Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Christmas Visitor

He showed up Christmas morning.

For several weeks I’d been seeing a sickly squirrel in the back yard, eating the sunflower seeds with all the other squirrels. He was missing a lot of fur, and I could tell he was not well.

I worried about how long he could last in our cold, wet Oregon weather.

Last month I installed a heat lamp in the house I keep on the deck for Sammy, the outdoor cat I’ve been feeding for over 7 years. I’ve never been able to get near Sammy, and he doesn’t stay in my yard for very long, but he comes just about every day for food.
I suspect he’s enjoying the heat because from time to time I’ve found him snoozing in his warm house.

However, on Christmas morning it was the squirrel, and not Sammy, who found refuge in the heated house.

The little guy spent several hours in there, constantly turning to get his entire body warm before he would step outside for a quick cool down.

Then it was back into the house.

Eventually he jumped off the deck and ran under the fence, perhaps off to a Christmas breakfast or some other important holiday event.

I will be forever grateful to this little squirrel, for watching him find comfort in the heated house brought me peace this Christmas…and that was the best gift I could have received.

Chris Davis
Lighthearted Press

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Feel What you Feel for the Holidays - from SARK

Feeling a little overwhelmed by the holidays? Maybe you are alone this year, struggling with financial challenges or coping with the loss of a loved one.

The following timely newsletter was written by Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, better known as SARK.

You may think you don’t know her, but if you happen to have one of those lovely “Dogs are Miracles with Paws” posters then you know SARK – that’s HER work.

This newsletter is reprinted with permission from the author.

The holidays are full of pressures to be glad even if you don't feel that way. People talk about "holiday cheer," "finding the silver lining," "looking on the bright side," all of which are fine when we feel those things, but can actually add to feelings of loneliness and depression when we don't. There is also a certain kind of "holiday tyranny" where we are encouraged to hide how we're actually feeling, for the "sake of the holidays."

We are meant to feel what we feel when we feel it, then let it go. Most people don't know how they're feeling, or that it's okay to feel it. We are not taught how to have, or hold multiple feelings simultaneously, so many people choose one and cling to it. That one feeling might be described as happy or sad, but it's not a true reflection of our complexities as humans, and results in our feelings not flowing. Instead they get stuck, or other feelings are left untended.

For example, you might feel happy to see your mom at Christmas, sad that she's physically declining, angry that your sister isn't doing more, and worried about the future. If you fixate on just one of those feelings, it will not be as productive or helpful. Instead, it would be much more effective to feel all that you feel, respond lovingly to yourself, your mother and your sister, and create good systems for your family and self-care practices too.

Practical Gladness means living in the "messy middle" of all of your feelings and finding your "glad ground" underneath. From this glad ground place, you can be aware of and hold all of your feelings, notice ways to respond instead of react, and transform what's possible to transform.

When we find our glad ground in the middle, it is possible to enjoy the holidays truly, authentically, and with grace and wisdom. Here are some practical ways you can experience more gladness this holiday season:

1. Create a new self-care plan -- Think of what you need to feel good during the holidays, and provide it for yourself. Some of these things might be:
*Special foods that you know you will enjoy
*Call a friend to share how you're really feeling-- not how you think you should be
*Practice ways to experience less stress, like going for a walk or attending a yoga class
*Write in a journal or book with lists of things that nourish you, and do the things.

2. Adjust and lower your expectations, or better yet -- have none -- Notice how your expectations bring suffering when they aren't met. For example, if you feel ignored or overworked at holiday times, take yourself out for champagne and ignore some things you "should" be doing. Change your expectations about what you or others "should be" doing or acting like, and practice allowing how it actually IS. Focus on what's good and working

3. Educate others in the best ways to support you--Become clear about what actually feels supportive to you, and ask for others to contribute. For example, if you typically care for others and wish others would or could care for you, figure out what they could contribute to you that would be easy and fun. You might ask a friend to meet you for tea and laughter in the midst of a busy shopping or cleaning day, or sit with you while you wrap gifts or write cards

4. Experiment with new traditions and rituals for the holidays -- Do things differently. We all tend to repeat and become habituated. For example, "we always have our meal at _______." Some of my greatest holiday experiences have taken place at the movies, miniature golfing or serving food at a shelter instead of trying to participate in rituals or traditions that no longer represent who I am now.

5. Allow yourself to experience your holidays imperfectly -- Revise your ideas of perfection and increase your capacity for spontaneous joy. For example, if you get tense and pressured about preparing a meal, buying gifts, sending cards, or trying to do it ALL, try:
*Doing less and feeling good about it-refuse to be a prisoner of others expectations
*Doing parts of things -- fix the dessert, ask others to bring the other things
*Doing tiny amounts -- consider attending a holiday party for 5- 15 minutes with no explanation about why
*Asking others to help and then don't control or manage "how they do it"

6. Practice transforming what hurts into what helps -- Find the places that aren't working and speak up about them. For example, you might ask a group of people in your home to talk about different subjects like what they're loving in this moment, instead of sitting there judging how bored or dissatisfied you are feeling.
*If you're cooking and get crabby, let others know and help you!
*If you hate shopping, ask others to create experiences or adventures for each other instead of buying gifts
*If you keep complaining about the holidays, see if you can put your complaints on paper and resolve to have new experiences
*If you feel ungrateful, find someone to listen to who is facing challenges that you're not.

Being glad no matter what is NOT about feeling glad when you don't- how annoying. It's about practicing with all of your feelings and feeling glad as often as you possibly can- especially during the holidays!

Sending you every gorgeous moment,
aka SARK

SARK's eLetter is published by Planet SARK

Copyright 2010 SARK. All rights reserved.

Be kind to yourself this holiday season!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Under the Christmas Tree

It was exactly one year ago today that I wrote a blog called Losing an Animal at the Holidays.

Although I hadn’t suffered a loss at this time of the year, I had come awfully close. I didn’t know that 12 months later I would be experiencing the heartbreak I had written about, having just lost my dear tiger cat, Pippen, last week.

Pippen LOVED to sleep under the Christmas tree, on my treasured angel skirt. Within moments of finishing the tree she would be under there with her sister, Molly. Seeing the two of them curled up beneath the greenery always brought me so much joy.

I thought about not setting up my tree this year. It was very tempting, but I knew Pippen would want me to. So my fully decorated tree now stands in the living room, the angel skirt tucked beneath the branches.

Perhaps…if I am very still…I may see the folds of that skirt ripple ever so gently, a sign that my angel kitty has come back for one more holiday nap.

Oh, I hope so…

Lighthearted Press

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Farewell, my dear Pippen

And so, with many, many tears, my earthly journey with my beloved forever cat, Pippen, has come to an end.

“I guess I thought you’d be here forever.”

That’s the first line of the old Chicago song, Hard Habit to Break. It was playing in the waiting room yesterday at the emergency vet hospital, where I sat holding Pippen in my arms for the last time.

She fought the good fight,
this most wonderful and dearest friend, but in the end she succumbed to the same cancer that claimed her brother’s life last July.

I have suffered many losses in my life, but saying goodbye to Pippen was one of the saddest moments of my life.
I sat in the darkened room, looking at all the tiny white doggie faces that were staring at me from the wall. Later I realized I was looking at the electrical outlets, my tired and blurry eyes unable to see clearly.

I knew my angel dog, Jake, and Pip’s angel brother, Dickens, were there in the room with us, ready to welcome their furry friend home and guide her on to the next great adventure.

Every animal lover who has ever said goodbye to a critter knows exactly what I was feeling in those last few moments.

If you’ve never lost an animal companion you can’t understand how impossibly fast your heart can beat, and how desperately you want to wake up from the nightmare, when the veterinarian asks you... are you ready now?

NO, I'M NOT READY,” you want to scream. “I WILL NEVER BE READY!” But Pippen was in pain, and the only remaining gift I could give her was to help her leave her broken and hurting body behind, and let her spirit fly up into the stars.

In a matter of seconds Pippen’s pain and suffering came to an end. Mine, however, will take much longer to heal.

This is one of my favorite pictures of Pippen, waiting patiently outside a birdhouse.

What she never quite understood was that the birdhouse was inside the screened cat enclosure, and no matter how long she waited there would never be a birdie coming through that hole!

Farewell, Pippen, my special little love. I will watch over your sisters, Molly and Star, just as I watched over you and Dickens for the last 12 years. I know it must be an awful lot of fun out there, no longer hindered by your earthly body, but I would deeply appreciate an occasional visit from you…even if it’s just a fly by!

With all my love and many tears,
Your mama,


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Losing heartbeat at a time

There are times when you feel like you’re spinning out of control.
It's as if some Wizard of Oz twister has sucked you up into the vortex and you have no choice but to go with it.
That's how I'm feeling now.

Yesterday the emergency vet clinic delivered the devastating news – my cat, Pippen, is filled with cancer, and there is nothing that can be done. This same diagnosis claimed the life of her brother just 4 months ago.

In a daze, I brought my dear girl home last night so she can spend whatever time she has left with me and her two sisters.

Pippen was the first kitten my dog, Jake, found in our yard back in 1998. He immediately adopted her, along with her brother, Dickens, and her other sisters. While Jake watched over his feline brood like a good nanny, it was Pippen who held a special place in his heart. I always wondered if it was because she was the only striped cat, and perhaps she stood out among her mostly black siblings.

With Jake and Dickens gone now, the only comfort I can find is knowing that when Pippen leaves this earthly life she will be welcomed by her four-legged angel siblings with very enthusiastic woofs and purrs, nose nuzzles and head butts.

Our home already feels so empty without Dickens. The thought of losing Pippen, with her salty, “take no prisoners” personality, leaves me shaking. I fear our family "stew" might be awfully bland without her.

Somehow Molly, Star and I will have to continue on without Pippen. I pray that the way to do that will be revealed to me soon, because right now the road ahead looks awfully dark and filled with tears.


Friday, November 19, 2010

A warm house on a cold day

Welcome to Sammy’s outdoor chalet.

Sammy showed up in my yard over 7 years ago, when he was just a few months old. I fell in love with the little black cat, and although I’ve never been able to get near him he’s just as much a part of my furry family as my indoor critters.
Sammy comes by several times a day for food. Due to the raccoons and coyotes in the area Sammy won’t stay in my yard. I have no idea where he goes at night, or how he’s survived the wet, cold winters here in Oregon, but I'm thinking he has a very devoted guardian angel!
This week I finally figured out how to safely run an infra-red heat lamp out to the house on my deck, so Sammy could have a little heat to go with his meals.
And here I thought these lamps were just for lizards!

When I see Sammy outside waiting I just click the remote and VOILA…Sammy has instant heat! This may seem really simple to all you lucky folks who were born with the “electrician” gene, but to this former New Yorker it feels like I just rewired the Empire State Building!
One day I hope I’ll be able to hold Sammy in my arms, and tell him how much he means to me. But for now, Sammy has a warm place to stay…even if it’s only for a few minutes.
And that makes me happy.


Sunday, November 07, 2010

Losing a beloved critter - all those little reminders

“You have one saved message,” the telephone blurted out yesterday.

The message was from July 6th. Perhaps I shouldn’t have listened to it, but I couldn’t help myself. It was from the veterinarian, telling me to stop the thyroid medication my cat, Dickens, had just started, in case that was why he was so sick.

I remembered that call. I was still hopeful the day I got that message. I didn’t know the thyroid meds had sent my beloved boy into a downward spiral, revealing the cancer that no one knew he had. Dickens was gone four days later.

Then there was the label on my front door, telling responders to be sure and look for four cats in case of an emergency. I still can’t bring myself to change that number to three.

And finally, my nail kit – what could be more mundane?
But it wasn’t to Dickens. All those emery boards and implements were like catnip to my boy. He’d always come over and nose around for the nail buffer, picking it up in his mouth with a look that said I didn’t have to worry about cooking dinner – he’d snagged something special for me and his sisters!

We often don’t know that we’re going to lose someone special to us. I guess that’s a good reminder to enjoy all those sweet, simple little everyday moments with our loved ones, just in case our journeys with them come to an unexpected end.

I hope the last time Dickens grabbed that nail buffer I told him how much I appreciated his hunting prowess. After all, his sisters and I depended on him to keep us fed and happy.

Well done, Dickens.


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Most politicians are sheep…with apologies to our fleecy friends

For the first time in my life I wasn’t going to vote. The mud-slinging between the politicians had left me discouraged…and disgusted.

But then I remembered it’s a privilege to vote. So I thought it over, and decided I would vote for the candidates who hadn’t used the all-too-popular negative ads.

I wound up voting for only three candidates…not necessarily the biggest races in Oregon…and that felt right to me.

At least on some level I’d be telling politicians that if you use dirty tactics you won’t get my vote. Political candidates, even those who represent my party, are not entitled to my vote. They have to earn it. When they engage in childish “he said/she said” exchanges they are telling me exactly who they are.

They are followers.

Followers are often called sheep. I don’t know enough about sheep to verify if they really are followers, and frankly, comparing politicians to our fleecy friends seems like a terrible insult to the sheep.

What I do know is that our country is facing a lot of challenges. No one seems to have come up with a winning plan to turn things around, but I think that’s because the issues go beyond political parties.

I know it sounds simplistic, but it seems that only by banding together will we have a fighting chance of dealing with all the difficulties facing not only Americans, but people all over the globe.

Look at the united effort that brought those Chilean miners back to the sunlight. Remember the sense of oneness we felt after the horrifying events of 9/11. People weren’t strategizing how to help based on what was in it for them, they just showed up to help because help was needed.

I am looking for politicians who get that.

I’m looking for leaders.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

National Feral Cat Day

Once upon a time, if you told someone you were feeding a feral cat you probably would have heard “Better not do that – the cat will hang around forever.”

Thankfully, things have changed!

October 16, 2010 is the tenth anniversary of National Feral Cat Day. We are fortunate to have many wonderful organizations dedicated to educating people about the best way to help feral felines.

My four cats started out as feral kitties. It was spring 1998, and I saw a black mama cat carrying kittens in her mouth as she came and went from my yard.

My dog, Jake, found them, and instead of having them for dinner he brought them in and raised them.

The thought that these sweet furballs could have been left to fend for themselves brings me to tears. But that’s what happens to outside cats – they’re on their own, unless we help them.

Whether you want information on TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) or how to help a feral cat in need, here are some online resources that might be of interest to you:

Feral Cat Coalition
Alley Cat Allies
The Humane Society

My four feral kitties became the feline loves of my life. I can't imagine what life would have been like without them. So the next time someone warns me not to feed a feral cat because it might hang around forever, I know exactly what to tell them:

"I certainly hope so."


Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Walking Stick

It was just a stick.

I found it about 12 years ago at the Oregon coast, waiting for me along one of the paths that ran along the beach.

So I brought it home, never knowing at the time how much I would come to rely on that stick.

I didn’t know it would accompany me on all the walks I took with my dog, Jake, until his loss in 2006.

It's funny, really, because I had broken my previous walking stick on one of my morning treks through the woods with Jake. He had taken off after the deer who were running through the trees, and when he wouldn't come back I jammed my stick into the ground, hit a rock, and that was that!

I leaned heavily on my new stick during our record-breaking snow storm in December 2008, when I was stranded for 10 days over the holidays. I used the stick to get up and down the hill to the nearest neighbors who COULD get out, as they generously assisted the rest of us who were stuck at home.

It was right after our snowy winter that my stick went missing. I figured it would turn up soon, hiding behind a box or standing in a dark corner. But after several months of looking without any success, I knew I had to accept that the walking stick was really gone.

Until...a got the phone call a few days ago, from the person who keeps his boat on my property.

“I’ve found your stick!” he said.”I must have used it to clean the snow off the boat after the blizzard, and it's been under the boat cover for the last year and a half!"

I welcomed it back like a runaway child who had decided to come home. The stick is now in my office, where it will stay unless I am walking with it.

The funny thing is…there is an energy now emanating from the wood that I don’t remember being there before. I suspect my stick may have had some adventures during the past year and a half that have yet to be revealed.

Perhaps, if I listen very carefully, the stick will share them with me.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cats do the Darndest Things Photo Contest

All of us animal lovers do it.

If there’s a cute critter doing something adorable, and our camera happens to be nearby, we make a mad dash for it and start snapping pictures!

So here’s a chance for all you kitty people to enter a photo contest for cat lovers, sponsored by

Here’s what they have to say:

"Feralcatbehavior is launching a Photo Contest for Cat lovers, celebrating the crazy world of cat ownership. The contest starts today and will run through the last part of October. Send us your funniest cat photos.

We have all been there when kitty discovers the roll of toilet paper and starts to play…or curiosity gets the best of him and he creeps into the refrigerator while the door is open and falls asleep next to the fruit. We have all had those special moments with our cats that make us LOL or just giggle uncontrollably.

Submit your photos to The winner will receive, courtesy of Sturdi Products, a soft-sided cat carrier. Blog readers will vote on the best photo once they are published at the end of the month.

So tell your best cat buddies. We want to celebrate the craziness of cat ownership, embrace the embarrassing moments when Kitty gets the best of you, and laugh along with you as we explore the funny side of cats."


Sunday, September 19, 2010

My Dinosaur Tarot Reading

Here’s what I want to say about my Dinosaur Tarot Reading – those darn dinos are amazingly perceptive.

Small brains??? I don’t think so!!

I was at an event this weekend where I saw a woman sitting on the floor with a suitcase full of plastic dinosaurs. She was offering tarot readings, only this reading had nothing to do with cards – it was all about the dinosaurs.

This was too intriguing to pass up, so I took a seat in front of the suitcase and asked if I could focus the reading on my passion – writing books for animal lovers.

I choose three dinosaurs, each representing different aspects of my life and work. Then Grey Anne, the woman who keeps these plastic figurines employed, went on to offer insights and guidance direct from the dinos.

All I can say is WOW – was this fun…and very helpful!

Although I’m going to keep what I heard to myself, I CAN say that what the dinosaurs shared will remain with me forever.

You can learn more about Grey Anne and her dinosaurs at

Time to go watch Jurassic Park.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The cat, the teeth cleaning, and my fear of the dentist

I knew I had put it off for too long.

My cat, Pippen, needed her teeth cleaned, so last Friday she finally had it done. The tooth fairy claimed a few teeth in the process, but at least it’s done, and Pippen is fine.

As I write those words I’m aware of a slight ache in one of my own teeth.

Yes, I’ve been dragging my feet about going to the dentist, too. There was a time when I marched into the dentist’s office twice a year without a second thought. I had no problems and no fears – they could drill with a little Novocain and I was fine.

And then came the root canal in 1993. I went in with the same fearlessness, but something went wrong. After 12 shots of Novacain I could still feel the pain. The dentist did the best that he could, and sent me on my way with some prescription pain meds, which I promptly took.

It turned out I couldn't tolerate pain killers...or that with me a little goes a long way! I will spare you the details - let’s just say it involved me trying to make my way home on the freeway, going through a fast food drive up for some refried beans (probably the only time in my life I've done that!) and then going through the bank drive up with the teller staring at me in an odd way.

When I got home I crawled up the stairs and looked in the mirror – my very numb face was covered in beans, with little bits of cheese sticking out for good measure.

Since then any dental work has required either total sedation, or a lot of over-the-counter sleeping pills and having a friend drive me.

So I put off Pippen’s dental, and I’m very sorry I did that. I won’t be so fearful with the other cats. Hey, I may even make an appointment to go to the dentist myself.

I’m going to do that…really…


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The cat, the urn and the dream

When I saw this pottery jar I knew it was the perfect place for his ashes.

Black cats running through misty fields – surely one of them is my angel kitty, Dickens. When he’s not playing in fields of green, I know he’s flying through the starry skies with all his angel friends.

It’s funny – I always thought his closest angel buddy would be Jake, the beloved dog I lost in 2006. After all, it was Jake who found Dickens and his sisters 12 years ago.

But last night I had a dream about Martha, the magical dog who started me on my writing journey. I used to dream about Martha all the time…now she shows up when she has something to tell me.

In the dream, she was running next to my car as I drove near a highway. We came to an on-ramp and suddenly she veered left onto the ramp and headed onto I-84. “I’ve got to merge” she told me. “Dickens.”

Then POOF – she was gone!

And I knew she was on her way to see my beloved sweet boy.



Saturday, August 21, 2010

Caring for your critters...even after they're gone

She appeared among the other squirrels on my hillside about a month ago, a few weeks after the unexpected loss of my cat, Dickens.

The wrinkled, diseased and mostly hairless skin on her little body told me that something was very wrong. Her head was constantly sweeping to the right, as if she was motioning you to look behind her.

She would grab a peanut and sit back on her rear legs, shaking back and forth and side to side as she nibbled on the shell. She’d fall over constantly, but would pick herself up and get back to her peanut. I began calling her Shaky.

I emailed pictures of her to the wildlife center here in town. The veterinarian said it looked like she had some kind of parasitic condition, probably secondary to whatever else was going on with her.

Shaky showed up every day. She was used to seeing me in the yard and would come over for her peanut treats, hopping like a bunny on my hillside. She could go uphill fairly well, but downhill usually resulted in a lot of tumbling until she was stopped by a tree trunk.

Still she carried on. She was clearly very sick, but she didn’t care. She seemed to be happy…even joyful. And watching her flooded me with that same joyous feeling.

And then Shaky took a turn for the worse. She was mostly blind now, and had become very wary of me.

A few days ago, on a hot 95 degree day, I found Shaky chattering on a high tree in the woods across from my home. I knew she needed water, and when it came to water I was the only game in town.

I grabbed my yard tools and began cutting a path through the thorny blackberries. Blood ran down my arms and legs, but I was determined to do whatever I could to make it easy for her to get across the road to my yard

With the path cut, I put out water, seeds and peanuts…and waited. Eventually she came down from the treetops and stumbled around until she found a peanut. I cheered for her success...and then I sobbed.

The following day I saw a very feeble Shaky for the last time. She found one of the peanuts I threw in her direction and crawled under my fence. I watched her roll down the slope and land near a tall fir tree, still clutching the peanut. By the time I came around to the front she had disappeared.

I would have cared for Shaky under any circumstances, but my need to help her was so strong I felt it all the way down to the depths of my soul. I didn't realize why at first, but now it's crystal clear to me.

I’m a caregiver by nature…that’s just me. I took care of all the angel critters who have left my life over the years - some for weeks, some for much longer. All, that is, except Dickens. I didn’t know until the day I lost him that his body was filled with cancer and our journey had come to an end.

There was no time to brush his glossy black fur. No time for one last catnip–filled frenzy on the cat track. No time to hold him in my arms and breathe in his magic, filling myself to overflowing with his magnificent spirit.

I didn’t have that time with Dickens…but I did with Shaky.

I have to wonder if Dickens sent her to me. Or perhaps Dickens decided to show up on earth as a sickly squirrel so we could have those last precious weeks together that we were denied when he was in feline form.

I know that Shaky is gone now, and is soaring through the stars like Rocky the Flying Squirrel. I didn’t need to be there when she left this life. I’d already done that part with Dickens. It was the time before that I had missed.

I'm sending a great big heartfelt thank you to one very special angel squirrel...and also to Dickens, her co-conspirator!

Peanuts and purrs,

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Portraits of Love

That’s what my dear friend, author and artist extraordinaire Connie Bowen, calls the pet portraits she creates for animal lovers.

And that’s what Connie gifted me with on Friday the 13th – a breathtaking
portrait of my beautiful back cat, Dickensa recent arrival at the Rainbow Bridge.

Connie had surprised me earlier in the week
when she emailed a photo of the painting, inspired by a picture of Dickens I had posted at my blog.
I opened the attachment and there was my boy…my sweet Dickens…looking back at me! Shooting stars were leaping from his body, and the twinkle in his eyes suggested he could barely contain all the starlight within.

There are no words to express the joy I feel every time I look at this portrait of Dickens.
I am mesmerized by his peaceful face. I find myself daydreaming about all the adventures my beloved friend is having up in the heavens.

There are no words…except to say thank you with all my heart.

Grateful purrs,

Saturday, August 07, 2010


This morning my heart told me it was time.

I pulled the little paw print container off the kitchen shelf and stepped outside into the cat enclosure. Star followed me, as she has made a habit of doing since we lost her brother, Dickens, four weeks ago today.

She cautiously sniffed the ashes and then, satisfied that they weren’t harmful, interesting or edible, she kept walking.

“Thank you, Dickens,” I whispered, “for twelve years of love, laughter and unimaginable joy. May you always watch over your sisters and me…and any other critters who may someday prowl and play out here as you did.”

A soft wind carried his precious remains into the nooks and crannies of the enclosure he loved so much. The ground carried my tears deep into the earth.

And from somewhere off in the distant lands of forever I heard Dickens purr.


Monday, August 02, 2010

How losing Dickens changed his feline sisters

When I brought my cat, Dickens, home from the emergency hospital last month I thought I’d have a few more days with him.

I didn’t know that wouldn’t happen.

But his sisters knew.

They each sniffed him when he walked out of the carrier. Then the three girls ran upstairs. It didn’t matter that we’d all been together for the last 12 years, ever since the kitties were just a few weeks old. They wanted nothing to do with their brother.

I’ve heard animals in the wild don’t want to be around the sick or injured…it attracts predators. Watching this unfold in my own home was fascinating. Here I was, broken into a million tiny pieces over Dickens, and his sisters were nowhere to be found.

Dickens accepted this graciously. He sat on a bed I created for him in front of the fireplace, peacefully saying goodbye to the only home he had ever known.

We lost Dickens that same night. I didn’t have to explain anything to the girls…they understood.

It was only a few days later that things began to change. Dickens had been the office kitty, my constant companion when I was in work mode. He had taken over that post four years earlier after I lost my beloved dog, Jake.

And now Star has quietly taken up the position left vacant by her brother, sprawling out on the carpet next to my chair. She has never…ever...done this before.

Pippen sits at the top of the stairs, watching over me like a great cat on the Serengeti surveying the horizon.

And as for Molly…time will tell.


Sunday, August 01, 2010

Pet Loss Comfort Cards

“Many times our beloved pets have loved us as we have never been loved before.”

These oh-so-true words can be found in a beautiful new collection of Pet Loss Comfort Cards, created by Kathryn King. Kathryn is a licensed minister and clinical social worker, who has expanded her practice to include support, ceremonies and products for animal lovers.

Kathryn sent me her exquisite Pet Loss Comfort Cards after the recent loss of my beloved cat, Dickens. I was deeply moved by the stunning artwork and inspiring words on each of the 16 cards.

The cards are enclosed in a lovely fabric case, and come with an 18 page booklet that talks about how to work with the cards and offers suggestions on moving through your grief in your own unique way.

Kathryn has thoughtfully included a blank card, so each person can add a photo of their own special critter.

The Pet Loss Comfort Cards are a perfect gift for anyone who is grieving a lost animal companion. To learn more about these cards please visit the New Moon Pet Ministry website.

Chris Davis
Lighthearted Press

Monday, July 26, 2010

Visits from my Angel Cat, Dickens

It started a week ago.

I was sitting at the desk when I felt the familiar brush of a cat walking beneath my chair, rubbing against my legs. As always, I reached down to playfully grab the tail – something I’ve done for years whenever one of the kitties came into my office.

I grabbed onto…nothing. No one was there. My three cats were spending time in the upstairs bathroom as a carpet cleaner made his way through my home.

Definitely beloved cat who had earned his angel wings on 7/10/10.

Yesterday, for the first time since Dickens has been gone, I experienced a perfect moment. Everything shifted, and suddenly I felt completely at peace with the world. I knew all was as it should be. I was even laughing!

The feeling continued until I went to bed. I was nodding off when I slipped into some type of dream state. It happened so fast I’m not sure it was a dream. I was looking out the window at the bird feeders in the backyard, when suddenly Dickens came flying out of nowhere and landed on one large feeder and threw out his paws like an actor who had just run into the spotlight.

“I’m HERE!” he seemed to say. I could describe his beautiful face
in one word...JOY.

I immediately woke up and saw that only a minute had passed since I last looked at the clock. Then I went blissfully back to sleep, knowing that Dickens had found a way to let me know he was well and happy.

Just lovely…

Lighthearted Press

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Grief is a Journey

“You think he’s going to die.”

That’s what my good friend, Judy, said a few weeks ago when Dickens first showed signs of illness.

“Yes, I do,” I replied, not because I had reason to believe my beloved cat was terminally ill, but because I was scared the way all parents get when one of their kids is ailing.

I wanted Dickens to get better quickly, so I would feel better, too.

And then a word EXPLODED in my brain – PATIENCE!!!

I wanted to ignore it, but I couldn't. I knew exactly what I was being told. This was Dickens’ journey, and it wasn’t my place to move things along just so I could find some peace. My part in his journey was to be there by his side, as I had been for the last twelve years, offering love and reassurance, letting him know that whatever unfolded I would be there for him.

And now Dickens is gone.

When you write books for animal lovers who have suffered a loss you know very well that grief, too, is a journey, and it can’t be hurried, either. I’m only just discovering that Dickens’ journey with illness and my journey with grieving are very much the same. They are both about healing…and healing takes time.

I’m flooded with all the memories of my sweet boy. Dickens was a talkative cat. When he wanted anything he would speak VERY loudly, just to be certain I got the message. His three sisters were never as vocal.

So my home is awfully quiet now…very, very quiet.

Except for something odd that happened the other day...

To be continued.

Lighthearted Press

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Please bring these black kitties home

I don’t believe in coincidences.
So when I learned about four black kitties who were looking for a home, just as I said goodbye to my beloved black cat, Dickens, I knew I wanted to do something.

The kitties- Merlin, Sharky, Frasier and Gallagher - are in the care of Mary Anne Miller, who provides online resources for cat lovers at her fabulous website Feline Express. This site was awarded the 2006 and 2009 Muse Medalion for Online Magazine by The Cat Writers’ Association in their annual Communication Contest.

It’s hard for me to understand why black cats and dogs have a hard time finding a home. The thought that Dickens might NOT have been in my life these past 12 years brings me to tears. He and his three sisters, one of whom is also black, were a constant source of love, mischief and joy. And on those days when things felt a bit shaky, Dickens always knew how to be a guiding light and keep me going…usually toward the whipped cream can!

Mary Anne, who is located in Sweet Home, Oregon, tells me these 8 month old kitties, all spayed or neutered, are absolutely delightful. To learn more about them you can contact her via email at or by calling 541-367-4927.

If you are looking for some feline love please consider making a place in your home and heart for Merlin, Sharky, Frasier or Gallagher.

Or just make it simple and bring them ALL home – it’s what Dickens would want.


Monday, July 12, 2010

The heartbreaking loss of my beloved cat, Dickens

No matter how many times I look back at the events of the last few days I still can’t make any sense of it.

All I know is that my dearest cat, Dickens, is gone.

How could I have been in a veterinarian’s office just three days ago, thinking all Dickens needed was a change in his thyroid meds, and by the following evening he would be gone?

How could he have had cancer throughout his body and no one knew?

Dickens had been on a weight loss plan for several years, as I slowly brought him down from 23 pounds to 14 pounds. A visit to the vet 6 weeks ago confirmed he was ok and could even lose another pound.

A month later I was back at the vet's office because Dickens didn’t look well and I knew something was wrong. Blood tests showed he had a high thyroid and two weeks ago he was started on meds for that.

He didn't tolerate the meds well, even after switching to the gel form. Within a few days he was depressed and lethargic.

Still thinking it was the meds, I went to speak with a cat specialist three days ago about the radioactive iodine therapy for high thyroid.
Instead, I was sent to an emergency hospital where Dickens was immediately put on IVs and oxygen.

Tests showed he had cancer throughout his abdomen and organs. There was nothing that could be done.

I brought him home for a few hours to say goodbye to his three sisters and the only home he had ever known. Then I brought him back to the hospital and said my own goodbye to this dearest and most wonderful friend.

Dickens had a large presence. He filled our home with his mischievous nature and dedication to living a curious and joyous life. His loss has left a huge hole in my world. I don’t know if I should walk around that hole or jump into it. Perhaps I’ll just sit at the edge and dangle my feet in the void, and pray that I feel some whiskers on my toes.

I am lost without you, my sweet boy. Not seeing your black paws sticking out from under my clothes in the closet last night reduced me to a flood of tears. Not seeing you on the hamper this morning while I dried my hair left me shaking. Not having you join me at the table for breakfast told me this was all really happening.

You truly are gone.

Your impish spirit and magical heart will be with me forever. I promise to watch over your three sisters, although no one could take care of us as well as you did. We are lost without you, sweetie, and the road ahead looks awfully dark and lonely.

I will be forever grateful that Jake found you and your sisters under the deck, and that I had the privilege of sharing my life with you for the last 12 years. I know Jake was waiting for you, and you are now flying through the heavens together.

Never forget how much I loved you, Dickens. And if you're ever in the neighborhood, please stop by...there will always be a can of whipped cream in the fridge, just for you.

With all my love and many, many tears,
Your Earthly Mama,