Love is a Many Splendored Bitch of a Thing


Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles, via

Since my writing has dropped off dramatically after giving the 365-day challenge a try, I thought I’d skim through some of the prompts for a bit of inspiration. Today’s prompt was about deep secrets, and since I will never divulge those (no matter how much I like you), I chose the May 11 prompt: It’s about the different kinds of love – for people, for pets, etc. “Is there a single idea or definition that runs through all the varieties of “love”?”

I have had cats my whole life. Less than a year after I was married, after losing a cat to FLV (feline leukemia virus), I went to a local humane society and picked out a very playful tabby-and-white kitten. I took him straight to the only vet open late on a Saturday and had his first round of shots, and then took him home. He wasn’t concerned about the car ride, or that he was in a new place. He investigated everything.  He was tiny, and fit into our tiny family immediately. I loved him.  Loved, loved him.  Like he was a person.

One day at work way back then, I was talking with my friend, Kelly, about cats versus kids. She explained to me how having cats is wonderful, and you love them like children. But then you have children, and worry about cat hair getting on the baby. I could sort of understand this, but couldn’t really wrap my mind around loving something more than I loved my cat, Gino.  I used to stick my nose down in his fur and smell him. That sounds crazy to someone who doesn’t love cats, but they have a particular smell, and Gino’s smell made me so happy. It smelled like home, and happiness, and cuddling, and love.

Ten years later, when I actually had a child, my cat was, as Kelly had predicted, demoted to second class citizen in our home. He wasn’t crazy about having a baby around; he kept his distance, but he did love to sleep in the vibrating bouncy chair. He could no longer sleep in our bed, however. Our baby had to sleep with us, because I had a broken arm and a cast from my fingers up to my bicep, so I coudn’t pick up the baby to feed him. The easiest solution was for the baby to sleep in our bed, so my husband and I both didn’t have to be up for feedings. Hubby had to get up for all diaper changes, but it was easy enough to feed the baby without picking him up.

Gino died last year at the age of 18. He died while I was on the way to the vet with him to have him put down. He had kidney disease, and although he had a “tune-up” a month earlier that brought him back to feeling and eating well, he quickly went downhill again. I was given a bag of fluids that I was supposed to adminiser under his skin twice a day, but I just couldn’t do it to him. My hands were supposed to be associated with petting, playing, and love, and not pain and discomfort, or being held for the sake of getting stuck with a needle. He never liked being held to begin with; he was fine on my lap or snuggled in tightly next to me under the covers, but holding him – he wouldn’t have it for more than a minute or two. The morning I took him to the vet, Gino was so weak that he couldn’t walk. I was surprised that he had made it through the night. He had chosen my closet as his respite, so I spent most of the night with him on the closet floor, crying quietly, talking to him, petting him, providing what little bit of comfort I could, knowing what was to come in the morning. My aging body can’t take sleeping on the floor like it used to, so I got in bed halfway through the night, but he was still there in the morning.

His death was hard, even though he no longer held the #1 place in my heart; he was still way up there. I miss him every day, almost a year later, and I know that it will probably still be a while before I stop thinking about him as if he were still here. Over the past year, I have gone through our photographs (the printed kind), and pulled out all of his pictures. I have them here on my desk. I look through them occasionally, remembering how much I doted over that cat. We probably didn’t have very many rolls of film that came back from processing without at least one picture of him included.

In the end, love is love. I think that you can experience it to its most fierce intensity no matter what you are loving. Maybe you love snow skiing more when you don’t have a girlfriend. Maybe you love your spouse more when you don’t have pets. Maybe you love your pets more until you have children. I know that I love my son more than any thing or person ever has ever been loved, and perhaps you have someone whom you love as deeply. I thought that about my cat, Gino, until I had my son. Nowadays, I stick my nose in my child’s hair and inhale deeply – even when he’s dirty and stinky. His smell melts my heart, and it smells like home, and happiness, and cuddling, and love. Love can mean many things. We know when we don’t have it, when it has left us, and we know when we find it. And those are the best days, when we smile at everything and nothing, and sit, eyes glazed, thinking about what or whom it is that we love.