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 

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David Roberts

David J. Roberts, LMSW, became a parent who experienced the death of a child, when his daughter Jeannine died of cancer on 3/1/03 at the age of 18. He is a retired addiction professional and an adjunct professor in the psychology department at Utica College in Utica, New York. Dave is a featured speaker, workshop facilitator and coach for Aspire Place, LLC (www.aspireplace.com) He is also the chapter leader for The Compassionate Friends of the Mohawk Valley. Mr. Roberts has been a presenter at the Southern Humanities Council Conference in both 2017 and 2018. Dave has been a past workshop facilitator for The Compassionate Friends. He has also been a past workshop facilitator and keynote speaker for The Bereaved Parents of the USA. Mr. Roberts has contributed articles to the Huffington Post blog, The Grief Toolbox, Recovering the Self Journal and Medium. 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. He has appeared on numerous radio and internet broadcasts and Open to Hope Television. Dave was also part of a panel in 2016 for the BBC Podcast, World Have Your Say, with other grief experts, discussing the death of Carrie Fisher. Dave’s website: www.bootsyandangel.com is devoted to providing support and resources for individuals experiencing loss.

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