Life without Caffrey

Jul 25

Three months of life without Caffrey . This is a gathering of thoughts and collection of quotes that have helped me process along the way. I have found comfort in friend’s words, hearing of their experiences, reading studies, soaking up books and being fully aware that of course I am not alone in this. During the past three months, two friends of mine have lost their beloved pets also; I feel their pain.

Three months ago. I remember being scared to go to sleep that night. Scared of having nightmares but mostly to wake up in the morning and for one split second to think all was well with the world. Because it most definitely wasn’t.

During the 12 days that Caffrey was sick, we had a beautiful spring. My favourite season. I recall thinking that everything would be much worse if the weather was terrible. Sure enough, the day that Caffrey was gone forever, the skies were grey; it rained and it seemed apt. Then thankfully, the following three months were full of sunshine which has helped a little with the darkness.


I had taken the last week of April off work, the plan being to nurse Caffrey back to health but sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. So I took that week to come to terms and try and begin healing. Knowing it would be a tough and long process, wanting to fast forward but realising I had to go through certain stages. No healing button to push and make things better. They say dolphins refuse to eat when losing a mate. I was a dolphin for three days. It may have gone on for longer, had it not been for my dear friend Bhavna. Who strategically made me come to the supermarket saying she ‘needed a few bits and pieces’, in the process filling up my basket with bread, cheese and grapes.

My friends have been a true blessing over the past few weeks. I’ve had many visitors, received lovely cards, poems and countless ‘if there’s anything I can do to help’. As well as ‘call me anytime’ and boy have I taken them up on it. I have always loved talking about Caffrey and that is partly how people who never even met him, got a real sense of who he was and the impact he made on my life. One of the nicest things said came from my friend Lona in response to me promising that one day, our conversations will return to normal:”talk about whatever, whenever – Caffrey is part of being normal.” Just one person told me ‘not to wallow’ which truly took me aback but I realised it was simply their own feeling of helplessness in handling the situation. Shortly after, I heard a fitting quote in Orange Is The New Black:”When someone’s feeling vulnerable, they need their pain acknowledged, not be made to feel worse for having it.”

The first week was of course, the worst. And it was during that time that Caffrey gave me a sign when I needed it the most. That Wednesday night I was up late and before I logged off, took another look at some pictures. I was overwhelmed with how much I missed him and I said out loud “Oh Caffrey, I miss you so.” That moment, his water dispenser went blub blub blub blub blub. Said dispenser by then had not been touched in a week. And the only time it ever made that sound was when I had just refilled it with fresh water or after Caffrey had had a drink. There was no scientific reason for this to happen; had it happened at any other time during the day I may have brushed it off. But for it to happen at 1:04 am after what I said, it was like a direct response and it made me happy. Feel comforted. 


Apart from me missing Caffrey, what troubled me most for a while was the inability to explain to him what was happening. Until a wise friend told me “They may know more about things than we realise. Their natural instinct is much greater than ours.” Some of these wisdoms and analyses really helped me make sense of how I was feeling:

    • there are so many things that influence our lives from day to day but we need that one thing that is always the same and that was his role for you. he was your constant and you were his
    • this is a slow process and you must do what’s good for you first
    • his absence is fresh so that’s to be expected
    • you are allowed to do whatever you like. keeping up a normal routine isn’t necessary
    • you have every right to feel however you want to
    • sometimes time itself doesn’t heal but helps to reduce the thought process


During the 12 days that Caffrey was sick, he was never alone. He was either with me or at Animal Ark, surrounded by people who cared for him. At one point I asked myself “what if I had brought him in a day earlier, when his appetite became less?” but I had to realise that it would not have made any difference. And as my friend Paula pointed out to me “look at it this way – that was another day HOME, with you.” Even when he was at the Ark, I visited him twice a day. I was told “we have never seen anyone visit their pet as much as you have.” This to me was the most natural as well as most important thing: Caffrey needed to know he had not been abandoned, that I was there, always and those visits were therapy for both of us.

The coming home bit has been difficult. No paws behind the door, impatient demands for dinner. My floors stay clean unusually long. During summer, I would have to vacuum every day. This summer, just once a week. I miss certain routines and one I have kept up is early morning bird watching. Living on the second floor, we have great views of the distance and although being located on a very busy road all we can see are roof and tree tops. We used to sit each morning for ten minutes, watching the birds and trees move in high winds.


I have kept all of Caffrey’s bits and pieces. Some have been put away, others are on display. Everyone handles this part differently; for me it provides more comfort to see his flower bed by the fire place than it causing pain seeing it empty. If it was no longer there, I would still visualise it anyway.

Being a photographer, I probably have more visual memories than most. Blessed to have this gift that has enabled me to preserve our own story this way. I created a beautiful photo book, something I ususally do for others. A fitting tribute for my beautiful boy.


Another item I am truly glad to have is a tin full of precious fur. Kept from grooming several summers ago. Beautiful, pure white fur, the essence of him.


When I finally went back to the Ark to collect Caffrey’s ashes, I brought along two big baskets of foods, as well as litter and medication. For the lady I kept seeing in the waiting room over the years. The lady who takes in all the strays; count at the time: 190 (!) and has them checked up and vaccinated at the Ark. It sure felt strange when Lyndon came through with ‘Caffrey’. His ashes in a beautiful scatter tub, the tub that I had chosen the afternoon of April 25th in floods of tears and in shock. The tub is of solid yet soft material, nice to the touch and it usually lives by his flower bed. There was a situation ‘comedy’ moment when Lyndon was still holding the box that it came in and we were about to sit down for a chat – he said “where do I put him? Oh – let me put him on the scales – his least favourite place!”

I was able to ask a few questions that had been on my mind. Medical as well as personal opinions. In my heart, I already knew the answers and felt comforted that Lyndon and I remained on the same wavelength. Knowing that between us, we had given Caffrey the very best chance.


During the 12 days that Caffrey was sick, although we knew the situation was serious, we never gave up hope. Being the resilient little bugger that he had proven to be be over the years I had hoped he would make it through this, too. 

One of my favourite quotes along this journey brought to me by Chrissy is: “Grief never ends, but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith. It’s the price of love.” Author Unknown.


I have been through the most intense emotional lows. The feeling by now is less raw but the healing process is a journey and there is no ‘expected to be better by’ date. Make no mistake – there will still be tears in ten years time, this is Caffrey we are talking about. Adorable white fur ball. Stealer of hearts. But I know I will continue to get better. And one day we’ll be reunited and whole again.

Thank you to all who have been and continue to be there. We love you back.

comments +

  1. Chrissy says:

    Beautifully written! You were lucky to have each other. xx ????

  2. Sabi Broe says:

    Lovely, Anja and I'm so with you ….

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