Love or Fear? Which Will Win?

I’m currently battling feline-death-paranoia.  at3Honestly, it’s not a medical diagnosis or a mental diagnosis, but it’s my personal realization that having both Jasper and HillTopper pass so quickly has created a huge fear that it could happen again.

What does this mean?  It means that I often disrupt RockyTop & BlackTop while they nap IF I can’t see their body moving with their breathing.  First, I gaze at them, then…I’ll yell their name until I get a movement from their body.  No wonder they’re always wanting to nap! It doesn’t stop there.  If I go a while without seeing one of them, I will find myself making a lap around the house until I find the (normally napping) cat who is ignoring my pleas for “here kitty kitty kitty” to come.

cat4Today, as I realized Rocky was napping on my legs and Blackie could not be located, I got up and went on a lap.  Fear and dread filled me as I turned the corner in the kitchen where I had found Topper last month.  My heart leapt to my throat as I found Blackie laying in the same exact spot perpendicular to how Topper was found. Only Blackie’s taile was twitching this way and that. He looked at me as if saying, “I’m just taking a rest.  This looked like a great spot.  It’s halfway between my food bowl and litter box.”

Later as I went out to finish washing dishes, I again saw Rocky but Blackie was out of sight.  Again, I went in search….All through the house I looked & called his name.  Finally I found him laying parallel to the shoe rack in the dark bedroom.  His dark fur makes him harder to locate in unlit rooms.  He was laying with his paws outstretched and eyes opened.  My heart sank.  I yelled his name, and his tail switched and his meow sounded.

By this point, my heart rate was elevated, and I grasped cat2how much my paranoia had developed into full-fledged-fear.  This saddened me.  I mean, I don’t like fear having a hold on me.  During tornado warnings, I’m rarely phased.  I pray for safety and prep my mattress.  Why in the world am I allowing this fear to takeover?  Then, it occurred to me.  I’m a feline-loving-female.  I have no children or spouse.  My kittens are the ones who anxiously await my arrival in the evening or react when they hear my alarm go off.  They’re the reason I opted to make tuna salad instead of a bowl of cereal for supper because I knew they’d get great joy from “tuna water”.

In the end, I realize it’s my love of my kittens that fuel my fear.  But….it’s my love of the One who created me that can overcome it and give me peace.

He can overcome your fears too.  However big or small.  He cares about them all.  He knows the number of hairs on your head, so He most certainly knows each worry on your heart.  Place them at His feet and let Him give you a peace that surpasses understanding.  It’s the PURRfect place for your fears….and mine as well.


Topper Takes the Cake!

image2Well, my first title idea was “Post-Vet Guilt”, but that didn’t sound very creative.  So….here are the thoughts running through my mind like an exhausted athlete in a marathon….

A vet visit to a cat must be a lot like a dental visit to humans.  Some people dread it, but they can deal with it and move on.  Some look forward to it or are happy to go.  Others fear it so mightily that they need a sedative to calm them during the ordeal.  Similarly, I’ve had a cat that is the feline counterpart of each of those.

The first would be Jasper.  The mighty beast would transform into the Cowardly Lion when entering his plastic jail to be carried to the vet.  Dr. Geyman was always entertained with my stories of his antics because she never saw the “Real Jasper” due to his dread of his time there.  However, as soon as we’d walk away from the clinic, he was back to his normal.  He’d relax on the drive home, run off in disgust when we returned home until he forgave me for making him face the dread V word.

Then, there’s RockyTop.  The cat whose heart “seems good” but has never been fully stated due to his purr machine always being engaged AT the vet and ON the examination table.  Even when he went in for his surgeries, he came out being cuddled and adored by the staff and the purr machine was still engaged.  We returned to the house, and it was just normal routine.  Ready to eat.  Ready to play. Purring the whole time.

I thought Topper was going to be Rocky-ish.  His energy and attitude at home is proud and lively.  All the way up to the vet, he never uttered a single meow and made his first sound as we walked from the car into the clinic.  He stayed resting in his carrier as I left.  I figured….he’ll be a tough one to watch post-surgery because he’ll be running all over the place.  Then today, I picked him up.

I creatively scheduled my blood work at the Wellness Clinic shortly before Topper could be picked up, so I could supervise his reentry and make sure Rocky didn’t cause too much harm to him. The lady working the front desk took care of the bill then went back to get Topper’s carrier.

I looked and he was curled up in back of the carrier just like Tuesday.  Then, I opened the door and….

image1An ear-piercing crying-meow started.  It was pitiful and gut-wrenching and guilt-inducing.

I looked into the carrier and my lively little feline was shaking like a forgotten stray cat on a rainy night.  My eyes automatically reacted with a bit of tears, so I started talking to him….”It’s okay, Topper.  We’re going home to Brother.  You can cuddle my neck all stinkin’ day if you need to.”  I looked down at the stop sign, and he had sprawled out along the side of the carrier.  The feline chat continued, “We’ll be home soon, and you’ll feel better.”  As I pulled to the side of the road before whipping a U into my parking spot, I looked down, and there he lay.  He was curled up in the front of the carrier, right next to the gate, looking up at me.  Fearful cries were in the past.image3

Now, my lively little guy is curled up on the carpet.  I’ve had to use the “Water Police” to protect him from Rocky’s roughhousing until his energy returns to make it a fair rough-and-tumble.

Goodness!  I bet this is a smidgen of what parents feel when their children go to the doctor.  Maybe it’s a good thing I’m a single lady with no kids.  The guilt is too much for this lady.


Jasper’s Fans & My Friends

Wow!  What a day!  It started with tears…again.  But…a wonderful thing happened between 2:47 yesterday and 2:47 today….tears subsided and were replaced with smiles.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m sure tears will still come when Facebook memories remind me of Jasper’s antics and our 11 1/2 years as roommates, but the journey is more smiles and less tears.

Why?  Because of you…and my kiddos.

Countless friends, family, & Jasper fans have left sweet condolences jasperand well wishes on my last blog post.  When I read them, tears flowed, but they also wrapped a verbal hug around my sad shoulders.  Then, I entered 302…knowing that my kiddos knew….and….

Z gave me a sweet note. “Dear Miss P, I am sorry for your loss.  I enjoy Jasper’s stories.  He was a great cat.  Love, Z”

R gave me a sweet card. “Never was a pet better cared for or loved. Wishing you peace and comfort in the memories of the friend you loved so much.  Sorry for you loss.  Love, R”

R#2 sent me an email.  Subject? “roses are red, violets are blue, you may not be able to see jasper but he’s right beside you.”  The message?  “Sorry for your loss.”
[I admit, my first thought was…”Where are the capitals?”  It’s a  teacher-thing.]

S offered me one of her kittens.  She has three girls and one boy.  I told her I figured I’d get two boys in hopes the companionship would help the territorial nature stay away, and I hoped to find brothers.  But, if I can’t find two related boys, I’d gladly take her little  guy.  When she told me her brother got some paint on it, I smiled.

Two girls suggested I get a kitten that looks “just like” Jasper and name him Jasper, so I’d still have a Jasper living with me.

Honestly, they were so sweet and caring about how I felt that my cup started overflowing with a bit of joy in the midst of the sadness.  Many coworkers also offered hugs or sweet sentiments….

Then, a remarkable thing happened.  I talked about Jasper and this weekend without tears.  Seriously!  I ended the day  by reading “A Cat’s Night Before Christmas” and dedicated it to the memory of my finicky feline.  We laughed at the parts that were “just like Jasper”.  And A asked, “Are you going to still write Jasper’s books?”  To which I assured him that the stories are still here even if Jasper’s not there to climb on the keyboard while I try to type them.

For now, I prepare for my next feline roommate(s).  Between the fact that field mice have a peculiar appreciation to my home and the realization that it’s pretty sad being the only breathing body in the house…I figure…why not.  I’m sure Jasper would expect a new feline (or two) to rule his realm.  I mean, Miss Fuzzy Hair can’t take care of his kingdom without whiskered help.  And…I could just imagine him saying,  “Yep, it’ll take two cats to replace me…cause let’s face it…I was King!”jasper bye

The Cat, the Myth, the Legend…

On a warm sunny day in June 2007, Connor & I ventured to Madison KDH Clinic for me to pick between one of two cats.  For those who’ve read “Kitten Chronicles”, you know that the active one peed on Connor, but the other had beautiful markings and slept calmly.  The urine vetoed Connor’s first choice, and he & I agreed that the other would be the best pick for my house-mouser.

For a few years, he was a hospitable pet accepting Connor and other guests into our home.  However, the summer when Connor spent most of it at home with his father instead of his “favorite aunt” (self-proclaimed…haha), Jasper changed his disposition.  He transformed from an animated pet to a persnickety protector of his realm.

His antics have entertained the masses….or at least a decade of third graders, Facebook friends, and family. He’s been the subject of jasper4many writing lessons and animated storytelling illustrations in Room 302.  In fact, he became the muse to finally kick-start my “one day” dream into reality.  “Jasper’s ABC Book” and “Kitten Chronicles” have both sold over 100 copies in the 4 and 3 months they’ve been published.  His behaviors and reactions have created chapter titles for three more chapter books as well as four more picture books.

However, life on Main Street started changing this past weekend.  Saturday morning, I noticed he was breathing oddly and clenching his stomach muscles.  Since he’s known for liking to chew…anything and everything, I guessed he had eaten something he shouldn’t and was having difficulty digesting.  I figured it would come out…one way or the other. (Sorry for the image).  Then, as I returned home from church Sunday afternoon, I realized his behavior wasn’t his normal.  His movement was slow and his napping position less comfortable.  I requested an appointment on Monday with his veterinarian figuring they may have to do a procedure to remove whatever he’d eaten that was causing his problems.  Yet, on Sunday night, I realized it was worse than that.  He jumped up on the bed, as usual, but his meow wasn’t the “I’m here, so pet me” meow…but a “I’m in pain” meow.  With tears in my eyes, I pet him, and he lay his head down in my palm.  Then, jumped down and left the room.

I was predicting that he would be gone when I awoke, but alas…he was still trying to rest, but not himself.  So, I spent the day in 302 awaiting his 3:30 appointment and preparing my heart and mind to be able to do what needed to done that afternoon.  So, as I scurried to my car, I pondered whether he’d still be waiting when I walked in the house.

I easily put him in his carrier, which in itself shouted “this is it”.  He cried a couple of times on the way to the car, then rode to the vet clinic silently.  We waited….he silently sat as he breathed laboriously.

Then, the attentive veterinarian and her assistant removed him from the carrier and examined him thoroughly.  As she tried to take his temperature, he was refusing to allow it.  I reached out and placed my palm on his face to scratch his neck, and she was instantly allowed to accomplish her task.  As I watched their facial expressions, I knew.  Then came the words I hadn’t expected….heart failure.

After hearing what treatment would be and aftercare would be and the impact on my lively roommate, I knew I had to do the hardest thing a pet owner must do.  Let him go.  He’s much too proud and to lively a cat to adjust to the possible life IF all that actually helped.  So, I sat…holding his head and petting him as he finally let go of his pain.

In the end, I’m okay.  Yes, the tears come here and there…like right now as I share this weekend journey with you.  But, with it comes the joy of realizing that his stories are still here.   He wasn’t a normal pet whose name you remember but not much more.  I could tell you only a few things about Moses, Samson, Shadrach, and Bucky (other cats I’ve had during high school and after), but Jasper?  Shoot!  Have I told you about…

Let’s face it.  To some he will be “just a cat” and they won’t understand why tears fall.  But…to my students…to his fans…to those who’ve laughed or been shocked by his behaviors….

Like chasing the mailman down the sidewalk…

Keeping grown men from entering my house without either a spray bottle for protection or a promise that he was locked up….

Or the fact that he could stretch out on my legs and touch both my hip and my foot with his paws…

They’ll understand when I say….

Heart failure may have stolen his life
like an unexpected tornado,
but his legendary reputation
will never die.

Jasper, thanks for trying to rid our home of field mice, protecting it from intruders (mailmen, landlords, and other visitors), inspiring me to chase the dream of writing, and being a part of my heart for now and forever.

Good-bye, my feline friend, I love you.


June, 2007
December 17,