Making Decisions and Thinking Big

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Have you ever had to make a really big decision and found yourself paralyzed by fear?  Maybe you were trying to decide whether to leave your job.  Maybe a relationship had gone sour and you were thinking about leaving.  Maybe you were trying to decide about moving to a new city.  But you found yourself unable to make a decision.  Why do we get stuck when it comes to making big decisions, and how can we overcome this?

One of the main reasons why we often find it hard to make decisions is that we think of the outcome being right or wrong.  Contrary to the funny picture at the top of this post, there really are no wrong decisions (although the kitten in the photo might disagree!), there are only different choices.  Once you truly believe that, it becomes easier to make decisions.   Additionally, very few decisions are irreversible.  We always have the power to make a different choice.

Another reason why making a decision can be difficult is fear.  Fear of the outcome, fear of how a “wrong” decision may impact our lives and the lives of those around us, fear of taking some risks.  A fear-based decision is never a good decision.  Fear limits.  If we live in fear, we will never be able to realize our full potential.  Fear is never truth.  If you feel fear, remember to connect with your spiritual core and remind yourself that there is no room for fear when you are connected to your true self.

So how do we go about making decisions without getting caught up in worry, fear and limitations?  One of the best pieces of advice I got from one of my mentors was to make decisions from the place I want to be, not from the place I’m in.  This means that if I’m thinking and dreaming big, I need to be ready to make decisions that support that kind of thinking.  I can’t decide from a place of fear and scarcity if I want to live a big life that fully reflects who I really am. 

Amber doesn’t understand why  humans have such a difficult time making decisions.  She says all decisions are ultimately only about two things:  does it feel good?  Or does it feel bad?  Make the decision that feels good, and it will always serve you.

“Tortitude” – The Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats

tortitude tortoiseshell cat personality

Tortoiseshell cats are named for their distinctive coloring – a combination of patches of black, brown, amber, red, cinnamon and chocolate.  The size of the patches varies from a fine speckled pattern to large areas of color.  The term “tortoiseshell” is used for cats with brindled coats that have few or no white markings.  Cats of this coloring with larger areas of white fur are called calicos. Sometimes, these colors present in lighter versions such as lilac or cream.  Torties with this lighter coloring are called dilute torties.  Occasionally, the typical tortoiseshell colors are also seen in a tabby (striped) pattern, and these cats are sometimes referred to as “torbies.”

Tortoiseshell cats are almost exclusively female.  Tortoiseshell and calico coats are the result of the interaction between genetic and developmental factors.  The occasional and very rare male tortoiseshell cat is the result of a genetic mutation.

In addition to their distinctive coloring, torties also have a reputation for unique personalities, sometimes referred to as “tortitude.”  They tend to be strong-willed, a bit hot-tempered, and they can be very possessive of their human.  Other words used to describe torties are fiercely independent, feisty and unpredictable.  They’re usually very talkative and make their presence and needs known with anything from a hiss to a meow to a strong purr.  These traits are stronger in tortoiseshell cats than in calicos – it seems as though these traits are somewhat diluted with the addition of more white to the color scheme.

As of the writing of this post, I share my life with Amber*, and those of you who’ve followed this blog for a while have gotten to know her in her Amber’s Mewsings posts.  You will soon be able to read all about Buckley in Buckley’s Story – Lessons from a Feline Master TeacherThe photo above shows Buckley in the front, Amber behind her.

Prior to Amber and Buckley, there was another tortie in my life.  Virginia was the first office cat at the animal hospital I managed.  She was my introduction to torties, and my love affair with this particular type of cat began with her.  She, too, had the “tortitude” I so love about these particular cats.

Do you have a tortie or calico in your life?  Does she have “tortitude?”

*Sadly, Amber passed away on May 13, 2010, after a sudden, brief illness.  I now share my life with Allegra and Ruby, two tortoiseshell cats who have their own columns here on The Conscious Cat, titled Allegra’s World and Ruby’s Reflections.

Photo ©Ingrid King, all rights reserved

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Amber’s Mewsings: Mom Went Away for the Weekend

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Mom isn’t much of a traveler.  I think it’s because she really likes to stay home with me and misses me too much when she goes away – which I can totally understand, of course, since being with me is just the best.  She used to go away a couple of times a year, but all that changed last April, when my sister Buckley got sick.  Mom was really upset about it.  Buckley had to take a lot of medications, and the vet said that her heart was bad.  Buckley was a bit of a pistol when it came to taking pills, and I think Mom was worried that our cat sitter wouldn’t be able to give Buckley her pills.  I also think she didn’t want to leave Buckley, not knowing how much time the three of us would have left together.  We were such a team, it was hard to imagine we wouldn’t always be a threesome.  You’ll soon be able to read more about all of that in Buckley’s Story.  Anyway, after Buckley died, Mom was sad for a long time.  I did my best to comfort her, and I know she didn’t feel like being away from me.

But last weekend, she went away, just for the weekend.  My cat sitter came twice a day to take care of me.  She’s one of my favorite people.  She doesn’t just come to feed me (which is the most important part of her visit, don’t get me wrong!) and clean out my litter box (also very important, I’m a very clean cat).  She brushes me, and plays with me, and we watch tv together.    She’s really sweet, and I love her.  In between her visits, I mostly sleep.  I miss Mom while she’s gone, but I guess I understand that she needs to get away from everything every once in a while (well, not really, but I love her and if it’s what she wants to do, I’m okay with it).  She doesn’t do it much, so it’s fine.

It did make me think about how many cats are left alone when their moms and dads have to travel, especially over the summer, when humans do something they call going on vacation.   I don’t understand why you’d need a vacation when every day is just so wonderful that it makes no sense to me that you would want to get away from everything, but then, humans are hard to understand sometimes.   For cats, every day is a vacation day.  We get to sleep in, we have a servant at our beck and call all day long, our meals are served to us, we get to play when we feel like it.  Makes you wonder who the smart ones really are, doesn’t it?

I hope all the cats and their humans are having a great summer!

A Change of Pace, a Shift in Energy

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No matter how much you love your life, your environment, and your routine (and I do), sometimes, it’s good to have a  change of pace and a change of scenery.  Following the same routine day after day can lead to stale energy, and a quick and easy way to shake things up a bit is to get out of your normal environment.  So last weekend I went to visit a friend in New York City – my favorite city in the whole world.  What’s not to love?  In addition to being able to walk everywhere you want to go, there are so many great restaurants on every block, there’s Central Park, and there’s the incredible energy of a city of millions of people.  And I hadn’t seen my friend in two years, so it was long past time for a visit.

I had a fabulous weekend, and the trip reminded me how important a change of pace and scenery and an opportunity to get out of one’s normal routine can be.  Instead of my usual routine I spent the weekend walking around the city with my friend.  We caught up on each others’ lives, ate at wonderful restaurants, went to a comedy club (celebrity sighting:  Judah Friedlander from 30 Rock!), and hung out with my friend’s cats.  I came home feeling relaxed and recharged.

Even if you can’t get away for a weekend, there are simple ways to incorporate a change of pace into your day.  You’ll be surprised how even small changes can shift your energy, and as a result, free up creativity, open your mind to new and different possibilities, and make you feel great.

Some suggestions for a simple change of pace:

  • Take a different route to work.  Instead of going the quickest way, go the scenic route one day.  If you work from home, find a different place in the house to work from.
  • Make small changes in your daily routine.  Do you always follow the same sequence when you first get up in the morning?  Shake things up a bit.
  • Try a new food you’ve never had before.  Is there an ethnic cuisine you’ve  never head but always wanted to try? 
  • Rent a movie that’s different from your usual fare.  Do you usually watch dramas?  Try a comedy. 

You’ll be surprised how these seemingly small changes of pace can shift your energy.

The Lowdown on Nutritional Supplements

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This article was provided by Nancy Kay, DVM.  Dr. Kay is a Diplomate of the  American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.  She is the recipient of the American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award and author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life.   The article was written for pets, but it applies just as much to supplements for humans.

The nutritional supplement industry has become big business as people are looking for more natural ways to care for the health of their pets.  For example, a person might be inclined to try glucosamine or chondroitin sulfate for their dog’s arthritis pain rather than a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (the equivalent of doggie Advil).

The number of nutritional supplement manufacturers has grown exponentially.  Unfortunately, the quality of products hitting the market is somewhat hit or miss.  There is no FDA approval process for nutritional supplements, and incidents of contamination with heavy metals, pesticides, or other unsavory ingredients have been reported.  Additionally manufacturers are not required to comply with specific formulations for their products- the strength or concentration of the active ingredient may be inadequate, too much of a good thing, or just right.

Knowing this, how in the world can the average consumer purchase a product that is safe and effective?  Certainly query your vet for his or her recommendations.  We veterinarians are taught to use the ACCLAIM system (described below) to assess nutritional supplements.   You too can use this system to make educated choices about these products for yourself and your four-legged loved ones.

A = A name you recognize.  Choose an established company that provides educational materials for veterinarians and other consumers.  Is it a company that is well established?

C = Clinical experience.  Companies that support clinical research and have their products used in clinical trials that are published in peer-reviewed journals to which veterinarians have access are more likely to have a quality product.

C = Contents.  All ingredients should be clearly indicated on the product label.

L = Label claims.  Label claims that sound too good to be true likely are.  Choose products with realistic label claims.

A = Administration recommendations.  Dosing instructions should be accurate and easy to follow.  It should be easy to calculate the amount of active ingredient administered per dose per day.

I = Identification of lot.  A lot identification number indicates that a surveillance system exists to ensure product quality.

M = Manufacturer information.  Basic company information should be clearly stated on the label including a website (that is up and running) or some other means of contacting customer support.

For more information about Dr. Kay, please visit her website at http://www.speakingforspot.com or Spot’s Blog at http://speakingforspot.wordpress.com/

Book Review: “Black Hills” by Nora Roberts

Black HillsI’ve been reading Nora Roberts for decades, and while her books can be somewhat formulaic, as you would expect for the genre, they always provide a wonderful mixture of entertainment, escapism, and a great love story.  Who doesn’t like those elements in a book?  Over the past few years, her story lines have gotten a bit too “dark” for me, and I skipped several of her more recent releases such as High Noon.  I’m also not all that crazy about books about paranormal topics, and she lost me with her vampires and witches trilogies.  

Then Black Hills was released – and I’m a fan again.  If the gorgeous cover with the mesmerizing cougar wasn’t enough to grab my attention, the description of the book was:  Black Hills is the story of Lil Chance and Cooper Sullivan, who meet as children when Cooper comes from New York City to spend a summer at his grandparents’ South Dakota.  Each year, with Coop’s annual summer visit, their friendship deepens from innocent games to stolen kisses, but there is one shared experience that will forever haunt them: the terrifying discovery of a hiker’s body.

As the years pass, Lil becomes a wildlife biologist and establishes a wildlife sanctuary on her family’s land, while Coop struggles with his father’s demand that he attend law school and join the family firm.   Twelve years later, fate reunites them again.  Coop recently left his fastpaced life in New York to care for his aging grandparents and the ranch he has come to call home. Meanwhile, strange things are happening at the Chance Wildlife Refuge.  Small pranks and acts of destruction escalate into the heartless killing of one of the cougars housed at the refuge, recollections of an unsolved murder in these very hills lead to an investigation and a hunt for a serial killer.  Lil and Coop both know the natural dangers that lurk in the wild landscape of the Black Hills. But now they must work together to unearth a killer of twisted and unnatural instincts who has singled them out as prey.

In addition to a well-told and well-crafted story, the addition of the cats was what made me enjoy this book so much – and it even made the serial killer content tolerable for me (I don’t usually read books with that subject matter).  Lil rehabilitates wild cats – cougars, lions and tigers, trying to recreate as much of their natural environment as she can so they can live out their lives in a safe environment.  One cat in particular, a cougar she has named Baby, is bonded to her to the point of following her back to the refuge when she tries to release him into the wild. 

I met Nora Roberts at a book signing in Washington, DC last month, which probably added to my enjoyment of the book.  She was an entertaining speaker and answered questions from the audience for over an hour, and was extremely gracious while signing books for the over 800 attendees. 

Ingrid with Nora Roberts

Ingrid with Nora Roberts

How to Cope With Losing a Pet

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For those of us who share our lives with animals, it’s inevitable that at some point, we will be dealing with losing these beloved friends.  Over the last ten years, I’ve lost three cats, and I’ve helped many clients through pet loss during the years I worked in veterinary clinics.  As a result, I’m often asked how to cope with losing a pet.

Different things work for different people.  Each situation is unique.  Was the death sudden?  Did it come after a prolonged illness?  Was it the first time the person experienced losing a pet?   I share my own experience of dealing with pet loss and grief in Buckley’s Story – Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher, and maybe my readers will find some commonalities with what I went through.  Even though no two people will deal with pet loss in exactly the same way, I’ve found some common things that can help ease the pain at least a little.  I’ll also share some resources at the end of this article that have helped me when I’ve had to deal with grief and loss.

Acknowledge that losing a pet is a very difficult experience.  Many people, especially people who don’t have pets, don’t realize that losing a pet can often be far more difficult than losing a person.  Many of us view our pets as children, especially if we don’t have children of our own.  For most pet owners, losing a pet is very much like losing a child.    Don’t let anyone tell you that you should “get over it,” “it was only an animal,” or, even worse, “you can always get another one.”  Expect to feel the same emotions you would feel after a person close to you dies.  In Elizabeth Kuebler Ross’ model, the five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and eventually acceptance.  Expect that some of these stages may be magnified after losing a pet.

Mark the pet’s passing with some sort of ritual.  It’s important to acknowledge that your pet is gone.  A ritual can be something as elaborate as a memorial service and burial ceremony, or something as simple as lighting a candle in your pet’s memory each night for a little while.

Find supportive family and friends.  Not everyone in your life will be able to handle your grief.  It’s important that you find people who are comfortable with being supportive, can handle letting you cry, listen while you talk about your pet, or who can just quietly sit with you.  Many people don’t know what to do or say when faced with someone who is grieving, so, afraid of saying the wrong thing, they don’t say anything at all.  This can make you feel even more isolated during a difficult time.  Try not to judge people for their inability to handle your grief, and spend more time with those who can.

Allow yourself time to grieve.  There is no way around grief – the only way to deal with grief is to move through it.  If you try to ignore it, it will catch up with you when you least expect it.  You may need to spend an afternoon or an evening crying.  You may not want to distract yourself all the time.  While it’s not healthy to get stuck in your grief, pretending that nothing is wrong is equally unhealthy.  Try and find a balance.

Find things that comfort you.  Whether it’s a walk, music, a favorite book, looking at photos of your pet, or a perfect cup of tea, find small things that provide comfort for you. 

Getting over the loss of a pet takes time, and it takes being gentle with yourself.  If you find that you simply can’t cope, and that even supportive family members or friends aren’t enough to help you get through this difficult time, consider getting professional help.  And know that even though it seems hard to believe when you’re in the middle of grieving the loss of an animal friend, there is truth to the old adage that time heals all wounds.  It does get a little bit easier as time goes on, and one day, upon waking up in the morning, instead of your first thought being about your pet being gone, you’ll find yourself remembering something wonderful about your departed friend.

Resources:

• http://www.veterinarywisdom.com/ is a wonderful site for anyone looking for information on pet loss. The understand that it’s hard to face the future when you know it won’t include your beloved animal companion, and they offer a plethora of resources to prepare for and cope with pet loss, as well as to celebrate and cherish the pets we love.

• http://www.petloss.com/ provides information on how to cope with pet loss, a bulletin board to exchange messages and gain support from others grieving the loss of a pet, healing and inspirational poetry, and links to other internet pet loss sites.

• BooksFor Every Cat an Angel and For Every Dog an Angel by Christine Davis.  These little books are wonderfully illustrated and celebrate the connection between a human and his or her forever cat or dog.

• Music:  Some people find music plays an important part in the healing process.  One particular cd that I have found very helpful anytime I’ve dealt with loss, whether it was an animal or a person, is Beth Nielsen Chapman’s cd Sand and Water.  The singer/songwriter wrote the songs on this album after the loss of her husband to cancer.  The songs on the album reflect the many stages of grieving and healing, and are just as applicable to pet loss as they are to human loss.

• Private Pet Loss Consultation:   I offer phone consultations to help you navigate through your grief.  Sometimes, talking to someone who has experienced this devastating loss can make a difference.  For more information on consultations, click here.

The Psychology of Gratitude – Five Things I’m Grateful for Today

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Gratitude is a wonderful way to raise your vibration and shift your energy to a better feeling place.  The vibration of gratitude is a powerful force.  It can shift your mood and your thoughts from a place of scarcity to a place of abundance.   Research by Dr. Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis into the psychology of gratitude has shown that people who practice gratitude are 25% happier.  They are more optimistic about the future and feel better about their lives. 

Practicing gratitude is also a great way to start and end each day.  Think about five things you’re grateful for before you get out of bed each morning, and again before you go to sleep each night.  This practice will shift your vibration.  Do this for a few days and you will notice how the shift in your energy will transform your life.

My five for today are:

1.  Amber’s gentle, loving and peaceful presence in my life.

2.  Doing work I love, getting paid for it, and being in charge of my time.

3.  My wonderful friends.

4.  The unlimited possibilities life holds.

5.  Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

What five things are you grateful for today?

 

 

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Book Review: “Alive Day” by Tom Sullivan

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This book was sent to me for review by the publisher. They thought I might enjoy it because I loved The Art of Racing in the Rain  by Garth Stein.   It’s not a book I might have otherwise picked up, and I enjoyed the opportunity to read it.

Based in part on a true story, Alive Day is about blind psychiatrist Brenden McCarthy and his guide dog Nelson, a big-hearted and courageous black Lab.  It’s also the story of Antwone Carver, a Marine who is injured in Iraq and is struggling with coming to terms with the physical limitations caused by his injury.  McCarthy volunteers his services at a veterans’ hospital, is assigned to Carver and attempts to help the young Marine build a new life.  Nelson becomes an important contributor to the therapeutic process by his gentle and comforting presence.  This is a story about dealing with tragedy and life’s challenges, and it’s told in a straight-forward  and uplifting way.   While the solutions to the magnitude of the problems at hand may be a bit oversimplified at times, the overall message of the book is positive and inspirational, and dog lovers will enjoy the passages about Nelson. 

The author presents a convincing case of the need for better programs for veterans returning home from the war without being preachy or political.  However, I would have liked to have seen the bond between Nelson and McCarthy conveyed in greater depth.  While McCarthy’s love for and reliance on Nelson is very apparent, the story doesn’t delve deeply enough into the spiritual aspects of the human animal bond for this reviewer’s taste.

The book is a heartwarming and life-affirming testament to how the exuberant spirit and love of a dog can heal wounded hearts.

Amber’s Mewsings: Birthday Girl

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Today is my birthday, so I told  Mom I wanted to write something on here.  So far, my birthday has been pretty great.  I got my favorite breakfast (salmon and turkey, in case you’re wondering), and I got this really fun toy (you can see me with it in the photo).  I humored Mom by playing with it when she gave it to me, but most likely, it will be used as a pillow to rest my head on while I nap.  I don’t want to over-exert myself, it’s just not ladylike.

Actually, technically today is not my birthday, it’s the anniversary of the day Mom brought me home.  She doesn’t know my real birthday, and I don’t really remember.  I know some of you would love to hear my story, so I thought today would be a good day to share it.  I’m not sure how I feel about the fact that my sister Buckley gets a whole book to share her story and I get a single blog post, but it’s only part of my story, so I guess that’s okay.

Me and my five kittens were brought to the animal hospital where Mom worked in the spring of 2000 by a client who had found the little family in her barn.  I was hungry, skinny, and scrawny-looking, but my eventual beauty was evident to everyone even then.  My kittens found new homes in fairly rapid succession.  One of my daughters, a beautiful Calico, went to live with Cindy Ingram, the founder of Casey’s House.  Cindy rescued my sister Buckley five years later.

It didn’t seem like anyone was interested in me.  I spent my days in the big adoption cage in the hospital’s waiting area.  People would come and ooh and aah over how beautiful I was, but with the constant inflow of homeless kittens that is typical for spring and summer, nobody wanted to adopt an adult cat, no matter how gorgeous I was.  Mom had recently lost her almost sixteen-year-old soul mate cat Feebee, and the grief over his loss was still very fresh for her – I knew she was still hurting, and she didn’t think she was ready for another cat yet.  But I also knew that it was getting harder and harder for her to go back to an empty house every evening, and more importantly, I knew we were meant to be together.  I tried my best to get her attention, and she’d pet me occasionally, but she just wasn’t getting it.

Finally, on July 29, a Saturday, she took me home.  She said it was “just for the weekend.”  I knew better, but I wasn’t about to share that with her – she needed to figure that out for herself.  Mom said she wanted to give me a break from the abandoned feral kitten they had put in the cage with me after my own kittens had all found homes.  The kitten was a rambunctious six-week old grey tabby, and I was getting really tired of his constant need for attention.  I had done my mommy duty, and I was so over the whole thing.

After living in a cage for all these months, it was a little overwhelming to have an entire house available to explore.  I wasn’t sure what to do, it felt kind of scary to me, even though Mom did her best to make it okay for me.  I spent most of that first weekend near or under Mom’s bed.  I was so stressed I didn’t even eat for a day or two – and if you know anything about me, you know that food is very important to me!  But by Sunday evening, I felt braver and started exploring.

Of course, all weekend long, I’d been working my magic on Mom.  I really didn’t want to go back to the animal hospital.  Thank goodness, Mom started to get it.  She liked having my gentle and peaceful energy around the house, and she decided that I could stay a little longer.  Big sigh of relief on my part when Mom left for work at the animal hospital that Monday morning without taking me back there!  Mom still wasn’t quite ready to acknowledge that I was home to stay.  Instead, she told everyone that she was “just fostering me.”  Yeah, right.

Somehow, the flyers Mom had made up advertising that I was available for adoption never got distributed, and the rest is history.

Advances in Veterinary Medicine – Highlights from the ACVIM’s Annual Meeting

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The ACVIM is the American College for Veterinary Internal Medicine.  It is the recognized specialty college responsible for establishing training requirements, evaluating and accrediting training programs, and examining and certifying veterinarians in the veterinary specialties of Cardiology, Oncology, Neurology, Large Animal Internal Medicine, and Small Animal Internal Medicine.  As a non-profit organization, the ACVIM promotes and fosters scientific and professional activities that lead to better care for both animals and humans through training, education and discovery.

Each year, the ACVIM hosts a meeting that features cutting-edge internal veterinary medicine lectures and educational programs.  This years’ meeting took place in Montreal, Canada June 3-6.  Pet Expert Steve Dale, the author of the twice weekly syndicated newspaper column “My Pet World” (Tribune Media Services) and host of nationally syndicated radio programs Steve Dale’s Pet World, The Pet Minute with Steve Dale; and Steve Dale’s Pet World on WLS Radio, Chicago presented a summary of highlights from the meeting on the Good News for Pets site.

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