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My Kitty Teaches Me About Love, Loss & Healing
This is a reprint of a blog I originally posted in 2010. I came across it by accident and realized how relevant it is to all the beautiful emails I recently received in response to my May 2014 posts about saying Goodbye to my beloved dog, Rincon. (In the Loss & Resilience folder under blog Categories.) Many of you shared your experiences with your dear kitties. The emotional, spiritual and decision-making issues we face at our pets' end of life are universal, including how to tell when "it's time".
September 7, 2010
This has been a bittersweet week for me.
One of my kitties, Topanga, who came to me as a bouncy kitten 12 years ago, is in an end-of-life health decline. I've seen it coming for months, yet it's still a huge surprise to me that we're here.
I've been trying to wrap my mind around it. Throughout the volley of vet visits, tearful phone calls to my best friend, and tender moments of holding and petting Topanga, one question has been at the forefront:
How will I know when she's ready to go?
I so want to do the right thing. I don't want Topanga to suffer, but I don't want to put her down too soon.
How to decide?
This question weighed on me until today.
This morning I dashed in late for an appointment at the hair salon. I had hardly settled into the chair when the three women next to me started talking about how each of them had experienced the death of a cat recently. They shared how they were handling the loss.
One woman has been walking a labyrinth in a state of prayer. One frequently feels her cat's presence with her. And one finds that now, after 2-1/2 months, she is feeling a deeper level of loss and making peace with it.
At first I wanted them to stop talking; I was feeling too raw. Then I got it. In its perfect orchestration...
The universe had set up a Kitty Loss Support Group for me.
I never would have sought it out, so it had been brought to me.
And here were three wonderful women who had already been through the transition I was fearing. Without knowing it, they were way-showers for me.
When their conversation lulled, I told them about Topanga. They all leaned in to listen, and if it hadn't been for the array of hair coloring and foil, they all would have hugged me.
Then I asked, "I've been wondering...how do you know when it's time?"
One woman, the labyrinth walker, had a wise vet who had answered that question for her by saying, "Watch the light. When the light in your kitty's eyes goes dim, it's time."
Those words touched me deeply. It was so simple. And natural. For all my thinking about the question, I could not have "thought" my way to that answer. But here it was, and it felt right.
Now I am not worried that I will make a mistake.
I feel in harmony with Topanga, and I realize that she has no resistance to the transition she is going through. And now I don't either.
I am so grateful for my 12 years with Topanga. And I am so grateful for all animals who "companion" us through the ups and downs in our lives.
We all know that our animals' unconditional love is a gift to us. Yet we often don't notice that our own unconditional love for them is just as great a gift to us.
Our unconditional love lives deep within us.
It's always there, but we don't notice it until it gets triggered.
When a tail wag or a pounce or the soulful gaze from innocent eyes triggers our unconditional love, that love streams through us to them. On its way through, our love warms our heart and nourishes the cells in our body. That is a gift.
I feel that gift right now as I think of Topanga. And I know I will feel it every time I think of her in the future, long after she has made her transition. That is how she will remain in my life.
Maybe this week I wasn't just wondering how I would know when Topanga was ready for her transition.
Maybe I was also wondering how I would know when I was ready.
Now I'm ready.