The Last try
One day, when I was about halfway through the writing of this book, my old cat, the Geeter, hobbled feebly into the woods behind my house as he always does. This time, he disappeared. My guess is that he was acting on a primitive instinct, going off to die in isolation as animals in the wild still do when they sense it’s their time to go. At twenty-four, the Geeter could have died from any one of several specific ailments associated with old age. I have no idea which one he succumbed to, because I chose not to subject him to invasive procedures that might have provided the answer. I can say that the Geeter was not suffering from cancer or any other degenerative disease. He was feeble, he spent most of his time sleeping, he stopped grooming himself and would get matted with fleas, but he was eating well and would purr when you petted him. He was, as far as I could tell, about as happy and healthy as a very old cat can be, and it pleased me to think that by caring for him holistically, I might have added several years to his life span. It’s not every cat that lives to the age of twenty-four.
And yet, I couldn’t claim that I’d raised the Geeter from kittenhood using the holistic methods I practice today. He’d been with me for two decades, but he’d come to me as an adult. Though I don’t know what vaccines or antibiotics he was given before he came into my life, I have to assume the list was considerable. At the least, the toxins he absorbed had to be expelled over a very long period by a strengthened immune system and the right diet. Moreover, he didn’t get that diet as soon as I took him in, because my own perspective was different. I had begun exploring alternative therapies, and was already certified in acupuncture, but I hadn’t begun to work seriously on my own health, and my practice was more conventional than alternative. In those two decades, everything changed, both for me and for the animals whom I treat.
As I sit here finishing this book at last, my youngest cat, Squeeki, wanders over to rub against my leg. Two and a half years ago, a friend went to drop her car off at the local gas station, and saw a week-old kitten in the hands of one of the young men pumping gas. The young man told her he couldn’t keep the kitten himself, and didn’t really know what to do with her. My friend said she knew a veterinarian who might help, and brought her over to Smith Ridge. The day I saw her, Squeeki looked more like a rat than a kitten. She was rodent-gray, with speckles of white and orange, her fur was dull, and her ribs were showing. And instead of purring, she squeaked, which is what inspired her name. But she was willing to be bottle-fed, and she ate well.
Over the next several days, she had various discharges. She coughed and sneezed, and produced a lot of phlegm. Her nose dripped, and her eyes were runny. I gave her an occasional homeopathic remedy but I did not take her in, as most owners would have, to a clinic to receive antibiotics. And when she was six weeks old, I didn’t vaccinate her.
Besides protecting her from rabies, I have given Squeeki no other vaccines in those intervening months, either. At six months I gave her an anesthetic so I could spay her without causing any pain, but her body has absorbed no other drugs. She eats only the fresh food, cooked or raw, that I prepare for her, and drinks only distilled water. Her health is perfect—she hasn’t been sick once—and she looks extraordinary. Her eyes glow, she doesn’t have a speck of tartar on her teeth, and her coat is thick and shiny to the touch. Free to come and go as she pleases, foraging through the woods and padding back inside the house on her own schedule, she is living, to the fullest extent a domesticated cat can, the life that her forbears led thousands of years ago.
Often, when I look at Squeeki, I think: Here is the result of all I have learned in those decades since I began exploring alternative therapies. Here is a cat so clearly and radiantly healthy without drugs and low-grade commercial pet food, so happy and content in the purity of nature, that I know the lessons I’ve learned are true, and that the time it took to put them into practice was time well spent. And then I think of all the other dogs and cats not fortunate enough to enjoy such good health, whose immune systems struggle daily against the barrage of vaccines and drugs administered so often to them, and I think: so much more to do. So much getting out the word that another way is here. So many more animals to reach. The challenge seems overwhelming sometimes, but we have to keep at it. Dog by dog, cat by cat.
One animal at a time.