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My Four-legged Mentor
By Diana Carr

Eyes the color of Irish moss locked onto me and wouldn’t let me go. Willed me into returning the gaze. Made me fall in love on the spot. The rescue kitty, a silver tabby, had chosen me, and I’m so glad he did. He has been my teacher, as well as my friend.

He was so weensy, that at six weeks old he could snuggle up quite nicely in the palm of my hand. Not much time for snuggling, though. He had a cat’s boundless curiosity, which took him on endless excursions throughout the house, exploring this and that, taking such delight in absolutely everything. I would watch him wrestle with a paper bag, every inch of him thrown into the fray, nothing else in the world mattering, and I would think, “This is how life is supposed to be. This good, and this simple.”  

Life moved along pleasantly for Shamus and me, until three years ago, when the vet told me that my buddy, who was only a year old at the time, had cardiomyopathy. I had previously lost a cat to this insidious disease, and I knew firsthand of the anguish of it all. So I just stood there and cried as if my world had just come to an end. I felt like it had.

The days rolled on, and the specter of the illness haunted me, but I was able to push it aside. I almost convinced myself that everything was okay. He was the same frisky little guy he’d always been, and I clung to that. When he began coughing, my desperation to hold onto him convinced me that it was nothing. Until the day he couldn’t stop coughing and collapsed on the floor, gasping for air. I rushed him to the emergency hospital, where he spent two days in oxygen, undergoing innumerable tests. The coughing had led to congestive heart failure, and on top of that, he picked up a severe infection. When I visited him, he would press his face up against the glass of the bubble he was in, as upset by our separation as I was. He seemed so fragile, so forlorn. I wish I could tell you that I took it all in stride. Saw the big picture. Got on board with the “It’s the natural order of things, death is a part of life” philosophy, but I didn’t. I was shattered, through and through. Life without him looked like a big gaping hole. Going with the flow does not come easily to me.

But he pulled through. He was still quite sick when he came home, but prayers and antibiotics got him back on his feet. I thought I could finally let out my breath. It turns out I couldn’t. He was still coughing, and my vet wasn’t taking it seriously. So I switched over to a holistic vet, who almost immediately determined that the cause of the coughing was asthma, triggered by allergies. Double trouble. The meds needed for his lungs would be injurious to his heart, but the coughing, left unchecked, could be, and almost was, fatal. It was the proverbial “between a rock and a hard place.”

Shamus was put on heart medicine, and my vet told me to give him the steroid only when a coughing spell was going on too long. It was a crap shoot – trying to decide in the moment which was the lesser of the evils, the medicine or the coughing. My days and nights became a constant vigil. Waiting for that horrible cough that bubbled up from deep inside him. I cringed whenever he coughed, held my breath, prayed for it to quickly end, hoped it wasn’t hurting his heart.

Things went from bad to worse when his body was suddenly ravaged by an infection “of unknown origin.” We were at the vet’s nearly every day for two weeks, for shots and intravenous fluids, and I was giving him antibiotics at home. It was touch and go, and again I called on the Powers That Be to save my friend. And again They did.

Then came the day last June when we had a repeat of the original crisis-coughing that resulted in congestive heart failure and another two-day stint in the emergency hospital, with oxygen and IVs and tests. The admitting vet said I would probably have to make the decision to have him put to sleep, to which, thank God, I replied it was most certainly not time to be talking about that. When I checked him out two days later, that vet told me that he wouldn’t be well for very long. And I am thrilled to say, they were both wrong. They were just looking at the fragility of his body, and did not see his invincible spirit.

Shortly after I got him home, my vet called me and said, ‘I’m not giving up on this guy.” He said he was getting equipment which would allow him to give Shamus laser treatments, which would act as acupuncture. Shamus received these treatments every week for a while, and now gets one every two weeks. They have worked miracles. But then, miracles are what this little guy is all about.

He’s on the steroid every day now, as we now know this is what is needed to keep the coughing at bay. And I bought a grounding mat for him, which is plugged into the grounding port of my electrical outlet, and connects him to the earth’s healing energies when he lies upon it. (This is a real boon, as he’s an indoor kitty.) I believe it’s working.

It’s been a roller coaster ride, to be sure. He had a setback at the end of February and the beginning of March, when allergy season kicked off, but in his typical “unsinkable Molly Brown” fashion, he weathered it, and came out the other side. He’s doing great now.  The lungs are clear, my vet tells me. Those Irish moss eyes have regained their luster. His coat gleans. His energy level is high. He is again fully engaged with life.

He has taught me that life is precious, and something worth fighting for. He has taught me the value of an indomitable spirit. He has taught me to just keep plowing through, that that is how to beat the odds. He has shown me that no matter what the body is going through, the spirit always has the last say.

And in spite of all he’s been through, he remains ever gentle and sweet. He’s like an angel walking among us, showing us the way. He never holds a grudge, a lesson we probably all could learn. I’ve had to force meds on him, and I’m clumsy while I’m doing it. He hates it. I hate it. But he always forgives me, and just keeps loving me. If I were him, I’d be mad at me. Even when I put my fingers in his mouth, in an attempt to cajole the pill that landed on his tongue into sliding the rest of the way down his throat, he is careful not to bite me. And this is where most cat owners get bitten. I think he is the most magnanimous creature I have ever met. All he’s been through has not left a blight on his soul. He curls up in my lap and smoozes with me and purrs, and is just 14 pounds of Pure Love.

His lessons are many. He has taught me about courage. He has deepened my heart. He’s got me believing in miracles–no small thing when life is threatening to take a direction I wish it wouldn’t.

He’s helped me to live in the moment, in a state of gratitude. I have always clutched at life in a white-knuckle sort of way, needing to know what’s coming next. He’s loosened my grip. He’s brought home the message that life comes with no guarantees, and you can make yourself crazy looking for one, so it’s best to just snuggle into the moment and receive its gifts, and its tribulations, whatever they may be. Live with the uncertainty of it all. Tuck away all those “what ifs.” I have learned to live in the Land of Now, like he does, and just cherish our time together. When I wake up in the morning, and he rounds the bend, I say, “Yes, we have another day. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

And so, to Shamus, my teacher and my mentor, I say, “Namaste. May the God in me see the God in you.” He does.

Diana Carr Bio:

I have a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling, I’m certified as a life coach and and as a hypnotherapist, I’m currently taking a home study course in order to become a natural health consultant, and I’ve been a freelance reporter for ten years. I am passionate about animal welfare, living a healthy and non-toxic life, and doing whatever I can to preserve our precious planet. I’m a “nature girl,” and spend every possible moment outside.

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