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25th Anniversary, and Pet Memorial Sunday

black cat in garden
Kublai among the columbines.

Even after 25 years, each year when the relentless August sun softens to mellow September light angling in to illuminate the shadows, the cooler nights while the days grow shorter, as did yours, I remember those last weeks with you, who rescued me, who taught me so much, even in your death.

We celebrated Pet Memorial Sunday with Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation on Sunday, September 19 this year, a week later than the actual Pet Memorial Sunday on September 12. That put the celebration squarely on the date Kublai died 25 years ago. The coincidence is not lost on me.

Above is the tribute I wrote to include in the ceremony, and it’s true, every year since 1996, as September light and days and quiet cool slowly change from summer to autumn, I also begin to think about him and our last weeks. He communicated so clearly, and he and I both knew he was going to die, but as long as the wordless communication continued, worked in expressions and thoughts, I was disbelieving, but okay, and apparently so was he.

Early on, an animal communicator had told me that he felt he could beat this, and she thought so too, and gave me lots of information about treatments for him to use along with the allopathic medicine. I believed that and following her suggestions got myself a crash course in homeopathic remedies and flower essences. I had faith in all the alternatives, but I recognize now that I’ve used them for decades I was looking at each of them as an individual treatment instead of as one part of a whole system that could and should be adjusted each day. If I could have gotten enough fluids in him, that would have made a huge difference, but he moved so much, though I could have warmed them more. Now I have a system for that, but not then. If I had recognized symptoms more easily and changes due to the alternative therapies, if I had been able to get the ingredients for the raw and cooked diets, all of those things, worked together, could have made a very real difference, but I was floundering in doing and not yet in knowing, just intuiting. Now I know these things, but then I didn’t. In part it was my own self-doubt, and that’s where I feel I failed him. I didn’t have faith in myself, how could I be successful? It’s not a regret, and I’m not angry at myself, this is how I learn and always has been. And as always I learned lessons through him.

Even in that, he taught me a lesson, and I have used it to the betterment of all the cats who come into my life since then. Each September, I remember that too.

Looking at the photo above, note the columbine leaves and the bit of pale yellow behind Kublai, the grassy things off to the right. Look in the photo below—he was getting a drink in the birdbath. We know another black kitty who does that too!

I love the way he’s looking at me in the photo below, despite all the evidence of his illness. I knew that expression. We were in this together until the end, whenever and however that happened.

Kublai and me in August 1996.
Kublai and me in August 1996.

He weighed about six pounds in these photos. He had weighed 12 at his mature weight. Obviously with two shaved front legs he’d recently had some tests, IV fluids, I remember there was antibiotic therapy, prednisolone, other medications administered in hospital. He wasn’t staying hydrated, he wasn’t getting nourishment from his food, even his fur was fading from the rich black it had always been to a dull mahogany. He wasn’t visibly suffering and was still pretty active, had in fact been able to cut his way through the basement screen door with one of his claws, the Houdini cat he always was, and I was shocked when I looked out to see him in the driveway. My veterinarian would soften things but never minced words. I knew it was “just a matter of time”.

This photo may look familiar, but maybe not as a photo.

The reference photo for my sketch.
The reference photo for my sketch.

My profile image on Facebook, LinkedIn and a few other places, is a charcoal a sketch on a blue background of me holding Kublai, called, not surprisingly, “Self-portrait with Kublai”. I sketched it when I participated in an art exhibit with the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators in 2004 and needed an image of myself to include in the catalog; most of us either had or decided to do self-portraits. I remembered these photos and had always wanted to create some image of the two of us from them.

charcoal sketch on blue paper
Self-portrait with Kublai, charcoal pencil on paper.

I was 35 years old and it seems like ages ago, so many cats ago, so many illnesses and lessons ago.

My veterinarian was pretty sure it was toxoplasmosis, partly because so much else had been ruled out, though it didn’t respond to clindamycin; that’s one of the reasons toxoplasmosis has been on my radar again since Basil was diagnosed. I don’t want any other cat to go through what Kublai did.

That’s also why I’m thinking so much of Kublai this year and was determined to find this roll of photos this year. It turned out they weren’t in one of the typical photo envelopes, but the developing shop had put them into a small album, which I had stored in a different box. I’m glad to see them again, though they bring up many memories and the feelings of fear and failure that I also associate with losing him. It’s not a bad thing to revisit now and then, and especially after so much time and so many other losses. Kublai prepared me for what was to come, and especially now looking back, I am grateful for that.

This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave e’re long.

~from Shakespeare’s 73rd sonnet

Read the whole sonnet, and more about Kublai in To Love That Well Which Thou Must Leave ‘Ere Long.


Read more articles about pet loss.

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Animal Sympathy Cards from Portraits of Animals!

portrait of black cat on floor
Are You Looking At Me? pastel, 17″ x 22″, 2005 © B.E. Kazmarski

This is the guy who started it all–and nearly the last one to have his portrait done! He fostered every stray kitten and cat I ever brought into my home, and shepherded me through the ups and downs of the fifteen years he was with me. Read more and purchase.


All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.

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Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life

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

4 thoughts on “25th Anniversary, and Pet Memorial Sunday

  • catladymac

    I’m sure we all have cats that we wish we had known better how to treat them. Hopefully they have forgiven us.

    • I’m sure they do. Animals have amazing self-healing powers, but those are limited too. They know when love has done its best.

  • Hugs and purrs on this sad remembrance time.
    Remember; you did the best that you could, and your love is still alive.

    • Things were pretty limited then, but I’d still like another chance with what I’ve learned. I allow that. More than that, I’m grateful for what I learned because of him.


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