Updated: Apr 24, 2020
"I am not what happened to me, I am who I choose to become" - Jung
This is not a typical post but I realized recently as I gazed upon my cat Sweet Boy, that he is the perfect metaphor for our soul's journey. That it is never too late to be who you are meant to be.
Midway last year, I adopted a senior cat named "Glitch".
I had decided since I was in a larger apartment, and my life was in a good routine, maybe I could provide love and a home for a pet that might be a little harder to adopt due to age or some other challenge.
I immediately found Boogie.
A dainty 15 year old "Bossy" cat offered through a pet rescue - I quickly made arrangements to adopt her. They were in shock and delight that somebody wanted such an elder, but she was a cutie!
After the fastest adoption board meeting ever, she was mine. At that same time I had been cruising through some other online ads, and I kept coming back to one particular cat, a 10 year old boy named Glitch.
I had only planned to adopt one cat but I could not get "Glitch" out of my mind. Every time I went back and looked at him, I could hear and feel his eyes say "Come get me" over and over. The next morning I decided to contact the poster of the ad. "Glitch" was a 10 year old male, long hair, auto-immune disease, irritable bowel and the owner worked away for very long stretches of time. The cat needed a home. I wondered what I was getting myself into, was I biting off more than I could chew?
I kept hearing that little voice say "Come get me" - and 7 hours later, "Glitch" joined my little family.
Except ... Glitch had far more going on than met the eyes. He was frighteningly thin, bordering on emaciated if it wasn't for his frizzy coat disguising his body.
Auto-immune disease and apparently he vomited frequently and daily. He had irritable bowel and was missing a couple of teeth - which turned out to be most of the teeth on the right side of his mouth including a top fang ... He had a lesion on his belly that refused to heal and raw bumps and nodules and rashes on his body.
(This picture is one month after adoption)
The cat tentatively investigated my home and then hovered over the dish of food I put down for him - and wolfed it down in 3 huge bites, growling as he ate.
I could feel every single knob in his spine, his ribs, there was nothing to this little guy. He was feather light, about 6-ish pounds at most. He had a pretty face but his fur was dull, frizzy, a pale mottled grey and white coat. I sensed there was more to this story, only time would tell.
This cat was hungry! I kept feeding him and he would hover an inch above the food, growling as he gulped it back ...followed shortly by everything coming back up because he had gulped it down so fast.
I kept feeding him hour on every hour, throughout that entire first night. I hoped the growling might stop and that he would come to understand that there was always plenty of food available for him. As I went through that first night getting up to feed him, I'd slide down the wall and sit beside him, continuing to pet him through the growling, talking soothingly and spooning yet more food into the dish, over and over...
Finally by morning ( and having used a full roll of paper towel cleaning up cat sick because he kept gulping and losing his food) he had finally had enough and walked away from the dish leaving some leftover food intact inside it.
Next - I changed his name. Would you want to walk around with a name like Glitch? The word glitch is used to describe something that has malfunctioned. While the name probably occurred to be funny or cutesy at the time he was first named, I didn't like the energy attached to it, especially for this poor sick boy.
I wasn't very inventive, I called him My Sweet Boy and would croon it to him every time I pet him or walked past him. Eventually it shortened and became Boy but it is said with love and affection and he follows me about like a pup.
Our pets cannot speak to us, but eventually we can put together the clues.
He was terrified of every noise and would bolt if you simply adjusted your position on the couch too quickly. He was terrified of every movement even if you just moved to pick up your coffee. A distant noise had him on bolt upright and shivering on high alert. He hid at least twice a day, once it took me 2 hours to find him, he had squeezed himself down into a 4 inch gap between the back of my fridge and the wall - It saddened me that he was so frightened and I worked steadily to gain his trust.
It took a full 6 weeks to hear the faintest purr - it was so halting and barely audible. He even tried the most delicate lick of my hand shortly after that after watching my other bossy senior cat take her sandpaper tongue daily to my eyelids for a good bathing ( Ouch!!)
He gained weight steadily and his fur started to grow into a dark, thick shaggy soft coat. His paws were thick and immense now, a little startling as I had never had a cat previously with paws that size! He just kept growing, his limbs and body getting thicker - eventually reaching a point where I struggled to hold him with two hands while standing because he was getting so bulky. His face even changed, getting broader, more defined, his nose almost lionesque. Yet he was not fat, just thick, big bones.
I watched his health improve steadily with no trace of irritable bowel or vomiting, no lesions or rashes, I was convinced that the medication was not needed. He weighed in at 16.5 pounds and his bloodwork done that day eventually came back clean.
As the vet weighed and looked at his body - it turned out that this scrap of a cat was actually partly or all Main Coon, the largest breed of domestic cats - typically weighing in at 16 to 18 pounds! Even at 10+ years old - he still grew into who he was meant to be.
He was weaned off meds. 9 months on, he is somewhere around 17 pounds now and stable there, a great heavy furry guy who likes to plop on the keyboard of my laptop for a purr and a nuzzle as I set about to type. He purrs loudly and often, even drools a little when he is extra content. I cannot believe this journey has actually only been 9 months - but here he is, every last pound and fluffy inch of him - and he is loved.
He still abides by the "laws" as set down by my tiny elderly Boogie who weighs in at a grand 5 and 1/2 pounds. Tiny and mighty as she is, Sweet Boy is the gentle giant willingly and patiently tolerating whatever she dictates. (Though he is not beyond giving her a benign batting paw in the air in her direction to egg her on, haha!)
It warms my heart to look at him sprawled broadly on his back catching a morning sun ray through the window.
Even at approximately 10 or 11 years old, the equivalent of 56 to 60 in our human years, he eventually was able to grow into who he was meant to be. And I cherish being able to have witnessed that unexpected and rewarding journey. At 53 years old myself, he reminds me of something important for myself.
I do not know what his previous journey entailed and try not to assume - but I sense there were a few bumps in the road. Things happen, some good and some not. We all face challenges.
And so many times we say to ourselves "it's too late", "I am too old", "I could not possibly start over at this age" ... and we say this to ourselves over everything from health to hobbies and career, relationships, any situation that could bring about something new. If you should ever catch yourself saying that, remember the 70 year old graduate from medical school or the 52 year old who joined the military or the 63 year old who left an unhappy marriage and started completely over and took on their first job. Or how about a 35 year old accountant who left his career because he always wanted to run a tattoo shop?
"I am not what happened to me, I am who I choose to become." No limits.
While I did my best to give Boy a sense of safety, love and food - ultimately, it was Sweet Boy himself who chose to heal. Illness is often attached to emotional triggers and while I cannot profess to know what his journey was in those first 10 years, it was only when Boy realized within himself that he was okay, that he was enough - and that was when everything changed.
And faster than one could have ever imagined, my Boy has grown from that wispy timid cat into the relaxed majesty of who he was meant to be ...
My shaggy Main Coon "Sweet Boy"