Lance is bringing his cat to be put down. It’s time. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Whether he’s emotional or nervous or lonely, he’s ready to pour his heart out, and an unsuspecting old lady on the bus doesn’t have much choice but to listen. In just under 10 minutes, we get to know Lance quite well – and even better in the film’s last 5 seconds or so.
It’s a bittersweet little film that reminds us how important pets are in our lives, and how bereft we are when we lose them. Putting down my childhood mutt Patches was seriously one of the most wrenching things I’ve ever done in my life and I’ve only been able to let doggos back into my life after extracting from them solemn vows to never, ever die. We brought Patches to the vet at the end of his life, perhaps not quite his natural end, but an end that we chose in the hopes that it was best for him. The first shot was to settle him. His little legs gave out and he collapsed on the cold metal table. He was wrapped up in a Star Wars blanket and placed in my arms. The second shot stopped his heart. He looked like he was sleeping, but for once not chasing cars in his dreams. We left him there, my mother and I. I left him there, and we cried hot tears in a mini van. My friends offered hugs, and even a greeting card, the ‘blank inside’ kind with a generic flower on the front. Today condolence cards for pets exist, a testament to the place they’ve taken up in our hearts and homes. But for many of us, cats and dogs are more than just pets, they’re family. I suspect for Lance, Galen (the cat) was his only friend, hence the great unburdening on the bus.
Do domesticated animals really think the thoughts and feel the emotions we ascribe them – or are we merely deluding ourselves by anthropomorphizing them? As our social circles grow narrower, and our ability to truly connect with other people seems to dim, perhaps pets are our last secret keepers. With seemingly unconditional positive regard for us, a dog is loyal and steadfast in a way that few if any people in our lives will be. When Lance brings his only friend in to the vet, which of them is truly “ready to go” – the cat who doesn’t know what’s coming, or the human who doesn’t know how to say goodbye?