Dying in October


October 9th, 2002 My Dad
October 18th, 2004 Cosmo
October 29th, 2005 Otto
December 24th, 2006 Anna
October 31st, 2013 Ada
October 29th, 2015 Jerry
…..

I have noticed a strange pattern regarding the date of death of people and animals in my family with only one exception: Anna died the night before Christmas 2006.

Anna was a special one, our first pet. A little cat left behind by her owner when she moved to a new apartment. Our landlord asked us if we wanted a cat otherwise he would throw her on the streets of Boston, MA where we lived at the time. It was September 1988 and she was already two years old (probably). My wife Marina talked me into adopting her. In the beginning I mistreated her. I had never had animals before and I was a real asshole toward her. Somehow she taught me to love animals demonstrating a much higher comprehension of life than I had. Afterwards I remember sleeping with her purring on my chest touching my face with her nose or sleeping with her lying down between my body and my left arm with her face on my armpit…and purring, of course.

The following year I went to an animal shelter (we were still in Boston) and took a kitten as a birthday present for Marina: Otto (all our cats have had palindrome names). The shelter was crowded with animals. He was the only one who stayed in the back of his cage not meowing for help. The winning move!

So, when we moved back to Italy in 1990 we flew with two cats intercontinentally!!
Flight attendants allowed us to keep our cats in our laps so, as a consequence, everyone passing by (we were sitting close to the bathrooms) was saying: "kitty kitty kitty!". Can you imagine eight hours of that?

We lived in the countryside near Florence and because Marina was alone most of the day we decided to get a puppy in May 1991: Cosmo (named after a character of the movie "Moonstruck"), a long-haired mutt of doubtful pedigree from the local shelter. During the ride back home he threw up in the car then he was so excited that peed on my pants. An unforgettable start!

Where we lived (in the countryside) there were a few stray cats coming to our house to eat something and because they looked like Otto (eight, in Italian) we called them "8 1/2" (like the title of a famous movie by Federico Fellini) and "Nove" (nine, in Italian).

For awhile we also had another cat, Mirandolina, named after the main character of a comedy by Carlo Goldoni. A friend asked us if we could take care of her because her old owner was sick and could not keep her. We agreed but, probably because of our other two cats, one day she disappeared and never came back. She was a cantaloupe eating cat. She loved it and purred loudly while eating it. We don't know what happened to her.

In 1998 I took home another cat, again as a birthday present for my wife: Ada. A colleague was giving away a few cats and I took one. So, now we had three cats and one dog.

In May 2004 we adopted our son Jarik (four and a half years old at the time) from Ukraine.

He met Cosmo only for a few months. The following two years saw the departure of our American cats. Anna was 20 years old and affected by senile dementia when she died. She was peeing everywhere in the apartment and we had pieces of paper all over it, ready to contain the damage.

In 2007 Jerry arrived as a present for Jarik's eighth birthday. His original name was Jerok. Friends of ours had adopted him for their daughter but they did not know that one of them was allergic to dog's fur, so they asked us if we wanted a new dog. When we heard that his name was very similar to that of our son (Jerok and Jarik) we interpreted it as some kind of sign and said yes, also because Jarik's birthday was approaching and he had asked for a puppy! Jerry has had many health problems throughout his life (elbow dysplasia for which he had to go through surgery when eight months old, for example). A very fragile animal compared to all our other animals. A common problem with purebred dogs.

In the summer of 2009 I found a chick sparrow while walking Jerry, probably fallen from the nest and took him home. He is still with us!

Two years ago Ada left us. I remember how light she was after death. She looked like a small piece of rug when I kissed her for the last time.

By the time Ada died Jerry was already fighting cancer (osteosarcoma). He had his right front leg amputated in January 2014 and for 21 months we all fought cancer doing all we could. Walking a big three-legged dog was a big problem. Fortunately in the meantime we had moved to a house with a garden otherwise it would have been hell.

Jerry kept his good-humored character until the end.

We have treated all our animals as part of our family (once Anna taught me so) and, as a friend recently reminded us, sometimes they are the best members of a family.

None of our animals have died of a natural death. They all have been euthanized. We hope we did the right thing at the right time (not too early, not too late).

Now, back to the beginning. All males in that list (and one female) died in October. Otto and Jerry exactly ten years apart.

Today is the Day of the Dead, October is over and I am still here. At least one more year of life is granted!

Let's get busy!