tristan-and-meatballTristan and Meatball

This special portrait includes the reflections of my 8 year old nephew about his brother, Meatball the cat.

Tristan said that he felt “very, very happy” the first day he met Meatball.  Tristan shared his experience of how the two of them communicated “by meowing”.  Tristan attributed his ability to communicate with cats to Meatball teaching him how.  “He meowed to me and I meowed back to him”.   Tristan disclosed that “his personality was so sweet, you could pet him, and you could do anything”.  Tristan believed he could basically do everything with Meatball. Tristan’s experiences with Meatball and his new companion dog Lego included the following:

Meatball was my friend.  He was a brother to me.  He was awesome, he was cool.  I loved Meatball the same as I love my mommy.  Meatball made me feel really happy when I was sad.  When I was crying he came over to me kind of the same as Lego.  When I’m sad he comes over to me.

Tristan explained that meatball meowed a lot, followed him, and that the two of them played together.  “I was thankful for him being alive when I could really see him and I could memorize him”.  Tristan credited Meatball as making a difference in his life. “He changed my life by me loving cats and loving animals”.  It was Meatball that inspired Tristan to want to become a veterinarian.

When asked about the circumstances behind the death of Meatball Tristan verbalized that he felt “sad, really really sad” when Meatball died and shared that he missed playing and petting Meatball.  Tristan remembered that “no one helped me to feel better in school”.  Although, he did acknowledge that two friends gave him lunch money so he could get a snack.  “No, nothing can help” confirmed Tristan when asked if anything made him feel better after Meatball died.  Tristan believed Meatball is “probably in a better place” now.  In spite of Meatball’s death, Tristan still feels connected to his brother, as seen in this description:

Actually, in some dreams when I go to bed I see Meatball.  He actually talks.  He doesn’t meow.  He talks like a human.  Sometimes he says stuff but I don’t remember what he says.  The dreams make me feel happy that I get to see him again.  He does seem happy and healthy in the dreams.

Tristan was asked what he would say or do if Meatball were here with us.  “I’d be so happy that I would scream until my voice was gone”.  After inquiring if there was anything else Tristan thought the world should know about him and Meatball he responded by declaring, “Yeah, one more thing, he is the best cat ever”.  “If he was still alive and you would pet him he would just love you”.  “It would be the best thing”.

When Tristan was done sharing, his mother spontaneously started talking about her bond with Meatball as well as Meatball’s bond with his best friend Freedom, a dog.  My sister’s sharing provided greater insight into the role of pets as family members as well as the bond between animals.  Tristan’s mother always wanted a cat and dog growing up and explained in her own words:

I wanted them to be best friends and to be almost like brothers and that’s what I got.  They were best friends they were like a pair they went hand in hand, they were like a couple.  They hung out and played together.  The dog would give Meatball his bed.  Freedom would be on the floor and Meatball would be in the middle of the dog bed. They sat together at the front door waiting to greet me and to say hello.  When we went for walks with Tristan in the stroller we walked Freedom on a leash and Meatball rode in the bottom part of the stroller without a leash the whole time.  I always wanted them to be best friends so they were, they were best friends.

Before my sister became a mother, she and her husband moved out to Salt Lake City, Utah with Meatball and Freedom.  She pointedly articulated the following view of family:

Meatball brought a sense of home because he actually moved across country with me.  He was home and my dog was home.  They were family because we didn’t have family for three years in Utah, so our dog and our cat was our family.  It wasn’t just me and my husband, it was the four of us.  The four of us moved to Utah but it wasn’t the four of us that came back, it was the five of us that came back.  We came back with an extra member of our family.  Meatball wasn’t just my cat and my son anymore he then became my son’s cat.  Before I had a child, Meatball and Freedom were my children so I always had two sons.  My cat and my dog were my kids before I had my kid.  They stayed my kids after I had Tristan.