In loving memory of Chico
If I could have you back for just one day
We would run and we would play
Take a long walk in the park
Laugh and sing and dance and bark
I’d hold you close and scratch your head
As you lay sleeping in your bed
And when it’s time to say goodbye
I’d kiss your face, try not to cry
Tell you that I love you so
It would be so hard to let you go
I’m standing here alone and sad
Missing the best friend I’ve ever had
Wishing on a pale-lit moon
And praying that I’ll see you soon
~ Gary Hall, Cleveland, Ohio
For the Love of Sweet Pea
There has always been a weak spot in my heart for a stray animal, but especially cats. Cats are always running loose in the neighborhood. Their favorite spot to hang out is near my bird and squirrel feeders and on a rock wall below the deck. When I see a new one, I usually take a minute to admire it and then carry on with my business.
That was before the most beautiful jet-black cat appeared. It was as though I became hypnotized upon seeing him. He was gorgeous with beautiful golden eyes. His coat was so shiny it sparkled in the sun. He was not a very big cat, small for a male. He watched me and I watched him. He came around almost every day from that day forward. He kept his distance and any movement in his direction would frighten him away. He became a challenge to me to gain his trust, to hold him, to love him. I was hooked from that very moment.
It was early spring and starting to be nice outside. Everyday that he appeared, I would sit on the concrete floor under my deck, watch him and talk to him. I would put some food out hoping that he would come closer. He was street smart and waited until I gave up or until nighttime fell to grab the food.
Maybe because he was so small and an intact male, the neighborhood cats began to prey upon him. I would hear cat fights almost nightly. Sometimes I would go out and call to him hoping he would come to my safe place. He never came. He would reappear in a day or two. Often there was evidence of a fight. It was obvious he did not come out on the winning side. I was determined to win him over. I told him if he would come to me that I would give him a good home; that I would love him and never harm him. I repeated these words many times over the next few months. Gradually, he would come a little closer but never close enough to touch. He continued to run away if I attempted to move in his direction.
Spring turned into summer, summer into fall. Winter was just around the corner. At least he was not hungry, I thought. The fights continued and I would try in vain to rescue him in the middle of the night. Winter was showing its ugly face and I had to find a way to get him to a warm and safe place. I had a screened in porch where I set up a make shift bed where he could lie if he chose to come in. I began to see evidence that he (or some other animal) had been there. One night I heard a horrible commotion coming from the porch. I jumped out of bed and ran out to discover the beautiful jet-black cat with the big golden eyes being attacked by another cat that had come inside the porch. When I was finally able to get the doors opened and the other cat off the porch, my screen was torn and the cat I was trying to rescue was gone. It broke my heart that he had finally trusted me enough to come to the safe and warm place only to be the target of an attack.
Still determined I sat on the concrete under the deck trying to persuade him to come to me and trust me. Finally, he allowed me to touch him. It was only for a second and he was gone. The next day he was back. I continued to coax him week after week, talking softly and reassuring him I would not hurt him. I had borrowed a humane trap to catch him. My plan was to take him to the vet, have him neutered and then turn him loose. I thought the neutering would at least help keep down the stray population and maybe even eliminate some of the fighting. He really was street smart and avoided the trap.
We continued to play the game until he allowed me to touch him and eventually hold him. Once I could hold him, off to the vet we went for the neutering. He was not a happy camper! Since there were no other cats in the house, I decided to keep him inside until he healed. Then I allowed him to return outdoors. Once again, the attacks on him began. I just could not allow that to continue so I decided he would become a house cat . . . my house cat. It was just before Thanksgiving. What a wonderful Thanksgiving it was. We bonded in a way I have never bonded with any other cat. Being a timid cat, he had nothing to do with anyone but me. He became the most loving cat I have ever experienced. He had me wrapped around his paws. We became so close that if I was not in the room, he came looking and crying for me. If I sat down, he was immediately on my lap eating up all the attention I would give him. It was as though he could not get enough of my love and attention. Imagine a mother whose child’s eyes would light up and they would run to each other when she walked into the room. That is a mutual feeling we get whenever we see each other. Because he is such a sweet and loving cat, I named him Sweet Pea and often call him “Sweetie”. For four wonderful years we have cuddled and napped together, almost inseparable. I always tell him bye when I leave for work or a trip and assure him I will return to him. I begin to miss him so much after a few days away. I cannot wait to get home to see him.
Recently Sweet Pea has been diagnosed with Feline Leukemia Virus. I have been told it is in the advanced stages and there is nothing the vets can do. He is now partially paralyzed in his rear legs. He is waning away. Obviously, he contracted the disease from the bite wounds resulting from his fights on the streets. I have frantically searched and searched for answers of how to help him. I discovered Reiki and a Reiki master to perform the treatment for both of us. I have used Reiki several times trying to grasp a few extra moments with him and make him less stressed. It seems to calm him down for a short time. He is so scared of everything that the session is limited to what it can do for him. I hold him every chance I get and continue to tell him how much I love him. I beg that he will not suffer and that I will not have to make that awful “it is time” decision. I have never loved a cat like my Sweetie. I cannot image how I will make it without that unconditional love he has given me. I keep praying for a miracle. I do believe in miracles. I ask God to please send me a miracle . . .
To make Sweet Pea feel as safe and comfortable as possible, I bought an indoor pet pen. It offered him plenty of room since he could no longer walk. There was enough room that I could sit inside the pen with him. I placed it in front of the patio doors so that he could lie in the sunshine and watch all the critters running around the bird feeders. Inside I placed his food and water bowls, his litter box along with some poop pads, and his soft, fluffy bed. Since he seemed to be cold a lot, there was also room for one of the new confection heaters that does not get hot to the touch. He loved the warmth generated from this heater.
I did not get that miracle. It was not God’s will. Sweet Pea took a turn for the worse over the past couple of weeks. He quit eating, he was not as responsive as he had been and he showed signs of discomfort. He was very weak and anemic. His body temperature had dropped to 96°. It is supposed to be 102°. That explains why he snuggled to the heater. His vitals were way out of whack. His vision was affected to the point that he hardly recognized me and would become frightened. Unfortunately, on the morning of January 24, 2011, I had to make that dreaded “it is time” decision. No hope. Nothing else could be done, the vet said. The disease was taking its toll. It was a downhill battle that he would not win. Sweet Pea was ready to go to kitty heaven. He had his own way of letting me know and it was not hard to recognize. I did not let him make that trip alone. I gave him his wish, holding him in my arms and telling him how much I loved him and how much he would be missed. Sweet Pea was a very special cat, like no other. I doubt there will ever be another cat as loving to me as Sweet Pea.
Sweet Pea is buried in my rock garden in the vicinity of where he came from. He is buried where all the critters he used to love to lie in front of the patio doors and watch endlessly come to eat and drink. That is his special place, his and his alone. I can keep an eye on him from inside those patio doors. I know he will know that I am watching the black cat with the beautiful shiny coat and golden eyes. Sweet Pea will remain forever in my heart, mind and soul. I miss him more than words can say. My Sweetie. Gone but never forgotten.
Since Sweet Pea’s passing I have completed Level I and Level II of Reiki. I am currently learning animal Reiki and animal communication. I want to help animals by offering them solace during the end of their journey and help their caregivers find a way to ease the pain of losing a beloved pet. My goal is to become an Animal Reiki Master. It is also a wonderful and fulfilling tribute to Sweet Pea. For 28 straight days after Sweet Pea went to Kitty Heaven, I cried several times a day. I dreamed about him and often thought I heard him meow. I avoided our favorite chaise where we sat together because it was not the same without him being beside me. Reiki provided comfort and support for my dying Sweet Pea. He seemed to reach a state of calm. It allowed me to realize and accept that it was time for Sweet Pea to move on to a better place.
During a meditation session after his death, I visualized an angel walking towards me holding Sweet Pea in her arms. She reached out to me as though she was giving him back to me. When I reached to take him from her, Sweet Pea turned to dust. The thing that I failed to realize at the time was that the angel was showing me that Sweet Pea had crossed over and that his spirit was with me. Reiki provided a new perspective and removed the feelings of anger. Anger because he chose to come to me and then was taken from me. Anger because there is no cure for FeLV and the immense heartache from missing him so much. Reiki has helped me heal emotionally from my loss. I know Sweet Pea’s spirit is with me and he is leading me down this Reiki path. I know it will be a fulfilling journey.
There have been numerous incidences during my training that I have felt Sweet Pea’s presence. One in particular that stands out is the smell of honey suckle vines when there were no blooms around. Awesome!
Level II Reiki Practitioner
(In memoriam to my beloved friend)
Bumper Van Keuren 2/24/92 – 9/21/10
Friend, please don’t mourn me,
I’m still here, though you don’t see.
I’m right by your side each night and day,
And within your heart I long to stay.
My body is gone but I’m always near,
I’m everything you feel, see or hear.
My spirit is free, but I’ll never depart,
As long as you keep me alive in your heart.
I’ll never wander out of your sight.
I’m the brightest star on a summer night.
I’ll never be beyond your reach.
I’m the warm moist sand when you’re at the beach.
I’m the colorful leaves when fall comes around,
And the pure white snow that blankets the ground.
I’m the beautiful flowers of which you’re so fond,
The clear cool water in a quiet pond.
I’m the first bright blossom you’ll see in the spring,
The first warm raindrop that april will bring.
I’m the first ray of light when the sun starts to shine,
And you’ll see that the face in the moon is mine.
When you start thinking there’s no one to love you,
You can talk to me throught the Lord above you.
I’ll whisper my answer through the leaves on the trees,
And you’ll feel my presence in the soft summer breeze.
I’m the hot salty tears that flow when you weep,
And the beautiful dreams that come while you sleep.
I’m the smile you see on a baby’s face
Just look for me, friend, I’m everyplace!
A Prayer for the Bumper
Bumper Van Keuren 2/24/92 – 9/21/10
First, please let me start by thanking You for my excellent health, my beautiful home, my terrific job, my wonderful & supportive friends, and most of all, thank you for loaning me your creation, His Majesty the Bumper (aka Buzzer, Hug-a-Bear, Warthog, Lumper, Yammie, Buzzy Head-Bump, Bugwart, Fuzzbuzzer, Hug, Lambiepie & a host of others) for so many wonderful & eventful years. I particularly appreciate this – I know how you must have missed him, God – I know I do!!
Yet grateful I am for each moment he occupied (yay, dominated – from the first) our collective space – in our home & in my heart, where he still does & will ever reside. We found each other at Animal Control back in 1992, when he was but 9 weeks old – he was one of an abandoned litter of 5, and it was easy to make a choice because as soon as we made eye contact (he was shoved out of the way by his more boisterous siblings), his eyes started to sparkle & he began purring so loudly that his whole little body vibrated. And he kept purring like that all these years, God, right up to the very last day, when his poor little body was so worn out & he was SO tired that we both knew he couldn’t stay with me any longer – I guess you missed him too much & needed him back. I don’t blame You, he’s a wonderful soul.
As you know, I have been an orphan since the age of 28, when You saw fit to call home to You my entire family in the space of one year, so, nearly 20 years later in 1992, it was absolutely a homecoming for me to be entrusted with the care of Bumper, and for so long. Thanks again! Many animals had come & gone from me in all those years and been well-loved, but the Bumper was from the first moment my Forever Friend. We had many adventures, most fun, some….not so much, shared much love (and in tough times, many cans of tuna when that was all we could afford that we could both eat) and countless hours of joy together.
There were bad moments over the years – when he was still just a baby & the boarding kennel lost him (but we found each other again), then when those horrid people trapped him for chasing a bird in their yard & called Animal Control to come get him, while I walked up & down the street in front of their house, calling & calling for him in desperation (but I made the Animal Control man open the cage & give him back to me before he even got put into the truck – poor frightened little guy with his poor soft little nose all cut up from trying to get out of the trap, because he heard me calling, and soaking wet from them leaving him in the hot sun without water to drink, but throwing it on him – horrible, horrible people! His nose was scarred forever from that, but his eyes regained their sparkle as soon as he saw me there to rescue him.), and then again back in 1998, when he got so sick & no one could figure out what was wrong & euthanasia was recommended, but he said “No, not yet, PLEASE!”, and we figured it out. That’s when he got his beautiful white “badge of courage” where most of the fur grew back from the spot that he’d lost his skin from the disease. He ever after had that one tiny spot of soft bare skin midst the white fur.
But all these trials were as nothing to the immeasurable hours of contentment & joy – the lap time that we both loved so much, our morning coffee & combing ritual, the laughs and silliness.
I took him with me from Alaska to Arizona years ago – I had to be there for months & he wanted to come, so… I arranged for him to be with me in the plane’s cabin & gave him a tiny bit of sedation to get us through the flights – he was SO silly at the airport in Seattle between flights! I opened his Sherpa bag so he could see out & he stuck his head out the top (his pupils were so dilated from the sedative and he was really quite “stoned”), but SO happy to be with Mama in her lap, purring his heart out. Several people came over & asked if they could pet him & we had a nice time, then back in the bag. But on the next flight, I sneaked him out of the bag & held him & nobody objected. We didn’t like Arizona & came back home as soon as we could – we had to live in an apartment & we tried walking on a leash, but that didn’t go well….crabby kitty…..
Bumper has many friends here (we all miss him, I’m given to understand from the outpouring of flowers, cards, phone calls & emails), and everyone has their Bumper story, like our friend Sheila’s “herding cats” experience when he got out through a loose window screen onto the carport roof while I was at work. Sheila climbed out there after him & spent about 20 minutes trying to “herd” him back into the window (Sheila’s a Montana ranch gal), finally succeeding in grabbing him. She STILL talks about that one! She was petrified he was going to try to jump off the roof onto the porch railing and knew how important he was to me.
Then in January 2009 (the last time I spent the night away from him because he needed me to give him his pills & wouldn’t let anyone else do it despite his pet-sitter’s best efforts, so I’ve been with him every day since), my neighbor came over to have coffee with him late one night (he owns a restaurant & had just gotten home), and Bumper somehow managed to talk him into spending the night with him ( he’s a very vocal boy, as you know), then slept firmly on his head all night “Like a HAT” according to Maurice. He still tells that story frequently, too. And the one where just this summer, Bump & I were over at his house, Bump napping on his couch & us sitting at the kitchen table chatting, when the Bump came over (he was quite ill by then, but still adamant about being the center of attention), climbed up on my lap, then onto the table, walked over to my cocktail, stuck his head in the glass & started lapping it. I took it away from him (“No, Honey, Mama doesn’t think vodka is good for you.”) and he gave me “the look”, stuck his paw in the glass, and tried to pull it away from me – “Give me that!” That failing, he hopped down, stomped back over to the couch & sulked.
I could go on & on, but this is getting kinda long & I know you’re busy, so I’ll try to wrap it up. Thank you in particular for the gift of this whole summer – his vets told us to say good-bye in July, but he still wasn’t ready, so even though last winter my fondest hope was for him to hold on long enough to see his beloved waterfall that I built in his backyard for him full again & to be able to get his “drinkie” from it (he just loved that) one more time, not only did he get to drink from it daily from mid-May on, but made it through the entire summer in relatively good health & wonderfully good spirits, and got to spend countless hours lounging on his love seat by the waterfall, under his spruce trees and amongst the flowers he loved so & with me in his lawn swing, surrounded by all his friends, and of course, constantly with me, except when I had to go to work to earn kitty food, and especially for the last weeks, when thanks to my totally awesome co-worker & boss who cheerfully covered for me, I got to stay at home with him all the time. We cherished that time – we both knew You needed him back.
So, thanks again, and please, Lord, take extra good care of him for me – I love him so and always will, and I’ll miss him until we meet again. Please tell him Hi for me, and please hug him tightly, and maybe you could have one of your other angels comb him occasionally, if someone has time??? He’s really a special boy!
Light of My Heart
She was born
an enlightened being.
Her eyes transparent
She has the smallest
an aristocratic nose.
And skin softer than
When she was
a teenager she brought
Climbed to the
highest tops of trees.
She walked with me
in magical forests,
where both of us
by elves, rabbits and
a little older
she sits timelessly
in the gardens of
where the warm sun
shines on her
the grass grows.
all around her.
And within her.
she lies with me.
Her tiny velvet hands
Kissing my face.
till I fall asleep.
has no boundaries.
Her ancient wisdom
unhindered by logic.
She sees what I do not.
She is nine pounds
of pure light:
my beloved feline.
A Tribute to Tara
01/04/94 – 01/09/06
“Our animals shepherd us through certain eras of our lives. When we are ready to turn the corner and make it on our own . . . they let us go.” — Anonymous
Tarah has shepherded me through many ups and downs in my life. Always by my side, she was ready to romp, walk, or ride in the car. But, most of all she wanted to see me laugh. Her enthusiasm for life was amazing! So much so, her nickname became “Happy Dog”. The more I said “Happy Dog”, the more she would throw her toys in the air, run around the house and roll on her back. This is one memory I will always hold in my heart.
When Tarah was diagnosed with cancer, I felt as though my heart was breaking. We fought the disease together and every day she was well was precious to us. As her walks became shorter and slower, Tarah still paused to enjoy the air, the sounds and the many smells that the outdoors presented to her. Then the seizures came in the early morning on January 6 and her strength diminished from that point. I knew that her time was now limited.
As we spent our final days together, I thanked Tarah for the countless hours throughout the years that she blessed me with her presence, her loving friendship and companionship. It was also during this time that I realized the many lessons she taught me. Over and over again she demonstrated qualities of devotion, gentleness, forgiveness, peace, and unconditional love. I’ll always remember, the love I saw and felt when I looked into her big brown eyes.
Tarah passed away peacefully on January 9, 2006. She was nothing less to me than my best friend. Because I loved her so much, I sent her on a journey to a beautiful place free from pain and disease. She too, must have felt it was time to let me go and make it on my own. I know in my heart we will meet again and “cross Rainbow Bridge” together.
— Mary Jo Barrera, Redwood City, CA