[With apologies to Bilbo Baggins].
I am home from the West Coast, where I had a lovely visit with my son, Patrick, and his family. Diana took pictures, some of which I shall try to post when she sends them. On the trip home, I received a call from our vet, who told me that Murray is again very sick. This may be the end of the road for us with Murray, and I am deeply upset. Now, Murray is a cat -- charming, personable, affectionate, for a cat -- but a cat. How can he mean so much to me? As I have remarked before on this blog, there are people who find this incomprehensible, and people who completely understand and sympathize. The contrast started me thinking about how and why we come to care so much not only for cats, but for dogs, for trees, and indeed even for little children.
In the case of other adults, our caring concern might be explained by what they give to us emotionally, although I think that is actually not much of an explanation. But cats are a special case. Even domestic cats are not very domesticated. They have not evolved over fifty thousand years or more, as dogs have, to relate to and respond to humans, to show manifest delight at their presence, and to shower humans with affection. If one is honest, one must acknowledge that cats for the most part tolerate humans. And yet, I miss my cats when I am away, and I am hungry for every scrap of apparent affection they deign to express. Heaven knows, I am not like that at all with human beings!
A part of the explanation is that I enjoy showing affection, caring, looking after someone or something else, and cats are at least willing sponges of that sort of outpouring. Now Susie and I face a difficult decision -- whether to put Murray in a hospital, for the third time, with no assurance at all that he will finally be able to live a good life when he comes out, or to opt for a humane euthanasia, as our vet calls it. When Susie returns this evening from Seattle, where she was visiting her grandchildren, we shall have to think long and hard about what to do.
To those who consider this anguish pointless and dispensable, my only response is to ask, Would you really rather be someone who does not care about other beings? That way lies a living death, I think.