Duke

Caught up in a dream, I’m taken back in time.  I am young and agile, the king of the wild.  The grass is green, the trees are full, and flowers bloom.  I turn to a nearby tree and stretch up against it, digging my claws into its thick, rough bark.  Then slowly I sink back down to the ground, leaving ten clean cuts in the tree.  My claws now sharpened, I turn my eyes to the wide-open field in front of me.  There I see a rabbit basking in the sun, slowly I zero in.  My tail swishes back and forth as I put myself in position to lunge.  I leap forward and am awakened from my dream.

I am no longer three years old, but sixteen.  My bones ache, and I have only the most minuscule amount of agility.  I live inside king of a palace not of the wild.  My claws are gone, but I do not miss them.  I no longer need them here in the lap of luxury.  I know that when I wish to eat there is always fresh food and water, and if there is none I can simply have one of my humans to procure it for me.

You wouldn’t know it to look at them, but these humans are actually quite useful.  I think every pet should adopt an owner.  They feed me when I tell them to, they clean for me, and they give me attention when I desire to have it.  Living in the wild, I did not understand or appreciate these things; but being older and wiser, I have learned the usefulness of the attention of these creatures.  I have learned in time that, although they are sometimes difficult, people can be worked with.  There is no need to harm them, you must merely correct their bad behavior and point them in the right direction.  I am even beginning to feel something, which might resemble affection towards my humans.  I often now grace them with my presence by sleeping in their bed at night.  It is a good life . . . .

Four years later I am now twenty, and have next to no agility.  My senses of smell, hearing, and sight are greatly diminished.  Sometimes I feel lost and confused; my memory is no longer what it once was.  My body is weak.  Sometimes it is too hard for me to make the trip downstairs to use my litter box.  The first time I had an accident my humans responded in anger and frustration, now they worry.  They see that I am not the menacing hunter I used to be.  I do not like that they are both physically and emotionally hurt by my aging. Last night as I lay in bed grooming myself there was another incident.  I kept licking and chewing on my fur, but felt nothing.  Then suddenly my human awakened with a look of pain on her face; she set me on the floor.  The next morning there was a dark, apple-sized bruise on her arm that I did not remember seeing the night before.  As I looked at her, I thought back to the grooming incident.  Is it possible I was grooming the wrong coat?  Suddenly a feeling I have only ever heard about, but have never personally experienced, overwhelmed me . . .guilt.

Slowly I feel myself deteriorating in both body and mind.  I know the end is not far.  Yet, I do not fear the inevitable end and I refuse to run and hide.  I intend to meet death head on.  There are many things I will miss.  I will miss: eating salmon flavored pate, being brushed and petted, licking my humans head at night, purring to sooth her, all those special moments that make a pet’s life worth living.  Many pets feel that animals cannot have a really deep relationship with humans, because we animals do not have souls.  Therefore, they think our emotions must somehow be inferior.  Anyone who believes this is a fool.  The truth is: I have experienced a deep, one may even say spiritual, connection with my human.  It is true that this connection will be severed when I depart.  That is a sad reality of life.  Yet, there is comfort in the fact that I have left my mark on these people, and they have left their mark on me.

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