True Story: Dealing With Loss Back Home As An Expat In Singapore

13 December 2016

By Finder blogger: Andrea McKenna


Dealing with loss

Letting go of pets is hard – especially far away from home.

My cat Mr. McKool died last week from kidney problems. I am very, very sad. Technically, because we are expats, we lost him twice.  

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When we found out we were moving to Singapore in 2011 we had to figure out what to do with our amazing, fun, loving cat, McKool. He had been with me since 2002 when he followed me home after climbing up on my shoulder while I was walking in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood of Chicago.

Because he was such a star, he moved in with my now-husband seven months before I moved in with him, so yeah, we got history.

He was a special animal and was such a great companion even when someone was in pain. He slept with his doggy brother Loki when Loki was dying. He also sat on my boyfriend’s (now husband) chest when he was laid up after Achilles tendon surgery.

When we were moving we didn’t know what to do—ship him 30 hours in a crate via pet transport to a new life in a new country, or find him a new home.

Luckily, another star came along. Our wonderful friend, Tanya had cat-sat him and loved him so we knew he would be going to a good home if she decided to take him for us.

She did. I remember handing over his cage in driving  sleet on East Chestnut Street in downtown Chicago and she said, “This is really the best thing!”

And it was. Tanya showered him with unadulterated attention, letting him sleep on her head at night and splash water in the bathroom sink in the morning. He was so loved, and that was all we needed to know when getting on a flight 20 hours away from our home to start a new life.

See also: 6 Ways To Give Your Pet A Better Life In Singapore

Even though we were without McKool, he was in a great place. And we knew we could still visit him.

These past five years we’ve seen McKool in a variety of colorful photos, including him dressed as a Christmas reindeer and even Princess Leia from Star Wars. Tanya has even sent us pics of the little guy perched on the wheel of a BMW and lounging in the backyard of her friend’s house.

Tanya moved to Minneapolis and I’m sure McKool was packed in a luxury cat carrier sitting in First Class for the trip.

My daughter got to meet him only once but I’m glad she spent some time with her older fur brother. He was sweet to her and she says she remembers him even though she was only two.

Learning of McKool’s demise in a heartfelt Facebook Messenger message was difficult.

I got the news while I was shopping at Ikea on Alexander Road in the picture frame section.

I cried. He was previously far from our reach due to sheer distance and now he was gone forever. We will never see him again. This is painful and we are grieving even though we have been without him for several years. He was our cat and we even had a song about it: “Mr. McKool, he is our caaaaaaat…”

Death of a pet is not unlike death of a human. They are our loved ones, our family.

Leaving them behind to move to an expat post is hard enough and I have met many people who have done it.

Gone is that unconditional companionship, but that being said, they can always see them on home leave. Losing them to an illness or old age is permanent, not a flight away. And it still hurts no matter how long it’s been.

Now McKool is in an even greater place. He’s in Cat Heaven, which is probably warmer than Chicago and cooler than Singapore.

Goodbye, Mr. McKool. We will never forget you.


About Andrea McKenna

Andrea McKenna Brankin is journalist and author from the United States who lives a full life with bipolar disorder. Her book, Bipolar Phoenix, is awaiting a publishing contract. She is also currently a volunteer at the DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre for teen girls in Singapore, providing befriending-family support, therapeutic writing and rugby coaching.


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