They need us and we need them. Whether you’re a cat person, a dog person or one who loves horses or birds, animals are a big part of our lives. I was born with a dominant cat gene. Cats please me, they make me smile, they make me feel warm and cozy inside.
Research shows that pets can bestow health and social benefits, including lowering blood pressure, decreasing stress, getting you out to exercise, (don’t count on your cat to help you with this one!) meeting people, keeping you company when you’re lonely, listening to you when no one else is around, bringing you joy and unconditional love. They become our friends–part of our families, part of our hearts. They guide us in our blindness and heal our broken parts.
Pets can help us become creative and leave us with fond memories. I wrote this poem a few years ago when our 19-year old cat, Dozer, passed on to the “Heaviside Layer.” (T.S. Eliot, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats; Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cats, the musical). It was a warm day in August . . .
The Porch Vigil
The gray cat keeps vigil over his domain.
Old eyes and ears watch and listen with alertness that defies his years.
He sits in classic pose, paws folded, neatly tucked; back rounded, tail curled; head forward, watching, waiting . . .
This “porch vigil,” this old man of the feline world, is here as the morning sun first casts its filtered rays through the trees, and he’s here still as it casts its long, low shadows across his face . . .
Old Dozer is my “Velveteen Rabbit”—some of his fur’s rubbed off—he’s been loved a lot—
He’s here on his porch, watching and waiting every day, no longer a threat to those he once chased—content now to watch the birds walk by, content just to wait for me to come and join him in his vigil, to share some time together as the afternoon sun warms the stoop . . .
A lone vigil now—old eyes no longer watch and wait, closed now in final sleep—this porch vigil sits in his place, content to remember the days we shared—the warmth of the stoop, the softness of his fur, the gentle nudge of his nose against my hand as he asked for just one more treat . . .
“What the heart has once known, it shall never forget.”
The old gray cat keeps vigil over his domain . . .
Olivia C. Rossi, RN, MSN
Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, ACSM
Certified Personal Trainer, ACSM
(…and cat whisperer…)