(A patient sits in an armchair, across from a therapist)
Patient: (Holding tissues and sniffling) I told myself I wasn’t going to be like this when it happened. He lived a good life, he was old, he was sick, and it was time.
Therapist: (Writing slowly, not looking up) Mm-hm.
Patient: I just didn’t think the time would be now, you know? It was always later. Down the road. Where it would never happen.
Therapist: (Still not looking up) Mm-hm. And how long did you “own” your cat Bertram, in the sense that we never truly own anything in this life?
Patient: Um, well, he really was a member of the family –
Patient: Let’s see, we adopted him in ’97, so almost 20 years then.
Therapist: (Looks up sharply) Wow. That was one old cat.
Patient: Yeah, he was a bit grizzled. Couldn’t really see or hear anymore, and his kidneys were giving up, plus he could barely walk, but he hung in there, good old Bertie! Until he stopped eating and drinking.
Therapist: So that was when you – did the deed.
Patient: (Blowing nose) Uh-huh.
Therapist: And now you miss him.
Patient: Of course I miss him! We’d see him all around the house every day, and now he’s gone! He used to cuddle in our laps all the time and he had that cute little purr – before he got extremely old, that is. Lately he just lay in his bed all day. But at least he was there, and I like to think that he loved us the way we loved him!
Therapist: (Writes for a bit, then looks up) Mm-hm. Well, I can only come to one conclusion: the reasons that you mourn your cat are completely selfish.
Patient: (Mouth drops open) Huh?
Therapist: From what you’ve told me, all the reasons you miss him are for things that he did for you: giving you comfort, keeping you company, being all cute for you, etc., etc., etc. What did you ever do for him?
Patient: We – gave him a home – !
Therapist: That already existed before you even considered adopting him: continue.
Patient: We fed him, and gave him fresh water all the time –
Therapist: Not horribly abusing him is breaking even: next?
Patient: We played with him, and cuddled with him, and always let him know that he was loved!
Therapist: All of which was to make you feel better, having an interactive toy to snuggle with in bed.
Therapist: Bottom line: you said yourself that Bertram was old, sick, and long since ready to move on. So your desire for him to stay would hardly have been in his best interests, wouldn’t you say?
Patient: Of course I didn’t want him to suffer anymore; I wanted him to be well again.
Therapist: I’m sure he wanted to be well again, too, but we can’t always get what we want. This really was the best case scenario for him at that point in his life, and the sooner you can be happy for his finally crossing the rainbow bridge, the better off you’ll be.
Patient: (Sniffs) I guess you’re right.
Therapist: I know I’m right – when I lost my dog Reginald this was the best advice I EVER RECEIVED. Now pay at the front desk and get out.
Patient: OK… thank you. (Leaves)
Therapist: (Opens up a wallet and looks at a photo) Oh Reggie. You’re still watching over us with the millions of other pets who’ve crossed over the years, aren’t you? Please think on us kindly.