Amber

When Love Grows Slowly: How a Shy, Unassuming Cat Changed My World

Amber-tortoiseshell-cat

If you’ve only recently come to join our Conscious Cat community, you may not know about the cat who inspired this website. Amber was my first tortie, and surprisingly, she didn’t share any of the traits that make up the famous tortitude so many of these cats exhibit, which just goes to show that while there may be some commonalities in cats with the same coloring, ultimately, every cat is an individual.

In a recent article for PawCulture.com, I shared my love story with Amber. Click here to read the full article.

Sunday Purrs of Wisdom will return next week.

Making Health Care Decisions for Your Cat in a Crisis

caregiver_crisis_guide

Today marks the third anniversary of the day I had to let Amber go. She died after a sudden, brief illness, most likely a virulent strain of the calici virus, complicated by an underlying heart condition we weren’t aware of at the time.

It was the first time I had lost a cat so suddenly. The cats that went before her had long illnesses – Feebee had lymphoma, Buckley had heart disease – so I not only had time to prepare myself for their eventual passing, I also didn’t have to make medical decisions under pressure. Thankfully, my years of experience in veterinary medicine made the decision making process somewhat easier for me than it might have been for the average cat parent, but it was still incredibly challenging to separate out my emotions and my fear of losing Amber, and to make the best possible decisions for her care.Continue Reading

Conscious Cat Sunday: what has your cat taught you about life?

Buckley_cat_office_chair

I have always believed that cats come into our lives to teach us. First and foremost, they teach us about unconditional love. But they also teach us to stretch and grow, to reach beyond our self-imposed limits, and to expand our consciousness.

I’ve been blessed that I got to share my life with the original feline master teacher, Buckley, and the original conscious cat, Amber. Both of these cats changed my life in ways I never could have imagined.

And both inspired books. Many of you have already read Buckley’s Story. I’m currently working on a new book which will feature Amber, and will be both a prequel and sequel to Buckley’s Story. You’ll be hearing more about it very soon!

Buckley’s and Amber’s lessons ranged fromContinue Reading

Allegra’s Baby

tortoiseshell cat with catnip toy

Allegra has a very special toy. It’s not fancy; in fact, it’s an ancient toy that actually belonged to Feebee, who has been gone for twelve years now. She dug it out of the toy basket one day, and apparently decided that it was going to be her “baby.” It’s a soft, plush little stuffed mitten with a tail that has a pompon at the end. She never actually plays with it, but yet, it’s clearly very special to her.

She picks it up and carries it around the house, chirping and singing and sometimes yowling. It sounds a bit plaintive, a sad little cry, as if she had lost something. The first time I heard it, I thought she’d hurt herself! As soon as I look for her when she does this, she drops the toy and stops, which is why I haven’t been able to get a video of her with the toy.

Amber had her own version of this special toy: a green and tan fuzzy mouse that I got for her when she first came to live with me. For the entire ten years that she was with me, that mouse was her special “baby.” Like Allegra, she’d pick it up, carry it around the house, crying and yowling. Amber would often sleep with her “baby,” something I’ve not seen Allegra do. Continue Reading

2012 Conscious Cat Wall Calendar

 

Conscious Cat calendar cover

Allegra, Ruby and I are excited to introduce the 2012 Conscious Cat Wall Calendar!

After getting comments throughout the year about how much you enjoy seeing photos of Allegra and Ruby, we decided to bring you a collection of some of the best ones in a gorgeous, full color wall calendar. The calendar also features Amber and Buckley.

Tortie lovers, to my knowledge, this is the only calendar on the market that exclusively features tortoiseshell cats!Continue Reading

Coping with Unexpected Loss: A Personal Journey

Amber The Conscious Cat

When I had to let Amber go after a brief, sudden illness last May, I wasn’t prepared for the depth of my grief. It hadn’t even been a year and a half after I lost Buckley. Here I was, faced with grieving yet again.

It’s not like I hadn’t experienced loss in my life before. Most of us who’ve reached the age I’m at have had to deal with loss. I lost my mother in 1994 after a brief illness. I lost my soul mate cat Feebee in 2000 after a valiant seven-month battle with lymphoma. I lost my office cat Virginia in 2002 after a brief decline following a fourteen-year-long life with FIV. I lost my father in 2004 to heart disease and cancer. And as those of you who’ve read Buckley’s Story know, I lost Buckley after she was diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy and given a very poor prognosis that she outlived by a considerable amount of time.

I had lots of experience with grief, and I survived all of these losses more or less gracefully. I learned that there is only one way to deal with grief, and that’s to go through it. There is no way around it. You can’t run from it.  I learned about the stages of grief. I learned that you don’t go through them step by step, but rather, that you sometimes cycle through them over and over, until, at some point, mercifully, you may find that you’ve reached the final stage, acceptance. But even reaching acceptance doesn’t mean that you ever really get “over” a loss.

So you’d think that with all this personal experience in grieving, I would have been better prepared to handle losing Amber. The force of my grief over losing her caught me completely off guard. And I realized, in the middle of the shock, the tears, and the pain, that I had never lost a loved one as unexpectedly and suddenly as I lost her. Twelve short days, from the time that she was mildly ill to the time that I had to let her go. I never expected her to not get better when I agreed to hospitalize her. I always expected her to come home.  Come home she did, but not in the way I would have wanted her to. Because of her poor prognosis, after four days of intensive care, I made the agonizing decision to stop treatment, bring her home, and spend the afternoon with her before my vet came to the house that evening to help her with a peaceful transition.

As with all my losses, there were commonalities. Despite the incredible outpouring of love and support from not only my ”real life” friends, but also my online friends,  there were times when I felt alone in my grief, disconnected from the world around me and normal everyday activities. I was physically exhausted most of the time – grief takes a toll not just emotionally,  but physically. I tried to take care of myself as best as I could, by trying to eat regular meals, getting some exercise, and staying connected with friends.  But it was hard.  Going out into the world was challenging – how could life be going on when my world had changed irrevocably?

In The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood, author Nadine M. Rosin, after losing her nineteen-year-old dog Buttons, writes:  “…being out in public felt totally bizarre, as if the world had come to an end because of some horrible disaster, life as we’d known it on the planet was over, but I seemed to be the only person who knew about it.” I’ve rarely heard this particular emotion of feeling out of synch with the rest of the world expressed better. I limited social engagements to activities with friends who understood my grief, and I’m fortunate that most of the people in my life are animal people, and they do understand. I simply didn’t have it in me to make polite chit-chat with those who didn’t.

I knew I’d make it through, just like I made it through all my other losses. But one year later, I also realize that this loss left me forever changed in ways the others didn’t. And perhaps it had to do with the suddenness of the loss.

With all my other losses, I’ve always had time to prepare for loss. While anticipatory grieving is difficult, I believe that it does help in the end – you have time to get used to the idea of eventually having to go on without your loved one. But Amber was a healthy, happy cat who had rarely been sick in her life. There was nothing that could have prepared me for this.   It was much harder, much more painful, and much more complicated than my other losses. With the others, I rarely second-guessed myself. I didn’t rail at the universe for having my loved one taken from me so quickly. I didn’t blame myself for decisions I made during Amber’s last two weeks.  I just grieved.

A year later, I can finally say that I’ve found peace. And I learned this, yet again: grief is a process. It requires being gentle with yourself as you go through it. It requires allowing those who understand to support you, and staying away from those who don’t. It requires courage to face the pain, rather than run from it.

Grief can be a transformational experience.  It rips your heart wide open, and you’ll never be the same. It’s up to each individual whether they’ll choose to let grief destroy them, or whether they’ll do the challenging and difficult work that will ultimately allow it to be transformed into personal growth and expansion.

To honor Amber, her love, and all she has brought into my life, I didn’t have any other choice except to let something good come from this devastating loss.

The Conscious Cat got a facelift

cat with computer, The Conscious Cat

Since Ruby already has her own column, Ruby’s Reflections, here on The Conscious Cat, it was time to incorporate her into the design of the site as well. Allegra and Ruby wanted to redesign the header themselves, but having both of them on the computer at the same time did not seem like a good idea to me. It was much safer to ask our fabulous web designer Nathan Landis to help us out.

Amber, the inspiration behind The Conscious Cat, remains, and always will remain, front and center. Allegra and Ruby obliged with perfect poses on Amber’s left and right. In the interest of symmetry and balance, we made the decision to take Buckley out of the header. Since she has a special place on the site, smiling at us from her book cover just below the header, I think she would approve.

Allegra and Ruby give the new header design four paws up. What do you think?

Photo credit: istockphoto

In loving memory of Amber, one year later

Amber The Conscious Cat

A year ago today, I had to say good-bye to Amber after a very sudden, brief illness. I was devastated. Nothing ever prepares you for unexpected loss. In hindsight, I’m grateful that she got to spend her final few hours at home with me, and that she died peacefully in my arms. At the time, those things did not bring much comfort.

A year later, the pain of losing her has dulled a little, but I still miss my beautiful girl every day. She was in my life for ten years, and they were some of the best of my life so far.

My love for Amber grew slowly. Unlike all of my other cats, it was not love at first sight with her. I had lost my first cat, Feebee, to his battle with lymphoma in April of 2000. He had been with me for almost sixteen years. I didn’t think it was possible to hurt as much as I did after he died. I had had other (human) losses in my life before, but nothing was as painful as losing him. There were days when I wasn’t sure I’d make it through.

What saved me during those dark days was my work at the animal hospital, my office cat Virginia, and the daily contact with all the feline patients we saw every day. But coming home to an empty house night after night was becoming increasingly difficult. 

A few weeks after Feebee died, Amber and her five kittens were brought to the animal hospital 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.  She was a dark tortoiseshell color, with an amber-colored heart-shaped spot on top of her head, which became the reason for her name.  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. 

One weekend in July, I decided to take Amber home, “just for the weekend”.  I thought it would be a good way to try and see what it would feel like to me to have a cat who wasn’t Feebee at my house. I also 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 had relaxed 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. 

The wound from Feebee’s passing was still raw. I wasn’t quite ready to acknowledge that she was home with me to stay, so I told everyone that I was “just fostering her”. I had flyers all ready to go to advertise that she was available for adoption. Remember flyers? This was in the dark days before social media!

Somehow the flyers never got distributed. Three months later, I finally realized that she wasn’t going anywhere. 

My love for her grew over the years in ways that I never would have thought possible. She was my heart and soul. She reflected back to me the limitless possibilities my life could hold if I opened my heart and allowed things to unfold. She was my inspiration for so many things, including this site. She was the original Conscious Cat.

There are so many things I miss about her: the way she would curl up in my arms each night and sleep there for most of the night. The way she’d purr if you so much as looked at her. The way her tail would twitch when she got excited about something. I miss her gentle presence and peaceful energy.

Allegra came to live with us about five weeks before Amber died, and she was a great comfort to me during this past year. Her joyful, kittenish presence and her quiet love helped my heart heal. Now that Ruby has joined our family, my heart, and my life, are expanding once again.

And Amber’s gentle spirit and eternal love are never far from me.

Allegra’s World: First Adoption Anniversary

Allegra's adoption anniversary

Today is a very very big day for me! It’s my adoption anniversary! A year ago today, Mom brought me home to live with her and Amber! I thought it was the happiest day of my life then, but every day since then has been even happier. I’m such a lucky kitten!

I was a little nervous that day, when Mom came to get me at Great Falls Animal Hospital, where I was staying. Oh yeah, and if you’re wondering how it was possible that Mom was able to resist my considerable cuteness and wait six whole days after first meeting me to bring me home – well, I got myself in a little trouble at the animal hospital. When the foster mom I had lived with before brought me there so more people could see me and so I could find a home (and didn’t that work out just beautifully!), the nice people at the animal hospital wanted to give me a good exam. And let me tell you, when  the woman in the white coat tried to stick something up my rear end, I wasn’t having any of it. I whipped my head around and bit her! That’ll teach her to stick things up unsuspecting kittens’ rear ends!

Unfortunately, humans have a whole bunch of stupid laws, and one of them says that if a cat bites a human, she needs to be quarantined and watched for signs of rabies for 10 days. Even though I was current on my rabies vaccination, Mom couldn’t take me home until the end of that quarantine period.

But finally, the big day arrived. As I said, I was a little nervous, but mostly excited. Mom had already told me that I would have a big sister. I looked forward to meeting her! I don’t think Amber was as excited about me coming home as Mom was, she hissed at me a lot and ran from me that first day. I didn’t let that upset me, and instead, proceeded to explore every inch of my new home. There was so much to see! The best part was that there were these huge big windows to look out! I could see birds and trees and people walking by, it was so cool!

By the time it got dark that first day, I was pretty tired from all the exploring. Mom said that she and Amber were going to bed, and showed me where that was. She said I was welcome to join them. Amber added “but remember your place, you’re the new kid here. I always sleep in Mom’s arms, and that’s not going to change just because you’re here now!” At first, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to join them, but as the house got really quiet and dark, I jumped up on the bed with them. I wanted to be close to Mom, but I didn’t want to disturb Amber, so I crawled under the covers and wedged myself against the back of Mom’s legs. Oh, that was so nice! I felt warm and safe. I drifted off and dreamed happy kitten dreams that first night in my new home.

Amber and Allegra opening case of cat food

Things only got better. By the second day, Amber and I were already in cahoots, helping Mom unpack a case of cat food.

Amber teaching Allegra

By the third day, we were hanging out together. Amber taught me lots of stuff about how things are done in our new home.

Amber and Allegra birdwatching

I really came to love my big sister very quickly. We didn’t get to spend nearly enough time together. She got really sick and died just a few short weeks after I came home. I still miss her, and I know Mom does, too.

I never thought I’d find such a wonderful Mom and such a wonderful home. Every day I think it’s the best day ever, and it just keeps getting better and better! I am the luckiest kitten on the planet!

Living and Working With Cats

For the last fifteen years, I’ve been fortunate that cats have not only played a fundamental role in my home life, they’ve also been a significant part of my work life.  And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

It all started with two office cats at the veterinary hospital I managed.  First, there was Virginia, who I fell in love with at my initial interview despite the fact that her introduction to me involved claws and runs in my stockings.  She ruled the office with an iron paw, assisting me with paperwork, often by sitting right on top of it, and kept me in line with frequent swats at my mouse hand.

Several years after Virginia went to the big office in the sky, Buckley took over as office cat.  In addition to supervising my work and making even the less glamorous aspects of my job more fun through her joyful presence, she had another job at the clinic—to provide comfort to the animal patients and to distract their worried owners. There were times when she disappeared from the office, and when I went looking for her, I found her on the bench in the waiting room, next to a client waiting for news about a sick pet, cuddled up to the person, asking to be petted, and making them smile through their worry. Other times, she curled up next to a recovering cat or dog in the treatment room.

When I left my job at the animal hospital to start my Reiki practice, Buckley came home to live with me and Amber.  She quickly took on the job of Assistant Reiki Practitioner and helped me with the (human) Reiki clients I saw in my home office.  She became an active participant in the healing session. She would get up on the Reiki table and often curl up next to or on top of the client. I realized after a few sessions like this that she intuitively knew where extra energy was needed. I often skipped treating the areas Buckley laid on during a session and concentrated on others instead. I knew my little healer kitty had it covered.

Amber provided a contribution of a different kind to my home and work life.  She was a wise old soul in a feline body; she was my touchstone.  Her peaceful presence provided love, comfort and grounding for me in ways that no one or nothing else could.  When I began to think about starting a blog, she provided the creative spark, and The Conscious Cat was born.

And now it looks like Allegra is continuing the tradition.  She recently took on the position of Assistant Reiki Practitioner Trainee.  As you can see in the photo above, she takes her job very seriously.  At just over a year old, she’s still a little too rambunctious to be allowed in the room during treatments, but she helps me get the room ready.  She enthusiastically greets my clients and provides kitty therapy by letting them pet her and giving kitten nose taps, so that by the time they get on my table, they’re already a little more relaxed than they were when they first walked in the door.  She loves being in the Reiki room after a session and really seems to gravitate toward the energy.  I think as she matures, she will carry on Buckley’s legacy.

Sharing your life with cats, doing work you love, and doing it with the cats you love – it doesn’t get any better than this.

The Conscious Cat Has a New Look 2010

The Conscious Cat got a facelift!  We’ve updated our look with a fresh new header that now includes Allegra and Buckley as well as Amber (seen above glaring at my laptop), who was the inspiration for The Conscious Cat.  We’ve changed things around a little, added a second sidebar, and increased the font to make it easier to read.

Let us know how you like our new look!

We’d like to thank our fabulous web designer, Nathan Landis, for creating this new look.