Life Lessons from Katie

We love pets, and we know you do, too! To honor the special relationships we have with our furry family members, The Grand would like to share a column by Marti Healy that ran in the Aiken Standard. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Life Lessons from Katie (By: Marti Healy)

Katie is gone. And there is a Katie-spaced hole in my heart. She was my ancient, long-haired, calico cat, a true and loyal friend for the better part of 18 years. She was something over 21 years old. I had lost track of her actual age, I’m afraid.

She was asleep in her soft comfy bed, in the cool of the night, out under a waxing half moon and a handful of broken stars. It was exactly where she insisted on spending her final night on earth. Perhaps she sensed it was closer to God’s hand. And so he was able to take her gently, quickly, lovingly.

Katie was a frequent subject of my columns. In her later years, she was deaf as a stone, almost blind, struggled with incontinence and lived in an interesting, highly creative world just this side of reality. Wrapped in the cotton wool known as “feline dementia,” she frequently forgot who I was. She was often surprised that there seemed to be dogs living in her house – other times they simply didn’t exist to her. And, at the most unpredictable times, she sang what seemed to be very loud, very off-key, Broadway musical numbers in a voice that could peel wallpaper. Life with Katie was always interesting, never more so than as she progressed in age.

At first I searched methodically through all of her medical records, trying to find exactly how old she was. But since she was a foundling (as are all of my animal buddies) and fully grown at the time she came to live with me, her actual date of birth was always a best guess anyway. Eventually, I began to remember an observation I made long ago about cats and age … they simply don’t care. Age is completely and utterly irrelevant to them.

The dogs in my family have always celebrated their birthdays, of course. There are parties and funny hats and special doggy ice cream and presents to unwrap. Great fun. The cats, on the other hand, have never wanted parties per se. Treats should be daily and year-round. Hats should be worn only by dogs. And great fun can be had by simply watching said dogs wearing those hats.

Dogs love the silliness of birthday parties as well as the focused attention, it seems. After all, dogs are constantly celebrating important life highlights – from a mole uncovered to a delivery truck arriving, from dressed-up dinner guests in the dining room to newly planted flowers in the yard. Any occasion to dance and sing and be a bit of a show-off is greatly appreciated in the world of dog, I have found.

Life according to cats, however, seems to be much more in the moment, more fluid, one day to the next to the next to the next. The transitions from morning into night and back again seem to call to them with an unbroken rhythm. They sleep like liquid in the sun, then glide about in the shadows of the moon, all to an inner unceasing music of their own.

I’m sure Katie never gave a thought to or a whit about her age. She may have wondered why she didn’t find the ring from a milk bottle top terribly attractive of late – worth no more than a single poke and a shuttle under the refrigerator with it. She stopped jumping on the bed a couple of years ago, perhaps from old bones, perhaps from an increasing desire to be by herself. Her delusions appeared to keep her world interesting. And nothing took the place of a good long nap in a pool of golden sunlight or a quiet stroll under the silver-polished stars and a Carolina moon. Each was deeply appreciated one moment at a time.

I hope I have learned great lessons from both the dogs and the cats in my life. About celebrating all of the things that life gives us, as well as about living for this moment alone. They give me the best parts of themselves, always. I want to appreciate it adequately.

And, now from Katie, I greatly admire and accept with love this final breath lesson she has left me … about keeping life interesting, about dignity and peace and remembering to be near God’s hand.

Marti Healy is senior writer for The Design Group and author of “The God-Dog Connection” and a new novel, “The Rhythm of Selby.”