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