The Best Teachers

calico cat with teapot
Morning Tea With Peaches.

Today I especially remember that little dilute calico kitty, Peaches, who I feature as often as possible here and in my art and feline-inspired creations as a thanks to all she gave me in life. With the wisdom of a lifetime behind her, she gently beguiled me and I quickly fell for her absolute sweetness and laughed that the name I’d jokingly given her fit her so well. But though she was sweet and petite, from the day she arrived until her very last moments and even beyond she had some of the deepest lessons for me about caring and loss, about fear and acceptance, about listening to my cats and understanding what they have to say. Finally, I learned as she carefully led me through the stages of her own walk toward death and left me with her memories, that what she experienced is universal among living things as I applied those lessons freshly learned when my mother’s health failed for the last time and she died a few months later.

We recognize or learn things only when we are ready, like taking the prerequisite courses in school and coming to the advanced courses, we have the background to put our knowledge in context and to ask the right questions so that we might personalize our learning for ourselves. I had experienced many losses of cats before Peaches, but until I’d had those experiences and had time to fully realize what I’d learned, I couldn’t have understood some of what Peaches was telling me in her last days or carried it forward. Likewise, as I realized Peaches’ final days were near and her physical condition deteriorated, I could use what my veterinarian had taught me through the years with all those other losses and understand what Peaches was experiencing, and anticipate her needs as I first kept her as healthy as possible with diet and supplements and treatments, then as comfortable as possible without trying to force her to be well.

Kublai had taught me that the “thoughts” I was having at certain times were actually him—and other cats in the house and beyond—telling me what they really needed. Through Sally’s long ordeal with the osteosarcoma growing on her jaw and sapping a little bit from her each day, I learned to let my cats lead me in their treatments so there was no fighting over medications and force feeding. Moses and Stanley lived so long I learned over time what happens to an older cat’s body and what to anticipate as a cat aged and then began to weaken.

With each of these and others my veterinarian taught me the specific signs and symptoms of pain, especially in a species which  is a master at hiding pain, and an animal who is too incapacitated to even make a sound, checking body temperature, heart rate and respiration, twitching tails and trembling limbs, dilated pupils and narrowed eyes and more. I could monitor Peaches with much more confidence in my decisions about her care, and when it came to be Cookie’s time in February 2012 I monitored her through the day and the following night for symptoms of pain or distress, ready to call my veterinarian or pack Cookie up and run to the emergency clinic. I could also see that Kelly was beginning to fail late that summer. And then this summer in 2013 I could clearly see Lakota’s condition when he arrived and when he finally began is final descent, and I continue to monitor Emeraude.

three black cats and one dilute calico
Back on the Butterfly.

All this learning had helped to prepare me for Peaches’ experience on October 20, 2010. She had lost her human and her home, and her fur sister and everything she knew, but she gently and bravely went forward into a new life, accepting all that lived with love, and accepting all love that was offered.

This has become the day I celebrate her, her strength, her guidance, her intuitive intelligence, though I remember her with a smile every single day.

A series of three articles

I wrote many articles as I chronicled Peaches from her diagnosis to her death and beyond, but I invite you to read three main articles that capture our experiences.

dilute tortoiseshell cat
I feel like crap. Can’t you do something about it?

Farther Along the Path: Caring at the End

Leading up to her last month, when decisions were less certain:
Farther Along the Path: Caring at the End

I originally published this on October 15, 2010. Peaches was 20 years old and had been diagnosed with renal failure in March that year. I’d been chronicling our path together through the seasons, for my own sake and for the sake of others who were also caring for a cat in renal failure, hoping to provide real-life guidance so others would know they were not alone in their level of caregiving. Peaches would come to the end of her path on October 20, just five days after this, but she was the boss of the whole process and I never once felt any fear or regret from her, I just followed her along; she was very clear in her instructions. Very much like this time of the year, I am remembering her and thinking of those of you who are also caring for cats and other pets in end-stage renal failure.

 Peaches taught me well: Don’t look forward in fear, but be with the moment. As the end inevitably draws closer, love, don’t fear.

. . . . . . .

dilute calico cat ready to eat grass
Peaches has a snack.

Remembering Peaches

Her final decisions on the days up to and including her passing:
Remembering Peaches, One Year Later

There is something wonderful in the act of choosing an animal to share your life, there is something else when you suddenly discover that an animal in need who you’ve taken in has simply stolen your heart.

I wrote this article a week after Peaches passed as a summation of her battle with chronic renal failure, and those last days through her euthanasia. This might mean a “tissue alert” for those who don’t feel strong enough to read an article where a pet dies, completely understandable if the time is not right for you.

. . . . . . .

 

Angel Daisies
Angel Daisies

On Dying and Death, and Remembrance

My revelation of Peaches’ teaching as a month later I watched a similar decline in my mother:
On Dying and Death, and Remembrance

A slightly edited version of this article in the Cat Writers’ Association newsletter Meow won a Muse Medallion as an “Opinion Piece, Essay, or Editorial” in the 2011 Cat Writers’ Association annual Communications Contest.

And then there’s Peaches rescue story:
Never Underestimate a Senior Kitty

And Peaches’ chronicle from diagnosis:
Bastet and Freya, Do Us a Favor
It’s Peaches’ 100th Birthday!
A Day in the Life Of a Senior Kitty and Her Mom
How Peaches Stole My Heart
Peaches Says, “Thanks for all the good wishes, they worked!”
Get Well Wishes for Peaches


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Bernadette

From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, The Creative Cat offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats. From catchy and creative headlines to factual articles and fictional stories, The Creative Cat provides constant entertainment and important information to people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

2 thoughts on “The Best Teachers

  • October 21, 2013 at 1:20 pm
    Permalink

    peaches…ewe rock…plain N simple…ewe rock…N mom B…thanx for de tizzues heads up….may bee another day…
    sum days de foodz gurl bee oh kay with this…otherz …knot sew much sew……herz been thinkin bout sauce two much
    late lee….thiz bee a knot sew much sew… kinda day

    XXXXX

    Reply
    • October 21, 2013 at 2:04 pm
      Permalink

      Tabbies, Peaches did rock, all five years she was with me. Make sure you come back and read about how wonderfully Peaches was surrounded by all of us for her entire last day, and even afterward. She was quite the organized kitty, and apparently had it all planned. She was amazing.

      Reply

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