Love and loss ... the price we are willing to pay for our pets

HAPPY TIMES: Cobweb in his prime. He loved his garden ... it was his kingdom.
HAPPY TIMES: Cobweb in his prime. He loved his garden ... it was his kingdom.

This week marked a particularly sad anniversary for our family.

It is four years since my beloved puss Cobweb passed away.

And despite the passage of time, there is still large hole in my heart, a hole in the shape of a beautiful, sleek, black gentleman who filled my life with love and happiness for just shy of 18 years.

For anyone who has lost a treasured pet, they will know exactly what I mean, and fortunately it's becoming more and more accepted that the loss of a pet causes a very real and very deep grief.

For months after his death I constantly caught an imaginary glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye, expected him to come trotting up the back steps for his favourite crunchies or looked for him lounging in the shade of his favourite garden in the backyard.

He was a part of my soul ... and still is to this day.

The toughest thing about his dying, aside from how unexpected it was, was deciding how to farewell him.

When he was diagnosed with a heart condition several years before his death, after the initial hammer blow, my partner and I discussed our options should he pass away.

We decided cremation would be a good choice as it was dignified and his ashes could be with us forever.

There are many pet crematoriums nowadays and my impression of those I have encountered is that unfailingly they are compassionate and kind.

They acknowledge that our pets are often our babies, our best friends and in many cases our lifelines.

Gone are the days, thank goodness, when for many, a dog was just a dog and a cat dwelt on the fringes of the family.

I even had dreams of having him made into a diamond.

But when the time came, we couldn't do it.

We just couldn't be parted from him.

We had dropped him at the vets that morning for tests as he had been quite unwell for a couple of days, only to be summoned urgently to the clinic for the worst of news of all ... inoperable and terminal cancer.

It took us, even the vet, by surprise so healthy had our brave puss been.

Blood tests just two weeks earlier had shown all was normal and shipshape.

So we said our goodbyes, I sang him one of his special songs, and he was gone.

It was an agony I have never experienced, not even when my father died.

Now some may find this very odd, but many will not.

We do not have children and our cats are our children.

There are those who will understand this implicitly ... our society is changing for the better in that respect.

We are now in an era where our companions are valued and treasured. In fact the latest figures show we spend billions on pet care.

Chemo and cruciate surgeries are commonplace ... almost any treatment a human can undergo has a veterinary equivalent, and although there might be outrage at this 'extravagance', the reality is we assume responsibility for a life and it is our duty to ensure that life is lived to its fullest and its best.

It is our obligation and our privilege.

We left the clinic with our boy in his carrier for the final journey home and, after nursing him and stroking him until near dark, we realised we could not let him go.

Ultimately we decided to bury him in his favourite spot in the backyard, one where any time of the day you would find him, content and cosy, curled like a kitten deep asleep.

It's not the prettiest spot, like our fairy dell with its summer blooms and roses ... it's wild and overgrown with weeds and grass.

But it was Cobweb's place, the spot he felt most comfortable, close to us and the home he had known for almost two decades.

He rests there still ... there is no headstone or marker, but we know he is there.

I often say hello as I pass or have a chat ... I picture him listening, sitting upright and dignified, eyes half closed with his deep and rattly purr.

Soft sleep my darling boy ... you are always in our hearts.