He Returns at Last
“It’s just not Teddy,” said Caitlin, blankly staring at the orange tabby with big and hopeful eyes at the local PetSmart shelter.
“I know, sweetie. But would you like to feed him at least?” Joanna, Caitlin’s mom, asked, breathing out the heavy musky air of the small compartment where six cats waited for adoption.
“Ok,” Caitlin replied with a tiny smile, giving him a can of tuna in his fish-shaped bowl.
Joanna understood why Caitlin felt sad that her black cat Teddy had passed away. He was a few years older than Caitlin. He had practically raised her, she’d tease. But it had been over a year since his tiny heart had given up, and her 10-year-old daughter still wasn’t on good terms with death. “It isn’t fair,” was all Caitlin had said over three months. She had refused to play with her friends. It was hard to make her eat. Joanna had to usher her to the doctor’s office, concerned her daughter would become malnourished and underweight.
Joanna thought the grieving process had ended after six months past Teddy’s death. Caitlin’s life seemed to come back to her. Joanna’s best friend Carla had given Caitlin a stuffed animal that looked exactly like Teddy, with the same shade of green in his eyes, according to his young owner. Caitlin had thrived with the gift, and they thought it would be the best way a child could deal with grief.
Caitlin would take stuffed Teddy everywhere with her, to school, to the grocery store, to her favorite pizza place. He’d become her best friend. She’d tell him about her day, about her hard quizzes at school, and how burned her cookies looked when she got them out of the oven. At night she would place stuffed Teddy next to the ashes of real Teddy, as she would call him.
And life went on. Caitlin had moved on — or at least her family thought.
A year after Teddy’s death, her mom kindly started suggesting they could get another kittie. “He’s not a replacement for Teddy, Caitlin,” she would explain. “We just want an addition to the family.” Joanna had grown up with cats and dogs, and so had Caitlin’s father. She missed the interaction of her family with a furry one, but she’d been respectful of her…