Blog of Pulitzer Prize Nominated Author, Jory Sherman. Get the latest information on his books, appearances and his candid reflections on writing.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Do our pets know when they are about to die? I think they do. I think many people also know when death is calling to them from out of the mists and those dark caverns of the mind.

I also believe that our pets choose us, that we do not choose them. It seems to me that they want someone to spend their brief lives with and so find ways to come to you, if you are the chosen one.

There are good reasons why these conclusions came to me. It is difficult to sort them out because of their emotional content.

There seems to be a strong bond between humans and animals, especially domestic animals, like dogs or cats. Recently, there have been two deaths that struck my senses with unfathomable grief.

Our dog Bucky, part rat terrier, part Jack Russell, died recently. He had cancer. We took him in for surgery and some of the cancer was excised, but the vet said that it had spread all through him and that noting could be done.

Bucky clung to me in his last days. He could barely walk, but he followed me from home to my office out in back and when he could no longer jump up in my lap or onto my bed, I lifted him up and put an arm across his tortured body so that he could sleep. He was 10 years old when he died one morning in our bedroom. He is buried next to a covered swing in a corner of our property, my “meditation corner.” It is shaded by pines and surrounded by bamboo a neighbor gave me. When I sit out there, the dogs and cats find me and play among the bamboo shoots or jump up on the padded seat of the swing.

My son’s two female cats, Peaches and Piper, gave birth t0 their first litters a month and half ago, 3 kittens each. One of Peaches’ kittens took to me and started following me around. I named her Kiki. She was a darling. She stuck to me wherever I was, on the porch, in my livingroom, in my office. My son also has two pups. One of them played too hard with Kiki and killed her. I was broken-hearted. She was frail and small and could not take the rough stuff. The dog thought she was a toy.

Kiki’s sister has adopted me. I call her Squeaky. She squeaks because her little lungs are congested. She sneezes and coughs. She naps with me, crawls up on my chest and snuggles under my chin or in the hollow of my arm. When I sit on the porch as I do every morning long before dawn, she finds me and crawls up my pantleg and onto my chest.

I am afraid she will not live long and I think she knows this.

Over the years I have been adopted by many pets, and most of these were the runts of their litters. None of them lived a long time. One kitty used to crawl into my desk drawers and play with the pencils and paper clips. My dog Snowball used to crawl through my papers on the bed and watch me type on the Underwood. Snowball was a toy poodle. The cat, still a kitten, died under my covers one morning.

My first story was about a Cocker Spaniel puppy named Doopers. He chased my father’s car and barked at its wheels. One day my dad’s car ran over him and I cried for five days.

All of these creatures who adoped me seemed to have intimations of their looming deaths. They all wanted to give and receive love during their last days on this earth. I believe Squeaky knows that she will not live long. The four other kittens are all growing but Squeaky is a Pater Pan lagging behind.

Love is the fuel that drives the engine of this universe. I can feel it in the love I get from my pets and I am energized by the love I give them. I feel a kinship with them since I have intimations of my own mortality. I have COPD, diabetes, kidney disease, and assorted conditions endemic to aging. So, when I see Squeaky struggling for breath, I empathize with her.

My doctor gave me a timetable for my existence, but I don’t need it. Like my pets, I will know when my hour of departure draws near. In the meantime, all I want to do is to give them my love. I know that this is what they want and need.

So do we all. By all, I mean, all living things in this wonderful universe.


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