The Bootsy Chronicles: More End-of Life Lessons From My Feline Companion

A Brief Recap

On February 23, 2012, my article titled Daughter’s Cats Help Dad Keep Connection was published on this site.  In it, I focused on the recent health challenges that my daughter Jeannine’s cat, Bootsy, had been experiencing. Specifically, he had lost weight and was looking pretty lethargic.

Bootsy, who is 14, was a Christmas Eve gift to Jeannine from her best friend. After Jeannine died at the age of 18 in 2003, Bootsy became attached to me. I became attached to him as well as Jeannine’s other cat, Angel, who is about a year younger than Bootsy. I had also mentioned in my article that I will be saddened when Bootsy and Angel cross over, not only because of their constant companionship since Jeannine’s death, but also because of their connection to Jeannine.

Change is Good

My wife Cheri took Bootsy to our veterinarian; she told me that that other than his weight loss, he (the veterinarian) found no other abnormalities. He suggested steroids to promote weight gain, but we decided not to comply because of what we perceived to be adverse side effects.  So we supplemented his dry food diet with canned cat food.

So far, Bootsy appears to have responded positively to this change. He looks like he has put on a little weight and has developed more energy.

The Lessons in Transitions

Bootsy’s recent health challenges taught me about the importance of being attentive to behaviors that signal the transition from life to death and being a witness and perhaps guide on the journey. Here is what else his life journey is teaching me:

  • Love extends life or at least improves the quality of it: Bootsy has chosen me to be the one who feeds him his canned cat food. Bootsy eats small portions three to four times per day.  Therefore, three to four times per day, I get the opportunity to show my love and gratefulness to him for being a part of my life journey.  I know that Bootsy is going to eventually cross over, as we all are, but it is gratifying to me to watch him respond positively to my efforts to nurse him back to health.
  • Animals can help us resolve past issues and learn from them: I have always lamented that I should have paid more attention to the shifts in behavior and energy that signaled Jeannine’s transition from life to death. Bootsy’s recent health challenges have given me an opportunity to do what I couldn’t do with Jeannine.  Bootsy’s journey is giving me the opportunity to look at my past, learn from it, and make peace with it.
  • Life is precious: Every morning after I feed Bootsy, he will come and sit with me on our couch in the family room.  I have now gotten into the habit of saying to him: “Well Boots, we have got to thank God… He gave us another one.”   Jeannine’s death taught me that life is precious and that death is never truly unexpected, but always untimely.  Bootsy’s own journey has reinforced my need to continue to appreciate the beauty of the present moment.
  • Prayer can change things: Shortly after we started supplementing Bootsy’s diet with canned cat food, I had a brief discussion with God.  I told him that if it was his will for Bootsy to cross over, so be it… but that selfishly I’d like him to stick around for a while.  I did not attach a specific number of days, months or years to that request.  I have learned from my own experience with Jeannine’s death, that sacred law regarding time is a lot different than human law.  However, the fact that Bootsy is still a part of my physical world as I write this is an indication that God does not believe his mission on earth is over yet.. He has more lessons left to teach.

 

“I have lived with several Zen Masters — all of them cats.”
-Eckhart Tolle

David Roberts 2012 

David Roberts

More Articles Written by David

David J. Roberts, LMSW ,became a parent who experienced the death of a child, after his daughter Jeannine died of cancer on 3/1/03 at the age of 18. He is a retired addiction professional and is also an adjunct professor in the psychology department at Utica College, Utica, New York. Dave has presented workshops at national conferences of The Compassionate Friends and Bereaved Parents ,as well as local and regional venues. Dave was also the keynote speaker at both the 2011 and 2015 national gatherings of the Bereaved Parents of the USA. He is also a featured speaker,workshop presenter and coach for Aspire Place(www.aspireplace.com) Dave is a HuffPost contributor and has also written articles for several other grief and self-improvement publications. He has co-authored two books with Linda Findlay of Mourning Discoveries. One is on navigating grief during the holidays and the other is on pet loss. One of Dave's articles” My Daughter is Never Far Away" can also be found in Open to Hope: Inspirational Stories of Healing and Loss. Excerpts from Dave's article for The Open to Hope Foundation, called The Broken Places, were featured in the 2012 Paraclete Press DVD video, Grieving the Sudden Death of a Loved One. Dave has also appeared on Healing the Grieving Heart and the Advocacy Heals U radio shows , and the Open to Hope television show . Dave’s website: www.bootsyandangel.com is devoted to providing support and resources for individuals experiencing loss.

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  • Christina Smythe says:

    I definitely agree with you David. Life is precious and we should cherish every moment of it. I am happy to know that you have found companionship with Bootsy. It’s really hard to lose someone dear to us and having something or someone to help us deal with the grief is very important. In my case, I have found solace and comfort through a great application within Facebook called Evertalk. My friend introduced it to me when my dear husband died last year. It allows to create a separate space within Facebook to remember our loved ones who passed away and celebrate their lives. When I knew about it, I checked out the application and created a memorial page for my loving husband. I kept our pictures there and I write stories and leave messages for him in a guestbook. It became my outlet of sadness. Whenever I check the page, it makes me smile and it cheers me up. Anyways, I wanted to pass along the recommendation to check out Evertalk within Facebook. Their web site is http://www.everta.lk

    Hope this helps.

  • Jacklyn Johnson says:

    These experiences and the stories shared are a valuable, instructive guidance that can help us all cope with the painful physical and emotional reactions to the separation from loved ones.Thanks for sharing your stories. Always remember that life goes on. Thanks for the heads up on the Evertalk page Christina.

  • @ Christina. Thank you for your great feedback and observations. Please accept my condolences for the death of your husband. Thanks for the heads up on evertalk.

    Wishing you peace.

  • @ Jacklyn. Open to Hope is blessed with many gifted writers who willingly share their stories and perceptions about the grief journey with others. Telling the story of our journeys is a necessary part of being able to go from the raw pain of grief to finding meaning in a world that has totally changed because of the death of our loved ones. I hope you continue to find inspiration and hope on this site.

    Wishing you peace