“There’s a river we never leave…” begins a poem in Artful Dodge 42/43, “River” by Bruce Bond, “which is why, as I checked my watch that morning / before we drove to put our cat to sleep, / I felt a heavy current at the backs / of my knees…” Anyone who has ever owned pets will be much too familiar with the cycle of life. Our house has always been full of cats. The cats that I chased when I was little are gone now, but many more have found their way into our home. I remember when the first cat, Nostalgia, died at the ripe old age of 21, how my parents and I bought a small pet gravestone online and how my mom hugged me as we buried her. This is the first time I remember having to understand death, and involving cats, there were many more times to come.
I’m very familiar with the feeling of deception that accompanies putting an animal down, one that Bond addresses in his poem. The speaker knows the cat trusted him as she was carried to the vet, “oblivious” of her shortened future. Then, in the next few stanzas, he describes the moment of her death as an “overdose of life.” A few months ago, in the cold of March, a cat had kittens under our porch. We thought the kittens would be killed by the below-freezing temperatures, but one day, the mother cat brought them to us, very much alive and healthy. That was an “overdose of life” to me. Perhaps kittens being born and an old cat being put down are not so different after all. Each is a transition, not diminishing, but proving the beauty of life.
—Holly Engel, Assistant Editor