Purr Therapy: What Timmy & Marina Taught Me About Life, Love and Loss

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9780757318030: Purr Therapy: What Timmy & Marina Taught Me About Life, Love and Loss

Cats aren't a typical choice for animal-assisted psychotherapy, but Timmy and Marnia are anything but typical.

Research has found that petting a cat can lower blood pressure and a cat's purr is thought to help heal body tissues and bones. But not just any cat can be a therapy cat, after all, such animals need to be friendly with strangers and willing to be touched, petted and held by unfamiliar people. They have to be tolerant ofloud voices and angry shouting, emotional distress, and sudden movements. It's a tall order for any animal,but a particular challenge for a cat.

In Purr Therapy, psychotherapist and cat lover Dr. Kathleen McCoy shows how two very special cats rose to this challenge, how they helped wounded souls to heal and how they taught even her lessons in mindfulness, joyful living, and compassion. She also shows readers how animal-assisted psychotherapy works and gives them an intimate and moving inside look at how Timmy and Marina worked with patients, how their double role as animal companions and cotherapists changed lives, and how, after their untimely deaths, the grief shared by those who knew and loved them led to even more growth and healing.

It's no surprise that there is a tidal wave of cat fanciers growing: even the internet prefers cats. No dog site has reached the proportions of the most popular cat sites―case in point: the mega-star Grumpy Cat who has over 2 ½ million followers! More than an internet trend, this very active market is exploding through cat video contests and festivals that are claiming the passions of millions who will benefit from―and love―Purr Therapy.

Les informations fournies dans la section « Synopsis » peuvent faire référence à une autre édition de ce titre.

About the Author :

Kathleen McCoy, PhD is a psychotherapist and the award-winning author of a dozen books including ALA's Best Books for Young Adults winner The Teenage Body Book (Random House, 2008) and Understanding Your Teenager's Depression (Perigee, 2005). Dr. McCoy was the columnist for Seventeen's "Sex and Your Body" and she is a former editor of Teen. Dr. McCoy has also written for national publications such as Readers Digest, The New York Times, Family Circle, Mademoiselle, TV Guide and The Journal of Clinical Child Psychology. Dr. McCoy and her husband recently moved from Los Angeles to Florence, Arizona, a small historic town where they live with their four cats Gus, Maggie, SweetPea and Hamish. Visit her at: www.drkathymccoy.com.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. :

Chapter One:
I Wasn't Looking for a Cat 

The two tiny kittens caught my eye the minute I walked into the office of Dr. Tracy McFarland, the Cat Doctor of Santa Clarita, California.

I tried to ignore them.

This was to be a quick errand, an after-work pickup of another bag of saline solution for our dying seventeen-year-old cat, Freddie. Although he was suffering from both cancer and kidney failure, the daily saline infusions kept him active and feeling good enough to visit with his friends—both human and feline—throughout the neighborhood.

We used to joke that Freddie had more friends than we did, from the moment we brought him home as a five-week-old shelter kitten to these last months of his life. He was still socializing, still very much himself. Neighbor children carried him around and admonished him to stay out of the street. Neighbors who didn't know our names knew his.

Yet this was no sweet, cuddly kitty. Freddie was a huge, tough male cat. He was an experienced street fighter who, after years of battles with neighborhood cats, had established himself as the community alpha cat. He had many feline friends and followers. But they all knew he was boss. Even when we would discipline him for a rare transgression with a quick spritz from a plant mister, Freddie made it clear that to behave our way or not was his decision. Locking eyes with Bob, he would advance toward him, even as repeated spritzing soaked his lush black and white fur. Then he would stop short, turn, and walk away, dripping but having made his point.

Perhaps Freddie's combination of toughness and deep affection for those he chose to love won over our longtime next-door neighbors, Pete and Carol, who were confirmed cat-haters.

When they had first moved in, Bob and I went over to say hello as they stood in their driveway. They greeted us brusquely and added that we needed to know that they hated cats and that they were avid gardeners. They would appreciate it if we would keep our damn cat out of their garden. Bob and I looked at each other with alarm. Freddie spent most days outside. How could we keep him out of one yard? We tried keeping him inside the days I worked at home. But most often, he was roaming free. We braced for the complaints. They never came.

Six months later, Carol asked me to bring in their mail during the week that she and Pete were visiting her youngest daughter in Florida for the Christmas holidays. 'Just put the mail on our kitchen table,' she said.

During my first trip into the kitchen, I looked down at my feet. There was a pet food bowl. I was puzzled. I knew that Pete and Carol didn't have a pet. I picked it up. It was a little ceramic bowl that had been personalized with a name painted on one side: Freddie.

Pete smiled sheepishly when I asked him about the dish after their return. 'Well, he kind of grew on us,' he said, chuckling. 'I guess it's because Freddie just doesn't seem like a cat. He reminds me of a dog, a wonderful dog.'

They sent Freddie Christmas cards and gave him little gifts. And sometimes Pete would call us, saying, 'I've had a hard day at work. I need a Freddie fix. Could you hand him over the fence?' And we would.

When a few years later Pete was dying of bladder cancer, Freddie was there with him, cuddled next to him in bed, day after day, giving comfort and warmth to his anguished days and nights.

This comfort wasn't without a price. When we noticed that Freddie was suddenly lethargic, even for a cat (which we defined as lying down twice on the way to his food bowl at dinnertime), we rushed him to Dr. Tracy. After running lab tests and doing a thorough physical and finding no trace of disease, she looked closely into his eyes. 'This kitty is depressed,' she said at last. 'Has he had a significant loss lately? He seems to be grieving.'

Freddie grieved anew some months after Pete's death when Pete's widow, Carol, died in a catastrophic house fire, caused by faulty electrical wiring that gutted her home and damaged ours. The day after the fire, Freddie spent hours next door, sifting among the ruins, before he came home, covered with ashes, and lay face down on the bed, overwhelmed.

Now, three years later, Freddie was dying of cancer. It had started with a spot on his nose that Dr. Tracy had excised. When the cancer recurred two years later, Dr. Tracy spent a lunch hour personally driving Freddie to a veterinarian friend's practice where he could get more advanced laser surgery.

I was in awe of her willingness to make a forty-mile round trip with a cat whose extreme yowling and thrashings during car rides had prompted us to choose vets based on which one was half a block closer—until Dr. Tracy had opened her Cat Doctor practice near our home.

'Oh, it was a pleasure,' Dr. Tracy said, laughing, of her vehicular adventure with Freddie. 'He sang all the way. See, if you reframe it as singing, it isn't so bad!'

Despite Dr. Tracy's loving care, the cancer came back, and it spread with a vengeance, destroying Freddie's nose, upper lip, and palate.

Even with the disintegration of his face, Freddie lived his life as he always had—visiting neighborhood friends, eating with gusto, cuddling as readily as ever. We were devastated at the prospect of losing him, especially Bob, as he reflected on the countless times that Freddie had helped pull him through epilepsy-related emotional crises by his gentle presence and his loving touch. And so we dedicated ourselves to giving Freddie the best quality of life for as long as possible, keeping him hydrated with daily saline infusions. Freddie would settle comfortably into Bob's lap, looking at him with love and trust as Bob slid the needle between his shoulder blades for that day's infusion. 'You'll know when it's time to let go,' Dr. Tracy had told us. 'He'll let you know. But, in the meantime, he's enjoying his life.'

The two tiny kittens mewed for my attention. I turned around. One of them was a fluffy red tabby. The other was sleek, cream-colored with a hint of red tabby markings. They had been curled up together when I had walked in but were now pressed up against the bars of their cage, their paws extended, and purring loudly. They looked like little lion cubs. The light one met my eyes and held the gaze.

'No, Sweetheart,' I said softly, more to myself than to the kittens. 'We have a very sick kitty who needs our full attention. We aren't looking for kittens just now.'

I turned away as the receptionist came back with our supply of saline for the week. The kittens mewed. I spun around. They were still pressing against the bars of their cage and reaching toward me. The light one looked into my eyes again and stood perfectly still, his gaze unwavering. The red tabby started purring.

The receptionist smiled. 'Aren't they adorable?' she said.

I couldn't stop looking at them, reaching out, mewing, wanting to be touched and held. 'Tell me about these kittens,' I said at last.

 

 

©2014 Kathleen McCoy, PhD. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Purr Therapy: What Timmy & Marina Taught Me About Life, Love and Loss. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.

 

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