Father’s Day Reflections

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Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there! 

My dad passed away five years ago.  While our relationship was complicated at times, I always knew that he loved me, and I have lots of wonderful memories of him.  His life was shaped to a great extent by his experiences during World War II in Germany, and as a result of experiencing so much loss at such a young age, he held those he loved close to him – at times, too close for a daughter who wanted to spread her wings and fly from the nest!   

He instilled in me my love of nature – some of my earliest and fondest memories are of long walks in the woods and parks near our home.  He taught me the names of all the flowers, trees, butterflies and animals we’d encounter on those walks.  He loved the Alps – his happiest times were spent hiking those beautiful mountains.  The photo above is of a town in Austria where we spent many childhood vacations. 

He worked hard at a job he didn’t enjoy all that much to provide for my mother and me.  We were by no means rich, but he always made me feel like we were.  He loved to travel, and after taking early retirement, for the next nine years, he and my mother traveled extensively.  He especially enjoyed his travels in the Western part of the United States – every Western movie he’d ever seen came to life for him there.  He would talk about those trips for years to come. 

He had a difficult time dealing with my mother’s death, and his life contracted again.  He didn’t enjoy traveling by himself, and other than his annual visit to the United States, he stayed close to home.  When he became ill with prostate cancer, I wasn’t sure he would want to fight – but he surprised me.  He wanted to live, and he survived.  Then he decided that it was time to make a lifelong dream come true.  He sold his home of forty years almost overnight, and bought a condo in the Black Forest, where he spent the last two years of his life in an environment that he loved.   Having been a life-long worrier, he learned to live in the moment and “appreciate each flower and each butterfly,” as he once told me.  He passed away after a short illness, and knowing how happy he was the last two years of his life was a great comfort to me.

If you still have your father, tell him that you love him today.  My dad had a long, sometimes difficult, but ultimately good life, and I miss his physical presence in my life.  His spirit is never far from me.

Book Review: “Probable Claws” by Clea Simon

probable_claws_145I love reading murder mysteries that feature cats, and this series is one of my favorites.  “Probable Claws” is the fourth in the series, the other three are “Mew is for Murder“, “Cattery Row” and “Cries and Whiskers“.  All feature cat and rock and roll loving freelance writer Theda Krakow and her black and white tuxedo cat Musetta.

In “Probable Claws”, Theda finds herself the prime suspect for the murder of a shelter veterinarian, with Musetta as the only witness to what really happened.  Theda is released on bail thanks to the connections of her former cop boyfriend Bill.  Now she has to find the real killer before she and Musetta become the next victims.

The plot is exceptionally well-crafted, the characters are multi-dimensional and likeable, and you find yourself wanting to savor the story while at the same time wanting to race to the finish to find out who did it. 

You might want to consider reading the entire series from start to finish.  One of the things I enjoyed about all four books, almost more than the actual plot lines, was the character development.  By the time you’re into the second book, you feel like you’re reconnecting with old friends.  I sure hope that “Probable Claws” won’t be the last in this series.

The Senior Cat Wellness Visit

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Regular veterinary exams are important at any age, but they become even more important as your cat ages.  Typically, veterinarians recommend annual exams for healthy pets up to age 6 or 7.  There is some controversy in the profession regarding the frequency of exams in younger cats, but most experts agree that even healthy senior cats should be examined at 6-month intervals.  This is important because:

  • Many disease conditions begin to develop in cats in middle age.
  • Health changes in cats can occur very quickly, and cats age faster than humans.
  • Cats are masters at masking disesase and by the time symptoms appear, they can present as acutely ill.
  • Cat parents may not always recognize the existence or importance of sublte changes, especially in multi-cat households.
  • Early detection of disease results in easier management and better quality of life.

A typical senior wellness visit will include the following:

  • Obtaining information from the cat’s person  regarding any behavior changes, changes in activity or litter box habits, changes in eating or drinking, current diet and supplements, and more.
  • A thorough physical exam that includes checking weight, skin and haircoat quality, oral cavity, ears, eyes, thyroid gland palpitation, listening to the heart, abdominal palpitation, checking of joints and muscle tone.
  • Bloodwork to check a complete bloodcount, chemistry screen and thyroid profile.  For more information about why bloodwork is so important, read “Bloodwoork For Your Pet:  What It Means and Why Your Pet Needs It.” 
  • Urinalysis to assess kidney function and bladder health.

Senior Feline Care Guidelines

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The American Association of Feline Practitioners has completed an updated version of the Senior Care Guidelines.  The guidelines will be published in the September issue of The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.  They address a broad range of issues including medical, behavioral and lifestyle considerations and will help veterinarians deliver consistent high quality care for older cats.  I’ll be sharing some of the highlights from these guidelines over the next weeks to help you make informed decisions about care for your own cats.

While there is no specific age at which a cat becomes a “senior” since individual animals age at different rates, the AAFP uses the following definitions:  “mature or middle-aged” (7-10 years), “senior” (11-14 years), and “geriatric” (15+ years).  The guidelines use the term “senior” to include all of these age groups.

The guidelines address the recommended frequency of wellness visits, the minimum database of lab values such as bloodwork and urinalysis that should be obtained at each visit, routine wellness care, nutrition and weight management, dental care, anesthesia and the special needs of the older cat, and monitoring and managing specific diseases.

The guidelines are dedicated to the memory of Dr. Jim Richards, the famed “kitty doctor” and former director of the Cornell Feline Health Center, who died in a motorcycle accident in 2007.  Two of his favorite quotes were “Cats are masters at hiding illness” and “Age is not a disease.”

Look for more information on the Senior Care Guidelines in future posts.

How to Shift Your Mood in an Instant

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About a month ago, I talked about how making a conscious decision to get happy can really make a difference in how we feel and how we approach our life.   But some days, our mood and energetic vibration just seem to be such that even getting to the place where we can make that decision can be a bit of a stretch.

For those days, it helps to have a ready list of thoughts, images and actions that can help to shift your mood and vibration almost instantly.  You can’t think of something beautiful or someone you really love and not feel better.  Picture a place where you’ve always felt good in the past, and just thinking about that place will change your mood.  Put on a beautiful piece of music and your vibration will change.

Here are some of my “vibration shifters:”

  • Watching Amber sleep in her sunny spot.
  • Amber’s purr.
  • Listening to music – depending on what mood I’m trying to change, it can be anything from symphonic power metal to Jimmy Buffett. 
  • Imagining myself walking along the beach at sunrise.
  • Reading a favorite passage in a favorite book.
  • Ice cream – preferably Ben and Jerry’s chocolate chip cookie dough or Cherry Garcia.

Just writing these down shifted my energy into a better feeling place.  What are your mood shifters?

 

Book Review: “Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog” by Ted Kerasote

Today’s book review is about one of the best dog books I ever read, “Merle’s Door:  Lessons from a Freethinking Dog” by Ted Kerasote.  I think cat lovers will enjoy this book just as much as dog lovers – and there is a cat in the book as well!

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Books about dogs are everywhere – from understanding and training them to stories about them.  But no other book presents the unique blend of being both a moving love story between a dog and his human, and fascinating and well-researched information about how dogs think, communicate, and interact with their world.

The story begins when Merle, a big, reddish dog, appears out of nowhere near the San Juan River, where Ted Kerasote, a well-known nature writer, is on a rafting trip.  Merle chooses Ted as his human, and Ted takes Merle home to Wyoming.  Thus begins a 13-year relationship built on that initial freedom of choice for both dog and man – a choice that enriched both their lives in ways neither of them could have imagined. 

What follows is the story of a deep and balanced human-animal bond.  This is a relationship based on equality and freedom – Kerasote never subjects Merle to his wishes, but always offers him choices.  The door, a real dog door that Kerasote installs for Merle, becomes a metaphor for the opening of a whole new way of looking at how dogs view the world.  It shows how dogs, if given the opportunity to utilize their innate intelligence, can become fully realized beings with their own emotions, interests and thoughts, rather than the eternal puppies so many pet dogs turn into.

The door metaphor also extends to what the book really is – a love story.  It symbolizes the opening to loving fully.  Heart-touching, funny, moving and absorbing, it takes the reader on the 13-year journey of Merle and Ted’s relationship.  If you’re not weeping by the end of the journey, your heart is made of stone.  No matter how many times I’ve read the book, I still cry at the end. 

The book is packed full of interesting facts about dogs, from the latest research on wolves to explaining how sharing leadership with your dog, rather than treating him as your subordinate, can help create happier and healthier canine companions.  It is a must read for any animal lover – it will change the way you look at how animals communicate and deepen the bond with your own canine companion.

Thunderstorm Anxiety in Your Pets

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Few people are happy to endure the the sounds of a severe thunderstorm, complete with darkening skies, strong winds, flashes of lightning and crashing thunder.  Some become extremely anxious, and for some, the fear of thunderstorms turns into a full-blown phobia.

Some pets, especially dogs, are also affected by thunderstorm anxiety to varying degrees.  While some pets may tremble, whine, pace or hide under the bed during storms, in more severe cases, panicking dogs have been known to destroy furniture, jump through windows or otherwise harm themselves during storms.  In either case, this type of behavior is the sign of a very unhappy pet.

Fear is a normal response to a fear-inducing situation, whereas phobias are irrational, extreme reactions in which the fearful response is magnified to the point of dysfunction.  Behaviorists are not sure which part of the storm frightens pets the most – the lightning flashes and thunder, the winds blowing around the house or the sound of rain hitting the roof.  Some dogs even show signs of anxiety an hour or more before a storm hits, leading to the theory that they are reacting to changes in barometric pressure.

Many cats become nervous during storms and generally hide from the disturbance under beds or in dark, quiet corners.  Unlike dogs, they tend to not progress to the phobic stage – they simply wait out the storm in their safe place and come out of hiding when the storm has passed.

So what can you do to help your pet deal with thunderstorm anxiety?

Probably the best treatment is avoidance.  If there’s a place where your pet feels safe, be it a kennel or crate or a finished basement that is relatively light and sound proof, you can have your pet ride out the storm in his safe place.

Another option is desensitization.  This approach gradually retrains your pet by exposing her to gentle reminders of a thunderstorm such as a recording of distant thunder, and rewarding her for staying calm.  The idea is that over time, the response to the stimulus decreases. 

There are a number of natural remedies that work well for mild cases of thunderstorm anxiety.  My favorite is Rescue Remedy, a Bach Flower Essence blend.  There are other natural calming aids available, Holistic Pet Info offers a good selection along with some good advice on how to handle situations that cause stress for your pet.

It is important that you remain calm when your pet is afraid.  Our pets pick up on our emotions, and if we’re anxious, they’ll be anxious as well.  While it’s tempting to cuddle and comfort your pet during a storm, in your pet’s mind, this rewards the fearful behavior.  It’s much better to provide your pet with a safe, familiar place where he can ride out the storm.

In severe cases, a visit to your veterinarian is in order.  Your veterinarian can prescribe anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication to help keep your pet calm during storms.

Amber hates thunderstorms.  She chooses the shower stall in our small, windowless bathroom in the basement as her safe place during storms.  I’ve tried to sit with her during storms and comfort and reassure her, but she much prefers to be there by herself.  Once the storm passes, she comes back upstairs.  She would like to add that she particularly hates storms that come through during breakfast or dinner time.

Distance Healing for You and Your Pet

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As those of you who’ve been following me for a while know, in addition to being a writer, I’m also a Reiki Master Practitioner.  You can find out more about my work with pets and with people on my Healing Hands website.  One aspect of Reiki that is often intriguing to people new to the concept of energy healing is distance healing.

Distance healing, also known as remote healing, is an energetic healing process that can be best explained through the principles of Quantum physics.  It has been proven to be extremely effective, sometimes even more effective than local, hands-on healing.

How does it work? 

Quantum physics shows us that everything is made up of energy, and everything is connected.  Everything is part of the same, continuous whole.  Long distance healing is “wireless” healing.  We accept that cell phones, televisions and even our garage door openers work in this wireless way.  It’s not much of a leap to accept that all energy travels that way, including the energy of healing.

In a distance healing session, the practitioner connects with the person or animal requesting the healing energetically.  Every living being has a unique frequency, and the practitioner tunes into that unique energy.  We are all part of the same unified field of consciousness, and it’s simply a question of “dialing in” to the correct frequency.  Once the connection is made, the practitioner sends the healing energy to the recipient.  

Recipients of distance healing report the same sensations recipients of hands-on healing experience, such as a sense of heat or tingling in certain parts of the body, a sense of calm and peace, and a deep sense of relaxation. 

Success Story (human):

A client needed major dental surgery and requested distance Reiki to help with pain control and accelerate healing.  Reiki was sent the day before the procedure, during the procedure, the evening after the procedure, and twice more in the days following the procedure, two days apart.  The client reported less pain, less bleeding and more rapid healing than with prior surgeries of a similar nature.

Success Story (pet):

The owner of a fifteen-year-old cat with virulent nasal discharge caused by calici virus requested distance Reiki.  The cat was not eating or drinking and was frail and had very little energy.  After just one distance Reiki session, this kitty started eating – in fact, she got up towards the end of the session and went to her food bowl and ate for the first time in days.  Improvement continued with subsequent sessions.  Her owner reported that she had more energy and seemed stronger.

Why choose distance healing over hands on? 

Other than the obvious reason – the person or animal requesting the healing is not in the same geographical area as the practitioner – distance healing can be a good option for animals who are skittish about being with strangers or too hyper to sit still in a strange environment.  It can also be great in an emergency situation, since a distance session can usually be scheduled with very little advance notice.  For humans with busy schedules, distance sessions allow them to benefit from the energy without having to make time to drive to and from the session.

I offer distance Reiki sessions for pets and for people.  Distance sessions for pets typically run 15-20 minutes, distance sessions for people 20-30 minutes.  Please contact me to schedule a sesssion for your pet or for yourself.

If you have any questions about distance healing in general, or Reiki in particular, please post them here!

Amber’s Mewsings: On Thunderstorms

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I love being an indoor cat.  I spent the first year or two of my life outside, and that was plenty for me, thank you very much. I prefer the pleasures of indoor living.   I’m particularly glad that I didn’t have to be outside in all this rain this week.  Enough, I say!  I want my sunny spots back!  Mom took this photo of me the night we had a really bad storm move through.  I hate thunderstorms, the noise scares me and I can feel the vibration of the thunder all through my body, and I don’t like it one bit.  I go to my safe place in the shower in the downstairs bathroom and wait until the storm passes.  Mom gives me Rescue Remedy when she knows storms are coming, and I love her for it because it helps calm me down a little, but I still hate storms.

Aside from the weather, though, this has been a really great week for us.  Mom got exciting news about her book on Monday.  She got something called “Editor’s Choice” for it.  She was so happy she couldn’t stop crying.  I was happy because she was happy.  I think it means that the book is really good.  It’s about my sister Buckley, but I’m in it, too.   This morning, Mom sent the manuscript off to the copy editor.  I don’t really know what that means, but it made Mom happy, so it must be a good thing.  And this afternoon, we got the photos the photographer took of Mom and me a couple of weeks ago.  I look really good in them, and so does Mom.  She says one of them will be used in the book.

I like it when my Mom is so happy.

An Interview with Linda Mohr, Author of “Tatianna – Tales and Teachings of My Feline Friend” (Win an Autographed Copy of the Book!)

***Find out how to enter the drawing for an autographed copy of the book at the end of this post***

It is my pleasure today to introduce you to Linda Mohr, the author of “Tatianna – Tales and Teachings of My Feline Friend”.

 
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This is one of the most moving and heartfelt books about the bond between a cat and her person that I have read in a long time. The relationship between the author and Tatianna is one of those soulmate relationships with an animal that come once in a lifetime. Tatianna, through her joyful spirit and unwavering courage, teaches the author about love, devotion and spiritual expansion. In addition to sharing her journey with Tatianna, the author provides well-researched information on how to live with and care for a cat with kidney disease. The book is a triumph of the spirit, both feline and human, and a testament to the truth that we are all eternal beings.

 

Please join me in welcoming Linda Mohr to The Conscious Cat!

Linda, “Tatianna” is your first book.  How did you become a writer?

When I was in high school, I entered an essay contest sponsored by Rural Electric Area Cooperative. Winning writers won an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C.  I still have the essay and a photo album full of memories! In my mid-twenties, I worked on a college text on the psychology of clothing, but the publisher decided against it. I taught microwave cooking classes in Palm Beach County, and I have unpublished chapters of a microwave cookbook. I wrote Bobbin’ Along sewing column for a local newspaper during that decade as well.

 So I have dabbled in writing for a long time. My mother recalls me announcing when I was younger that someday I would write a book. Decades later, Tatianna was placed in my life to finally help me accomplish that goal. The best part is that my mother sat next to me at my book signings!

What was the process of writing about Tatianna like for you?

I did not make a conscious decision to write this book. A Higher Being decided for me. The day after Tatianna passed away I was compelled to sit down with a spiral notebook and write. The pen was flying across the pages. I did not know where the thoughts were coming from. But I stayed with it. A few days later I realized I had a message to get out to people and their pets. 

What do you hope your readers will take away from the book?

Animals are a sacred gift, and they deserve our love and respect. We are all connected. Miracles can be accomplished by love and an enduring belief in God. My hope is that the timing is right for this book and that it contains all the best ingredients for learning, laughing, grieving, and growing that makes us better people—to counteract animal cruelty and disregard for animal life that permeates part of our society. Ultimately, I want to make a difference in the lives of people and pets.

In your book, you share what it was like for you to live with and care for a cat with kidney disease.  What was most challenging for you during those years, and what was most rewarding?  Do you have any tips for others whose cats are dealing with this disease?

The most challenging aspect was dealing with a disease that does not have a cure. Managing the progression of the disease was tiring, and there were ups and downs, good days and bad days—for Tatianna and me. However, the most rewarding part was seeing the disease could be kept at bay for several years—if I was willing to make a commitment. For Tatianna, that commitment was daily fluid therapy, herbal therapy, customized meals, vet visits for periodic blood work, and acupuncture. But the payoff was immense because our bond deepened day by day.

The best tip I have is to catch the disease early. That is tricky since more than two-thirds of the kidney function can be destroyed before a cat shows physical symptoms. But if you have regular diagnostic work done starting when the animal is 6 or 7 years old, that will give you a baseline to compare from year to year. If you notice any changes such as drinking more water, losing weight, vomiting, or not eating, immediately go to the veterinarian. Sometimes, we think the cat will get back to normal in a few days and do nothing. But in a few days, the cat could be in a critical state.

Who or what inspires you?

Three things: My cats (past and present), my home office, and restaurants. Tatianna’s spiritual presence continues to inspire me along with the spirits of all her other fur buddies including Noelle, Taittinger, Marnie, and Katarina. My constant companion is Lexie Lee, a beautiful Norwegian Forest cat mix who blew into my yard after a hurricane. My special writing space is on the third story with tropical breezes blowing through light-spilling windows. I had extra wide window sills made for Lexie Lee, and she loves them! When she’s not on the window sill, she stretches out on the glass top desk, right up against my laptop. Every once in a while she hits a key! When I want a change of pace, I head off to Greek, French, or Italian restaurants all within five minutes of my house!

What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had at a book signing or event?

My eighth grade teacher, Mrs. Kice, came to my hometown book signing in Kahoka, Missouri. She had something for me and pulled a glass out of her handbag.

“You gave this to me for Christmas when you were an eighth grader. It’s been on my desk all these years! I think it’s time I returned it to you.”

 I was astounded she had saved the gift. I recognized it as one of my craft projects. The six inch clear goblet on a short footed pedestal was decorated with pink and white hearts around the rim along with three sets of pink and white cloverleaves above the pedestal.

One of my favorite teacher quotes is by Henry Brooks Adams–A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. It occurred to me when I saw Mrs.Kice that her effect on the world will continue to ripple with each person that reads the book.

Are you planning on writing another book?

That is a popular question! My focus right now is marketing and getting Tatianna’s message into as many paws as possible! I also write weekly Catnip Connection blogs for my Web site and Seattle Post-Intelligencer.com and enter little writing contests. So these activities keep me busy. Last summer my sister and I compiled a cookbook for our mother’s 90th birthday. I also was involved in another cookbook project this past year. My profile and a family recipe, Apple Crisp, appear in Literary Feast—The Famous Authors Cookbook that was just released this spring. It is a beautiful cookbook featuring 90 authors and stories about their recipes. Sales benefit the King County Library System in Washington.

I am interested in the topic of the loss of our fur friends and the grief process. So I could see doing a book like that in the future. I am also interested in writing shorter booklets on different cat topics. I would also love to see Tatianna in a children’s book!

What are you reading at the moment?

Middlemarch by George Eliot (807 pages!), Perfect Cupcakes (can’t wait to try Pineapple Upside-Down Cupcakes), Dog Years by Mark Doty (did I really say dog?—just have to keep the book hidden from Lexie Lee!). I just revisited Deepak Chopra’s The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success—I love that little gem.

Thank you so much for this opportunity, Linda!

Thank you for inviting me to The Conscious Cat, Ingrid. I appreciate the time with you. Warm Purrs!

linda_mohr_photoYou can learn more about Linda and her book on her website  and on her blog, The Catnip Connection.

***Linda has generously offered to give an autographed copy of her book to one lucky winner!  To enter the drawing, offer your comments and thoughts on this post.  All who participate will be automatically entered in the drawing.  The deadline to enter the drawing is June 9 at 11:59pm EDT.  The winner will be notified via e-mail.

Book Review: “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein

Amber has an open mind and thankfully, she allows me to read books about dogs.  I would have hated to have missed “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”  I highly recommend this wonderful book.

Synopsis:  Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.

Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life’s ordeals.

On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny’s wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoë, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoë at his side. Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man.

A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it.

But don’t take these words for it  – watch Enzo tell you himself:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZ0CTcU0Fd0

I actually think that both the synopsis and the trailer sell this book short.  In addition to being heartwarming, gut-wrenching, and ultimately uplifting, there is also a deeply spiritual component to this book.   For me, the most memorable part of the book (and there are so many of them)  was Enzo’s mantra “That which you manifest is before you.”  We all create our own reality, and I particulary enjoyed having this concept presented from a dog’s point of view.

For more good reading, check out my Reading List.

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