Because I am from the ’80s, my life is apparently doomed to be full of irony.
On Wednesday, I visited Platteville Veterinary Clinic to interview veterinarian Jackie Kieler. That story is in our annual She section, which you can read this week.
Two days later, we made a return visit, but not for a story. Our Siamese cat, Mocha, suddenly became quite ill. So visit number two was as a patient, though the adults were not the patient. (I have had recent experience as a patient, as you know, an experience I am apparently going to never live down as long as I am in Platteville.)
Sometime Friday night, Mocha died. He had been with us since our oldest son was one year old, so he was alive for the entirety of our younger kids’ lives. So we’ve all been processing that sudden loss, at least sudden to us. We have two dogs, so our house isn’t barren of pets, but it’s a loss nonetheless.
This is something every pet owner goes through, because pets live only a fraction of our lives. We remember the goofy things our pets do, such as Mocha’s being very verbal, regardless of whether we were awake, and demanding attention by head-butting one of us. Mocha was preceded in death by two Welsh springer spaniels and one cat procured from Platteville; the cat resembled a fur-covered football, and the dogs liked to play with her, using their definition of “play,” by stopping her from running past them by placing a paw on her back, making her four legs splat out. The cat would then bop them on the snout with one of her clawless front paws and hiss at them, leaving them trying to figure out whether that was supposed to hurt.
When a pet dies, what stands out to me is absences. Growing up my family had a West Highland white terrier, Dolly, who despite her name was a terror to back-yard varmints. (And to anyone who got between her and her food.) Before I moved here, when I slept in as your typical teenager and then college student, Dolly would come to my bed and bark. I’d pick her up, she’d yip, then she’d lick my face before finding a spot on my bed. She died right after my parents brought her to my apartment for Christmas and she slept with me one last time.
When on my laptop, Mocha would get on my lap, whether or not I wanted him there. (He’d also find visitors who didn’t like cats and sit on their laps, whether or not they wanted him there. That included people allergic to cats.) He’d also lie on my chest when I would take a nap, and most nights he’d amble up to bed, lying on top of one of us, or in a warm spot on the bed. No more. He also didn’t run out to demand food when I opened cans of fruit to make fruit salad for our church’s annual meeting Saturday night.
(More irony: For whatever reason, a lot of my Facebook Friends are also going through the loss of their pets. And so what song comes up on a ’60s through ’80s music page? The dreck “Shannon,” by one-hit wonder Henry Gross, about the death of Beach Boy Carl Wilson’s Irish setter. If I hear Michael Martin Murphey’s “Wildfire” anytime soon — a similarly-themed song about a young woman who supposedly died looking for her pony — I am going to hit myself in the head again.)
Why do we go through the loss of pets? Their lives are short, after all. But our lives are short too. They enliven our lives, and they’re happy to see us when we come home. Even cats, though they act as though they’re the center of the universe, can’t feed themselves — at least not their preferred canned cat food.
On a brighter (and whiter) note: I have watched the UW–Platteville basketball teams quite a lot this winter. Both teams are in the upper half of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which puts them in line if they stay there for a playoff berth and even a home playoff game.
The Pioneer women recently beat first-place Superior. The Pioneer men, off a 60–59 win over Stout on a three-point play with 11.7 seconds left Saturday, are hosting UW–Whitewater, ranked number two in Division III, today at 7 p.m. It is White Out night. It is doubtful that anyone on the Pioneer coaching staff will dress like Louisville coach Rick Pitino when wearing his Colonel Sanders white suit, but the key is for the fans to wear white, and to bring enthusiasm of the type that made Williams Fieldhouse a place where opponents’ seasons went to die in the 1990s.
Both the men’s and women’s teams represent UW–Platteville, and therefore Platteville (or as I now call it “The Ville”) well. They play hard, they do well in school, and they talk to fans and the media win or lose. (The latter isn’t always easy, but it is good practice for real life when you have to interact with people in good times and bad.)
Beginning tonight, the men have four regular-season home games left, and the women have three left. You should watch them play, beginning tonight, and bring your loud voice with you.