Author’s Life

A Visit to a Very Special Cat Sanctuary

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In loving memory of Buckley

Yesterday was an emotional day for me.   I went to the open house for Casey’s House, a private rescue group in Bluemont, VA.  Cindy Ingram, the founder of Casey’s House, rescued my precious little Buckley from a farm in southwestern Virginia, where she and about twenty other cats were kept in marginal living conditions.  Buckley passed away last Thanksgiving weekend.   While I had been supporting Casey’s House for many years, I had never actually seen the facility.  When I met Buckley, she was already living at the animal hospital I managed at the time.  (You will get to know Buckley and her story in my upcoming book “Buckley’s Story – Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher”).

Casey’s House is named after Cindy’s beloved tabby cat, who came to live with her when she was fifteen years old.  At first Cindy refused her entrance to her house, as she already had two cats and two dogs at the time. Casey, however, was not a cat to take no for an answer. Casey’s “home” at the time was a colony of some fifty cats, and she was probably getting tired of either not getting to her food on time, or eating off of filthy dishes.  Every evening, Casey would be waiting on Cindy’s  porch, obviously hungry, so Cindy would feed her. Slowly, but surely, Casey became a part of Cindy’s family.  Eventually, four of her feline colony friends came to join Casey.  Says Cindy:  “Casey taught me to reach beyond my self-imposed limits, and her house is the dream that now has become a reality”.

In addition to providing a safe haven for older cats, Casey’s House also promotes Trap-Neuter-Return.  Through this program, feral cats are humanely trapped, brought to a veterinarian to be evaluated, spayed or neutered, vaccinated and ear-tipped.  Cats that are friendly to humans and kittens are adopted into loving homes.  Healthy feral cats are returned to their outdoor homes.  Casey’s House spayed and neutered more than 200 cats in 2008, making a significant contribution to controlling the overpopulation problem.

I was impressed with the wonderful environment Cindy created for the cats.  There are very few cages, most of the cats live in a large open room, filled with carpeted ramps, cat climbing towers, and lots of soft pillows and blankets for them to sleep on.  New rescues and those with potential health conditions are kept in separate areas until they’ve been checked out by a veterinarian.    What was really amazing to me was how peaceful the energy in that large room felt.  All the cats seemed to get along, there was no hissing, posturing, or fighting.  Cindy said in all the years she’s done this work, she’s only had one incident with two cats fighting.  Casey’s House truly is a safe haven for cats in need.

I left missing Buckley even more than I usually do.  The visit definitely brought on a renewed wave of grief for me.  But I also left feeling good about living in a world where there are people like Cindy, who care so much and do so much for cats in need. 

Like all non-profit organizations, especially those helping animals, Casey’s House is struggling in these tough economic times.   If you have a favorite shelter or rescue group that you support, please consider making a donation to them – they need your help now more than ever.  And if you don’t already support a shelter, perhaps you’ll consider making a donation to Casey’s House in Buckley’s memory.  Cindy and the cats at Casey’s House will thank you.

Happy Mother’s Day 2009

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Happy Mother’s Day from the Conscious Cat!

If you’re fortunate enough to still have your mom in your life, be sure to tell her that you love her today, and every day.  My mother passed away 15 years ago, and I still miss her.  Even after all these years, I still feel a pang when I see Mother’s Day cards appear in stores.

But I also celebrate Mother’s Day as Amber’s Mom.  Amber was a mommy herself when I first met her, so I thought I’d share her story here with you today.

In the spring of 2000, Amber and her five kittens were brought to the animal hospital I managed by a client who had found the little family in her barn.  Despite being emaciated and scrawny-looking, Amber’s eventual beauty was evident even then.  Her kittens found new homes in fairly rapid succession.

However, nobody was interested in the beautiful mommy cat.  She spent her days in the big adoption cage in the hospital’s waiting area, but with the constant inflow of homeless kittens that is typical for spring and summer, nobody wanted to adopt an adult cat.  I had recently lost my almost sixteen-year-old soul mate cat Feebee, and the grief over his loss was still very fresh.  I did not think I was ready for another cat, but coming home to an empty house was becoming increasingly difficult.

One weekend in July, I decided to take Amber home, “just for the weekend”.  I wanted to give her a break from the abandoned feral kitten we had placed with her after her own kittens had all found homes.  The kitten was a rambunctious six-week old grey tabby, and Amber was becoming increasingly exasperated with his constant need for attention.  As far as she was concerned, she had done her mommy duty with her own kittens.

After living in a cage for all these months, Amber was initially a little overwhelmed by having access to an entire house, and she spent most of that first weekend near or under my bed.  By Sunday evening, she began to  relax a little and started exploring her new environment.  I liked having her gentle and peaceful energy around the house, and I decided that she could stay a little longer.  Not quite ready to acknowledge that she was home with me to stay, I told everyone that I was “just fostering her”. Somehow, the flyers advertising that she was available for adoption never got distributed, and she only returned to the animal hospital for regular check ups.

Amber is a gentle, loving cat with a wise old soul.  For the past nine years, her peaceful and solid presence, not to mention her almost constant purr, have been bringing love and affection into my life every day.  She enjoys sleeping in our sunny living room, curling up with me when I sit down to read or to watch television, and watching the birds at the feeder on our deck.

She is a teacher to the core of her being, and she is my writing muse.  There are days when I sit down in front of the computer and stare at the blank screen with no idea of what I’m going to be writing about, but as soon as she comes into the room and curls up on the window perch next to my desk for a long nap, I feel inspired, and the words start flowing.

Animals come into our lives for many reasons.  Some very special animals touch our souls and change us forever.  Amber is one of these special animals.

Amber
Amber

Rainy Sunday Reading

Another rainy Sunday here.  Amber has given up on searching for the sunny spot and is taking her morning nap.  I think I’ll settle in for a lazy day of catching up on my reading.  If you’re looking for something good to read, I’ve added some new suggestions to the Reading List on my website.

I always have at least two or three books going at the same time.  Today, I’ll finish a re-read of “The Feline Mystique” by Clea Simon.  I might also dip into “Conscious Entrepreneurs“, a collection of inspiring stories about the spiritual journey of entrepreneurship.  I especially like to re-read Chapter 22, which was written by one of my mentors.  I’m also indulging in a guilty pleasure, Nora Roberts’ “Tribute” – this is Roberts at her best, a combination of love story, suspense, and likeable characters.  And I’ll be catching up on my magazine reading – unread issues of Cat Fancy, Ali Magazine and Brigitte are stacking up!

What will you be reading on this rainy Sunday?  Share your favorites!

Amber, on a rainy Sunday
Amber, on a rainy Sunday

The joy of reading

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I’ve been an avid reader as far back as I can remember.  My parents started reading to me as a very young child, and I surprised them by reading on my own long before it was taught in school (at first, they thaught I was faking it and only repeating the words from memory).  Through all the changes I’ve gone through in my life, good and not so good, books have always been there to provide entertainment, counsel, escape, advice and so much more.  Reading is as essential as breathing to me.

It should come as no surprise that I particulary enjoy books about animals, and I offer a wide selection of recent favorites on the Reading List on my website.  In the animal book category, some recent favorites are “Merle’s Door” by Ted Kerasote and “The Daily Coyote” by Shreve Stockton.  Longterm favorites are “The Cat Who Came for Christmas” by Cleveland Armory and “A Snowflake in My Hand” by Samantha Mooney.

For pure entertainment, I enjoy authors like Luanne Rice, Dorothea Benton Frank and Sue Monk Kidd to name just a few.  A particular enjoyable genre in the entertainment category for me are animal-themed murder mysteries, favorite authors in that category are Rita Mae Brown, Clea Simon and Blaize Clement.

When it comes to inspirational reading, the book that has influenced me the most over the last few years is “Ask and It Is Given” by Esther Hicks.  Others in that category are Wayne Dyer’s “Power of Intention” and Christine Kloser’s “The Freedom Formula“.

Why do you read?  What are some of your favorite books and authors and why?  Share your stories!

Never give up on your dream

I have always been a dreamer. As far back as I can remember, I’ve created an alternate life in my dreams. As a kid, I was going to be a big Hollywood star. As a teenager, I dreamed of dating Paul Stanley and living in the United States (I was born and grew up in Germany). A lifelong dream has been to write and publish a book.

The Hollywood star thing hasn’t happened (yet?), and Paul Stanley married someone else. I moved to the US twenty-five years ago. My book is about to go to the editor, so that dream has been partially realized already and will come to full fruition in a few months’ time. Two out of three ain’t bad – especially considering that the Hollywood/Paul Stanley dream kind of died when I hit my 20’s anyway.

My book tells the story of a little cat who had a dream and who made it come true. In “Buckley’s Story – Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher”, Buckley shows us how to hang on to a dream even when it looks like it may never come true.

One example of what can happen if you never give up on your dream is Susan Boyle, the woman who recently sang on “Britain’s Got Talent”. If you’re not already one of the more than 20 million who’ve watched her performance on YouTube, take a few minutes to watch the video – you won’t regret it. What a testament to never giving up on your dream!

Click on the link below to view the video (embedding has been disabled):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lp0IWv8QZY&feature=related

End of an era – farewell to ER

I don’t usually measure my life by how many years a TV show has been on, but the series finale of ER gave me pause for reflection.  I did not miss a single episode in its 15 year run (thanks to VCR’s, then DVR’s), and last night’s final episode, and especially the hour long recap that ran before it,  made it impossible not to think back over the last 15 years.  While George Clooney, Juliana Margulies, Anthony Edwards, Noah Wylie and company fought their weekly battles in the ER, I got divorced, lost my mother, left my corporate job, ran a veterinary hospital, lost my father, and  started my own business.   These past 15 years were a period of tremendous personal growth for me, leading to this moment in time and a life filled with passion, joy and the promise of more wonderful things to come.

And I also reflected back on the cats that were curled up in my lap watching 15 years of ER episodes with me:  Feebee, my soulmate cat who was responsible for leading me to a career in veterinary medicine, and who passed on in 2000.  And Buckley, who was only with me for three years and who left much too soon this past November.  Her story and the lessons she taught me are the subject of my upcoming book. 

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            Feebee                                                  Buckley

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And of course Amber, who was watching last night’s episode with me.

Retreats and conscious choices

I spent yesterday at a spiritual retreat center in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It reminded me of the value of getting away from it all, even if only for a day.  The drive towards the mountains in the early morning was beautiful, and  the day spent in the company of like-minded people with plenty of opportunity for quiet reflection fed my spirit.

The topic of the retreat was making conscious choices – something that is an integral part of conscious living.  How do you live your life?  Do you make choices that limit you, or choices that allow you to expand?  Make the choice to say “yes” to yourself today.

Do you wish you could get away from your busy life even just for a day?  Give yourself the gift of a retreat.  Retreats come in many shapes or forms, the main idea is that it gets you away from your usual routine and allows you to do something that nourishes your spirit. 

But as much as I enjoyed my day away from it all, I was happy to come home to Amber at the end of the day.  Pets nourish our spirit every day.

The Conscious Cat

I decided to name this blog “The Conscious Cat”.  I’m on a wonderful  journey to consciously create my life in ways that allow me to express my authentic self, and along this journey, some of my greatest teachers have been my cats. 

Buckley, who passed away in November, was and continues to be a feline master teacher.  You’ll learn more about her in my upcoming book, “Buckley’s Story”.  Amber, who has been with me for the past eight and a half years, is an eternally wise soul in a feline body.   Together, the two of them taught me to open my heart in ways I never thought possible. 

Animals are great teachers.  All we need to do is listen with our hearts.

Winter Wonderland

About 2 inches of snow overnight, and it’s still snowing.  It looks very pretty out, but I can’t say I’m looking forward to shoveling my driveway later today.  Thankfully, I have no appointments until late afternoon.

Amber is having a busy morning watching the birds at the feeder on the deck:

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