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and a role model. When it comes to promoting your business, Buch has the ability to grab your customer’s attention. Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.