Saying Good-Bye to Leonardo DiCaprio and Turbo
Kids and pets go together and until recently we had dogs, cats, even fish.
I got my first cat 25 years ago. My roommate Andy vetoed me getting a dog. We were right out of college and sharing a small apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, on the west side of Manhattan. So I convinced him to get a cat, the first pet I’d had in my life. The cat, Luna, was great and she lived more than a decade.
Fast forward to life with kids and cats. My wife and I had a Maine Coon, Ricky, that we got as a kitten when she was pregnant with our first daugther. He had white fur that shed in long, thick plumes.
When our oldest daughter turned 10 three years ago, she asked for a cat. We adopted a gray one from a shelter that she named Leonardo DiCaprio, having watched the movie Titanic a few months earlier.
Our first visit to the vet still makes me chuckle. “Leonardo DiCaprio. Is Leonardo DiCaprio here?” The waiting room turned to see this little girl get up with her cat carrier. She shortened his name to Leo.
A year after Leo arrived, we were again in the shelter. A tiny calico kitten was bouncing around the cage. Speedy little bugger. My middle daughter wanted him. I did, too. What’s one more? Enter Turbo.
Three cats. They became part of the early intro The Company of Dads podcasts – three daughters, three dogs, three cats, and, somewhat remarkably, three fish.
Good thing I shortened the intro.
About a month ago our youngest daughter had a severe asthma attack, and we had to take her to the emergency room to normalize her breathing. Trips to the allergist followed. Last week we learned that she was a 5 out of 5 on the allergy scale for cats. That’s epi-pen, no-cats territory.
There wasn’t a decision to make, but it was still so hard to think about being cat-less forever. Fortunately, a good friend who lives just 20 minutes away took our cats and the non-allergic among us will be able to visit them.
What I struggled with was how to explain this to our girls, particularly my oldest who loved the cats. Saying, ‘life’s unfair’ seemed too harsh.
I turned to my community and asked for advice. Most of it was a version of there are tough moments in life and this is good practice now.
One that particularly stood out was for our kids to store the feeling of giving up our cats in a “memories of overwhelming” bucket. “In the future, you can remind them that they survived giving up something they loved for the sake of another,” wrote Nana Heidi, who is actually my cousin’s grandmother. “Maturity is doing the difficult without being difficult.”
Our daughter is not the only one to take comfort in that.
How would you have handled this? Let me know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org