Mom said I could ocassionally write something on this blog – after all, I’m the wise one who inspired the creation of it.
So this afternoon, Mom made me pose for pictures for a professional photographer. It wasn’t the most fun I ever had, but there were treats involved, so I was being a good sport about it. I mean, come on – the photographer’s assistant was holding these squeaky dog toys over the photographer’s head to get me to look at the camera! For God’s sake, I’m a cat! I look when I feel like it, not when you try to get me to look. Anyway – I knew how much this meant to Mom. She wants a really good photo of the two of us as the author photo for her upcoming book “Buckley’s Story – Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher” , so I played along. The book is the story of my “sister” Buckley, who left us in November. She was pretty smart and between her and me, we taught Mom a lot of stuff that she shares in the book. And even though the book is about Buckley, I’m in it, too. The three of us had (and still have) a very special connection.
Mom says that’s enough, I can’t say more about the book right now, but she says that soon, there’ll be more information about it. I have to go take a nap now anyway – posing for photos is pretty tiring.
Here’s a picture of me with Buckley (she’s on the left).
Yesterday was an emotional day for me. I went to the open house for Casey’s House, a private rescue group in Bluemont, VA. Cindy Ingram, the founder of Casey’s House, rescued my precious little Buckley from a farm in southwestern Virginia, where she and about twenty other cats were kept in marginal living conditions. Buckley passed away last Thanksgiving weekend. While I had been supporting Casey’s House for many years, I had never actually seen the facility. When I met Buckley, she was already living at the animal hospital I managed at the time. (You will get to know Buckley and her story in my upcoming book “Buckley’s Story – Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher”).
Casey’s House is named after Cindy’s beloved tabby cat, who came to live with her when she was fifteen years old. At first Cindy refused her entrance to her house, as she already had two cats and two dogs at the time. Casey, however, was not a cat to take no for an answer. Casey’s “home” at the time was a colony of some fifty cats, and she was probably getting tired of either not getting to her food on time, or eating off of filthy dishes. Every evening, Casey would be waiting on Cindy’s porch, obviously hungry, so Cindy would feed her. Slowly, but surely, Casey became a part of Cindy’s family. Eventually, four of her feline colony friends came to join Casey. Says Cindy: “Casey taught me to reach beyond my self-imposed limits, and her house is the dream that now has become a reality”.
In addition to providing a safe haven for older cats, Casey’s House also promotes Trap-Neuter-Return. Through this program, feral cats are humanely trapped, brought to a veterinarian to be evaluated, spayed or neutered, vaccinated and ear-tipped. Cats that are friendly to humans and kittens are adopted into loving homes. Healthy feral cats are returned to their outdoor homes. Casey’s House spayed and neutered more than 200 cats in 2008, making a significant contribution to controlling the overpopulation problem.
I was impressed with the wonderful environment Cindy created for the cats. There are very few cages, most of the cats live in a large open room, filled with carpeted ramps, cat climbing towers, and lots of soft pillows and blankets for them to sleep on. New rescues and those with potential health conditions are kept in separate areas until they’ve been checked out by a veterinarian. What was really amazing to me was how peaceful the energy in that large room felt. All the cats seemed to get along, there was no hissing, posturing, or fighting. Cindy said in all the years she’s done this work, she’s only had one incident with two cats fighting. Casey’s House truly is a safe haven for cats in need.
I left missing Buckley even more than I usually do. The visit definitely brought on a renewed wave of grief for me. But I also left feeling good about living in a world where there are people like Cindy, who care so much and do so much for cats in need.
Like all non-profit organizations, especially those helping animals, Casey’s House is struggling in these tough economic times. If you have a favorite shelter or rescue group that you support, please consider making a donation to them – they need your help now more than ever. And if you don’t already support a shelter, perhaps you’ll consider making a donation to Casey’s House in Buckley’s memory. Cindy and the cats at Casey’s House will thank you.
If you’re fortunate enough to still have your mom in your life, be sure to tell her that you love her today, and every day. My mother passed away 15 years ago, and I still miss her. Even after all these years, I still feel a pang when I see Mother’s Day cards appear in stores.
But I also celebrate Mother’s Day as Amber’s Mom. Amber was a mommy herself when I first met her, so I thought I’d share her story here with you today.
In the spring of 2000, Amber and her five kittens were brought to the animal hospital I managed by a client who had found the little family in her barn. Despite being emaciated and scrawny-looking, Amber’s eventual beauty was evident even then. Her kittens found new homes in fairly rapid succession.
However, nobody was interested in the beautiful mommy cat. She spent her days in the big adoption cage in the hospital’s waiting area, but with the constant inflow of homeless kittens that is typical for spring and summer, nobody wanted to adopt an adult cat. I had recently lost my almost sixteen-year-old soul mate cat Feebee, and the grief over his loss was still very fresh. I did not think I was ready for another cat, but coming home to an empty house was becoming increasingly difficult.
One weekend in July, I decided to take Amber home, “just for the weekend”. I wanted to give her a break from the abandoned feral kitten we had placed with her after her own kittens had all found homes. The kitten was a rambunctious six-week old grey tabby, and Amber was becoming increasingly exasperated with his constant need for attention. As far as she was concerned, she had done her mommy duty with her own kittens.
After living in a cage for all these months, Amber was initially a little overwhelmed by having access to an entire house, and she spent most of that first weekend near or under my bed. By Sunday evening, she began to relax a little and started exploring her new environment. I liked having her gentle and peaceful energy around the house, and I decided that she could stay a little longer. Not quite ready to acknowledge that she was home with me to stay, I told everyone that I was “just fostering her”. Somehow, the flyers advertising that she was available for adoption never got distributed, and she only returned to the animal hospital for regular check ups.
Amber is a gentle, loving cat with a wise old soul. For the past nine years, her peaceful and solid presence, not to mention her almost constant purr, have been bringing love and affection into my life every day. She enjoys sleeping in our sunny living room, curling up with me when I sit down to read or to watch television, and watching the birds at the feeder on our deck.
She is a teacher to the core of her being, and she is my writing muse. There are days when I sit down in front of the computer and stare at the blank screen with no idea of what I’m going to be writing about, but as soon as she comes into the room and curls up on the window perch next to my desk for a long nap, I feel inspired, and the words start flowing.
Animals come into our lives for many reasons. Some very special animals touch our souls and change us forever. Amber is one of these special animals.