I have been procrastinating during the past few months. I have all the words I want to say inside of me, yet I can’t bring myself to write them down. I have watched my dog Marley decline. He has arthritis of the hips. He will no longer climb the stairs to the third floor at Villa Migelita Ecolodge because he cannot get down those same stairs. I help him down the small stairs that reach the patio area where I feed all of the animals. I worry how he will continue to walk down any of the stairs at the Villa in the upcoming months as he grows older. As Marley continues to age it brings to mind taking care of my mother when she lived with me years ago. Animals are not so different even though they don’t get to live a long life. How I wish they could.
Cats are like the comfy blanket we use when we are feeling down. They are always nearby in a spot they have picked out to be the favorite place for a while. They have their habits as we adapt to their idiosyncrasies. Dogs are the smiling faces that wag their tails when they see us. They anxiously await us when we leave the house. Cats not so much as they are such independent creatures. They show their love without a lot of fuss. Cats are insistent and determined in their show of affection. Often in the middle of the night when they decide to climb up on your body or rub a whisker on your face to startle you awake.
All animals age differently. My dog Marley doesn’t look old. He has few grey hairs, but the giveaway is arthritis in his hips. Marley walks with a hesitant gate. He is a bit crooked in his form. When sleeping, the mouth opens in a creepy grin. I often check to see if he is still breathing. Franchesca, my old tortoiseshell cat, could be found sleeping next to Marley on most days. They were friends for many years and came with me to Colombia from the United States. Franchesca passed away suddenly on Thursday. In this video, she looks healthy and very content. I don’t know what happened to Franchesca. Wednesday evening, she was with me in the kitchen talking to me. She always would meow, and I would answer with a meow. She was often in the living room relaxing when she wasn’t outside on a patio taking in the sun. When she didn’t come to the food dish on Thursday morning, I started calling for her. I found her under the small steps that lead to the first-floor patio. She looked asleep, but I knew she wasn’t. I reached in to pick her up, thinking she might be sick. She was dead. I won’t go into the details, but I broke down. She was intact without marks. She didn’t ever wander far as she had her favorite places. Usually, she was with me in the morning when I wake up. Thursday morning, she wasn’t at the end of my bed. I had my gardener bury her with a beautiful plant to mark her grave. Maybe Franchesca had an underlying condition that I was unaware of. Franchesca had a long and rewarding life with me. She was special because my deceased daughter gave her to me as a gift. Franchesca mellowed in her last years. I often would tell my guests she won’t let you pick her up or pet her and, Franchesca always proved me wrong. She was content, living her best life on my farm. I don’t think Franchesca suffered, at least I want to feel that. I want to imagine she closed her eyes and fell into an eternal sleep.
I arrived in Colombia with five animals nine years ago. I have only Marley left with me now. Each morning I see Marley smiling at me is another reminder to live my best life. Marley has no worries as he is forever happy. I want to be this way. I want to let go of the burdens I have placed on my heart. I want to feel content in every moment as our senior animals do. They have pain we don’t know about because they never complain. They enjoy each day as if they will live forever. They never appear to worry about their futures. They exist for our pleasure. We exist to receive their love, hope for a great many years together. I can only hope that Marley passes peacefully in his sleep, as I imagine Franchesca did. In the meantime, I am going to appreciate the gift Marley has given me with his beautiful spirit. I am going to grieve my Franchesca as the loss of a family member. I am going to wake up every morning with positivity and a smile. I think my animals have taught me to cherish what I have at this moment.