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The_Gift_of_Kitty_Apr_8_2013Photo caption reads:
Marybeth, 41 combined her love of animals with her background in working with people with special needs to write a book about pet bereavement. She is holding a photo of Kitty, the inspiration for her book.

Kitty was sedated on the veterinarian’s table. An IV needle in his front paw. A little bandage with a heart on top.

His owners – actually parents- which may be a more fitting word Marybeth Haines and husband Troy Corupe were by Kitty’s side. Stroking his fur. Talking to him.

Kitty was twenty years old. A jet black cat with big green eyes.

And he was dying. The couple does not have children. Kitty was their child. He slept at the end of their bed, his head on a pillow. He greeted them with meows when they came home from work. And he had the uncanny ability to say “hello.” Clear as day. Unbelievable only to those who never heard him speak.

It was Christmas Day 2011 when they made the emergency call. Marybeth had thought he had a stroke the day before, but he seemed to rebound, and then worsened again through the night.

“PETS ARE MEANT TO BE CELEBRATED FOR THE MANY GIFTS THEY GIVE TO US.”  Marybeth Haines.

“There was this feeling of guilt,” says Marybeth. “Is it time? Is it not?”

They wrapped him in a blanket and they arrived at the vet’s doorstep Christmas morning. They talked. Discussed options. Then signed the papers.

“We thanked Kitty for everything he did for us”, says Marybeth.  “He brought us so many gifts.”  “A gift of family. Laughter. Love.”

Marybeth’s arms were wrapped around Kitty. The vet checked for a heartbeat.

“It was very peaceful,” she says.

Afterwards she felt grief. Sadness. Guilt. She second guessed her decisions. Kitty wasn’t at the end of their bed anymore. They removed the stairs he had used to climb up to the sofas. And even though they still had Moosh. An orange cat with yellow saucer eyes, there remained a gaping hole in their hearts.

“Grieving a pet is so normal, so natural,” she says.

Then Marybeth decided to do something in Kitty’s honour. She wrote a book to help others in the throes of grief over the death of a pet.

In The Power Of Pets – 7 Effective Tools for Healing from Pet Loss, she interviewed veterinarians, the CEOs of U.S. and Canadian humane societies and pet bereavement specialists.

A downloadable version will be available for free soon. The hardcover version ($33 Black Card Books) is coming, too, filled with journaling space to sort out emotions. People can put their name on waitlists to pre order.

Marybeth, 41, grew up surrounded by animals on a farm in Wainfleet. Think Cows. Horses. Pigs. Rabbits. Goats. And the usual cats and dogs.

“Death has always been a part of growing up,” she says.

When she moved to St Catharines 20 years ago, she satisfied her passion for animals with an array of indoor pets. At one point she had three male felines – Speedy a black and white cat who died at age 16, Kitty and Moosh. All living, happily, together.

She worked for many years as a support worker and educational assistant for adults and children with developmental disabilities.

After Kitty died, her focus became helping others face their grief.

“He is my inspiration,” she says

“Pets are meant to be celebrated for the many gifts they give to us.”

Cheryl.clock@sunmedia.ca
St. Catharines Standard