If you have been reading my blog posts for a while, you will have noticed that our cat, Boris, shows up in various ways…in stories about dogs, about life, and in poetry that I write. He really was an amazing cat with a big presence. His death, at an elderly age, was hard for us. The loss was exaggerated at night for Jeff and me, because Boris had set himself up as a night watchman. Every night he would lovingly tuck us all into bed, pouring proud purring affection upon us as we dozed off. It was soothing. It also seemed that he knew whenever we didn’t feel well, or even when we were having bad dreams, and he would come to stay by our sides. Loss is never easy, but some people and beings are larger than life, and when they are gone, the empty space feels vast.
In the last story series, I had mentioned that I could write a book about our dog, Samantha, and that is true. More than likely though, whatever animal or animals I would choose to write about would include cameos and lessons by Boris. Today’s story is one of those…
The third dog story, Samantha’s story, on this blog, mentioned the spiritual lineage — so to speak — of the cats and dogs we adopt, and how it is our legacy. This story will illustrate that statement more fully.
So, after Boris died, we were in a place with animal companions that we had never been before. Boris was the third animal companion to die from a quick and tough cancer in a period of two years. It began with our dog, Miss Honey, then our little ginger girl-cat, Abigail.
Abigail and Boris were like an old married couple. So, when she went so quickly, it left Boris without his dog and without his life partner. But, he still had us, and he still had Wesley, our ginger Maine Coon, who was truly like a son to Abigail and Boris. As I explained in Samantha’s story, we adopted Samantha nearly right away after Miss Honey died, because we needed to. We needed each other. So, Boris also had Samantha. And like Miss Honey, he welcomed her with calm authority and affection.
It was the same for us after Abigail died. We needed to rescue another life in her honor in order to find deeper meaning and solace to the loss. It was not right away, but not long after either. We went to a no-kill shelter for cats that we had never been to before. There, we adopted a little ginger girl-cat who looked a perfect combination of both Abigail and Boris. We named her Winnie, and she really looked and acted exactly as a kitten to the two of them would. Boris was thrilled to meet and know Winnie too. So, when Boris did die in the summer of 2015, he had witnessed a continuation of our animal companion family and lineage. Not only those I mentioned, but he also knew Aubrey (from the part one of the dog series) for some years, when he was first adopted. That generational connection felt and feels important. Boris was able to pass on some of himself to Wesley, Winnie, and Samantha. But, as I said earlier, his passing on left us with a big aching space, like a lost tooth.
Eventually, in the Fall of 2015, we went to the Humane Society, where we had rescued Abigail and Boris many years before. Who would be the special cat to be rescued in honor of Boris? I knew that we had to look for a cat that we could relate to and understand, not just one that we felt bad for, or that we liked for aesthetic reasons only. That led me to the cage of a very mellow cat, and he so happened to be a ginger as well.
His name was Solstice…because he had been found on the Summer Solstice. There had been countless compassionate people who gone out of their way to save Solstice, and that is something I am always amazed by, mindful of, and thankful for. This is the story that they told us about him at the shelter:
He was found in the countryside of a small town, near a farm, about twenty minutes from the small city we live in. He was small, thin, weak, and raggedy with ringworm and parasites. Both ears, at the tips, were split apart slightly. The workers believe the ear tips were damaged by being exposed to severe cold. He also was found with a stud tail, meaning that he had most likely fathered many kittens in the area. Overall, he was in very rough shape, and wanted to be saved from an early death that mostly likely would await him if he kept going out on his own through winters. The shelter workers saw that he was so mellow, sweet, and gentle, in interacting with him. Because of the kindness of his spirit, they felt especially moved, to do everything possible to bring him to health, and find him a forever home. He went through a lot of care from the shelter, and spent some time in a foster home to rehabilitate from the ringworm.
When we met him, I was struck by his wise and kind eyes and face. It was wild how very placid he was when anyone would hold him. He was someone we could feel comfortable with and relate to. His being draws out compassion and awe, really. We decided to adopt him, and so I got to speak with the woman who had fostered him, since she also worked at the shelter. She told me that he fit in with other animals easily, and with a sheepish look told me that she had let him sit on the table during meals, because he only wanted to be near them, and was respectful. Having lived with cats since I was born, this didn’t faze me at all.
Once the papers were signed to adopt, we had to wait for approval. In less than a week, we got approval and went to pick him up. They sent him home with a mini handmade crocheted blanket. That was so sweet! From the beginning, it was clear that there was great love and appreciation for this amiable cat.
At home we came up with the perfect name for him — Solomon. It fits his face and demeanor. We kept Solstice as his middle name. His introduction to the other animals went really well. Like Boris, he did not become aggressive or scared when faced with new animals. He had a very rooted and calm approach to dealing with others — most of the time. If he felt weird, he would simply keep his distance.
That first day, I will never forget — holding him in my arms, and feeling a heat like a burning fire build and build until I couldn’t hold him anymore. Even though I was no longer running my professional practice as a Reiki practitioner and teacher, I still did and do share Reiki upon request for friends and family; and for myself. Sometimes, when an animal is in need, they will simply draw on the Reiki energy for healing purposes. They often sense who regularly facilitates it, and go for the hands to get what they need. Since I have shared Reiki with many animals, I have been in many situations where animals that are not open to strangers, would spend inordinate amounts of time letting me touch them — their people always being amazed. This was for the Reiki. I actually started energy work for animals before I learned Reiki — and was taught how to do it by a Franciscan sister (nun) who was quite skilled, and an animal whisperer.
I had learned early on that when the energy heats up to that intense of a degree — unbearable, really — there is a serious issue going on that most likely requires more than energy work. Most often, that means that there is a medical condition that will need to be addressed. As I put Solomon down, I exclaimed to my husband and daughter that something must be wrong with him. I made an appointment to see the vet the next day.
What we found out is that there was something very seriously wrong with Solomon, but it was hard for the vet to figure out why. What they did know is that Solomon was anemic, and on the brink of needing blood transfusions. They began trying to treat him with medication, but the cause was eluding them. The funny thing was, our vet was the same vet who worked on Solomon for the Humane Society when they rescued him. So they had all his records, and the vet remembered him. She told me how small and thin he had been, and that he was looking better. She also mentioned how sweet and kind he seemed, and how important it felt to help him. We went through a long period of ongoing blood tests and medication for Solomon, and it was touch and go. I was really upset that he had to keep being put through so many tests. Finally, the vet realized the cause of the anemia…it was a side effect of the ringworm medicine they had given him. After some time, that health issue was resolved for good. And, knock on wood, Solomon hasn’t had any health issues since.
Something really changed after he recovered from that illness. We hadn’t realized that his coat and hair in general was thin and sparse, not a reflection of his true, full glory. He grew back all of his hair and it was and is…magnificent! He has a tail like an ostrich plume! His long hair is very Maine Coon like, actually, though he is an average cat size, not large. It was a surprise to one day realize his tail had filled in. We didn’t even really notice it. It was not long after his recovery. Boris had had an exceptionally long tail. Our Maine Coon, Wesley, has a great foofy tail. So, when Solomon’s filled in, we overlooked it for some reason. Friends from the east coast visited and mentioned his tail and how amazing it is. I was confused, because in my mind, Wesley had the grand tail. I was amazed to look at Solomon’s tail and see that breathtaking plume that had grown in. Well, he wins. He has the best tail ever!
Some of Solomon’s personality had been muted by his illness. Once he had recovered, we discovered more of who he really is. Though he is his own unique being, as we all are, there are many similarities between he and Boris. This is why I see it as a spiritual lineage that we care for. Like Boris, it took Solomon several years to feel comfortable lying right next to us or in our laps. This is something I see more in cats that have roughed it before being rescued, where human companionship hadn’t been good, or hadn’t been present. It takes years to build up the trust it takes to cuddle and stay near one another. Another strong quality Solomon shares with Boris is the need for a schedule and the inner sense of authority to demand that the schedule remains on track. The times when schedule is most important to keep to? Dinner, snacks, and bedtime. When either one is late, there is a lot of talking, complaining, pleading, and interrupting that goes on. Solomon also has a very specific meow with inflection that means snack. That is unique to him. That’s the other thing, like Boris, he is mentally very present, and is able to communicate and talk in a way that gets his needs met.
Where Solomon diverges into some of his own unique qualities: he adores water. If there is a bath or shower going on, Solomon wants to be there. He not only wants to be there, he wants to rub his cheeks on the the walls, furniture, and sliding doors to the shower/bath repeatedly and with great passion — to celebrate the shower or bath, and that he is near it. When taking a bath, it seems like he is verging on coming into the bath as well. He will head butt an arm or shoulder and receives wet handed pets upon his head, neck and back with glee.
For a while, when he was younger (he was around 3 years old, maybe, when we adopted him), he also had a dark side, from his more feral days. When he would play with Wesley, wrestling happily and then bathing each other afterwards…it was lovely. But, in the beginning, sometimes the wrestling would trip a wire in his mind and the play would switch into a terrible viciousness. It was kind of scary. And it caused some major behavioral problems linked to fear for Wesley for a while.
Thankfully, we were able to address and completely change that stress response, from when Solomon was on his own, and would have to fight for his life with other males. We established the time-out in the bathroom. The time-out is not a punishment, exactly. The bathroom is a place he loves. But when he would turn vicious, we would tell him that he needed a time-out, and we put him in the bathroom with the door closed and light on. We left him there until he had switched off that trauma based reaction and had returned to calm, loving Solomon. At the same time, we conditioned Wesley as well. Once Solomon was in the bathroom, we retrieved Wesley from his hiding place, calmed and comforted him, and put him in a place that gave him more confidence — like on a bed or in the cat tree. When the time-out was over, then we would tell Solomon why he was in the time-out and that it was over. After a year of this process, even asking if he needed a time-out would cause him to stop, separate, and calm down. This process has been completely successful. Solomon doesn’t break into that viciousness anymore. Though he can get carried away with other instinctual responses….
Solomon is still a mellow, sweet, loving guy. But, there is a dark side he shows sometimes when each of us needs to shower in the morning. Sometimes, just as a person has disrobed and is about to get in the shower, he positions himself so that he is quite near the entrance to the shower. At that point, if you catch a glimpse of his face, it is no longer the loving Solomon we adopted. He becomes a giant tiger lying above a waterfall, waiting to catch his prey. His ears go back, and his eyes look like he is planning to destroy you! At that point, fear flashes through our minds, and he sees it. The person quickly steps into the shower and screams out, because Solomon has just swiped with nails out or bit — the person’s behind. It is terrifying. At first, he was only doing it to Jeff and Samara. But they hadn’t told me about it yet! Then, one day, he did it to me. I couldn’t believe it. I yelled at him, saying “NO!” But, I noticed, yelling only made him worse. So that wasn’t the way to go. We keep coconut oil in the bathroom, and I know that he adores a little bite of it. So, instead of feeding his mad energy with my own, I offered him some coconut oil. That changed everything.
He no longer tried to attack. However, he still likes to swipe from time to time. But it is more of a funny game, than the predator-prey type feel that he first was giving off. Of course, we all handle these kinds of issues in our own way. Samara just kicks him out of the bathroom. Jeff simply screams and puts up with it. But, Solomon never really hurts him. And I think that Jeff thinks it is both scary and funny. So, yeah. I can see the big cat in Solomon. And I respect him, and know that he had hard times, combined with instincts that sometimes brings out his dark side.
I would say that the last two years he has truly blossomed. Having told you about some of his difficult behavior, I have to adjust the picture of him a bit. Solomon is a reserved, respectful, and shy cat. He wants affection and attention — very much so, but he will never ask for it. When he wants it, he will come near enough for us to reach out to him, and then run away. When he wants to lie down by us, he is just out of reach, but near. When he wants to lie on me for a minute, he waits until deep into the night, when we are all sleeping, and then climbs on my back and lays down, or head butts my head, and then cuddles me. It only lasts for a short while, and then his instinct to run kicks in. We have such a tender spot for him because of this. What we understand is that he didn’t have affection from people when he was a kitten. He learns a lot from our youngest cat, Gilbert. Gilbert is the most demonstrative and affectionate cat we have ever known. Solomon has blossomed a lot in trying out cuddles the way that Gilbert does it. He can’t do it for long, but his quiet little purr tells us that he likes it very much.
This October marks four years since we adopted Solomon Solstice. He is a gorgeous, really good cat! An endearing thing he has done since the beginning: if he is sleeping somewhere in the house and we walk by or near him, he will quite suddenly raise his head and make a vocalization that sounds, not like a meow, but like a: “Hi! What’s up?” And while he never asks for affection, we find that we can lean in and give him a hug and a pet, or a kiss on the forehead, and the little purr motor turns on in gratitude. We make sure to pick him up and carry him around, letting him know that we see, know, and love him. He really appreciates it. And he is just as placid, being held now, as he was back then. It is a happy place for him.
I told Solomon that I was telling his story today, even though his story is ongoing. He was extremely happy and excited, and couldn’t stop talking and rubbing against everything. We picked him up and gave him hugs and kisses. He understands so much English that it’s scary sometimes. When he talks so much, I wish I could understand every word, but I don’t. I told him this. Like Boris, he knows that humans miss a lot, and he is willing to work with where we are at in this life journey. What I do know is that the Summer Solstice is made more special in knowing Solomon — and in knowing that that was the beautiful day that the universe set the plan in motion to send him to his forever home — with us. And October is that much more beautiful, seeing his loving, wise eyes light up when we tell him, “Happy anniversary, Solomon! We are so glad you are here. We love you buddy.”