My first response, in light of the fact that this edition features pet health, was to tell you all the ways I knew that you could keep your pets healthy. I would have told you to spend a little more and buy healthier food for them than you find in your typical grocery store. Look for food without additives or by-products. Don’t overfeed your pets. Follow the recommendations based on your pet’s weight. I also would have told you to exercise or play with your pets. Walk your dog at least once daily. Sit on the floor and play with your cats, with their favorite feathery toy, and brush them daily.

Instead, I write to you having just buried my buddy of 18 years, Seth, named because when I adopted him from a friend’s farm I was reading Seth Speaks. As I sit here, it’s still shocking that he’s gone. Despite the fact that he was a very quiet cat, rarely raising his voice above a whisper, in his absence the house is so much quieter. In his absence, I now learn that his presence was much larger than it had seemed.

Our new home
Seth was one of three cats who moved with me in 1995 from Northwest Missouri to Woodbury in the east metro. I loaded the rental truck with my belongings and towed my VW Fox. Seth, and the Siamese sisters China Cat Sunflower and Lady Madonna, rode in the car. I only checked on them once when I refueled in Des Moines, and they were huddled together. It was cold and snowy that October day. They were as happy to get to our new home as I was.

Madonna and China both lived 15 years, succumbing to cancer. Seth, a former farm cat who slept in a barn, was much hardier. The only sickness he encounted in his life was a pre-cancerous growth at the base of his left ear. Treating it with cesium, a trace mineral that alkalinizes the body, I mixed a bit of its powder and some additional vitamins into his food, and the growth disappeared. It did return once more, a few years ago, but my holistic vet at the Cat Care Clinic again prescribed cesium and it did the trick. Thank you, Dr. Sue.

In recent days
Seth died of old age. Cataracts were clouding his vision. Arthritis was making walking, and normal stretching and cleaning, very difficult. A sentinel who always slept near my head, Seth was not there in recent days. In the morning, I would find him sleeping on the couch where I left him the night before.

Cleo, a 5-year-old tabby who is the same age as Sunti, our gray-haired Korat (a Thai breed), used to eat alongside Seth every morning and lunch. On occasion, they would sleep together on the bed. Since Seth’s passing, Cleo has not been herself. She has not cried for food at the usual times. She has been silent. She has been aloof, napping by herself for longer periods of time. One of her nicknames, Thundering Herd, refers to her headstrong runs through the house. This week, she has not run. I know she is missing Seth. Just as much as I am.

But he is gone.

I cried when he passed. I remember lying his body down on the living room carpet so Cleo and Sunti would know that he had passed, that he no longer inhabited his body. I find myself looking out the back window toward the garden, his final resting place.

I also look at the bigger picture. Living beings are not their bodies. The spirit of the being, or soul, inhabits the body temporarily, and in time, it moves someplace else. In the greater scheme of how things are, the passing of a soul out of a body is just as natural as the breaking of an ocean wave, or a grain of wheat blowing in the wind. It is no more important than the dawn of a new day.The movement of new souls into bodies, and old souls out of bodies, is the flow of life.

And as much as we yearn for the past, to relive memories and recapture the moments that seemed to define our experiences, the only thing that is true is now. This present moment. And in this moment, as I type these words, Cleo is sitting near the open window looking at me like a Zen master. Perhaps a messenger of wisdom that only she can deliver to this dense one who cannot hear what is being said. She suddenly runs to my side and looks at me intently.

"Hungry?" I ask. She meows.

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