Choosing to bring an animal into one’s life is a big commitment — a “til death do us part” kind of commitment. As least, that’s how it should be. But the large number of animals in our shelters and rescues shows that for many people, that is not the case.
Sometimes people to ask me to talk to their animals because something has changed in their lives and they can not — truly can not — keep the animal. For the people I work with, this a heartbreaking and traumatic decision. Communicating with their animal helps both the human and the animal cope with what is a “no other option” situation.
I never would have thought I would be a person who would have to give up animals that I loved with my whole heart — but it happened when we moved to the UK.
My husband, who is Welsh, moved to the US with me in 2011 when we got married. After about a year, his Mum started having heath issues. She was already health compromised and her status was very worrying. It is difficult to cope with an ill parent when you are not far from them, but from 4,500 miles and an 11 hour plane journey away, it is even more difficult and worrying. My husband is an only child, so the responsibility fell on him.
For a year we wrestled with the decision to stay in the US or move to the UK. I understood my husband’s need to be near his Mum in case of emergency but I was not prepared to leave my US animal communication clients in the lurch, give up working in the US or leave my beloved cats, Julep (a torti) and Fox (a grey/tan tabby). I gave my worries and concerns to the Angels and my Guides to work out.
By the beginning of 2013, I had my answers. Everything fell into place and I knew I’d be able to continue to work with my US clients, clients in other countries and — once my UK visa was approved — work with clients in the UK as well. When I got my UK visa I would be able to continue to visit the US for the spring and fall fair seasons. Until then, I would be able to travel back and forth from the US to the UK every three months.
But the heartache began when I started researching what needed to happen for our cats to come to the UK with us. At that time, the UK was still requiring a 6 month quarantine on pets coming to the UK. A pet passport would shorten that time to 3 months, but was very expensive — at the time, several thousand dollars for 2 cats. But it wasn’t the money that was the issue . . .
I desperately wanted this to be possible . . . but I had to face reality. When I moved to Colorado in May of 2009, my ex-husband put my cats on a plane and they flew from New Jersey to Colorado — a 4 hour plane trip. They were so traumatized from the flight that I literally did not see Julep for over a week. Worse still, I didn’t see Fox for over 2 weeks! I talked to both of them before they left NJ and after they arrived in CO, but they were terrified. Even after they finally showed themselves, they would not let me touch them for another week. When I thought about the effects of flying them from Denver to Philadelphia (4 hours), waiting for the next flight to the UK (6 hours), then flying to the UK (7 hours) and finally being in quarantine for 3 months . . . I was afraid it would kill them. I felt my only option was to try to re-home them in Colorado.
However, I did not want to make that decision without talking to Julep and Fox about their options. I explained that we were going to move very far away. I explained about the plane trip — like the one they took to come live with me but much, much longer. Julep was clearly not happy about the option of a LONG plane trip or quarantine. I kept getting the image from her of cowering at the back of the carrier on the plane and in quarantine, terrified. Fox, on the other hand, was very blunt — “I would rather die.” I did my best to explain that it was just temporary, that we could be together again in the end, but neither cat would agree to even try. Frankly, I couldn’t blame them.
So I had to face the horrific task of finding a new home for my beloved cats. I talked to them about the option of finding a new home for them. I assured them that I would be sure that their new person would be loving and kind — I would very carefully check the person out to be sure they would be the right people for Fox and Julep. I also explained that I might need to take them to a shelter if I couldn’t find a home for them — but that was a last resort. Julep thought this was a good plan — much better than the flying option — although she was not thrilled. I knew that living with a new person would take some adjustment, but I felt that Julep would be OK in the end. Fox on the other hand was non-plussed. Although she did not say so in so many words, it was clear to me that Fox would rather cross over than face trying to adjust to a new person — and a shelter was simply NOT acceptable to her. Needless to say, that was heartbreaking to me.
I talked to every kind and caring person I knew to see if they, or someone they knew, would take my Julep and Fox. No matter how hard I tried, there was no one who was able to take my beloved cats. I knew I couldn’t take them to a Humane Society type shelter . . . but what were my other options? Then I remembered Happy Cat Haven, a no kill cat rescue in Colorado Springs. I’d done communication sessions there. The facility is immaculate and the staff kind and caring. I knew they were very careful about placing their cats because they’d asked me to communicate with several cats pre-adoption about what kind of people the cats would like to live with. I called my contact at Happy Cat Haven and explained my situation. We settled on a date when I could bring the cats to HCH. I agreed to make a donation to the shelter — I gave them more than they asked for — which was a small price to pay for knowing that my beloved kitties would be safe and well cared for and, most importantly, re-homed to a good situation.
I explained to the cats about going to Happy Cat Haven. Julep tried to be brave and said she would be OK. Fox continued to say she wasn’t going. I did my best to explain it would be OK — but Fox would have none of it.
I needed to have a vet check done for Julep and Fox a month before taking them to Happy Cat Haven. Both cats were given a thorough exam and were cleared by the vet. I thought that Fox was a little thin (she was never a big eater and I thought that the stress of the situation might be affecting her), but the vet was not concerned, since she wasn’t showing any other symptoms. I took the cats home, let Happy Cat Haven know the cats were cleared by the vet. Plans continued to move forward . . .
Two weeks before I was scheduled to take Julep and Fox to HCH, in the course of 36 hours, Fox went from being perfectly normal, to being weak and withdrawn. She stopped eating. The change was dramatic and observable. I made an appointment to see the vet — the next day was the soonest they could get Fox in. I talked to Fox and let her know she would be going to the vet the next day. I asked her how she was feeling. She showed me pressure in her abdomen — I was sure she had cancer in her liver and abdomen. She said that she was ready to cross to Spirit — “I’m NOT going to that place [Happy Cat Haven]”. She showed/told me that a cat of mine who was in Spirit [a big and beautiful orange tabby named Jinx] was with her and would help her cross to Spirit. I saw Jinx clearly and knew that Fox would be safe with him. Fox was completely at peace with crossing over. I told her that we would have to see what the vet said . . . but I knew in my heart that I would be helping Fox cross to Spirit the next day and so did she.
I talked to Julep to make sure she knew what was happening — which, of course, she did. Julep said that Fox was really sick and needed to cross to Spirit. Julep said that Fox wouldn’t do well at the shelter but Julep continued to be brave and said she would do fine in the shelter.
The next day at the vet’s, I checked in with Fox while we were in the waiting room. Jinx, in spirit, was still there and Fox’s spirit was calm and ready to cross over. We saw the vet, who did a through exam and had blood work drawn. The vet said she’d call me later in the afternoon with the results — but I already knew what they would show.
The vet called me in the afternoon. She said Fox had high ketones, VERY high liver values, swelling in her liver and a mass in her abdomen that couldn’t be explained by constipation. The vet said, “I honestly can’t give you much hope.” I told her I understood and we made arrangements for a return to the vet’s in an hour to help Fox cross to Spirit. I let Fox know what was going to happen — she was at peace and content — it was what she wanted.
At the vet’s, I was able to spend time with Fox before the vet came in. I cuddled Fox and told her how much I loved her and how grateful I was for all the years of love and companionship she’d given me. I assured her I’d never forget her and that she would always live in my heart. Fox, who never liked to be cuddled or held for long, snuggled into me.
When it was time for Fox to get the medicine to help her cross over, the vet was very gentle and kind. I could see/feel Jinx, in spirit, with us — supporting both Fox and me. Fox, who was normally terrified at the vet’s, was calm and relaxed. Fox snuggled up against my heart and crossed to Spirit peacefully, like she was going to sleep. As Fox’ spirit left her body, I saw Fox and Jinx running up the green, grassy hill into a sunrise that the animals show me when they cross to Spirit. As they disappeared over the hill, I was filled with the most intense feelings of love, joy, peace and freedom — and I knew Fox had crossed to Spirit. I couldn’t have asked for a more peaceful crossing for my Fox, but my tears of grief wet her fur none the less.
When I talked to Julep about Fox’ crossing, she said she was glad that Fox was OK now. Julep added happily, “Now she can go with you!” Our animals can be so wise . . .
Update: Julep was at Happy Cat Haven for about a month and a half. The staff asked me to talk to her after 2 weeks. Julep wasn’t interacting with people and was acting fearful. It would be difficult to get her adopted if this behavior didn’t change. Julep was never the bravest of cats, but I encouraged her to be “brave like a lion” and to be friendly with people so she could find the right person to take her to her new home. I showed her that she needed to come toward people, not hang back in her enclosure when people came to see her. She said she really wanted a new home and would really try to be braver.
Julep started interacting with people and coming out of her shell within a few days and was adopted shortly there after. She is living in a happy home with two new kitty friends. Although I miss her and think of her often, I know she is in a good place and happy.
Fox has indeed come to the UK with me. I see her periodically in our house and feel her with me often. As I write, I can see/feel her around me, along with all the cats I have shared my adult life with who are in Spirit. I am so grateful for their love and my on-going connection to them all.