DEAR DR. FOX: I just finished reading a woman's story about her beloved cat that crossed the Rainbow Bridge, but still visited her frequently at night.
This made my heart smile. My beloved mixed calico cat, Poco, passed a little more than two years ago. Though my heart is still broken, I often hear her running up and down the stairs at night. Ours was a friendship deep-rooted in mutual love. Is this crazy? -- L.P. Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
DEAR DR. FOX: My wife and I read your column about the dog owner who said he saw his dog after he passed away. We had a cat, Junior, for 22 years. He passed away eight years ago. For a few years afterward, my wife and I would wake up having felt Junior walking across the bed at night just like he used to, going around our feet from her to me. He would split the night with each of us, always sleeping on the outside and never between us.
I never would have thought such things occur, but it did. After a time, it stopped. I am sure someone will say it was grief. I will not try to argue that, but it was very real to us. We miss Junior still. -- T.S., Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
DEAR L.P. & T.S.: This question of life-after-life is important to me because we as a culture have become so embedded in materialism-consumerism and the addictive virtual reality of social media and entertainment. We no longer have communion with nature, or talk to the trees and listen to the birds, and we cannot see the stars because our energy-consuming night lights have brought the end of darkness across all densely inhabited regions of the planet.
Where is the place and time in our daily lives for most of us to engage with nature and the great mystery of life?
Companion animals, regardless of their human-created genetic anomalies and dependence on their caregivers, provide countless people with such a spiritual connection of love and trust. Those who neither understand nor respect such mutual affection between humans and other species are sadly disconnected.
The bond both of you had with your cats lives on in your hearts and minds. Their presence to you in sounds, running up and down the stairs at night or snuggling in bed as they did regularly when alive, is possibly a projection from your own memory that your grief keeps awakening.
Another possibility is that your grief keeps calling them back because they loved you so much. Either way, let go. I find that reflecting on the life of a beloved animal companion through writing or even putting together a photo album helps alleviate the sense of loss; this reflection leads to celebration and gratitude for that companion animal's presence in your life.
L.P. REPLIES: Though I miss Poco every day, I feel as though I have let go. I connected with Poco like I never connected with anyone before. We were special to each other. We had her for seven of her eight years. She was diagnosed with large-cell lymphoma and received treatment for nearly two years. She let me know it was time to say goodbye. Her ashes sit on our mantle. I celebrate her life and am thankful for our time together.
DEAR L.P.: Then I would say that the power of love can indeed transfigure and transcend our mortal lives.
ANOTHER TECHNOLOGICAL DISCONNECT FROM RESPONSIBILITY?
A high-tech litter box from the PurrSong company automatically cleans and refills the receptacle. The LavvieBot also can be monitored with an available smartphone app. It is marketed as a device to relieve cat owners of litter box chores. (From digitaltrends.com, Jan. 6.)
In my opinion, this kind of litter box system does not enable the cat caregiver to make a daily inspection of urine and feces to see if there is a problem, such as blood in the urine or diarrhea. The more we rely on technologies in animal care, the more we must be mindful of technical limitations.
Also, animal husbandry (the old term for animal care) is a relationship of attentive engagement, which applied technologies should enhance. Technology should not limit our engagement with our pets or become a substitute caregiver.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.net.)