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Berkheimer: When you lose a best buddy pet

Darrell Darrell Berkheimer
Guest Commentary
The Aspen Times

All too often, I’ve had it up to my eyeballs with the news of politics and various calamities, and then, I feel an overwhelming need to write something more mundane — perhaps on a subject that touches both the mind and heart. This is one of those occasions. 

I believe most of us have stories about special pets that bring a wetness to our eyes combined with broad smiles. Quite often we’re eager to share those stories — and, that’s when I turn to my writing. 

Many families have stories about special dogs. And, I have a couple of those to tell, too. But, this one is about Louie — a feline who was my best buddy for 16 years, until only a few weeks ago. 



Louie was the one constant in my life during a short series of failed relationships, and the turmoil that accompanies moves to two different states — from Montana to Oregon, and then to California in 2015.

He came into my life as a 2-month-old kitten in October 2006, when I began cuddling him on my chest while seated in a recliner. After five or 10 minutes on my chest, he would settle in between my legs until I had to get up. 




I remember our first visit to the vet, when the paperwork listed his breed as DSH. That puzzled me, as I wondered aloud what sort to special breed is that. Then, my naïve bubble burst when the vet said it stands for “Domestic Short Hair.”

Louie was an indoor-outdoor cat who resorted to a repertoire of manipulative antics until I would do his bidding. When at my computer, he often would sit there and stare up at me with pleading eyes until I either let him out or put more food in his dish. He let me know that he did not like seeing the bottom of his dish.

In Montana, when he wanted in, he would pace across the aluminum facing on the picture window sill, causing a buckling and crunching sound until I let him back in. 

Throughout his 16 years, we shared “Louie time” in the recliner most days. He climbed up there one last time, less than 48 hours before he died. How can I get into a recliner without thinking of Louie?

His death hit me hard, as I experienced bouts of uncontrolled weeping afterward. And, it created a most awkward emptiness in our house — because it was less than a year ago, last December, when Mary lost her 17-year-old cockapoo, Annie. Louie helped Mary through her grieving for Annie. 

Perhaps it is in our parenting nature to have a home feel so empty when we have no one — neither child nor pet — depending on us. My daily movements brought frequent reminders of routine activities shared with Louie during each morning, afternoon, and evening.

That emptiness, shared by Mary, prompted us to decide we needed another pet, which quickly led to a few decisions. First, we decided upon another cat — an indoor cat with the few requirements of food, water, a litter box, scratching post, and lots of affection.  

And, because Mary and I are both 81 now, we thought it would be wrong to adopt a kitten who would outlast us and need to be adopted into another home. We agreed it would be better to adopt one in midlife needing a new home. 

We also agreed that would require several visits to a pet shelter. We did not want to make a quick decision that we might regret — not like we could do when getting a kitten. 

We showed interest in three 9-year-olds — a female and two males — and settled upon one of the males after four visits. I got him to come to me during the third and fourth visits, and he spent part of the third visit on Mary’s lap. 

We’ve now had Casey for two weeks, and we’re so pleased with how he is adapting, even though he remains a bit skittish at times. He gives, and he receives, lots of affection. 

I don’t recall ever hearing a cat purr so loudly. Yet, his meow is barely audible. And, he already was broken to using the scratching post. 

Our house no longer feels empty. How rewarding it is to have him.  

Darrell Berkheimer is a retired California journalist whose career spans nearly 60 years. He filled editor positions with newspapers in Pennsylvania, Utah, Georgia, Texas, and New Mexico. He also is the author of several essays books. Contact him at mtmrnut@yahoo.com