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Oskar The Blind Cat In Memoriam

Oskar The Blind Cat In Memoriam by Layla Morgan Wilde

It’s with profound sadness to share a personal tribute to one-and-only Oskar the blind cat. May he rest in peace and may his memory be a blessing. To Oskar’s cat dad Mick, his cat mom Bethany, his human sisters Faye and Fern and to Oskar’s feline sidekick and best bro Klaus, we mourn with you. 

I’d been planning to post a fun and breezy article about my meeting with Oskar The Blind Cat weeks ago but life got extra busy and now it’s too late. I will share a few memories with a gentle reminder to not take anything for granted. Carpe diem.

The online cat community burst into collective tears and ripples of shock yesterday when the news broke. Oskar, a seemingly healthy tabby born in 2011 died suddenly of an apparent heart attack in his home surrounded by his family in Seattle. A beloved cat with a large following, Oskar was born blind with the genetic condition microphthalmia. His eyes never fully developed but he remained blissfully unaffected. He navigated his world as if sighted with a sunny happy-go-lucky vibe that inspired love and laughter to fans of all ages. Advocating for differently-abled pets and kids, creative muse for many award-winning children’s books (including in braille), and zany videos have delighted and inspired millions.

Cat lovers all over the world have the biggest hearts. We laugh, coo and aw over over millions of cat photos and videos of cats famous or not. The joy we feel is documented to relieve stress. The madness of the world subsides for a few moments and we understand that time spend with cats is never wasted. We feel many popular cats like Oskar to be one of the family and delight in their day-to-day adventures. When illness strikes, we worry and send purrs galore. When the unthinkable happens like an unexpected death we mourn them as we would our own, even if we’ve never met.

I’d met Mick and Bethany Szydlowski a few times over the years but didn’t meet Oskar in person until a couple months ago. Mick and Oskar were in New York for an appearance and I wanted to hand deliver a copy of Black Cats Tell All: True Tales And Inspiring Images. There is a blurb on the back cover by Oskar.

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Mick has always been kind and generous. He embodies what the Oskar and Klaus brand is all about: making a difference in the lives of pets and those who love them. Their message is about not judging a book by its cover, whether someone is visually or invisibly different. Oskar demonstrated that disabled pets can and do live happy lives.

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Oskar sniffed and instantly detected the catnip inside the envelope.

On a gloomy Sunday evening in late November I arrived at the hotel, frankly not expecting more than a quick hello. I knew Mick would be exhausted from a long day beginning with a TV appearance with Oskar early that morning and a meet and greet at PetCon. My mother had died recently and this was my first outing to the city from the suburbs and feeling crappy. The moment I saw Oskar, I was transported into another world. As someone who has worked professionally with cats for 20 years, I instantly recognized the magic and promptly forgot he was blind and my crappy mood.

All cats are special but a few exist in their own stratosphere. Oskar was one out of this world cat.

I followed his cues and observed him at first from a chair as he played with a catnip mouse I’d brought. He’d had a long day of meet and greets and didn’t want to over stimulate him.  Oskar used his tail, ears and whiskers with the finesse of a maestro. He pounced and deftly played hunter supreme while Mick and I chatted. There is always so much catch up to do and before you could say meow, two hours had flown by. I marveled at how soft Oskar’s spotted tabby coat was and waited some time before he decided to bestow a kiss on me. Bliss.

I’ve met many famous cats and Oskar was by far the most relaxed, self-contained and sovereign.  Maybe it was because was earthy Taurus born in the heartland of Nebraska.  Who knows but whether playing, jumping on and off the hotel bed, nibbling some food, visiting the travel-sized litter box in the bathroom all was as natural as if he were at home. He’d mastered the art of being fully present 24/7, comfortable in his fur and utterly at home anywhere. It’s a rare gift for any species.

Out of respect for Oskar and Mick I did not spend more a minute taking a few shots in low light and no flash. No selfies. No Facebook or Instagram live stories. For me the joy was being in the moment simply hanging out. We made plans to see one another on their next trip this spring but fate had other plans.

Mick’s friend Adam, the photographer known for his stunning photography and Bengal cat @professorpouncey hung out with us a while later. He snapped a couple shots of me and Oskar. I doubt either of us thought they would be some of the last shots not taken by Mick.  We’d discussed Oskar’s health earlier. His energy seemed fine but my intuition flashed on something dark but I waved it away.  There are times when being an empath is an welcome gift and safer to shut down.

 

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Oskar on the trail of literacy or maybe catnip. Books and cats forever.

Having experienced both many times, it’s hard to say whether a gradual decline is easier to grieve than a sudden death. I will say Oskar has left a big heart-shaped hole that only love will fill. There is no better way to honor and heal loss than by taking action and expressing emotion. Feel your feelings. Journal or use a coloring book.  Leave a comment or share this post. Light a candle in Oskar’s memory, volunteer or donate to your favorite animal cause or shelter, purchase books or merchandise that gives back to causes like the shop from Oskar and Klaus.

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Oskar The Blind Cat RIP

Oskar won the hearts of all that met him. Some hearts they say are too big to stay long on this planet. I’d like to think Oskar has another mission and a further purpose yet untold. For now, farewell dear Oskar, until we meet again. You are forever loved. I end with a few words of wisdom from Rumi.

“…Walk with grief like a good friend. Listen to what he says. Sometimes the cold and dark of a cave give the opening we most want.” “Be concentrated and leonine in the hunt for what is your true nourishment. Don’t be distracted by blandishment-noises, of any sort.”

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National Pet Memorial Day During Hurricane Season

The second Sunday of September is National Pet Memorial Day and this year is especially poignant. For over 40 years, longer than most of us have been cat lovers, the International Association of Pet Cemeteries has designated a day to honor pets past and present.

Usually, I take time to honor all the many pets in my life but this year, at least at this blog I’m focusing on Merlin who passed in May 2016.  I’m nervous and worried.  Not only have there been way too many losses in my world, but thousands of cat lives will be lost from all the recent disasters from earthquakes, floods, fires and hurricanes. As I write this, Hurricane Irma is poised to unleash her fury on Key West and the 54 cats at Hemingway House. They’ve weathered other storms but we’re crossing all paws and praying for a positive outcome. There are dozens of shelters and sanctuaries dotted across Florida and many like Brigid’s Crossing in Naples that visited a few years ago, have hundreds of cats used to roaming freely without a solid commercial building.

All I can say is please purr, pray or petition the cat gods for their safe survival.  Share this graphic if you like.

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Merlin’s memorial garden burial mound grew tropical lush this summer. Yesterday I weeded and cut back the overgrown vines. Enough time has passed for the raw ache to pass and warm memories soothe the jagged edges of pain.  It took me a year before I could look at his funeral photos and see his scrawny old body without wincing. He’d been ill for so long in a gradual decline of kidney disease, I didn’t realize the toll it took on my own health. Now I can see him at peace and wonder how the hell did he manage to live almost 22 years. During the life altering grieving process that nearly killed me, I learned how to live. I’m still learning.

Every grieving journey is as unique as a fingerprint and this one surprised me more than any of the others. At first, it was deceptively easy, gentle as an angel’s kiss and I honored the process. Little did I know, the journey would unravel layers of unprocessed emotions to my core. Just when I thought, well that’s done, another layer of the onion revealed something new, deeper, darker and scary. It didn’t feel like grieving only because I didn’t have a language to define or categorize it. I questioned everything in an attempt to understand the stages, phases intellectually. Meanwhile, the answers eluded me but my body was spilling secrets and screaming at me to listen. I listened and said, nevermind, not now, I can’t go there. Denial is not a river in Eygpt but lives in my emotional neighborhood. One with a big sign: DO NOT ENTER. 

Cats enter and exit our lives for any number of reasons but if we’re lucky, they bestow wisdom, insight and just about everything we need except maybe the winning lottery numbers. Being curious as a cat, I trespassed in the familiar but unfamiliar territory. And being as stubborn as Merlin was it took much head bashing and teeth gnashing to learn the lessons he so patiently dished out while alive and from the great beyond. Even the lessons I thought I’d aced, came up for review. I’m still going the process which is why I’m not blogging much. but I am writing. Grieving is a remarkable opportunity for personal growth if you’re willing to dig in and peel that stinky onion.

National Pet Memorial Day

 

Haiku from a Zen master is fitting. Death is no different than a train ticket. The train might be late but most run on a timely schedule of arrivals and departures. Once the train has departed, there is no going back. You might be able to catch a connecting train but that’s a story for another day. Today is about pausing to honor the cats we love or have loved.

The casket shown above is a biodegradable one from Paw Pods and perfect eco-friendly choice. Our organic garden is an everyday reminder of impermanence. The seasons change, the birch logs are rotting, the leaves are drying and the ink is fading Merlin’s name but not his memory. And of course Merlin has to have the last word.

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Message From Merlin

I thought that you might like to know I got here safe and sound
Though you must feel rather strange not having me around;
Of course, I am not really gone, I’ve just moved out of sight,
And I don’t need that old body, things had stopped working right.
Sometimes I’m sorely tempted, to pop back down and see,
Just how you are managing, without any help from me,
But I’m sure that you will understand I can’t come back to stay,
Though I have it on good authority that we’ll meet again some day.

The chow up here’s delicious – Ambrosia brand, it’s named,
Once you’ve tasted this stuff, Fancy Feast is a crying shame,
And holy cat gods, there is a nectar as thick and creamy as it comes,
It’s not like other dairy products and doesn’t give me the runs.
I haven’t found the litter box, and THIS perplexes me,
That however much I wolf down, I never have to pee.
But there are other plus points, which cannot be ignored,
My legs are made for leaping way higher than before.

Another little oddity, that leaves me quite astounded,
Underneath my tail end are two lumps, furry and rounded –
I can’t remember having them when I lived down there with you,
And up here, all I can say – I’m a real mancat, how do you do.
Oh yes – I’ve got a comfy bed, just like mine down there at home,
So things here are quite delightful, I cannot gripe or groan;
But while I’m up here waiting, in my cushy cat bed in the sky,
I’ll regularly look in on you, and keep a watchful eye.

 

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Merlin The Cat: Life After Death

Merlin The Cat; Life After Death by his cat mom, Layla.

We’re about to reach our sixth year of blogging at Cat Wisdom 101 with over 2000 posts. A popular category from the start has been Mondays With Merlin. Merlin died last May but being a larger than life character, he continued to blog from the great beyond. He handed over the reins to Clyde in early 2017 but still makes his presence felt with guest appearances.

For the longest time, I debated sharing the very last photo taken in the garden a couple days before he died. The purple phlox were in bloom as they are today and Merlin wanted to lie on the sun warmed driveway. He was so bony at that point, I placed a folded blanket with support for his head. It’s not a particularly good photo but it’s the final photo outdoors. He loved and lived for the garden, a place of security for 15 years after six tumultuous years of multiple moves and change. We all take photos of our cats, some every day but we never know which shot will be “it”. The last shot alive.

As the anniversary of his death approached, I wanted to put together a tribute but nothing felt right. How do you condense hundreds of posts, thousands of photos, 21 years and millions of memories? What do you share with the world or keep tucked safely in the privacy of your soul? I don’t know.

I do know that when he died on May 11, 2016 at about 10:30 in the morning, it was a gorgeous spring day. Sunny and warm with a burst of green blooming overnight. Merlin, ever a sun worshipper was sunbathing on his favorite pillow, purchased when he was kitten. He was never one for cat beds since he slept under the covers with me but did enjoy a soft pillow. He also loved lounging on the hammock or blankies with me in the garden in his later years. I didn’t see him die but my husband did. They always spent the mornings together. Merlin napping or watching Joe read the paper, have coffee and dig into email. I would be sleeping, being an night owl and would get up sometime before noon. Little did I know that Merlin’s death would flip my inner clock and plunge me into a mysterious illness nearly killing me. I’m still doing daily battle but feel hopeful about the future.

I didn’t see Merlin die but knew his time was up and did a gentle farewell photo shoot the day before. I couldn’t write about his death until a month later and even then, the post left out more than it revealed. Merlin died as easily and magically as he’d lived.  We should all be so lucky but nothing can prepare you for death.  Being old and ill with chronic kidney disease meant death whispered daily. Close calls, emergency vet visits, incremental decline while monitoring his quality of life. When Joe brought a lifeless fur baby into bed, life as I knew it was over. And yet I was about to embark on a big project, do two fundraising campaigns on Kickstarter for the Black Cats Tell All book, prepare a huge blogoversary giveaway and curate a mountain of book submissions. Oh, and find time to grieve. Bless Merlin for making it easy or easier.  It allowed me to plow forward making short order of work but ignoring the growing physical symptoms. It’s taken a year and several false starts to begin healing and grieving is  a part of it.

Joe wanted to bury Merlin in the garden which is our preference.  Merlin’s sister Coco, Gris Gris and Radish would be waiting. I’d selected a beautiful spot near Angel Gris Gris but I couldn’t bear the thought of letting him go, so I didn’t. I’ve made many poor decisions in my life but while unorthodox, my decision to live with a dead animal for days, was one of my wisest.

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Merlin selects his future resting place.

I made a lovely and meaningful altar where he laid wrapped in a blanket not nine feet from where I slept. The room flickered with candles. Incense wafted, the music of Buddhist prayers chanted, freshly picked lily of the valley filled the air with sweet smells. It was oddly comforting sleeping with him in the same room.

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He was like a king lying in state and time stood still. A day passed and then another. Joe was getting antsy about the burial but it wasn’t time.  Frankly, he thought I was crazy. I searched Chinese tong shu almanacs for auspicious burial days. Merlin became to smell on the third day but the best burial date wasn’t until the 15th, four days after his death.  It was the perfect day and time. The gloomy day brightened after the grave was done and during the funeral, the sky suddenly sparkled with sunshine as Merlin was laid to rest. No regrets. No guilt but no deep grieving as I’d expected. Instead, I internalized the loss, kept working at breakneck speed until something broke. That’s another story and another book.

 

In hunting down photos to share I had to dig through thousands of images of all sorts just from the past two years.  Many unbearably painful to look at. Some I could see with fresh eyes. It took all night. I found an old video from 2013 which I don’t think anyone has seen and a  bizarre accidental 1 second video from 2015. There was no sound or talking but I could swear I can hear “Merlin”. I’ve learned in the past year to expect the unexpected and make peace with it. This remembrance is not at all what I’d planned but there you go. Merlin lives on and so do I. Thank you for being a part of the journey.

Instead of clogging this space with photos I made an album FOREVER MERLIN: TIMELESS WISDOM of a few highlights of Merlin’s work and life over the past couple years, his final days and funeral. It’s big and yet only a tiny drop of his life. He savored every moment and every drop.

 

From Woodstock, a snippet of the lyics. They sum up Merlin’s philosophy and mine, more than ever.

We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it’s the time of man
I don’t know who I am
But you know life is for learning

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Loved To The Moon and Back: 9/11, Pet Memorial Day, Blessing of the Animals

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Loved To The Moon and Back: Today is 9/11 and Pet Memorial Day. There’s a spooky deja vu in the air. Five years ago, the three events fell on the same day and we blogged about it Blessing of the Animal on 9/11 and Pet Memorial Day

Guess where we’re going today? The Blessing of the Animals but this time we have another name to add: Merlin. This was our post last year and if you haven’t seen it, you may find it insightful.The oldest pet cemetery: remembering Coco, Radish & Gris Gris 

Our shareable graphic is from our own memorial garden.

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And for the exalted Merlin, who graced my life for 21 years and made the most graceful exit of his nine lives.

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Are you doing anything special to remember your furry friends?

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ManCat Monday: The Best Or Worst Gift Ever

Mancat Monday: The Best Or Worst Gift Ever.

It’s Mondays with Merlin with some help today from my fur bros. Domino and Odin, the best mancat pals a cat could ask for. When Layla got back from Florida, the first signs of spring had sprung and the boys abandoned me to spend most of the day on the porch or garden. It’s still not warm enough for me to me out for more than a few minutes because I have zero body fat. My auntie Sarah stopped by for a visit and was shocked to see how skinny I’d become and frankly, everyone is shocked I’m still alive.

There is a Finnish word my grandmother said I have bundles of and that’s sisu. It’s a dogged determination against all odds to persevere. The only food I want now is raw and I’m ravenous for it day and night. No, I will not go gently into the night. It’s driving everyone to re-examine what is best at a time when everyone is feeling their worst. My feline comrades look concerned at me at times with me flailing with blind (literally) determination to get from point A to B blind. They know. Cats have an intuitive sense about life and death. We don’t fear either but live in the moment as best we can.

Domino was out sunning himself on the big chair overlooking the burial mound. It was Gris Gris’ old chair by his grave and you could say Domino he looked mournful but let’s not anthropomorphize shall we? Okay, if we are going to go there, I could say his gaze is like “Blue Steel” from the film Zoolander. Domino gets points for surviving another winter. A big deal when you consider he spent 7 winters outdoors as a feral. We all survived but the toll was great. Sadness laced with anxiety and anger has crept into every crevice of our old house in anticipation of my demise. The humans would call it grace under fire BUT…blessed spring is here and I clearly have unfinished business.

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Then the box arrived. A special delivery. We knew it was coming but it came early.  We’re used to parcels and boxes arriving. After 5 years of testing hundreds of cat products and reviewing hundreds of cat books, we know the drill. This new box lay unopened until yesterday. When Layla asked my dad, who it was from, he went all silent like guys do when they know but rather not tell. You don’t have to be a mind reader to know this would not be a new catnip toy.

Layla carefully opened the box from PawPods and found another box but not just any box but a eco-friendly burial casket. Casket? Like a coffin a box to bury the dead in or the other meaning of casket (n.) small and often ornate box for holding jewels or other valuables. Holy Bastet and curl my whiskers, but this is either the worst gift in the world or the best. I stayed upstairs and wasn’t privy to the unveiling. Cats don’t care for fancy things. Simple and natural is our mantra. I trust Layla to consider what’s best for me and I know she honors every hair on my 21-year-old body.

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Odin our #1 products tester, heard the rip of a box opening and showed up in Pavlov’s dog fashion thinking catnip, catnip, catnip, treats, treats, treats. It almost doesn’t matter what the item is if the box it came in suits him. Odin has never met a box he didn’t like. The PawPod is silky smooth and surprisingly sturdy considering it’s made of bio-degradable bamboo and rice husks. The lid snaps on nice and tight but easily removed if you need to make any last minute changes. You could take a marker and doodle on it or paint a design.

The great thing about having it before we need it is having the time to prepare and make it special. Layla is thinking of doing a mandala design on top and finding the softest silk to wrap me in. Sounds rather spiffy already. Pet loss rituals and memorials are healing for everyone connected to the pet.

Doing some prep in advance is like a dress rehearsal to rein in stress and inform more meaningful choices.

Odin sniffed and immediately jumped into the box containing the PawPod. As soon as Layla removed it, he had a moment of confusion but read Layla’s mind about the real purpose and lost interest. Okaaaay, no catnip, no treats, no toys. I’m out of here. There was an odd moment of knowing we were all in sync and it was all okay.

 

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Humans can be so judgmental but cats never are. We accept your fashion choices, weird habits and poor decisions. Cats think life and death are natural, unpredictable and a divine mystery. Dear humans, we get it.

Talking about death, funerals, or grieving can be awkward or creepypants uncomfortable. But like all fear-based emotions, they ease once the conversation starts and action is taken, like right meow. Planning ahead, whether providing for your pet in your will, prepping supplies for a funeral, memorial or burial can bring peace of mind.

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If this post resonates with you, let us know in a comment and/or share.

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See you next week for another Mondays With Merlin.

Love always,

Merlin 

Special thanks to PawPods for the gift. Best or worst gift? In my infinite wisdom I have deemed it the BEST gift ever for anyone with a pet in deep decline. Pawpods also make urns for cremation. Not all states in the U.S. allow pet owners to bury their pets in the backyard so check you state regulations. Pawpods make cute little fish pods and they are keen on stopping the practice of flushing goldfish and other aquatics being down the toilet. Not only is it disrespectful for a child’s early experience of pet loss but goldfish are now considered an invasive species.

FTC discaimer. This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are 100% feline and true.

Special paws taps to Domino, Odin and Nou Nou for their friendship and acceptance for what is. Oh yeah, my mom could use a hug and it’s my dad’s birthday today!

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Sweet Rosh Hashanah Feline Blessings

Well hello there, it’s me Merlin still here for another week.  You’d think it would make Layla happy but she’s feeling melancholy.  Maybe it’s the first inklings of autumn or the visit yesterday to the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery for the annual blessing of the animals. She brought photos of all of us to be blessed but got so wrapped up chatting with so many wonderful pet parents, she almost missed her turn. She was just about to get in line when she noticed a sad, older woman walk away from her pet’s grave. Something made her walk over and say hello and the woman led Layla to her dog’s grave. What made it heartbreaking was she’d had one loss after another over the past three months. First her son, in his 50s who lived with her and she found dead and then her beloved dog. When someone is grieving they need to tell their story, repeatedly and the kindest thing is to simply hold a space and listen. This wasn’t the kind of woman who wanted to go to a bereavement group, buy books on grieving or see a therapist. I’m so glad Layla tells me everything.  Cats like that, you know. She was so immersed in her story, she  completely forgot about the blessing.

Out of nowhere Layla got one her psychic flashes and asked the woman about her connection to the holocaust. I think she has some kind of radar because my cat dad’s parents were holocaust survivors. Stunned, the woman says, “how did you know? I was in Auschwitz with my parents when I was five. We were released just before the war ended.” She proceeded to tell some stories of the horror and how she was truly alone now, no parents, spouse, child or pets. What do you say to that kind of loss? Layla gave her card and invited her to call. The woman turned to say the blessings are over but hurry, go someone is still there. The ceremony was over but Layla rushed over and there was only time for one and she didn’t pick me. She picked Radish.  Funny how these things happen.

Blessings of the animals

It was such a beautiful day of such joy mixed with sadness and so many stories.  People visited the pet’s graves, many with dogs,  bringing flowers, sitting on picnic blankets, filling water bowls.  I noticed Memorial pet tattoos are not only for hipsters.  There was a feeling of celebration tinged with tinged and Layla wandered up and down the crooked  hilly paths to read inscriptions new and very old.  IYa got to wonder who Roma was who was found in Rome, Italy and died in 1909.  So much love. Over a hundred years of love and devotion. Way more love expressed than in any human cemetery.

What does that tell you about humans and their pets?  Our love is pure and uncomplicated without criticism. We give what every sentient being wants: to be loved and accepted. We love our  humans just the way they are, warts and all.  It’s so simple really.  That’s it for now. Oh, I would like to announce the winner of our Fat Cat Art book giveaway is Jaguar. Hmm, not a regular commenter but I won’t hold that against them. I wouldn’t mind if Mr. Fat Cat himself would give me a few pounds. I can’t afford to lose any more weight.

at Cat Art Book winner

Check out some sweet cemetery pics of pets who brought many blessings to the lives of their loved ones.
And to all our Jewish friends and readers many sweet blessing for the new year on Rosh Hashanah. A common greeting on Rosh HaShanah is: “Leshanah tovah tikateivu” – “May you be inscribed (in The Book of Life) for a good year”. Apples are dipped in honey for a promise of a sweet new year. I know I’ll be having my Manuka honey!

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Hartsdale cemetery

 

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Remembering Coco & Radish, National Pet Memorial Day + the Oldest U.S.Pet Cemetery

National Pet Memorial Day

It’s National Pet Memorial Day, not that cat lovers need a holiday or reminders to remember. If you’ve loved and lost a special cat, you remember them often. In time, the memories shift and fragment. They fade but can be brought back in a flash with a photo or a whiff of a scent.  Some cats cling to our souls and others less so. Today is the 5th anniversary of Coco’s death. She was Merlin’s sister and you’d think given my attachment to him, I would have mourned Coco long and deep but I didn’t.  Part of the reason was her beautiful euthanasia and ceremonial burial in the garden. She loved the garden as all our cats do and my grieving process, while profound only lasted a couple months.

Grief, the trickster of emotions has a way of resurfacing and muddling old emotions with new. When I searched my photo archives for images of her last summer I found some I hadn’t seen in years.  I still can’t believe how good Coco looked at age 15 with no hint she would be dead of kidney failure 2 months later.  She gave no clues that anything was wrong but cats are masters of hiding symptoms.  I noticed she was spending more alone time on the love seat in my dressing room but she’d always loved that spot. Then I came across a photo of our dear Radish who died 12 weeks ago sitting on the same love seat just before he died and a wave of sadness came over me.

Coco cat memoriam

For years no one ever sat on the love seat except Coco and Merlin. After she died he stopped. Odin liked it for a while and then stopped. Domino and Gris Gris never liked it and neither has Nou Nou. I’d toss worn clothes on it not expecting it had much use. When I found Radish snuggled on some of my clothes my heart tore in two. It was so sweet but I took it as a bad omen. Then I noticed the photos of Coco were taken a few feet from Radish’s grave. More tears. I thought I had mourned Radish but I have lots more to process. I still haven’t been able to remove the makeshift memorial in the bathroom and I’m avoiding visiting his grave.  Very busy people like me sometimes use the busyness to avoid grieving. I like to think it’s on hold for awhile but I don’t recommend it.

Unfinished grief comes out in so many sneaky ways like illness, accidents, feeling really tired.  Come to think of it I’ve been extremely tired.  I could blame a hellish schedule but it’s probably time to listen to the wisdom of the body and feel the whole garden variety of feelings.

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Radish, the mystical magic cat continues to make his presence known in odd ways. I tried making a collage of his photos six! times and my Chrome browser kept crashing.  It’s the middle of the night and I have to occasionally sleep so I’ll take that as a sign to stop. I’ll try later tomorrow.

I live down the road from the oldest and most beautiful pet cemetery but have buried three cats in our garden.  It’s a personal preference as is all is things related to pet loss and grieving.  I like being reminded of  my dearly departed cats by simply looking out the window and seeing  their resting place.  The hammock, my favorite summer spot for kitty cuddles with Merlin is about 20 feet from Gris Gris’ grave.  It’s where Merlin will be buried. Some might find it morbid but I find it comforting and helps me stay in touch with the natural cycle of life. We’re lucky in New York state we can bury pets in our garden.

I often drive by the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery and if you’re in the area, they’re doing their annual blessing of the animals on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015 at 1 pm. For a cemetery, it feels peaceful as most do but also oddly happy and hopeful.  I have a friend who says she wants to be buried there with her cats and I understand why.  No matter what the season, every corner of the grounds is immaculately maintained with flowers on most of the graves.  Of the 75,000 graves 700 are humans cremated with their pets ashes.

A couple weeks ago when I stopped by a funeral was going on. I respectfully kept my distance and didn’t take any photos.  Several mourners wiped away tears while a man officiated. I couldn’t hear his words but didn’t need to. The love and honoring of a pet with the same dignity as a human brought a few tears of my own.  Are you honoring any deceased pets today and would you want to be buried with your cat?  I found a useful link to individual state laws regarding carcass disposal. 

cat-gravestones-cemetery-hartsdale
A few loved cats at Hartsdale Cemetery. Gone but never forgotten.

And while not mentioned in the title,  we’d be remiss not to mention our dear Gris Gris who died in 2013.

cat memorial moon

There are many other pets who have graced my life, but I choose to focus on the cats who contributed to this blog since launching in 2011. That said, I’ll always remember my first kitten, Smokey and the many cats, dog, turtles and hamster who turned me into a life long animal lover and advocate.

RIP Gris Gris Wilde, Cat Wisdom 101 Feline Muse

RIP gris gris

It’s with much sadness to announce the sudden passing of dear Gris Gris yesterday. Thank-you for the outpouring of love and support on Facebook.

So much happened in 24 hours, I’m reeling and not ready to write about it yet other than just the facts. In a nutshell: we enjoyed a quiet Christmas and Gris Gris was happy and friendly with our guests. The following morning we noticed his left eye was red but he was as perky as ever and no warning bells went off. Hubby went out to get cat food and Vetericyn for eye care, thinking it was just conjunctivitis.

When he returned, he gave Gris Gris some food. Normally, he’s always hungry thanks to a thyroid condition. One sniff, he walked away and keeled over with an ungodly howl. We called our vet Dr. G. who was on the road but out of our area. Plan B was our nearest vet clinic and they told us they’d see us right away. Gris Gris lay limp but responsive and five minutes later, he was being examined by a caring, young vet who said he’d had a seizure. He couldn’t stand up or walk and promptly had another seizure. He was whisked to the back and placed on oxygen. The prognosis wasn’t hopeful. They had no overnight staff that day and recommended either taking him to a specialist or putting him down on the spot.

Seeing a specialist would mean an MRI for a diagnosis but the risk of anesthesia and other invasive procedures was too high a risk. So against their recommendation we took him home. We took turns doing Reiki and energy work. He refused any food or water and yowled the moment either one of us broke contact or stopped. Finally @4 am, I’d dozed off and he slept peacefully. Something had shifted and I felt he wasn’t with us anymore. In the morning, there was no change and we decided to have Dr. G. over for a second opinion and if need be, euthanasia.

Dr. G. arrived at noon and gave Gris Gris a thorough exam. It appeared there was likely brain disease, perhaps a tumor on the left side and no hope. We were left alone to say our good-byes. I’d communicated messages of love and support to him all night long. Whatever he wanted, we would do it. If wanted help dying, fine. If if wanted to go naturally, fine. He wanted a natural death and he got it. No euthanasia was needed. The timing was immaculate and he quietly died at 12:45 surrounded by clouds of love. It was enormously comforting and valuable having Dr. G. there answering questions.

I carried Gris Gris inside and prepared an altar or something one might have for an Irish wake with a Zen Buddhist twist. He will be buried in the garden. All the other cats knew what had happened and surprisingly kept their distance. Only Odin decided to pay his respects with one last sniff.

Thank-you for your kind words, purrs and prayers. I have no plans to blog for the next while except the bare minimum but a memorial tribute is in the works. The soul of the grieving experience and tips for navigating the pet loss journey will be in my book. Call it good, bad or Divine timing, but I will have Gris Gris to guide me. Ironically, I thought it was going Merlin but the first rule about life and death is: expect the unexpected.