People on Pets
In the last chapter we looked at different aspects of human/animal interaction. One thing I’ve noticed about people who live with pets is that they always seem to have stories about them. Like doting parents of little children, pet people can go on and on about their charges. But like parents, they have willing listeners in others who are sharing the same problems and joys.
I love to listen to stories about animals told by their human friends. They illustrate the delightful individuality of every creature. As all pet people know, you could have five cats, and every single one will have as distinct a personality as five of your colleagues at work. But unlike your colleagues at work, animals are generally uninhibited about going after what they want when they want it, as well as letting you know what they don’t like when they don’t like it, which is one of the reasons that pet stories can get pretty wild.
The following special section consists of people’s experiences with their own animals, told in their own words. The men and women who related the following stories to me kindly gave permission for me to share them with you. Some of the stories have been shortened because of space considerations (yes, pet people do have a lot to say!) but they all describe experiences that I can relate to, and I think you will be able to also. Some of them are about building animal health and healing sick animals. You may get some helpful ideas and inspiration from them. More are about the companionship, sense of peace, and just plain fun that come from living with pets. From these you may get, as I did, a reinforcement of your own feeling that a life with animals is an enriched life. Enjoy!
IRENE “I wonder why it took me so long to get one.”
I was thinking about getting a cat, but not totally sure about whether I was more committed to my furniture than to an animal. I was afraid it might claw my carpet, furniture, and a valuable painting given to me by my father. Still, I was semi-prepared for one, my boyfriend having given me a pet food dish and litter box. A few days later I walked up the stairs to find a black and white cat exploring the apartment. My boyfriend said she followed him home. I put up signs to see if anyone would claim her, and since no one did I happily kept her.
Now I’m a true cat lover and wonder why it took me so long to get one. Cassie is a loyal friend who follows me from room to room and rests near my feet or sleeps at the edge of the bed. I can see why people say that having a pet is calming and a good antidote for loneliness. Recently I’ve been reading about TTouch and trying the circular massages on Cassie. This simple technique seems to really relax her.
SONDRA “I understand that we do not own anyone.”
I do not call my dog and cats pets. They are my nonhuman children, my family, my companions. They mean responsibility, curtailing travel, settling for a less luxurious home, sharing my income, scratches, and packages of litter on my closet floor. My dog sleeping near me on the grass means sharing a lovely place with someone I love. It gives me inner peace knowing that she enjoys being in that space with me. She is part Border collie and should, by nature, be outdoors most of the time. I am delighted I can give that brief time to her.
Because I have always had animals in my life I can feel and speak without words. I can love them without parameters and let go when they pass over. I understand that we (all living beings) do not own anyone. We share them awhile but must allow them to go back as others must do with me. This is normal, and universal, and the pain at their passing is a tribute to the souls I mothered for a while.
My pets are unique. My intelligent dog understands human language. She found my glasses and remembers people by name. She herds the cats and breaks up their fights. My cat, Wolfgang, “plays” piano. Simon looks in mirrors, turns around, and examines the objects he viewed. Maurice puts his paw in someone’s food bowl, pulls it away with his paw, sometimes out of the room. Of animals past, Me Too sang as my son conducted him with a baton. Linda said “bye-bye” in a high-pitched voice while waving a front paw. Gina ran to me whenever I wondered where she was or thought about her.
ELIZABETH “My cats ‘walk on water.’ ”
I have two young cats, one five months old and one five weeks old. They are the most precious creatures that walk the face of the planet. They walk on water in my eyes, and when I grow up I want to be just like them.
I can watch them all night long. I’ve learned how much meaning and pleasure they can add to life. I’ve learned what incredible values they have, that they love unconditionally. They accept everyone for who and what they are, whether they are black or white, rich or poor, fat or skinny. They have purity.
My pets are my best friends. They run to me the moment I come home. They sit on the side of the tub while I shower. They even jump in the shower at times. They continually hug and groom us. They eat and sleep with us. Whatever room we are in, they are in. I cannot look or watch them without smiling. They are proof of perfection.
MARIE-CHRISTINE Another amazing cat
When my pet, a cat named Velvet, is outdoors, I sometimes worry about her. When I do she reads my thoughts and appears at the doorstep. It’s amazing! What I have gained from owning a cat is a sense of bonding with nature.
EMILY “… the best hello there is.”
My dog is my best friend. She loves me no matter what. I got her when she was seven-weeks old and five pounds. She gives me tons of affection and the best hello there is.
When I brought her home she had been treated badly. She had been neglected and under-loved. I’d pick her up, and she’d wrap those tiny little paws around my neck. She melted my heart. As I started my business and worked very hard she was always great to come home to.
What a great sense of humor she has, wagging her tail so hard that her whole back end wiggles. She sees people in the street and decides to flirt with her Mae West wiggle. I have to stop to say hello. My dog has helped me to realize the enormity of unconditional love.
BOB Three pets, three personalities
It’s interesting to see how my three pets show me they like me in completely different ways. Pawford, a yellow Labrador retriever, goes completely crazy, wagging his tail like some sort of engine that’s permanently on, and licking me as if I were a delicious ice cream cone. He can knock a person over in his enthusiasm. One cat, Chestnut, will jump up and settle near me, wherever I am, asking to be petted. The other cat, Blackie, the most reclusive and demure of the three—maybe because she was “previously owned”—lets me pet her, and that’s about it. Plus she lets me know when “time’s up” in no uncertain terms!
The three animals never seemed to relate to each other all that much, or so we thought. But then we went away on vacation, leaving them with caretakers who were in and out of the house, but away for more of the time than we would have been. When we came back the pets seemed to have banded together out of necessity; they were now “hanging out” with each other much more. They had actually become friends.
ANONYMOUS The pigeon of the house, and other flying friends
Percy, a pigeon that is my best buddy, arrived four years ago and continues to amaze me each day. He was raised by a lady who, after a couple of months, decided she could not provide him with the care she felt he needed. I was contacted by a vet to see if I could get him “strong on the wing” and released. As soon as I saw his face I knew he was going to be a permanent resident. This was a sweet and special bird.
His diet had been restricted to “human food,” which did not include seeds, fruit, or vegetables. Our first order of business was to introduce seeds to his diet. I spent the next two weeks “pecking” at the seeds with my index finger to show him what to do with them. I finally got my nose to the ground to really get the point across. Sometimes you have to go that extra mile to get these “kids” to eat. Finally, as if the switch was activated, he began to peck at the seeds. He never progressed past a seed diet despite my attempts, but he has done well, and he maintains his weight, as well as his overall health.
Percy is the pigeon of the house. He is very neat and has his own room. He has become my nurse whenever I have a new bird to care for, and he watches my every move as if to make certain I am careful with him. I could fill many chapters with the adventures and stories of Percy, but that is for another time.
Della is a very small female pigeon. She was raised by the same lady that found Percy, but this time she kept the bird for one year. Again, the vet called to see if I could help, but this was going to be a long process. Della had been fed a very poor diet (lots of love, but the lady’s resources were minimal). She had 30 percent of her feathers missing or in very poor condition. Her spirit was good, but her diet was insufficient for good health. She had very few head or neck feathers, patches were missing on her chest, and the wing feathers had stress lines. All of this indicated a poor diet. She was not thin, but very ragged. I took her to see my vet, and we agreed that nutrition was first-priority. She was given a thorough physical exam that included tests.
The first step was to get her diet changed gradually, but from what? No information about what she had been eating was provided. I tried numerous tactics to get her to eat during the transition. As with Percy, I got my nose down to the dish to simulate a beak, and finally she got the idea. In the weeks that followed, she learned to eat a variety of seeds and grains; whole wheat bread as a snack; dark, leafy greens; and, occasionally, a bit of fruit. She would not take nuts or fruit on a regular basis.
There were times that I would just look at her in that condition and get tears in my eyes, but she seemed happy. When I took her back to my vet, two months later, no one could believe it was the same bird. Her old feathers had been replaced by new and shiny plumage, her excess weight dropped, and she looked radiant. Della became a member of my bird family and continues to thrive.
Last September, the vet called to see if I could foster a young pigeon a client had found sitting in her yard. This youngster was approximately 18 days old. He still had gold natal down mixed with his juvenile plumage and was unable to fly. He could try to stand up, but not completely. This concerned me, as he was not standing up on his toes as he should. He was started on baby bird formula and placed in a nice, warm basket with a heating pad. Little Pigeon went back and forth to work with me for the next week.
A few days after he arrived, he became very fluffed and looked like he felt terrible. He was unusually warm to the touch, and his knee was very swollen. The vet felt we needed to take x-rays to get a good look at the knee and allow her to drain some fluid for evaluation. It was necessary to anesthetize him for the procedure. When we looked at the films, we saw five different fractures involving both wings and legs. It wasn’t from a fall, as far as we could tell, as there was no bruising or other trauma apparent. She consulted another doctor and they came to the conclusion that he had a severe calcium deficiency.
He was very sore after this procedure, but now we had a plan to help put him back together. He was given liquid calcium and avian vitamins and was kept on a hand-feeding formula in addition to seeds. We started to see improvement after three weeks. The staff at the hospital could not believe the difference in this baby.
His left leg remains crooked; he waddles like a duck, but he is very fast and grew into a large, happy, beautiful pigeon. In December, he noticed Della and the two fell in love and are a bonded pair. They are welcome members of the bird family and give me much inspiration to learn more about how I can help the others I will encounter.
MAXINE Herbal help for cats
I have two cats. They’re usually very healthy, but last summer my oldest cat became very ill. My apartment was extremely hot last summer. She became limp; she wouldn’t move; she just lay there. I became afraid, so I took her to the vet, and he gave her antibiotics. After she got well I continued to give her vitamin C, echinacea, and goldenseal, and she got better. If she sneezes I’ll continue to give her the combination of herbs and vitamins and the next day she’ll be all right.
CARRIE A cat named Kramer
Kramer, my cat, helps my life so much. He grounds me when I’m running around and feeling stressed. I place him on my lap, we cuddle for a while, and I instantly calm down. I talk and he listens. He listens well and looks me right in the eye when he does.
A memorable experience is the day Kramer was adopted. My whole family went to a rescue shelter organization called Cat Crossings in Los Angeles to find a cat. We wanted a short-haired female. But when we saw Kramer, a long-haired male, sitting in a cage, looking very regal, handsome, and self-confident, we thought, this is the one for us. The woman who brought in Kramer was still there. She was a writer for the Seinfeld television show. We loved the show, Kramer winked, and we took it as a good omen. That day, he became a part of our family. And true to his name he skids and slides into the room to make his entrance.
Kramer is graceful and talented. He will bring us things we ask for, and he can jump enormous heights. I gain something every day from my experience with Kramer. I’ve learned about relaxation just by watching him sleep and stretch. That is the ultimate in relaxation.
NELLIE Two great dogs
I have owned two dogs. They are unconditionally accepting, totally loving, and wonderful, quiet company.
One of my dogs protected me against a possible attacker in the street. The other allowed me to touch him while he was ailing. I felt his sweet, wonderful energy, which made me feel more peaceful. I was able to help him through the crisis he was going through at the time. Owning my dogs has made me more generous, humble, and loving.
SHERRY Herbal relief
My cat seemed to have some sort of infection involving his eyes. I put a few drops of goldenseal into his food for a few days, and he got better.
VIVIAN “I just love my cat Angel.…”
… When we first got him he jumped on the stove and stuck his face in a pot of spaghetti sauce (fortunately it was cooled!) He got some of the red sauce on his nose and looked so cute.
Cats love to lie around and be with people. Angel loves to get into my daughter’s room to rest and sleep on her bed. When the door is closed he cries to get in.
I know from having a cat that I’m capable of loving one. Before Angel, I didn’t believe I could love an animal.
MARK Sheepdog a great friend
Vinca is very open and loves to be rubbed and brushed. She is a source of great unconditional love and a great friend.
Vinca is a unique breed, a sheepdog. She is always friendly to people she greets. Vinca always barks at trucks. They get her agitated and angry. Vinca is also very sensitive and makes a great guard dog for the house. She will respond to any unusual sound by being alert and barking.
Vinca is always straightforward and honest about asking for whatever she needs. She does this by using body language. For example, if she wants to go outside for a walk, to eat, or just be loved by having her head and back rubbed, she will let me know. She likes being massaged.
KAREN “My cats have become my children, my friends, my family.”
My cats, eight-year old Heather and one-and-a-half-year-old Amanda, teach me love, comfort, sweetness, softness, magic, and a connection to nature. We have many memorable experiences. We play string games together. I bathe my cats and then wrap them in a big, soft towel, holding them like a mother would hold her child. That’s a real bonding experience. I dance with Heather, letting her experience the world upside-down.
Heather is very perceptive and knows me well. She comforts me when I am feeling less than optimal. She is a bit hostile to others who come to my home. Amanda is very affectionate and is learning to trust again. She was abandoned at an early age by a previous owner and used to play very rough. Amanda loves to lick me for long periods of time (very hygienic!)
My cats have become my children, my friends, my family. They have taught me peace, relaxation, and how to communicate without words. Their eyes speak volumes. They are wiser than I. They operate out of intuition and instinct.
HARRY “I take care of them, and, in turn, they offer me friendship.”
Castor and Pollux, my two conure parrots, bring nature and company into my home. Their large vocal repertoire sounds like relaxing background noise. Their intelligence made it possible for a two-way friendship to develop.
What do I mean to my conures? They chose to live with me because when I put their cage in the backyard and opened it, they stayed close by and returned to it. I take care of them, and, in turn, they offer me friendship. I clean my home (more than I used to) and their cage. I’m generally more relaxed from having two Conures.
ROBERT Dogs can teach us
Scampers, a chowchow belonging to my roommate, has a loving, sweet personality. Formerly an abandoned pet that had been abused, she has responded wonderfully to love and care. It’s hard to imagine that she entered the house vicious and growling. The guy who brought her in from a chow rescue organization communicated that this behavior was unacceptable, and she is now loving and protective.
I constantly wonder about my relationship with Scampers and what she is teaching me about relationships with other people. I have kept people distant so as to not get hurt. I constantly contemplate the idea of opening up.
JUNE An affectionate snake—and more—
Goliath, my four-year-old ball python, has been with me since he was a baby. He’s healthy and loving and means the world to me. People wonder how a snake could be caring, but he is incredibly affectionate. If I would give him to you to hold and start to walk into another room, he would keep turning his head until he found me—snakes don’t have peripheral vision. They only see straight ahead. He trusts that I will feed him, keep him warm, and give him a clean home. An emotional bond is as important to me as physical health; the love has to be there.
Goliath likes being around people. Sunday is his outing day with me. We’ll either go to the flea market or to the park. He likes to stay around my arm, or even better, wrap himself around my pocketbook so that no one puts their hand in there. I normally don’t put him around my neck; that would look like I was showing him off. He rides in the car with me, wrapping himself partially around the door handle and looking out the window as I drive. He curls up on my lap and sits with me for long periods. Whenever I take him out I bring a pouch for him to crawl into if he’s hot or tired. And I always bring a water bottle to cool him down. If we don’t go anywhere, he’ll go out on my sunny terrace. There’s also a tree in my bedroom for him to climb.
Goliath eats homebred mice or rats (bought at the pet store), about four or five a week. He only eats when hungry and does not torture his prey the way a cat would. If he is not hungry, he will leave his prey alone. Once a week I give him a vitamin rub. It helps him to shed. On the bottom of his tank I put ground calcium that gets absorbed by his skin into his body. Snakes need calcium to avoid a calcium deficiency, which can cause bumps on their skin and a crooked shape. A lot of snakes get skin ulcerations and mouth sores. He doesn’t get any of that. He’s in dynamic shape.
Goliath never gets sick, but about two years ago he got a teeny boil on his stomach after going into the water. What I did was place a hot compress on him every day for about five days. I also put peroxide on him. It burst, I wiped away the residue, and he never got a boil again. Snakes are very prone to boils, so I’m really proud of the fact that he had only one little one, and that was a couple of years ago. Snakes are also prone to mites. I wash his cage every week, but once a month, everything in it goes into my tub, and it’s total washdown. I clean his stuff with an all-natural product called Oxyclean. Then I examine him for mites, putting the light on in the middle of the night to see them. He’s never ever had a mite.
I have to be careful to keep the temperature warm enough. I buy him special bulbs that simulate daylight, which are pretty expensive. I give him 12 hours of light in the cage and 12 hours of night because it wouldn’t be healthy to leave the lights on all the time. He has a little cave in there that I bought him. Also, when he sheds, he scrapes on his bed of all-natural wood—it’s like a tree trunk—and the skin comes off more easily. I have to be careful to keep that clean. He also has a heat rack in there, but I don’t want him to get burnt, so I always wrap a small towel around it. He goes on it when he needs to, but his skin doesn’t hit it.
I have a lot of other pets, too. Molly and Chester are two white rats. They are excellent pets and great with children. Molly and Chester were supposed to be Goliath’s dinner around three years ago. I had taken them out of the cage, but he wasn’t hungry. Then I put them out the next day, and he wasn’t hungry again. I did that about three times. By that time I was getting attached to the mice, so I made them my pets. I went out and got them a huge cage. Now they’re on a total health food diet. I give them fresh vegetables every day. They eat nuts, fruits, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and whatever is the remainder of my food. Whatever organic items I eat they get as snacks. They also love to eat natural alfalfa. Every day I give them natural vitamins, a drop in their water and a drop in their food. I also wash them once a week—could you believe it? Otherwise, rodents develop a pungent aroma. I wash their cage once a week also; I clean it with Orange Glow or Oxyclean. All my cleaning products are 100-percent natural. I play with the rodents. They know their names, and they come running to me. On Sundays, when Goliath comes in, they go out on the terrace and they play.
I have five cats as well, of assorted ages. The baby is about two. All the cats eat a low-residue diet. It’s easy on the stomach and has a very low ash content. The food sold in the supermarket has a high ash content, which causes a painful condition called cystitis, especially in the boys. The girls can get it also, but it usually affects the boys. I began this diet when my cat Freedom started vomiting. My veterinarian gave her a drug that she took for about a year to help stop the vomiting. Then I went to a different veterinarian who suggested that I start giving her a low-residue diet. With that she was able to get off the medicine. It’s been over a year now that she’s not needed any medication. In addition to the low-residue diet, I also give my cats some of what I eat, especially the vegetables.
Freedom is also diabetic. Because of the low-residue food with the low ash content, her diabetes is totally under control with food alone. Freedom also has arthritis in the hind legs. So every day I give her half a capsule of powdered glucosamine mixed into her food. We both take it. You should see her now. Before the glucosamine she was practically dragging her hind legs. It was getting hard for her even to climb on my lap. Now she can climb onto the kitchen counter and jump off. That’s amazing for a 16-year-old.
My cats also take garlic and brewer’s yeast. As a result they all have beautiful, shiny coats. They love the flavor, and it repels fleas. Everybody gets combed once a week to prevent hairballs. Once a month they get their ears swabbed down with lukewarm water. They’re not too crazy about that, but I do that so they don’t get mites in their ears. Also, when cats catch cold they get a runny eye. That has happened. I don’t really get anything fancy. A few times a day I’ll wipe down the eyes with warm water and sterile cotton balls. Then I just wipe the eye again to dry it. I’ve had to do that a number of times.
With cats, you have to be careful of what plants you keep around. I can’t buy poinsettias, for instance, or the cats will eat them, and they’re poisonous. I do have a nice garden on my terrace, though. To get rid of fruit flies and other insects on my plants I use something that’s 100-percent natural so as not to hurt my animals or plants. The stuff I use for the gnats is called Orange Guard. The label says, “Kills on contact. May be used around food, humans, and pets.” The active ingredient, orange peel, seems to do something to kill little bugs without harming my animals or myself.
I have one other very exotic animal, a sugar glider. A sugar glider is about the size of a hamster. It’s got hands, enormous eyes, and a little face. When you let it out it makes itself into the shape of a box and it flies like a flying squirrel. His diet is 100-percent vegetarian. He’s always eaten nuts, vegetables, and fruit. He gets calcium drops once a week that I mix into his food.
I have a huge fish tank, also, with Discus, a huge cichlid, and angelfish. My Siamese fighting fish are in a separate bowl. Otherwise they’d fight and eat the other fish. My son takes care of the tank, making sure the pH and temperature are just right. He has little bushes growing in there. They eat a lot of that. He has algae in there and banana plants. They seem to like that.
Then we have frogs, and they eat crickets. My son set up a little aquarium for them with water in one part and rocks on the other side. When they want to be wet they can go into the water, and when they want to dry off they can go onto the rocks. He has a special light for them, too, that simulates sunlight. My apartment is super-sunny, by the way, and that’s good for my animals.
I used to have a green iguana. He wasn’t a desert iguana; he was a tropical iguana. He had to be sprayed down twice a day with water so he wouldn’t dry out. Once a week I would put him in the bathtub so his skin wouldn’t dry out. He would swim for about half an hour. The iguana was 100-percent vegetarian—that’s how they eat in the wild—and would only eat vegetables. He was here for quite a while, but he took a lot of care. I had to run home to him so much. Going on vacation was impossible because a lot of people would be there to take care of the cats, but wouldn’t want to deal with a reptile. With Goliath when I go on vacation I make sure he eats extra mice and if I leave him extra water there’s no problem. But the iguana had to be sprayed with water twice a day, which was becoming a real problem. Also, his nails were getting really long, and he had gotten very big. I had to handle him with work gloves so as not to get scratched. He didn’t scratch me on purpose, but whenever I went to pick him up I’d get scratched all over. Truthfully, it got to be too much for me and I gave him to a veterinary student. He’s in a really good home.
All my pets get along with each other. In fact, my Siamese, Cocoa, cleans everybody, and they love it. She washes them all with her tongue. I guess that’s the mother instinct because she’s the only cat who has ever had kittens. Because they’re loved, they’re very happy animals that live long lives. My pets get really old. Gregory, my oldest, is 20. My other cat, Meow—I found her in an empty lot—lived to be almost 17. When she died, she was under the table, curled up in a little circle. The hard part is losing an animal you love. It doesn’t matter how many you have; you miss the one you don’t have.
I volunteer at an animal shelter once a week, and get my cats from an animal shelter. I’ve been an avid animal lover my whole life. As a teacher, I always kept animals in the classroom. I taught the second graders how to wash out the cage and how to give vitamins. I would do the same thing in the classroom that I did at home.
My son is all grown up and my pets are now my babies. I am an avid animal lover and take excellent care of them. My cats have never been boarded when I was on vacation. I had people come in and take care of them. My animals are very healthy and happy. They mean the world to me.
RITA “When no one was there for me, they were.”
My nine cats are my loving companions who always provide me with emotional support. They are psychic, sometimes finding things that I am looking for and either brining them to me or locating them and alerting me. They communicate their feelings to me and are a reminder that the human form is not the only form of intelligence. One of my cats, Salviera, gets upset if I cry and comforts me, licking my tears and putting her paw on my hand in a reassuring manner. Another, Spot, has feline immune deficiency syndrome and is still healthy. I’m sure it’s because of the bonding, energy, and time spent together in companionship. They are each different. Some act like they are my children, some act like they are my friends. Scott, the FIDS cat, acts like he is the father of all the others and is my partner in watching over and caring for them.
My cats mean responsibility as well. I don’t take long vacations because I worry about how the separation will affect them. They have kept me going in times when I felt I might give up. When no one was there for me, they were. When others are around they seem happy to see me exchanging pleasantries and visits with them. I love them for the wonderful souls they are.
I could write a book about each one of my pets, how they were rescued, why no one would adopt them, and why I could not part with them. Christopher, for example, was found in a garbage can with three siblings, just a day or two old. They, unfortunately, died, but he fought to live with a rat tooth hole in his rump that abscessed and burst before I noticed it. (That rat probably put the hole in the plastic bag that allowed him to breathe.)
I have gained so much from my experience with animals, more than space permits me to tell. Animals are not indifferent, selfish creatures, contrary to a recent “study” I heard about. To know that, one must live with them, and make a commitment to one’s pets.
BARBARA “My pet ferret gives me joy.…”
… Most of the time she is fearless. I love her boldness and wish I had half her willingness to try new things. Her curiosity brings a smile to my soul, and her innocence and playfulness warm my heart. She’s my buddy.
Having a ferret has taught me to love unconditionally, to be more caring, patient, and compassionate. We have a mutual respect for one another. I now have a sense of belonging to something other than the human race. Having a ferret is a responsibility, but it’s nice to be needed. She depends on me for her health and well-being. I’m sure all ferrets are playful, but she’s just so much fun!
MASON “My dog is a beautiful creature …”
… white with black spots and a great dog physique. He has the most independent mind of any dog I know. My dog is a full and valuable presence in my life. He is a jogging partner and a being to give love to and get love from. He is social. I have met many people through him, and some are now good friends. He has helped me to understand what it means to take care of something, which I sometimes resent but know is an invaluable thing to have learned. Although I sometimes wish I didn’t have him around to deal with, I also can’t imagine life without him.
TINA “My pet is my friend.…”
… She is always happy to see me. It makes me feel good. I feel responsible for her. She counts on my company and affection.
Pets need to be free, to be themselves. I’ve had many cats in my life. Each one has his or her own personality. This one is very patient, but when she’s mad she shows it.
ANONYMOUS Diet makes a difference for a jay
A young scrub jay was raised for six weeks by a vet tech from a local hospital. Jay was hand-fed with baby-bird-feeding formula, but weaned off a bit too soon and given human food in its place. The human food consisted of dry cereal, some cooked vegetables, cooked chicken, cooked hamburger meat, salami, cheese, bologna, and various other not-so-healthy choices.
I was contacted to take a look at this bird, as the surrogate mother was worried about it, describing it as “deformed.” The deformity was a bad case of poorly developed feathers; they were all turned outward, making it look like he “went poof.” His weight was very low, and his keel bone extremely palpable. This bird had noticeable energy, but could not get enough lift to fly properly. He ran and hopped everywhere, but his feathers weren’t able to provide him much service for flying.
I took him home to “fine-tune” him and immediately started him on mealworms, wax worms (good protein and calories), fresh fruits, and lightly steamed green vegetables to ease the transition to healthy foods. He would attack his food voraciously and look at me for more healthy goodies. His weight almost doubled in the first week. I added more raw vegetables to his diet, which he always enjoyed along with cooked millet, quinoa, and oats.
After five weeks, Jay was fully feathered with new feathers, his weight was good, and his flying ability much improved. Overall, he responded ideally to the improvement in his diet, proving that proper diet makes the difference. He was released to a veterinarian friend of mine who assisted me with his recovery. Jay is getting acclimated to the outside world again and learning to hunt and enjoy the life he was intended to live.
ROSARIA Kangaroo-like cat
I have three cats—Eloise, Lola, and Stranger. They are my children. I love them, and they love me unconditionally. Each one has a unique personality, needs, and quirkiness. Eloise sits up like a kangaroo and has a passion for my slippers. Lola carries on with her stuffed mouse as if it were her child. And stranger is fascinated with my bathtub.
TERRY “By having cats I have learned to understand people better.”
My cat reminds me of myself. Her traits are different aspects of mine. I can tell my mood by how my cat reacts to me. My pet helps me to relax and get comfortable. She always finds new ways to do things she wants and is a great source of entertainment.
By having cats I have learned to watch and understand people better, especially subtle personality aspects (facial expressions, sounds, habits). I can look at my cat and know what she is thinking. I can listen to her sounds and how what they mean. By dealing with people’s cats I have learned that you usually pick the cat that best relates to you.
My cat is unique in that she always seems to be doing something new. Her facial expressions change, she makes different sounds, and she likes to hide in different places. She knows whom to trust and whom not to trust. She doesn’t come out when there are people I don’t trust.
LUCILLE Rabbits have special needs
My house rabbit was a member of the family with complete rights. We gave her a lot of attention. She shared our hours at home whether it was good times or not. She was unique in that she actually enjoyed listening to Pavarotti.
Three years ago, my beloved rabbit passed on. I have since realized that I formed a strong attachment to her. I carry around an excessive amount of guilt over the care of this pet and her passing. Most important, I discovered that rabbits need the care of veterinarians who specialize in their particular physiology. Our vet was homeopathic but knew nothing about her needs and problems. She could have been saved if we had the right veterinarian.
WALTER The healing power of human warmth
Eight years ago, in October, there was an unusual snowstorm. While I was away, my cat got pneumonia from being outside for six hours. He had a cough and couldn’t smell his food. He wouldn’t eat for a week. I called the vet, but refused to give him antibiotics. For two weeks my cat slept on me, lying directly on my chest. I gave him my warmth and positive energy, and he gradually got better.
HELEN “I have a cat who is a natural healer.”
I used natural foods to treat my cat after she was diagnosed with a kidney disease at the age of 12 and given just two to three months to live. Heather’s food consisted mostly of two recipes. One was raw meat, rice, and adzuki beans. The other was cooked liver, rice, and eggs. I was also giving her glandular supplements, but she wouldn’t accept those for a while. As a treat, I would give her cooked beets and mix the beet juice into her food—she loved it! A book I used for recipes and a lot of information was Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats. She lived to be 16!
Heather was with me through many stages of life—from college to marriage. We had a very strong bond and still do. We shared many memorable experiences, so many, in fact, that I could write a book about it and have often though about doing so. Two days before Heather died I told her I loved her and gave her permission to go. She was waiting for that permission. The energy of our bond is still there.
Now I have a cat named Hally who is an intuitive, natural healer. Once I woke up at 4 a.m. with a horrible earache. I wondered how I would feel when I went to work at 7 a.m. I somehow went back to sleep. Halley positioned herself on my pillow against my left ear. I woke up at 6:30 a.m. without an earache. She has stretched herself over my stomach and cured my menstrual cramps. And she has spent days sitting against my husband’s knee after his knee surgery to help with his recovery. It goes on and on.…
PEARL The Clark Gable of the dog world
My foxhound Buster came into our lives when he was just 12 weeks old. The man who owned him was very cruel and ignorant. He got Buster specifically for hunting, but he was just a puppy. Because he couldn’t hunt, Buster’s owner wanted to give him to an animal shelter where he probably would have been destroyed. He kept Buster in a dark basement, and the dog was full of worms. My husband, who shared an office with this man, asked for Buster. The man wanted $65, so my husband paid him. He not only saved Buster’s life, but he brought home a wonderful companion animal that has been a joy to us both.
Buster is highly intelligent. He won’t allow us to argue. If we have any harsh words he will jump right in the middle. He goes to sleep at 11 every night, and if we don’t come to bed he starts barking at us. He keeps us laughing and has made our relationship much better. We both love Buster, and he’s an integral part of the family. We have our own boat, and Buster has his own life jacket and his own towel. Buster is incredible, and we both love him very much.
Now at nine, Buster is starting to develop a faint white film over his eyes, the beginning of cataracts. My veterinarian said there wasn’t anything I could do to help him. He did recommend vitamins—vitamin E, and essential fatty acids—even though he didn’t believe these would correct his conditions. Another problem I was having was with Buster’s shedding. Since he was a young pup, Buster has been shedding a lot all year round. The veterinarian thought that shedding was normal for this type of dog, but I suspected that he was deficient in some nutrient.
I tried lots of formulas designed to stop shedding, but he wouldn’t take any. Whenever I would put vitamins into his food he would refuse to eat. Buster is very choosy; if something doesn’t smell right to him he won’t eat it. Every six months, I would also give Buster a pill to prevent heartworms. Heartworm pills are known to shorten an animal’s life, and Buster was showing symptoms of early aging. His youthful look started to disappear and was now replaced by an aged look.
I found out about the Earth Animal company and started using their herbal vision formula for his eyes. The ingredients are eyebright, chamomile, gingko, goldenseal, bayberry with flower essence, nasturtium, and Shasta daisy. A side benefit of the vision formula is emotional balance. I put seven drops into his water every day.
I also started to add their multivitamin in treat form, Daily Health Nuggets, to his food. Those were the first vitamins he would accept. His ability to discriminate between artificial and natural smells amazes me. He is very sensitive and picks up on everything. The Daily Health Nuggets are a complete vitamin/mineral formula that is designed to boost the immune system.
Within a week, Buster’s shedding was cut in half. I believe the essential fatty acids in the Daily Health Nuggets are what made a difference. He is looking better and is not as nervous as he once was.
For the past few years I’ve been feeding Buster a diet of rice, organic free-range chicken, and organic meat, not raw meat as some experts recommend. Buster likes his meats cooked, and I believe this is healthier. Raw store-bought meats have the potential for transmitting pathogens; they’re not fresh like just-killed prey in the wild. I also add vegetables and acidophilus to Buster’s food. I buy Buster water from the Fiji islands. The water tastes pure and it has an alkaline pH.
In place of the pill to prevent heartworms, I give him an herbal powder from Earth Animal made up of human-food-grade ingredients—brewer’s yeast, garlic, B vitamins, minerals, and special nutrients that work together synergistically. It’s supposed to do the same as the heartworm pill without the damaging effects. I just started the regimen, so it’s a little early to tell how well it will work.
Because of Buster’s good looks and beautiful personality, I was approached by filmmakers to see if he could be in a movie. (The movie is named The Passenger and it will be aired on cable TV on the Sundance Channel.) We spent three 15-hour days of intensive filming, and he was fantastic. Buster made friends with everyone on the set, and although he never acted before he was absolutely superb. Our neighbors now call him the Clark Gable of the dog world.
Buster is lovable, highly intelligent, and so magnetic that people cross the street to ask me if they can pet him. (And some don’t even ask.) Many children gather around him when I walk Buster past their school. He goes to each and every one, standing on his hind legs, never leaving out a child. I’m moved by his sensitivity. I don’t know where or how he learned to do this and the other numerous things he does that express such feeling and love. My husband brought Buster home in December of ’91, right after my breast cancer surgery. I really believe my most loyal and very best friend is keeping me alive.
SANDRA Detoxing a cat
Thirteen years ago, I was advised to euthanize my eight-year-old cat Gina by at least six veterinarians because she was having kidney and cardiac failure. I would not kill her. I couldn’t quite place it, but I just felt something was blocking her. Because she had a very foul odor, I thought this cat should be detoxed. This is before I ever detoxed myself, but I must have read about it somewhere. She wouldn’t eat, so I had to learn how to give her fluids at home, which I did several times a day. And I used plain aloe without a flavor. I also used bentonite clay and some type of very mild fiber for a while. After a week, she started to clean out. Then I started to give her this substance in a tube—I don’t remember the name—but it stimulates appetite in animals. I put some on her paw, and she couldn’t stand it, so she licked it off. Little by little, I was able to introduce foods to her. I found a wonderful book called Ten Essential Herbs, and I slowly gave her herbs and baby food.
As she started to clean out I was able to give her fluids twice a day and eventually she didn’t need extra fluids at all. She lost a lot of weight. She had been a fat cat, and she was very, very thin and weak at this point. After I detoxed her I started to introduce nutrients. I read the labels of veterinary nutrients and then went into a health food store and tried to get the natural products and break them down to a small proportion of the amount that they would use for humans. I made my own little recipes, gave that to her, gave her the baby food, and slowly started to give her other foods.
About three weeks later, I brought her back to the veterinarian and her tests were much better. Her kidneys were practically normal. When I brought her back a third time for a follow-up test she was normal. This was miraculous.
In addition to that, I used visualization. When she was very, very sick and I wouldn’t let her be euthanized, she only wanted to sleep on the floor in the closet, which a lot of animals do, and which I like to do. I like to creep in a little hole when I don’t feel good. I put a blanket on the closet floor, and I was lying next to her. There was no light on in the closet, but there was a little bit of light coming from the bathroom. When I looked at her, I saw a flat band of gray outlining her body. I sat in the lotus position and looked at the gray band. In my mind, I made that gray band lighter and lighter, lighter and lighter. I started to breathe deeply and rhythmically. I saw something happening that I didn’t really understand, but I let it happen. I let the band get lighter and lighter, lighter and lighter, until it was silvery, almost effervescent. I just looked at her body and visualized her body absorbing it. I was able to do this in the evenings when we went to sleep. On some days I did it twice in a day. I don’t know if it was imagination, but I’m telling you this cat was a dead cat when I brought her into the vet’s office, and she started to walk the day after this happened. Before that I had been carrying her. She wasn’t walking anymore.
So something happened. Eventually she didn’t want to sleep in the closet anymore, but in bed. I didn’t see the gray band anymore and she was healthy. This was a miraculous healing. This eight-year-old cat lived to be 18. On the day of her passing she waited 12 hours for me to come home. I knew she was going to die that day. When I left in the morning for work I said, “You wait for mommy. Don’t go until I come back.” When I came back she put her arms up. I picked her up, and she passed over. It was a very close relationship that I had with her. She passed over very nicely, very quietly and gently.
ALAN A cat full of energy
My first cat lived for 19 years despite being a street cat rescued when she was six weeks old. Our current cat is one-and-a-half years old. We took the cat in at six weeks. At that time she had diarrhea and extremely pale-colored stools. She was lethargic. Now she has dark-colored, solid stools, and is regular and full of fun and energy.
I use nutritional yeast, fish (either canned mackerel or sardines, both packed in water), kelp, and organic old-fashioned rolled oats to feed our cat. We also give our cat natural digestive enzymes with almost every meal. We only use organic, all-natural wood pellets as cat litter in her box, and we clean it on a regular basis. We also give our cat vitamins and natural liver de-fattening agents from time to time.
BARBARA Restored health in cats
My cats were becoming constipated, so I purchased psyllium husk from the health food store. The veterinarian said to give them laxatives. If that didn’t work he thought I might need surgery on the colon of one cat. Thank God the psyllium husk fiber worked.
ELIZABETH Energy healing
I’ve been trained in energy healing science and have a private practice as a healer. In my practice I work with people, but I will work the energy field of my own children and animals. Working on people or pets in your own family is not recommended. I just do it because I love them, and I can’t keep my hands off them.
I can see the energy field in most cases. But my primary method of high sense perception is kinesthetic. Sometimes I can see where the lines of energy are broken in the body, and I work to repair them.
There are different causes of an imbalance. For instance, my dog has a sensitivity in her hindquarters because before I got her, when she was a pup, they clipped her tail. This is just a sore spot with her. The other problem that I’ve had with her is that when we go away she tends to excessively lick the hair off her body (poodles have hair, not fur). Not coincidentally, she’s chosen to lick it off from the hindquarters. Another problem that I’ve had with her is excessive barking. So I’ve worked with that energetically.
When they’ve gotten sick what I’ve done with them is use energy healing as a complement to the veterinary care that I’ve given them. I’ve found that the recovery time is much faster. For instance, my cat recently became very ill. She lost a lot of fluids in her body, and we didn’t know whether she had kidney trouble or not. I took her to the vet, who gave her some medication, prednisone, which I hated giving to her. But 16 years earlier I had a cat that had the same symptoms, and I remembered that prednisone was wonderful. Yet there comes a time when the animal gets anxious on it. So I didn’t use it for the full course. I just did it enough to help her turn the corner, and then I used energy work. She’s great now. She had tests, and she’s doing beautifully. She’s back to normal.
When I do energy work my clients need to be still. Curiously, my animals will sit still much more readily than my children. I have to work on my children when they’re asleep because that’s about the only time they’ll let me into their fields. But the animals will always let me in.
I feed them a diet called Eukanuba, a healthy diet for pets. Sometimes I sprinkle Green Stuff into their food.
VICTORIA A wonderful wheaten
I have a wheaten terrier, and they have a tendency to get overexcited and charge into other dogs. Before training sessions, I give him Rescue Remedy and lark, and I also take Rescue Remedy myself because it’s a little overwhelming. The lark is for nervousness and lack of confidence. It’s also for people who think they’re going to fail a test. My dog wasn’t taking a test; he was going for training. And sometimes he would just get a little undone. And me—during the class people are so intent watching one another I found that if I took Rescue Remedy or lark myself I would be calmer, and as a result my dog would be. So that’s also why I did it.
My dog is a year-and-a-half old, and he’s never gotten sick. I feed him a raw foods diet based on Pitcairn’s diet in Natural Foods for Dogs and Cats. My husband gets a kick out of it when he says, “Is that for us or the dog?” At times, I will have him fast for a day and then have him go back on track the next day.
I give my family a lot of raw food, and it just didn’t seem right to give him dried food all the time. So that’s why I figured I had to research it, and that’s what I did. I found out about dried foods, how they go against the dog’s natural tendencies and how many diseases are associated with them. And when I started talking to people who had animals in other countries, they would say that you had to feed your dog and take responsibility for it and prepare its food. The more I learned, the more it made sense to me. Feeding dried food only is like feeding your child dry cereal every day.
It’s not all that time-consuming to prepare your dog’s food because you can make all the food up at one time, freeze it in little sections, and then defrost one bag at a time. And then, if I’m in a pinch, I’ll mix it in with the dry food. It’s a little bit of work, but I’m not that put off by it. I also give him raw marrowbones. I’ll go to the butcher, get the big marrowbone, and let him eat that, especially if I’m having company, to give him something to do. But my friends’ first response to me is, “Oh, you have to be careful with that.” They’re alarmed and can’t believe that I do give him marrowbones or raw carrots and stuff like that. But my family’s fine with it.
In the book, Dr. Pitcairn has a formula that he calls healthy powder. In that healthy powder is yeast, lecithin, kelp, bone meal, and vitamin C. Then I also take Gary Null’s Green Stuff, and I put that in the dog’s food, especially if he’s not eating vegetables.
One time he was limping, and I knew he had jumped off the porch and hurt himself. I gave him some arnica and he seemed to be fine after a short time.
After he was groomed, he wouldn’t let anyone touch him on the back legs. They must have been overly aggressive towards him. I met a woman who did Tellington Touch with animals. She showed me how to do it. And by doing that with him, he’s much calmer. He goes in to be groomed a lot easier now. If I’m at a place, and he seems to be nervous, I’ll start doing that with him. Or even when people come over. Any time I feel that he’s looking a little stressed I do it—or even if I’m just sitting with him.
I’ve done a lot for my dog, and people will say, “How do you know it’s working?” The only thing I can really say is that I’ve had him groomed at different places and different groomers have all commented to me on what a nice looking dog he is, and what a nice coat he has. Anyone who knows the wheaten dog will have the same comment, “He’s not your typical wheaten.” He’s just a nice dog. He doesn’t have any behavior problems. I would like to think that through all this combined effort the dog has come into his own.
PATRICIA “My cat Ripple is a blessing and a gift.…”
… She is a window to another realm of existence—the noncerebral zone. I love to just sit and watch her, even when that’s all she is doing—sitting and watching. She is a beautiful little spirit that brings me immeasurable joy. She is truly her own soul. She prefers to keep to herself, especially if there is more than one human around and most especially if it is not one of her inner circle of human friends. However, without fail, whenever I have been sick or depressed she always comes and jumps on me, lays on my stomach, my back, my lap. She sleeps there, right on me, but only at those times. It must be her sensitivity and awareness of energy.
There are no words to describe the feeling I get from lying with my cat—my face on her warm, fuzzy belly. I really don’t like it when people say that cats are stupid, mean, or evil. I hear this more frequently than I care to remember. Ripple is a very emotional spirit. She is loving, but she is shy. When there are people around that she doesn’t know very well she prefers to keep to herself. But when her favorite people are here she comes out, bumps your legs, is very talkative, lies on her back, and begs for belly-tickling.
Here is something unique and peculiar about Ripple. She makes this funny bird sound, a deep-throated warble that none of the other cats I’ve had ever made.
TOM Responsibility strengthens a bond
Our two cats provide a topic of conversation and amusement for my wife and me. When my wife was away once for two-and-a-half weeks, I was solely responsible for them, and I developed a greater affection for my animals and a stronger bond. Many animals seem to have a need for humans, and humans a need for them.
“Hearing pets tell you ‘I love you’ in perfect English is a rush.”
I have two beautiful parrots, an African gray and a yellow-naped Amazon. I use full-spectrum lights in the area where my birds’ cages are. They eat only organic seeds and nut mixes, filtered water, and treats of Gary’s Green Stuff, Red Stuff, and Muscle powder. I keep a clean environment for them. I clean their cages and toys regularly and clean the floors around their cages with alcohol. I keep an air purifier on for two hours a day. I believe that their friendly disposition and robust health are a result of these habits.
I also bond with the birds daily, playing catch with the empty vitamin containers that double as their toys. I use cuddling and touch therapies with them. To say the least, hearing your pets tell you “I love you” in perfect English is a rush.
As a holistic R.N., I understand that real results come from an integrated approach to health. I apply this to me as well as my birds. They are a source of joy and unconditional love.
CHERI Curing a cat
I had a cat that got sick. There seemed to be something wrong with her, and it was getting progressively worse. The cat had a cold in her eye. It was partially closed, and it didn’t seem to be getting any better.
Since I don’t like taking a lot of drugs—I used to take goldenseal and chlorophyll and all kinds of natural supplements—I figured the cat should be able to take these types of things too and that they would probably be healthful. I knew goldenseal was good for infections. I figured I’d just mix some up in her food and see what transpired. So that’s what I did. I took 500 mg of goldenseal out of the capsule, and I mixed it up in her food so she wouldn’t be able to tell it was there. I just fed it to her for about three days.
I started to see a difference, so I just continued on. And I know it wasn’t a long period of time. It wasn’t more than a week that I gave it to the cat, and it seemed like the infection went away and she was back to normal.
JOAN “My passion and purpose in life is to take care of birds …”
… whether they are ill, injured, orphaned, or simply bewildered. I live with a family of birds that includes past charges that could not be released back to the wild, and a family of domesticated Australian zebra finches. This is the story of one tiny zebra finch named Fluffy and the impact she recently made upon my life.
Zebra finches are naturally vigorous, fast-paced little birds with infinite energy. Fluffy’s plumage is a striking light silver color with contrasting cream-colored feathers on her chest. She has a distinct orange beak and legs that add further contrast to her overall length of three inches.
Early in April 1999 I noticed that Fluffy was not feeling like her normal energized self. She had grown quiet and reclusive and was no longer socializing with the rest of the flock during their usual daily routine. I picked up the little bird that seemed suddenly very fragile and vulnerable. I performed a basic physical exam to check for obvious causes of her condition. I noticed that her left eye appeared swollen and some of the feathers had fallen away from her cheek and upper neck area and she had experienced weight loss. It was time to schedule a visit to see Dr. Gloria, her veterinarian, for further evaluation.
Fluffy was placed in the avian hospital cage, which is a clear plastic box measuring 14 by 20 by 10 inches, comfortably equipped with a heating pad, a perch, a tube-style bamboo nest, food, and water. The trip we would take to the vet hospital that day was the beginning of an intensive journey of discovery and healing.
As we arrived at the veterinary hospital, Jennifer [the assistant]greeted us. She always has a wonderful smile and comforting words of encouragement for any patient I bring to see the doctor. We were escorted to the examination room, which must seem disconcerting to a little bird like Fluffy with the high ceilings and shiny medical devices. I spoke quietly to Fluffy, assuring her that all was well and we needed help to determine what was causing her discomfort.
Dr. Gloria carefully examined Fluffy and determined there was an eye infection; we would treat the problem with oral antibiotics and eye ointment. A simple-enough solution, or so I thought. The medication would prove to help at first, then the symptoms would recur. We had to administer several additional treatments during the course of the summer, each time fighting the problem, but never really eradicating it altogether. In September, things began to go terribly wrong with Fluffy. Her right eye had atrophied into the eye socket, 75 percent of her feathers were missing, and the left foot and leg had become swollen.
Something had invaded her body and was spreading. Was it cancer? I kept thinking that I took such good care of my birds, and now something was killing her, and we could not determine exactly what it was. With all of the medical technology and treatment available to humans, this one-ounce bird could not be easily diagnosed because of the lack of diagnostic tools for someone her size. We were running out of time and options and were forced to return to the hospital.
The infection had spread and settled into the joint and bone of her left leg. Dr. Gloria came into the examination room looking deeply concerned about the options available for treatment. The prognosis didn’t look good for Fluffy. The further use of antibiotics could eventually kill her, and it was no longer proving useful. The decision was before us to either put her to sleep and end the misery or amputate the leg. Surgery could kill her because of her weakened condition.
We went home to ponder the next course of action. As we entered the house all of the zebra finches greeted her with their beeps and chirping, but she barely had the strength to answer them. I dropped myself onto the couch in an emotionally drained state while Percy, my companion pigeon, stood at my shoulder consoling and counseling me. This evening he looked particularly wise with his combination of charcoal gray feathers highlighted by green iridescent neck feathers. The birds and I act as a family unit; decisions affect all of us. Percy and I studied each other’s face. He has been with me for three years and had seen other sick birds pull through and had never seen me give up. Fluffy then started to beep a very strained call to me. It was chilling as I listened to the cry in her voice telling me that she wanted to live and we had to keep trying. The next couple of weeks we would be preparing her for surgery by building up her strength and weight.
October 27th was a beautiful autumn day but time to go to the hospital for the surgery. I was feeling enormous guilt, wondering if I was sentencing her to certain death as soon as the anesthesia was administered. Jennifer greeted us in the usual manner, but I saw the concern in her face as she checked us into the exam room for Fluffy’s pre-op exam.
Dr. Gloria lovingly placed Fluffy on the scale to weigh her and examine her leg before we went to surgery. I would be with Fluffy during the procedure. She was ready; I could tell by her appearance and demeanor. I, on the other hand, was feeling the grip of uncertainty the morning held for us, but knew we were doing the right thing for her.
It was time. I carried Fluffy in her hospital cage down the hallway to the surgery room. I had been in there before during procedures and observed other surgeries, but this one was chilling me to the bone. “Concentrate—this isn’t about your fears; it is about Fluffy and her survival,” I told myself.
Dr. Gloria and Nurse Peggy prepared the instruments and operating table as I held Fluffy and comforted her. Time was starting to move slowly at this point. Dr. Gloria looked at me and said, “We are ready.” I gave Fluffy a kiss and gave her to Dr. Gloria. A small makeshift mask was devised to fit over her tiny face; now the combination of oxygen and isoflurane gas began to billow into her air sacs. I kept telling her to breathe deeply and we all breathed with her. Slowly her little eyes began to close and her body became limp. The anesthetic was taking her into a deep slumber and no doubt provoked some very strange dreams. I wanted her to quickly go to sleep so we could do the surgery and see if she would wake up.
She was positioned on her back, and the surgery began. We could tell she was breathing by the pulsation in her legs from the beating of her heart. Dr. Gloria worked quickly to amputate the leg and tie off the excision site to prevent bleeding. Her small hands swiftly moved with precision as her dark eyes darted effortlessly from the small patient beneath her hands to the gauges on the tanks of gas and oxygen, balancing all of the components to keep her patient alive.
Finally the surgery was done and it was time to bring her back to consciousness. Oxygen began replacing the gas that had dropped her so near death. Dr. Gloria and I waited and watched as her chest heaved up and down as she breathed in the oxygen. The entire hospital had become very quiet. Her continued breathing indicated she was still with us. An eyelid opened to welcome the world. “Come on Fluffy, fight your way out,” I said to her. She slowly came out of the deep sleep; she had survived the surgery.
After she stabilized, I took her home. Once again, as soon as we walked through the back door, all of the birds chirped and cooed to welcome her home. “Beep!” she cried out to them. She announced her arrival to the flock. I placed her in my bedroom to rest quietly and recover from the anesthesia. Now we waited during this critical 24 hours to see what would happen. One day merged into the next few days, then into 10 days after surgery and a remarkably recovering patient.
Early one evening I was working in another room when I heard all of the birds chirping excitedly. I went into the living room to see what was happening, but nothing appeared wrong in the aviary. I stopped a moment to check on Fluffy as I had habitually done since the surgery. Her left wing had a dark red stain all over it. I wasn’t too alarmed at first, thinking she had scraped her wing while trying to maneuver it like a crutch. I picked her up and turned her over to check further and was horrified to see blood rushing from the surgical site. She had been very active that day, and the clot must have fallen off the wound.
Bleeding bird in hand, and pigeon sitting on my shoulder to supervise me, I applied direct pressure to stop the flow of blood. Fluffy has only about 4 cc’s of blood in her body, which is the equivalent of 3/4 teaspoon. Each time I looked to see if it stopped it started again when she moved. This was more than my expertise could handle. I hurriedly called Dr. Gloria at her home for assistance. She instructed me to use direct pressure again, but I was unable to stop the bleeding for very long. The bird’s life was draining right out of her into my hands. Dr. Gloria advised us to meet her at the hospital.
Fluffy had come so far and had been improving; now she was facing another fight to stay alive. I wrapped the stump as tightly as I could, placed her in a warm blanket, and proceeded to the hospital. It was dark at 6:45 p.m. and silent as we arrived at the hospital. I didn’t know if she was still alive as I carried her into the surgery room. Dr. Gloria and I didn’t say anything as I removed the blanket from her. “She is still alive!” we exclaimed. This little bird was continuing to battle for life, despite the fact that she had practically bled to death. A clotting agent was applied to the surgical site, and we waited that long wait once again to watch her stabilize. She was clinging on to any spark of life left in her. The spark ignited and the flame grew more intense. We went home to recover.
This fight was proving to be the worst for her. Now she had the added burden of blood loss, which made her weaker, as well as the pain from the amputation, the possibility of infection, and the loss of her tail feathers that assisted in her balance. A bird so small does not have the benefit of a pain reliever available without the threat of serious side effects. She became noticeably weaker the next few days. She would lie on her side, trying to stay off the stump that must have been excruciatingly painful. I consulted with a physician who had undergone amputation of a leg as a young man to gain perspective on what she was enduring. He assured me it was very painful and just the touch of the bandage hurt. As I sat and watched her I felt absolutely helpless. I could not take away the pain.
The following Tuesday she returned to the hospital for a check-up. I wasn’t sure what her doctor would say about her progress since she was still so weak. Was it time to end her misery and let her go? Dr. Gloria carefully held her as she examined the stump and suddenly noticed feathers starting to grow at the base of her tail. This was a sign that her body was regenerating! After all these months and times of being near death she was coming back; she was winning! The growth of her tail was measured daily and provided us with a measurement of recovery.
Today she is a healthy, feathered bird that is sitting near me as I write this. She has inspired me to go forward with my education in avian studies to do whatever I can to help other birds like her. I now have a clear idea of how I must continue my education. She taught me to find options when faced with formidable obstacles, explore possibilities, and realize I am capable of much more than I ever imagined. Thank you, Fluffy.