Grieving Gary

me and gary 12-21 copy

Another week, another life crisis pushing aside the pashmina post.

Gary, a big, beautiful, marmalade marshmallow of a cat died in his sleep last week. He was just shy of 12 years old, and is survived by his very close brother and litter-mate Sponge, his mom, me, and his dad, my ex-husband. We’re all heart-broken.

Gary and Sponge were the first pets I ever had as an adult, yet this adult (i.e. “me) named them after kid’s cartoon characters, Gary the snail and Spongebob (we cut-off the “Bob” part). They were rescues from the Milo Foundation.

Those boys, or “gentlemen” as we referred to them as they grew older, were everything to me and my husband at the time, who had vehemently opposed adopting cats, yet grew to love those guys with every fiber of his being.

gary sponge love

Gary had short hair and a long, linguica-like body. Okay, so he was fat. Sponge had long hair and hid his curves under all of that fur. I used to joke that Sponge looked better in clothes.

These magical cats helped me survive the death of my mom, the near implosion of my business, a DUI, fibroids, a burst appendix and busted marriage. They would listen to me agonize over things too private and personal to share with anyone else. They understood. Or at least pretended to.

And that Gary loved to groom me, grabbing my head with both paws, licking my hair with that sandpaper tongue, purring ever so slightly. I loved it.

During the divorce I lost the cats to the ex. As much as I needed those boys, he needed them more. I cried for days. My hair went ungroomed for weeks and months at a time.

gary on my head latest copy1

I’d visit them as often as I could, which was always hard. Upon entering their new home, I’d bow down, and Gary would rush over and grab my scalp, just like old times. If I sat in a chair, he’d drape himself over my head. He was the best hat ever. Even though I’d moved on to a new husband and new cats whom I loved, going back to see the ex and Gary and Sponge brought up all sorts of memories. They had been my family.

And so when I got the news that Gary died, I lost it. I mourned for poor Gary, but even more so for his dad/my ex, and his brother, Sponge. I mourned the loneliness they would all feel. I mourned my own loneliness that lives inside me. The sadness was overwhelming.

As each day goes by, I feel a little better. I’ve learned Gary died quickly and didn’t suffer. I’ve learned that the ex has kept his sense of humor, sharing how Gary’s dead body, stretched out in a languid sleeping position and seized by rigor mortis, was so long and log-like it required two hefty bags to contain for stroller transport to Pet’s Unlimited (without a car, the ex felt it would be weird to take Gary by Uber or cab.) And I learned that when Sponge sniffed his dead brother’s carcass, he nodded, and quickly moved on to his food dish for breakfast. Gary moved on, and so, apparently, had Sponge.

me and gary1We all deal with death and it’s never easy. But somehow, the death of a pet can be especially hard. To anyone out there who’s lost a beloved animal recently, I hope you are coping as best you can. I know I’m trying.

I wish I could be more like Sponge, looking forward, not back. But I guess that’s the deal when one is a human, not a cat. And this human is sad and grieving the loss of the Gary. Who perhaps has set up a salon up in cat heaven.


6 Responses


    my heart goes out to you for your loss. We had to put our dog of 11 years down when her cancer came back & she was suffering. It was harder than when I lost both my parents, & the only time I ever saw my husband of 29 years cry. You are right- it is harder with a pet somehow, who just love us unconditionally & are always there for us, no matter what. At least he didn’t suffer. And it sounds like you and your ex gave him a good life. And it sounds like you have some great memories of him, which you’ll always have. You’ll always miss him but it does get easier.

    1. Paula

      Hi Andrea: I am so sorry for you loss too. I also lost both parents (far too young) and this felt just as awful. Writing this love note to Gary has helped, at least a little.

      Have a great Thanksgiving!



    This is so incredibly sweet and I can say i totally understand what you are feeling. Thanks for sharing this because the pain from losing a pet is sometimes underestimated. I laugh every time I hear the name gary because it’s the best name ever for a cat. I know how much he meant to you hang in there girl! Love ya!!

    1. Paula

      Ash: Thank you for writing. This hit me harder than I could have ever imagined. Gary was just the best, and yes, best cat name ever! To this day, the “Gouls” and I use versions of “Gary” for anything that remotely rhymes with it, like, I think I’ll order the chicken Garyaki”, or, I hate Garyoki, or, I’m getting on a Gairplane……so he really will live on like that forever and make me smile. Love you too Ash, and have a great Thanksgiving. xoxoxo


    Oh, I am so truly sorry to hear about Gary. I know how much you loved him and I know it has to break your heart. He couldn’t have asked for a better Mommy.

    1. Thanks Stormi. I really appreciate you reaching out. Gary was such a big part of my life through some really trying times. And I loved him so much. I hope you are enjoying being a cat mommy too! xo

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