New Mexico's Pet ResourceWINTER/SPRING 2000



Text and photo by Nancy Marano

Sixteen years is a long time to live with anyone. In that time you learn to respect each other’s quirks and idiosyncrasies. This certainly was true for Heidi and me.

Heidi, my Himalayan cat, died October 8, 1999 from renal failure. She fought bravely through all the treatments trying to do everything I asked of her. Then one day she let me know she didn’t want to fight anymore. I held her in my arms until those beautiful blue eyes closed for the final time and knew she’d gone to a pain-free place where she could eat cobwebs and silk flowers, her favorite delicacies, all day.

Heidi taught me many lessons in our time together. Her gentle ways showed me how desperately gentleness is needed in an increasingly antagonistic world. Her shyness forced me to look beyond bold gestures and quick antics for deeper meanings. The easy grace exhibited in her daring counter-top leaps made me appreciate her body’s supple beauty. A distant look in her turquoise eyes reminded me she had visions and knowledge not readily available to humans. So much wisdom was packaged in one tiny 7-1/2 pound body whose seal point markings culminated in dainty, sable pantaloons on her hind legs.

Heidi became an only cat when her brother Zeke died at age eleven. She blossomed into an amazing hybrid of herself and Zeke. I cautiously began daily massages with her. A cat just can’t be rushed into some new regimen, so we started with a few minutes a day. Soon she demanded this pleasure twice a day with some sessions lasting up to twenty minutes. Heidi’s purr was always louder than her size warranted. Now she purred at amplified decibel levels while showering myriad cat kisses on me with her eyes.

Nothing will replace the sweet, gentle love Heidi gave so generously. But now a new group of animals lives with us. Sammy and Rocky are rescue kittens and Maggie May is a West Highland Terrier rescued from an uncaring breeder. They bring new joy and love into our home every day and reinforce the knowledge that life and laughter continue even in the midst of grief.

Grief over the loss of a beloved companion animal is necessary and healthy. Heidi shared our home and was an honored member of our family for sixteen years. Unfortunately, people don’t always understand your need to grieve because “...after all, it was only an animal. Why don’t you just get another cat?”

Now support groups, books, hotlines and websites are available to help you work through this grief process. Aids you might try if the need arises in your home are listed below.

Books: Coping with Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet, Moira Anderson, Alpine
The Loss of a Pet, Wallace Sife, Ph.D., Howell House
The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, Judith Viorst (for children)

Pet Loss Websites:
Pet Loss Grief Support Website and Candle Ceremony:
Lightning Strike Pet Loss Support Page:

Pet Friends Inc.: (800) 404-PETS
UC Davis Veterinary School (916) 752-4200

Nancy Marano is a freelance writer living in Albuquerque. Her “Cat Chat” column has won two certificates of excellence from the Cat Writers’ Association. She shares her life with two cats, Sammy and Rocky, and a Westie named Maggie May.

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