Purrs Of Remembrance For Pet Expert Darlene Arden
by Layla Morgan Wilde
The pet world is a darker place since Darlene Arden died recently. It hit hard and personally and these purrs of remembrance is a small tribute in her honor. Internationally recognized award-winning author and speaker, Darlene, a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant for dogs and cats, leaves behind many devoted friends, colleagues and countless admirers. The world has lost a great advocate and true pet expert for cats and dogs. Animals have lost a real hero but her legacy of books will continue to educate and inspire.
I’ve lost a mentor and the rare friend I could say anything to without impunity and complete trust.
When I interviewed Darlene Arden five years ago about her book, The Cat’s Meow, we became instant friends and trusted confidants. I felt incredibly blessed to find a kindred spirit. We shared a broad variety of interests beyond cats, a similar sense of humor and did not suffer fools gladly. We’re both known for our sharp tongues and zero tolerance for B.S.
Darlene confessed in our interview that she had stage four ovarian cancer. She chose not to go public with it and for five years I respectfully kept her secret. At that point, doctors gave her about four years to live. Darlene was convinced cancer is a turn-off and the only thing she hated more was a pity party. Or worse, playing the cancer card to get attention. For someone with an entertainment background like Darlene (her early career was acting, dancing, singing) she was egoless. She was always kind, helpful and generous but private. “If you want to know who your real friends are, tell them you have a terminal disease.” It didn’t phase me and I have no regrets.
I’ll miss our marathon phone calls where nothing was off limits and all secrets kept safe. Oh, if these walls could talk! We dished about our work, family, childhood, pop culture, politics, enemies, sycophants, juicy gossip laced with rip-roaring laughter. As two night owl insomniacs, we bonded over mutual illness and fibro fog. She could summon up wit at any hour regardless of her pain level. Talk about a firebrand but what a heart. And it was all about helping animals live better lives and she did.
When Darlene’s health deteriorated, her dear friend and soul sister Sue Janson began emailing detailed updates about Darlene’s condition to her inner circle. Darlene was adamant about not sharing publicly about her stage 4 ovarian cancer. “There is no stage 5,” Darlene often joked. Her sardonic humor stayed sharp until the end. Because we loved her, we guarded her right to privacy.
They don’t make intelligent, funny, Renaissance women like Darlene anymore and her death opened my eyes about retiring sooner than later. Life is too short to work so hard that it’s made me ill. It’s forced some difficult decisions and it’s possible Darlene’s death saved my life.
It saddened me to see Darlene not receive the respect in social media she deserved. We live in a youth-driven social media culture. One that doesn’t want to be slowed down by the lady with a walker. We often spoke about how difficult it was as bloggers to deal with sponsors who only care about numbers. She’d lament: It didn’t matter if the YouTube or Instagram star was an idiot, if they had a 6 or 7 figure following, they were an expert. I have no doubt, if she were a millennial today, she’d blow any star out of the water.
It’s one thing to know about a deadly prognosis but another to admit to denial. I thought Darlene’s feisty Aries nature would pull her through, yet again. Her humor, no nonsense and irreverent carried her far. Who else would call a trip to visit friends across country, last year, her “Farewell Tour”? When her cat, the remarkable Chartreuse, Aimee died, Darlene was inconsolable. She’d been planning to move to New Mexico with Aimee and I’d been helping her search for properties. I had a bad feeling about her health despite her adopting a Chartreux kitten, Paris. House hunting fell by the wayside and the uneasy reality settled in. She wasn’t going to start her new life in New Mexico. My only comfort is knowing Darlene and her beloved Aimee are reunited. That and not living through a Trump administration. The election just about did her in.
A couple of years ago , the dynamics or our relationship shifted and I become more of the mentor, teaching Darlene about social media, photo editing and walking her through the wilds of Instagram. She and my husband became friends bonding over their Jewish roots and mutual friends in the entertainment industry. We’ll both cherish the reams of Facebook private messages of one writer to another. My only regret is the last time we spoke was so brief. She was speaking to my husband when he handed the phone over I was too crazy stressed to speak for more than a minute. Who knew it would be the last time? I assumed there would be a next time. After all, she’d already beat the odds but it was not meant to be. She was in an out of hospitals and then the dreaded email last week from Sue, simply titled: Darlene Arden, Final Update.
May her memory be a blessing.