What Alphie Taught Me
I wanted to take some time to share with you some of the experiences and lessons I have learned from this past week.
As some of you know, I had to make the, always difficult, decision to end a much-loved furbaby’s life last week. He was diagnosed with kidney failure and despite trying various medications and treatments, the decision to set him free became my only choice. Sadly, he was only six years old.
Alphie was a very special kitten. In my many years as a registered Ragdoll Breeder, he was one of only 3 singletons ever born from my girls. Unlike the other two though, Alphie did not have any cousins or friends to tumble and play with as he grew and developed due to his mother being the only girl I had pregnant at the time. Therefore, Alphie developed some, rather unique characteristics. He struggled to socialise and generally found it difficult to ‘be a cat’. Some would call him grumpy, others commented he was aggressive. I, however, called him ‘misunderstood’.
Due to his personality traits, I never rehomed Alphie and, as such, he remained in our house as a much loved pet.
As time passed, Alphie made the best of his situation but ultimately remained a loner in our multi-cat household. He did, however, develop a special bond with me. He liked to sit next to me on the sofa, sleep on my feet at night and would often engage me in lively conversations regarding his current state of affairs.
A few months ago, I noticed Alphie was losing weight, drinking more and eating less. Sadly, I recognised the signs and this was confirmed with various tests done by our local vet. Alphie was in kidney failure. We put him on a daily tablet which he courteously allowed me to administer each morning and changed his diet to one which was less aggressive on his kidneys. This helped for a while and Alphie enjoyed a couple more months of good health. However, this was not to last. On Sunday 15th August, I saw a change in Alphie’s eyes. He no longer saw joy in the world around him, his food bowl or even his supervised excursions in the backyard. I rang the vet and was given an appointment for Tuesday morning.
Initially this appointment was to discuss whether Alphie’s deterioration was possibly due to a secondary infection which could be treated but, in my heart, I think I knew this would be our final trip together.
I spent Monday trying to entice him with some favourite foods but he was content to sit in a sunny window and sleep gently. My little man was fading fast and I knew the time had come. By Tuesday morning my heart was heavy knowing I would have to make the decision to end his life.
As a breeder and animal lover, I have had to make this decision more times than I care to remember and, in all circumstances, their death, once the needle has been administered, is very quick. I have always insisted on wrapping them in a favourite blankets and cradling them in my arms like a baby so as to whisper words of love and encouragement as they are set free. This is how it was with Alphie. However, Alphie always did things on his own terms and dying was no different.
I have been given a wonderful gift in feeling a soul lift when it crosses the veil with every animal I have had the honour of being present with at their death. As I hold them close, the soul literally lifts from the body and the physical shell is left empty. It’s something I find hard to fully describe but it truly is a privilege to experience. And, as such, I know the moment, the soul has crossed to the other side.
As the vet gave the needle, I whispered words of love to Alphie expecting his soul to lift almost immediately as it had done with so many others. I felt Alphie’s head droop but his physical body remained ‘full’. It was as though Alphie has gone into a deep sleep. Even his eyes has shut, which is something a cat cannot do once they have passed. Unlike humans, you cannot close a cat’s eyes once they have died. They remain open.
When the dosage had been given, I brought Alphie close to my face and held him against my heart using the time to tell him how much I loved him, how special he was and to remind him to come back and visit whenever he wanted. I asked him to say hello to those who had passed before him and reminded him that his cat mummy would be there to greet him. Nearly 30 seconds had passed but Alphie’s soul remained within his body. Eventually I looked up at the vet and said, “He’s not gone yet.” The vet stepped closer and checked Alphie’s chest with his stethoscope and confirmed that a faint heartbeat could still be detected.
I continued to cuddle Alphie close and told him, it was OK to go. I reminded him of some of his cat companions who had passed before him; Charlie Brown, Charlotte, Teddy and his mummy Shaylee. I said again how he was always welcome to visit whenever he wanted and, because this process had taken longer than usual, I asked him to give me a sign that he was safe and happy on the other side. I had no sooner finished whispering these words when I felt a gentle lifting of his soul. The body in my arms was empty and the room was suddenly filled with an incredible peace. With tears blurring my vision, I looked at the vet and simply said, “he’s gone”. Taking out his stethoscope once again, my words were confirmed by the absence of a heartbeat. As I turned Alphie in my arms to kiss his face, I saw too, his eyes had opened.
Despite the odd circumstances of Alphie’s death, I never once felt he was in any pain or distress. It was almost as though he knew I needed that time to tell him the things I had whispered and that, maybe, he needed to hear them too.
Leaving Alphie’s body at the vets to be picked up for a private cremation, I headed home. An empty cat carrier being the only sign we had entered the surgery with a loved pet.
Now, as many of you know, I am big on signs when it comes to those who have passed. I speak with those across the veil both human and animal and I am quick to point out to grieving families, the things they experience are signs from their loved ones. Yet, when filled with my own grief, I found myself a victim of ‘sign amnesia’.
All day, I kept asking Alphie for a sign he was Ok. My head knew he was, but my heart wanted ‘proof’. That night, as I cried before eventually falling asleep, I begged Alphie to jump on the bed or give out one of his unique meows which would reassure me he was fine and still with me. But nothing came. The next day passed and still no sightings of Alphie, no sounds of his call, no pressure on the bed. That evening as I stood under the night sky, I lamented how unfair it was. I could see other people’s departed pets and give them reassurances they were fine but I could not do this for myself. “All I want is one sign!” I called to the universe. Then, as clear as day, I heard a voice say. “I have sent you signs but you have missed them.”
I thought back, trying desperately to remember what I must have missed. And then, it hit me. I had been looking for specific signs, ones I demanded to see but, again, in typical Alphie style, he had sent me signs on his own terms.
My first sign came the very day he passed. Sitting on the sofa that night, I found a lone whisker which I knew immediately was one of Alphie’s. Alphie had trademark curly whiskers which would sometimes circle around his face making him look like he was wearing glasses. This whisker was beautifully curled and it brought a tear to my eye but, in my grief, I didn’t connect it as being a ‘sign’ from Alphie. Then, the next morning, when I logged onto Facebook, I had a quick look through the ‘Memories’ section as I do most days and there was one from six years ago, showing a 4 month old Alphie stretched out on the sofa fast asleep and looking very contented. These were my signs from Alphie. To tell me he is still around, he is very much at peace and he is as healthy and happy as he was as a kitten.
Sometimes when we are consumed by grief, we miss the signs our loved ones send us. Or, like I did, we set our own agenda with regards to what we want to see. The important lesson I learned through Alphie was to simply be open to whatever comes your way.
Allow your loved ones across the veil to work in their own way and via their own means. Putting out an agenda or an expectation only blinds us to the truly beautiful gifts we are being given every day. May we open our hearts and minds to accept what is sent our way and appreciate every blessing. Our loved ones across the veil love nothing more than to surprise us with gifts. Let’s not disappoint them.