Most of us have had more than one pet, and while we love them all and each has taught us important lessons during their stay with us, we could probably each say that one of them has led us to change our lives, an angel come to teach us a lesson or lead us down a path we may have been frightened to follow, leaving us enriched in a way no other relationship ever could.
For Ingrid King, Buckley was that angel. In Buckley’s Story: Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher, Ingrid tells how her career wandered around, leading to a helping, healing profession until Buckley joined, then left her life, expanding her profession and helping her form a completely new life path.
A stray tortoiseshell cat with a twisted hind leg rescued from a farm in middle age who’d come to stay at the veterinary hospital Ingrid managed, Buckley was nonetheless unrestrained in her love and affection for nearly everyone and was determined to enjoy every moment of the life she now lived. She and Ingrid recognized each other immediately as partners in a new life, though likely neither realized at the time how different that life would be from the one they were living.
Buckley began her guidance of Ingrid’s change in life path by little things like managing Ingrid’s desk at the Middleburg Animal Hospital as only a cat can do. Along with acting as feline paperweight and modifying and deleting digital files by skillfully using the keyboard, Buckley happily ate gobs of canned food all over Ingrid’s desk, to which Ingrid, typically one to “put up a big fuss about people leaving a mess behind in the office” only cleaned up the mess after Buckley. Digital files are one thing, food residue is quite another, but “…it was indicative of the hold Buckley already had on my heart that I didn’t care.”
From this sweet and silly beginning, Ingrid’s and Buckley’s lives and hearts became ever more entwined and they ventured together into more serious territory. “…Once an animal opens your heart, things change,” Ingrid said as she found herself examining the life she was living and considering a change, knowing that Buckley would be a part of that new life.
Buckley taught Ingrid how to live a joyful life, how to work past self-doubt and its effects on life decisions, how to accept risks without fear, even as Buckley slowly yielded to her heart disease.
Ingrid did leave the animal hospital to start her own business, and brought Buckley home. Though she and Buckley only enjoyed two years, that relationship was powerful enough for Ingrid to put aside all the barriers she had always found to writing the book she had always intended to write, and Buckley became its subject. Ingrid began writing in the midst of her grief, just two months after Buckley passed, with a goal of having the book available to others by the first anniversary of Buckley’s passing, like a promise kept, and she met that goal.
Ingrid is the author and publisher of the award-winning The Conscious Cat website which includes informative articles on feline health and welfare, holistic and alternative treatments, and of course conscious living, feline style, and one very famous post, “ ‘Tortitude’ – The Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats”, which currently has 12,145 comments from tortoiseshell cat lovers form all over the world. Buckley’s Story was published in 2009, and Ingrid has since also published Purrs of Wisdom: Conscious Living, Feline Style, essays about conscious living, inspired by the five cats who have shared Ingrid’s life in essays she wrote for The Conscious Cat.
Footnote: I met Ingrid King at the Cat Writer’s Association annual conference in November 2009 and heard her speak about Buckley’s Story, and I purchased a copy of it the following spring at my birthday. Reading time was at a minimum, though, as first Peaches had been diagnosed with renal failure and begun intensive fluid therapy and care, and my mother had begun her final descent into dementia, spending a good bit of time in the hospital that spring before I placed her in a nursing home.
Reading to persons with memory loss or dementia is a wonderful gift to them, and I chose to read Buckley’s Story to my mother during my daily visits to the hospital both for her sake and so I’d have a chance to read it, reading a chapter or two at a time. She was calmed not only by the familiarity of my voice but also by the regular and soothing sound of someone reading a story. Though her mind frantically jumped around through time and her visual and emotional perceptions were unclear, listening to the story helped her to focus and relax. I know I was much more relaxed during what could otherwise have been painful visits.
Unexpectedly, listening to a story about a cat brought back to her memories of my childhood cat Bootsie and her kitten Pieface, and all the day-to-day remembrances of what had been a happy time in my mother’s life, when I was in grade school and later a young teenager. She would listen to me read and respond appropriately, then tell me a fairly clear story from the time she was living in at that moment.
I will always remember Buckley’s Story as a very bright spot for me in a time that was difficult and confusing, and I think it was for my mother as well, and it was actually a comfort to read about loss while facing the imminent loss of Peaches.
So if anyone would wonder why I’m reviewing this book three years after the fact, it was all a bit much for me at the time. This time of year is more or less the anniversary of these events, and though I hadn’t planned this review for the anniversary, sometimes things work out that way no matter what you plan.
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