YMM Pet Parent: The Single-mindedness of Snuggles
I love animals, and I figured having a cat would be easy. I would give her food, water, clean her litter box, give her belly rubs and ear scratches, make sure she didn’t run away, and take care of the logistics of keeping her alive.
When Darth Molly started showing signs of discomfort in late 2019, I thought I should take her to the vet, but I wanted to wait for a little while to see if things improved. Part of it was denial that something might really be wrong, and part of it was me being cheap.
After all, vets are expensive, so I went on vacation (twice) and left Darthy with friends. It’s funny how we prioritize things sometimes.
In early 2020, I learned that she had stage-two kidney disease. Her case was manageable (and a fairly common condition for cats), but it was also incurable. I was in shock. I had plans for Darth Molly to live until she was at least 25.
She would be happy, healthy, and I’d never lost her. The truth is, she’s 12 years old (we think), and none of us will live forever. I was desperate and tried everything to help Darthy feel better. I often contacted my vet with questions, and once they said something – that struck me.
They said maintaining a healthy relationship will help Darthy with her recovery. I had never really thought about it in those terms before – having a relationship with your pet. How do you do that?
Then COVID-19 hit. I began working from home and spending a lot more time with Darthy, which was good for me and her. I was close by to manage her meds and diet and could keep an eye on her so I wouldn’t worry as much. She had grown terribly frail and weak. Then, the flood hit.
Fortunately, our place was okay, but we were still forced to evacuate for a couple of weeks. I ended up staying with friends, who put us up in their basement suite. It turns out that this temporary visit is likely what saved Darthy’s life. At home, she was being incredibly finicky and barely eating.
Almost immediately after arriving at my friend’s place, however, Darthy decided that she loved their cat’s food, and within days she started gaining weight and recovering her strength.
Shortly after returning home, I was doing an online yoga class and my teacher quoted the philosopher, Krishnamurti. He was known for saying, “love is total attention.”
I felt that this could be my answer for working on my relationship with Darthy, so I began to practise giving her mindful attention as if each moment was our last together. At the time of writing this story, it’s been one and a half years since Darthy’s health crisis, and she is doing much better.
Nowadays, she’s on a plan to manage her health, and I’ve learned many parenting lessons. Despite my worry, panic, anxiety, tears and frustration as I watched her suffer, the whole experience has been good for our relationship. In fact, she’s snoozing beside me as I write this story.
Being stuck at home during quarantine gave me a chance to give Darth Molly real attention. I wanted our relationship to be solid in case anything should happen. I wanted her to forgive me for being a terrible parent. I spent a lot of time giving her healthy doses of snuggles with all the single-mindedness I could muster.
The simple act of a belly rub became an exercise of living in the moment with all my attention. Fully and completely, as Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip would say. At first, I learned how shockingly terrible I was at being in the moment, but Darthy and I continue to practice.
We both feel much better these days, and we plan on living for at least another 80 years.