The signs showed up everywhere. More pills from the vet than from all your own doctors in the last six years? You pondered where she peed last? Did she even pee? Eat? What did the vet say the signs were again? What the heck do you do with an old cat who isn’t facing a life-threatening illness but who could go down pretty fast without medication? At the time, nobody I knew had the answers. And who really wanted to listen?
There she was twenty-one years ago, sleeping in the middle of the light-blue carpeted floor in a beam of light. She was different than the other Himalayan kittens at Mary Misner’s Cattery in Florence-Tolgate, New Jersey. This tiny, moon-faced fur-ball was half the size of the others and had the flattest face. Barely a teenager and as I walked towards her, she woke up, gave a tiny yawn, and then tripped over her white furry paw as she walked towards me. She shot me a glare from her gummy eye, and it was love at first sight.
“She’s sick and won’t make it past six or seven years,” the breeder mumbled with a long, thin cigarette hanging out of her mouth. “Born prematurely, has asthma, you have to wash the mess out of her eyes every morning with a damp cloth, but if you really want her….” she then coughed like a roof on fire.
Dad pulled out a check. In the car home we named her Flo, short for Queen Florence-Tolgate, her birth town. She then served as my personal board of
directors for twenty-one good years. The oldest cat, according to Guinness Book of World Records was thirty-six and our inspiration. Her picture hung next to Flo’s bag of electrolytes that I had injected into her neck everyday for the last year.
I stared at Flo, still a dwarf–now a fragile bony cat unable to move her back legs on the metal table at Park East Animal hospital. She slid into the flat cat I-could-be-a-rug position.
Patrick, the technician gave an uncertain smile, no words were said in the room, but the truth was evident; Flo’s days were numbered.
“Would you like to leave her here with us?” Dr. Kent Miller finally asked the dreaded question. “It’s down to quality of life at this point.”
I took her home for one last corn muffin, her favorite. She showed no interest. She looked tired, she was holding on just for me. On some level we agreed to call it a day: we all know the drill, death sucks.
Eight months after her Shiva and Main Line burial in my friend Jeff Solomon’s back yard, the thought of a new pet felt wrong. That Saturday afternoon, I tiptoed into the Animal Medical center on East 62nd street to attend Manhattan’s best-kept secret, the bimonthly pet-loss support group. I sat at the table next to a woman sniffing over pictures of a retriever. Seven of us sat in a mournful silence until the social worker entered the room and placed a large stuffed rabbit, a box of Kleenex and a donation cup on the table.
“Hello, my name is Rebecca Alexander, I’ll be leading today’s meeting,” a brunette Reese Witherspoon-look-alike said as she passed out a sign-in sheet then took a seat at the head of the table. She had sweetness about her, she understood animals and even more, the owners. I wrote in my name, phone number, email address and then filled in Flo’s name in the next column.
For the following two hours, the participants took turns sharing their pictures, tears, anger, guilt, denial and blame. Through the others’ stories, I felt a sense of resolvement. By the time I spoke, all I could do was point out the love in the room.
“I feel that all the animals are with us in spirit, probably in this room right now. We can’t see them, but trust me they all have beers in their paws and are laughing their tails off.” That was just the beginning of my quest into the wacky world of pet loss.
Afterwards, I hit an upscale dog boutique, In search of a knick-knack to send to Alberta, My cousin’s older, pearl-wearing pug in the Pacific Palisades, I came across a mess of brochures, dog sitter cards, invitations and other fliers by the entrance. One in particular caught me off-guard: Your Animals Want to Talk to You, I Can Help You to Listen.
Sure you can, and I’m an owl. The cover had an elegant looking woman posing with a Pekinese. I flipped through Rae Ramsey’s brochure. Her practice was based on telepathy. She claimed to deepen bonds, resolve behavior problems, clear up conflicts between animals and facilitate family transitions such as moving and vacations I read on, with a Barney Greengrass (NYC favorite Sunday spot) catered Shiva for Flo, who was I to judge?
The following week Rae Ramsey appeared in The New York Magazine in the Psychic New York feature. Bizarre. Immediately I logged onto her website– maybe she’d talk to dead cats.
I wanted her to contact Flo to coincide with this article, but she didn’t recommend it. But that Sunday afternoon, she came over to discuss her craft. I was surprised to see a sophisticated lady at my door. The petite, fair-skinned blond woman with gold earrings in tan trousers and a green sweater looked more like a lady who lunches than a pet psychic.
MW: Wow, I have a famous pet psychic here in my own living room. (Rae blushed and cringed at the same time.) Wait, what? Did I say the wrong thing?
RR: Pet Psychic is often used. I prefer communication. I don’t read minds. I’m not Sonya Fitzpatrick, who is absolutely wonderful and has a show on Animal Planet. I am an animal communicator. I can have a two-way conversation with permission from both sides – the animal and the owner.
MW: And how do you talk to the deceased pets?
RR: Usually the owner is suffering, so I try and become present with them so they feel supported. Sometimes a client just can’t get past the crying stage and needs to cope. So, I try and give them a realistic view of what this experience is all about, especially if it’s the first time. I listen to help them morn and to be there. I’ll just listen, ask a few questions and get an idea of the circumstances of the passing. What the owner were or weren’t able to do, that kind of thing. Sometimes there is something the owner wants to say or “communicate”. That’s of course entirely possible and it happens all the time.
MW: But how do you actually do the communicating?
RR: Practice, have quiet mind and a receptive heart, get right into it. I use meditation and have the intention try and try to be there: a very natural process. In my experience connecting with an animal in spirit is just as easy as connecting to their body. You know, we are sprits in a body, they are just on a different plane. Because of the connection of love between the people and their pet, the pets are willing to be present and answer any questions, to explain how it was to cross over, In my experience, they want to heal the person, things that are pertinent in the healing process. They know what it is.
How can you prove what you’ve shared with the pet is valid? You can’t, you are either open to it or not. Believing and knowing are two different things. Believing is more the of the mind’s intellect, like evidence. Knowing is something you know with your whole being, your soul your heart.
RR: For example, I had a dog, in another country that had left and it was very painful to the owner. She saw it happen, was right there and the dog described to her how incredible it was to get out of the body, and he was watching her. She had a sense of a breeze coming through the window during the time of the mourning and he verified that he was giving her that sign. He described something that coincided with her experience but it went beyond her experience so she could see life on the other side. He was okay, they all tell me they are okay. Perhaps we are not as cognizant of the continuity of life as they are.
MW: And all you need is an e-mailed picture, you don’t need to be face to face?
RR: Even without technology, it exists. Telepathy has been around as long as the earth. Look at primitive societies. There was communications back in the old days between continents, no radios or computers. Its there and if it’s really interesting to you, it’ll happen. But in my experience pictures aren’t necessary but they do say a thousand words. Look at picture of yourself at sixteen.
MW: No thanks. Have you ever tapped into somebody else’s pet by accident? What happens if you get some other Himalayan instead of the one that just passed? (She laughs) That can probably happen.
MW: When is the right time to put either a sick or an old pet to sleep?
RR: You know that we all do. Sometime, the animal wants to leave, but the owner might not be ready and it will remain alive on medications for a little longer. They know.
MW: Do they guide you?
RR: Pets that pass on leave you with a gift or more. When my cat Tamia died at close to twenty-two years, her gift was the ability to open me up to the depth of experience, knowledge, feeling and just profoundness that animals truly have.
MW: Have you ever stepped on a bug and killed it?
RR: Yes, I did and felt very guilty for what happened communicated with him right after. I said I was sorry. He responded, accepted my apologies and confirmed he was all right on the other side.