Golly, Miss Molly
A blog about a service dog and her veteran with PTSD
(Supporting the veteran and the family caregiver)
Today I said goodbye forever to Moses, my cat. Molly knows that I am more of a cat lover than a lover of dogs even though she worked her way into my heart, placing herself right next to Moses on the favored-pet pedestal.
Moses lived over 16 years as my cat and special friend. Although he purred to the end, I knew he suffered daily because he slept 22 or more hours a day and began leaving surprises for me all over the house. He lived well beyond his nine lives, surviving nights out with coyotes, falls from trees and rooftops, and scuffles with alley cats. This morning, he looked at me with eyes of love unable to jump on the sink counter for his usual drink at the faucet.
My stoic Veteran husband worked for months, preparing me for this day. He planned to take Moses to the vet while I watched my granddaughter—only, arrangements changed and I did not watch her today. He took Moses in his carrier, letting me say goodbye with one last cuddle.
I wept the rest of the afternoon and evening, wondering why it hurt so much—after all, he is just a pet. Then I looked at Molly and know that every life is precious. I worried about my husband handling the task of delivering Moses to the vet given his emergency room visit a few days earlier. William showed no emotion, only concern for me. I know he cared as much for the cat as I did. Many nights I would get home from work at 2 or 3 am and would find him and the cat cuddled together on the couch. Often when he thought I was not watching, he rubbed the cat’s head or carried him to his den. Of course, that was before Molly came into our lives and Moses took up residency in the basement next to the water heater.
Lessons from a Veteran
After returning from the vet, William sat with me. He said, “We live; we die. That’s the way it is for all of us, including our pets.” Then he shared with me things he and other warriors had to do in the bush in Vietnam to explain how he handled today with strength.
I understand better now how my husband is strong when I am weak, how he can shield me from the horrible things in life, and how he protects me when I am not even aware of the threat. He faced death as a teenager in Vietnam. He ended lives of the enemy. He watched bodies rip open in gunfire, some of which were his friends. He pierced the rotting bodies of the enemy to prevent them from exploding in the heat and humidity of the jungle. Such things I never could imagine and likely never would have lived through.
Yet beneath my husband’s confident and stoic surface lies the heart of a kitten, one longing to be held, cuddled, and loved. He rarely shows this side to me but I know it is there when I look deeply into his eyes. I see the sorrow and hurt from all he endured as a young man in war. I feel the indignities he suffered when returning from war every time I hold his hand. I smelled the adrenaline when he took on the man who threatened me with a gun after a late-night council meeting. I hear his breathing and muffled cries in his sleep, as he relives the horrors of war. His tenderness surrounds me when I open myself to his love.
I do not know why some become warriors, forced to defend us at any cost and others live the life of royalty, enjoying life in bliss. I will never be a warrior and he will never enjoy a life of bliss. I suppose that is just as it must be.
My prayer is that when the time comes for us to lay Molly to rest, I can be strong for him so I can handle matters as he did for me today. I will ask God for the strength of a warrior for just one day so that my husband can let his heart of a kitten purr for that time of loss.
I love you, sweet kitty.
Thank you for being my 16-year companion
For never judging me and always loving me
For being there when I needed you
And when I didn’t.
I should have been more loving
For letting you wiggle your way into my heart
Even though I did not want that after losing Morris
But He gave you to me to help me through
Years of hurt, pain, and suffering, including my cancer
You were always there for me
I’m sorry I cannot be with you now wherever you go.
May God let you rest in a place for sweet pets
Because your life was spent loving me, unconditionally
I love you, Moze
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Have you lost a favored pet and want to share your story with us? Please comment below.
Photo credits: All mine today
About the blogger
Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her grandchildren.