In Honor of My Dear Seeker And All the Other Animal Friends I Have Loved

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For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know I try to keep things short and to the point.  This post is a special tribute to a special friend and is quite a bit longer than usual.  Although it’s not really about organizing, it is about emotions I’m sure everyone has experienced at one time or another. I hope you enjoy my story.

My family has always had a special relationship with animals.  They were never just pets, they were always part of the family.  We all deal with loss at different times of our lives, but in my family we also mourn the loss of our animal friends.

February 1, 2011 is a date I will never forget.  That morning one of my best friends, my cat Seeker, passed away.  She was so much more than just a cat to me.  To understand what she meant to me, I’ll give you a little history.

Our family has always had pets, always.  Sometimes there was just one, and sometimes there were as many as four at the same time.   I of course bonded with some more than others.  

My Four Bestest Animal Buddies.
Pepper.  From the day I was brought home from the hospital, animal critters have always been a part of my life in one way or another.  My first animal buddy’s name was Pepper – he was a miniature schnauzer.
He was my friend and protector during those first eight or so years of my childhood.  He taught me as best he could how to have fun and eat Milkbones (and he actually managed to keep me out of trouble on more than one occasion!).
Pepper was put to sleep when I was about eight.  I didn’t really understand what was happening at that time, all I really remember is being sad.
Lucky.  My next special buddy was a mostly-white cat I named Lucky – and boy was that cat lucky!!  I picked out that little white fur ball from all the other kittens and somehow just knew this was my special little guy.  Lucky was such a cool cat that he even went camping with us (and once, much to my mother’s horror, he even let us put Barbie makeup on him).
When we first got Lucky we lived in Colorado, but when I was ten years old we packed up and moved back to Iowa to be closer to my dad’s family.  Lucky and our other cat Stretch attempted to make the journey with us, but Stretch ran off somewhere in Nebraska.  Lucky however, made it all the way to Iowa with us and lived to be about 15 years old.  Here’s a picture of us my senior year of high school:
I was of course sad when Lucky finally passed, but Lucky was still living with my parents and I was not, so in some ways it didn’t seem so heartbreaking to me since I had not been in such closer quarters with him those last few years.
Oscar.  The summer after my freshman year of college, a new dog, Oscar, came to live with my parents.  He was also a miniature schnauzer.  I lived with my parents that summer, and during that time I took Oscar on lots of walks.  He was still so little that more often than not I would end up having to carry him home because he was too tired.

He was also a therapy dog and my mom would take him to hospitals and nursing homes to brighten everyone’s spirits.  Oscar was a pure joy to be around.  I always looked forward to him running to greet me – he would then hop up on my lap and proceed to lick my ears until I could stand it no more.  He passed at the young age of 7 from cancer.
Seeker.  During my mid-twenties I experienced some great losses and made a not-so-grand downward spiral into the pits of depression.  I did seek professional help, but it wasn’t until I met Seeker that things started to turn around for me.  
At that time I was working third shift as a taxi dispatcher (organizing vehicles in time and space!).  Our office was inside the local bus depot.  One not-so-busy night during a very cold January I happened to walk out onto our parking lot and noticed a white cat scrounging around the dumpster.  I immediately thought of Lucky when I saw this cat, so I cooed and tried to get her to come over to me, but she was totally feral and skittish and wouldn’t let me get close to her.  
I walked back into the bus depot and bought a turkey sandwich from the vendo-land machine.  Back outside, I began to tear the sandwich into smaller pieces and toss them over to this cat.  She was so hungry that she ate the entire sandwich, including the bread.
During my shifts over the course of the next few days I tried to convince the cat it was ok for her to trust me, but after nearly a week of feeding her scraps I realized that with the subzero temperatures that were predicted for the upcoming weekend, the time was now to do something bigger to help this cat.  My friend got a live trap from our local animal shelter, we set it outside the depot, rigged with a tasty treat no cat can refuse – tuna.
It didn’t take long before one of my drivers came in and told me that the cat was in the trap.  Luckily it was just about my break time and my dispatch partner took over the mic while one of our cabbies gave me and the trapped cat a quick ride to my house.  
I opened the trap door and the cat bolted for a hiding place.  I had food, water, and a litter box already prepared for her, so I left to finish the rest of my shift knowing at least the cat had a warm place to stay.
During this time I was reading the Harry Potter books and felt that “Seeker” was a very appropriate name for this cat – it really felt to me like she was seeking me, but maybe it was really me who was seeking her.  Either way the name stuck.
The first two weeks Seeker would only hide, usually under the couch, when I was at home.  I never made any attempts to pet her or grab at her, I just let her be.  In my own world, I had felt like people were poking at me, telling me how I needed to change my life to get over this depression – sometimes I felt like they just wouldn’t LET ME BE.  So that’s exactly what I did with Seeker, I would talk to her and always tell her hello and goodbye when I was coming and going, but I just let her be with me, in whatever capacity she decided was ok.
It didn’t take too long before I was rewarded.  During the third week of Seeker living with me, she started coming out from her hiding places when I was home.  She would walk cautiously around me, checking me out.  Again, I never tried to even pet her, I just let her explore.  A couple days later she started to come a little closer, then a little closer – she then started to bat, bat, bat at the cuffs of my pants and then she would run away and turn around to observe me.  She did this for a couple more days.  At the end of the third week, I put my hand out to her gently and she let me pet her for the first time, and our course for friendship was set.

As I was still dealing with my depression issues, during those first few months with her, there were a number of times when I would just sit and cry, sometimes uncontrollably.  Seeker didn’t judge me or run away from me – she usually just sat with me.  Sometimes she would sit next to me with one paw on my leg, as if to let me know everything was really going to be all right.  The unconditional love and understanding that animals give us is sometimes all we need to start our own journey of healing.

One of my biggest losses during that time was my ability to trust others.  I had shut just about everyone out of my life.  I know now that my friends had a rotation set up for someone to come check on me.  Sometimes I would let them in and sometimes I would just pretend to not be home.  Seeker was also jumpy and skittish around anyone else except for me when she first came to live with me.  She didn’t trust the other humans either.

I will never forget the first time she reached out to another human besides me.  It was somewhere around the end of March, about two months after Seeker first came to live with me.  I had a new co-worker who I had a bit of a crush on.  His name was Sean and we had started to chat and be friendly.  One night he’d stopped by my house to hang out and talk, and when he sat down on the couch Seeker immediately jumped up into his lap and gave her big “pay attention to me” yowl she became so well-known for.

It was because of her action that I decided I was ready to date someone again – if this jumpy cat thought he was ok, well, he must be ok!  And although Sean and I didn’t end up being partners for life, we are at peace with each other and know that during those two years we were indeed perfect for each other, so Seeker choose wisely as far as I was concerned.

I like to think that Seeker learned a lot from Sean too, most importantly, how to trust humans.  Seeker became extremely affectionate and silly during this time and then started to come out of hiding for other humans as well.

We got Seeker a little animal buddy too.  Miss Zella then came to live with us in June, just a few days after Sean had moved in with me (yep, I decided to hop right back in!).  Seeker wasn’t sure what to make of little Zella at first, but after a week or two, they became fast friends.

Seeker and Zella moved to California, Colorado and back to Iowa with me.  They saw me through the break up with Sean, plus multiple local-area moves.

Three years ago we made what I hoped was the last move – at least for several years.  I moved in with my husband the end of January 2008.

This may have been the hardest move for them because they were now sharing the space with Bryan’s two cats – and they didn’t want to share.  Seeker and Zella mostly stayed in the basement while Bryan’s cats mostly stayed upstairs.

Seeker was the only one who was able to bridge the gap though.  Although she was never friends with Bryan’s cats, she could sneak around them, moving slyly enough to not attract too much attention.  She could finagle herself a way upstairs to sit in the sun or in the windows and to watch the birds.

I’m not sure why Seeker decided to leave us so early.  The first vet I took her to when she was still little said that because she had been feral for the first five to six months of her life that she may not live as long.  Seeker was nine and a half when she passed.  I guess I never asked the vet what he meant by “not live as long”, but I always thought she’d live longer than ten years.

I’ve come to accept that maybe her mission was done.  She’d helped me through the roughest times of my life.  But those times are done.  In fact these days are the best days of my life so far – so maybe it was her mission to help me get here, and now it’s her time to be in the spirit world.

This is the last photo taken of me and Seeker together.  Still silly after all these years.

I didn’t understand until the last fifteen or so hours of her life that she might really die.  There’s nothing that could have been done for her from a medical standpoint even if I had known before that, so in many ways I am very thankful to have been spared the intense worry and frustration I know I would have felt if I’d have known she was going to die.

I did however know that during those last two weeks (when we thought she just had a UTI) she was feeling bad enough that I took some time off from my work to spend a couple whole days just hanging out with her.  I also tried to make sure to spend some extra time with her on the days I was working.

It’s true that I was trying to observe her and make sure she was eating, drinking, and making it to the litter box, but I could tell she was comforted just to have me there.  She comforted me so many times when I was sad or ill, it was my turn to do the same for her.

The last two nights she was at home with us, I pulled out my camping mattress and slept on the basement floor with her.  I could tell how much she appreciated this, (due to territorial issues with Bryan’s cats, my cats only got to sleep with me if I slept in the basement with them), and when I found out how sick she was, I knew I could at least be thankful that I spent as much time as I possibly could with her during her last moments here with me.

I saw her for the last time alive that Tuesday morning, about one hour before she passed.  I could tell she still recognized me, and she even gave a little meow.  I guess I knew then that it was only a matter of time.  We got the call about an hour after we had left that she was gasping and they asked if we wanted them to resuscitate her.  I said no and that we were on the way.  During the seven or so minutes it took us to get to the vet, she had passed.

Dear Seeker,

Thank you for everything you ever did for me.  Thank you for showing me how to love again (I did eventually find my sweet husband thanks to you!).  Thank you for spending your time here on earth with me.  I’ll see you on the other side, buddy.  Love, Tracy

Although these four animals were extremely special to me, my life has been touched by a number of furry friends. Thanks to all the other special animal friends I’ve had the pleasure of living with over the years:  Rascal, Casey, Freckles, Stretch, Rusty, Alex, Fannie, Mae, Pan, Koko, Frank, Zella, Salem, Cooper, Callie, Moose, Winston, Malcolm, and Magoo.

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