533: Thank you, readers—and pets! More about our spiritual connections…

There’s something powerful in our spiritual connections with pets—it’s as obvious as the stream of notes from readers in response to our recent stories on this theme.
    If you’re just joining us, here’s a link to our Resource Page on pets (including some terrific new Humane Society links). And, here’s a link to read about the popular, “Guardians of Being,” the new book by Eckhart Tolle and “Mutts” cartoonist Patrick McDonnell. Finally, here’s a link to two pet stories from readers that we published earlier.
    Today, we’re sharing another gem: This story comes from writer Cindy LaFerle and is included in her book, “Writing Home.” (If you enjoy these stories, don’t miss the Friday Reader Roundup—we’ll include more pet stories there.)


By Cindy La Ferle


I didn’t fall apart when I found his orange flea collar in my desk drawer. And I was totally in control when I hung his “Cat’s First Christmas” ornament on the tree. It was the picture of the cat on the 5.5 oz. Friskies can that did it—sent me running in tears to the public restroom at the supermarket. The tabby on the can looked a lot like Whiskers, the family pet who’d wrapped his stripped tail around my daily routine for the past six years.
Of all the cats that ever lived with us (and there have been quite a few) Whisk was the hardiest. Or so we’d thought.
A husky marmalade tabby, Whisk naturally assumed the role of alpha cat, even though he’d been neutered as a kitten. He insisted on eating his meals before the other cats in our household, and while this might have seemed greedy, he often expressed his gratitude by leaving dead chipmunks on our porch. As my neighbor told me last year, Whisk earned his coveted reputation as the best “chipmunker” in Oakland County.
He was a showoff.
Despite his prowess, he had a tender side and would sometimes offer nose nudges on cue.
Always a good listener, Whisk took an interest in my writing career, and was never bored by any draft I read aloud in my study. His presence there was as predictable and welcome as my morning mug of coffee. He’d perch complacently on my desk until late afternoon, a furry orange Buddha waiting for the hum of an electric can opener.
So, it was only fitting I discovered, after the veterinarian took an X-ray, that Whisk had a very large heart. A dangerously enlarged heart, in fact, had thrown him into the final stage of cardiac failure by the time we’d reached the steel examination table at the animal emergency clinic. The only humane option was to put him out of his misery.
“Do you want us to cremate him, or will you take him home and bury him yourself?” the veterinarian asked gently after Whisk had gone to meet his maker. It was over that quickly.
One last time, I drove Whisk home in the blue pet carrier he’d learned to dread as a kitten. Then I waited for my husband to come home and help me bury him outside my study windows.
Later that week, the holiday season began. My friend Annie, a fellow cat lover, dropped off a poinsettia and a sympathy card with a poem titled “In the Loss of Your Pet.” The verse on the card assured “there must be a heaven for the animal friends we love.”
I know some theologians will argue that pets—whether we’re talking gerbils or German shepherds—don’t go to heaven and are only allowed to sprawl on the furniture in limbo, if anywhere at all. So I appreciated these comforting lines from Annie’s card:


Pets bring out our own humanity.
Each day they teach us little lessons in trust
and steadfast affection.
Whatever heaven may be, there’s surely a place in it
for friends as good as these.


A reader told me recently that losing her spaniel was harder than losing a member of her human family. “It’s been months since Bud was put to sleep,” she said, “but the house still seems way too empty without him.”
Oh yes, how well I know.

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    (Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)

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