Monday, September 10, 2012

How To Create--and Love--A Very Old Kitty

Friday, September 14, 2012, will mark the first anniversary of the death of my beloved cat and friend, Annie, who died of kidney complications at the ripe old age of 22. Yes, 22! And up until the time she got sick, which was only a couple of months before she passed, she was still bounding up onto the bed, the sofa, the kitchen counter and jumping back down as well. At times I thought I had an old kitten on my hands. She was also severely independent and would actually bite me once in a while if I crossed her.

We had a love/like relationship.

So, how did I get her to such a high number of years? Simple...

First, I fed her organic raw beef and ground chicken, a little chopped salmon or cod once in a while, and some organic dry treats from Organix products I usually bought at Whole Foods. A little wheat grass now and again and plenty of filtered water.

No vitamin supplements and definitely no canned foods. The only additions were some small amounts of ground flax seeds in her wet food and a few pieces of veggies that she liked: A bit of shredded carrot and some mashed chick peas. I learned her veggie tastes over the years and gradually settled in on the few that she really liked.

Along with all that, I exercised her by the traditional string pull around the room, up and over the furniture, two or three times a day when I thought about it, totaling around 15 times a week. She had good lungs and strong bones, right up to the time of departure. I got stronger, too.

Above all, I let her know with certainty that she could trust me. I loved her and she knew it. She would often talk gently to me while I was working at the computer and rub against my leg when she wanted attention. When hungry, she would yowl just enough to be annoying. She was well aware!

When she was done with me for the moment, she was done. She'd leap off my lap like she'd seen a ghost and would disappear under the chair on the other side of the room. She'd peer out, look at me as if to say, "I need some alone time," and within a minute or two, she'd fall fast asleep.

Up until she was around 18, she'd be up on my bed next to me when I awoke most mornings. Then one day, she just stopped. I never questioned it. She was much wiser about herself than I was, so she made the rules.

She owned me.

In early September of 2011, she began to show signs of weakness. The vet said it might be kidney trouble and to watch closely. On the morning of September 14, she was lying on the living room floor, breathing heavily. I made the agonizing decision to have her put to sleep. She knew it, too. And she looked at me like she understood, like she was ready to go.

I made the appointment for later that afternoon. When the time came, I gently scooped her up from the floor, wrapped her in one of her favorite blankies, put her in a small box and took her out to the car. I couldn't drive so I got one of my neighbors to help.

As we headed toward the appointed time and place, I held her, stroked her, and spoke softly to her, telling her how much she had added light to my life and how much I loved her. I could feel her shivering.

Suddenly, the shivering stopped. She went limp. And I knew it was over.

My Annie had died in my arms, saving me from the necessity of putting her down. I thanked her for allowing me to escape that action. I really had dreaded it.

I had her cremated that afternoon.

Animals are more than just pets, or even companions. They are people. They are friends. They are as much children of the universe as any one of us. And when we learn to respect them, to treat them as we would wish to be treated, they reward us with an unconditional love that is nearly impossible to describe.

Annie, I hear you in the house now and then. It may well be my imagination. But the love you created and shared with me here has not departed. It will remain in my house and in my heart forever.

Thank you, my love.

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