Archive for January, 2013

Sebastian and Oliver chapter 1: Once upon a time

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Once upon a time there was a girl with a boy’s name who lived in a world much as we live in today. Her name was Oliver and she was small with large green eyes and brown curls that fell down her back in spirals. She lived with an eccentric old great uncle who was gone most of the time, away at work, and so she spent a lot of time alone. Her father had died right before she was born and her mother in her grief soon drifted away and out of her life. There was money for food, clothes and what was needed and she had her own room in the apartment she lived in with her uncle in an old brick building he kept. She realized that compared to other children her life was really fine. While her uncle was not home much he was always kind to her and made sure she had what she needed. He was a fairly silent person and he didn’t know much about children but Oliver was an easy child and didn’t ask for much. Often times they would sit together in front of the fire in the evenings reading books together. When she was younger and prone to nightmares he would read her to sleep at night.

Sometimes Oliver would feel sad but those moments did not last for long. She had a very excellent imagination and would think up stories and tell them to herself. As time passed Oliver realized that she preferred to be alone with her stories and didn’t have much use for playing with other children. The children in her school were very childish and always seemed to have strange fascinations with boys or items they wanted their parents to buy them. There were children in her school who would burst into tears for no reason or act mean to other children. She found people somewhat unpredictable and overly emotional. She was very sensitive to emotion and preferred to not have it invade her space when it came from others.

As she grew and became older she began to realize that sometimes she just knew things about people she would meet. At first she assumed this was normal and that everyone knew these things also but she often found that when she spoke of these things people would draw back from her or glare at her. People she met quickly distanced themselves from her and seemed to be afraid of her gentle but forward knowledge.

One day Oliver’s aunt Joan came over to visit. Oliver was not fond of her aunt like she felt she aught to be. Joan had a way of showing emotions that she wasn’t really feeling. She would say she was sad about something but at the same time Oliver could tell she was really happy. Sometimes she would act happy when she was really angry. It was all very confusing.

This visit Joan was talking to Oliver’s uncle about her husband Mike. She was telling him that she was sad that Mike seemed unhappy but Oliver felt only anger coming from aunt Joan. Oliver hated when people talked too long about things that really didn’t seem to be that interesting especially when their emotions were all wrong but to be polite she continued to sit there and listen.

However, Oliver had this thought that was just sitting in her mind, waiting to come out. And Oliver knew that once a thought like that got started it would just get stronger until it forced it’s way out. She sat there pressing her lips tightly holding it in.

But then Joan paused for a moment and in that silence out that thought came.

Oliver stared straight at Joan and said “Mike is quite happy you shouldn’t worry so much Joan, he has Judy after all and soon he will leave and you will not have to see his sadness anymore.”

Joan’s mouth hung open as she turned to look at Oliver, “what did you just say?” she asked.

Oliver didn’t like being in the spotlight but she also was not afraid of silly aunt Joan with her mixed up emotions. Joan was acting angry but she was really afraid and she had heard Oliver just fine.

Oliver stared back at her and being an honest child calmly said, “you are afraid but you shouldn’t be. You already knew what I told you, but you don’t like me knowing it. I don’t understand why.”

Joan glared back at Oliver and quickly picked up her coat and purse and stormed out the door. After she left Oliver’s uncle turned to her.

“People fear the truth Oliver. Sometimes it is kinder to let them pretend that it is not there then to put it in front of them,” he said to her kindly.

“But how am I supposed to keep that kind of thing inside when it struggles to get out?” asked Oliver.

“It is something I can not teach you. Perhaps your mother would have been able to. I believe you will learn to work with it, as you get older. Sometimes it just completely goes away. However I believe those that let it fade loose a part of their souls with it so I do not wish that for you, “ he replied.

However, over and over again her unwelcome knowledge caused her to draw in even more and away from other people. When she did have something she needed to say, she had a hard time keeping it inside. It just had a way of coming out and if she did succeed in bottling it up it would often keep her awake at night until she did pass it on to the person it was meant for.

Oliver often wished that she had someone she could talk to who would accept that she was different, and realize that she was more than the truths that came out of her mouth.

One day she was walking home from school slowly and looking down at her feet and wondering about the ants that lived in the sidewalk crakes. She often wondered about things like that. What did the ants do when it rained? Was there a dry space down there or did they worry about their homes flooding? The rain got heavier as she walked and soon she was drenched. She really didn’t care that much about being wet, and she didn’t understand why people didn’t like rain, it really caused no harm.

She paused at the edge of the sidewalk as something caught her eye, something that looked like a ball of black fur. Bending down, she heard a faint little mew. A little black kitten was curled up next to the drain, very still and soaking wet. He didn’t look alive and she would have thought him dead except for the faint mewing sounds he made.

Softly she reached down and picked him up, cradling him gently in her hands. He was so thin and tiny. He lifted up his little head slowly and looked up at her with big tired eyes, letting out one more little mew. Then his head collapsed down into her hand and she felt his little heart stop. He had found comfort and now could safety yet go. Tears welled up in Oliver’s eyes and she held the little body closer.

This can’t happen she thought. How could you give me a friend and then take him away so quickly. It’s not fair.

“No,” she shouted looking up at the sky, the rain beating down on her and the little one she held, “you are not allowed to let him die”.

She turned to the kitten, cupping his little body in her hands. From her heart she sent him all the love she had hidden deep inside, the love that she had never had a father to give to, the love that her mother could never accept from her. All the love that she had never been able to give away but that lived in her, she sent to this little kitten.

“You will live, you will live,” she repeated over and over again as tears rolled down her cheeks and landed on his little body. She sat down on the ground cradling his little body close to her and put her head down against him, listening.

Her hands became very warm. She could feel the cold from his little body pass into hers and she started to shiver. She gathered all the strength she could from her own body and passed it on to him.

“If you let him die, I will also die.” She said softly, “You decide, take us both or let us both live.”

Suddenly she felt a small heartbeat came to life in her hand and he took a large gasp of breath. Oliver lifted her head up and looked at him in with amazement. She felt her own heart sing and lift as she felt his little beating heart in her hand. Life had come back to him and life had been given back to them both.

“You will never be alone again little kitten, “she whispered to him, “we will never be alone ever again.“

She named him Sebastian, after a character in a book she had just read. She knew that Sebastian would always be her protector, even though she didn’t quite understand that as he was just a small little lump of fur and seemed incapable of protecting even himself at the moment.

When she brought him home her uncle didn’t say anything about it just kind of smiled and nodded, which was ok because she wouldn’t have given him up. However as more time passed she realized that her uncle really didn’t seem to see Sebastian. Although he would sometimes chuckle at the games Oliver would play with her imaginary cat.

Sebastian continue to grow with her care and by the time he had been there two months he was the size of a full sized house cat. In another two months he had grown to the size of the beagle down the street. At a year he was the size of most dogs.

Oliver took him everywhere with her and as many people didn’t seem to see him this wasn’t a problem. She did notice that those that saw him either moved quickly away or were drawn to her. Little children usually saw him and were not afraid but most adults if they did see him stayed away. At some point soon after finding Sebastian she stopped going to school and as no one seemed to miss her it went unnoticed by her uncle.

Now most of her days passed with her and Sebastian wandering through the city and exploring. Sometimes on the nasty rainy days they would go to the library and read together in the back room. She enjoying reading books on medicine and science and graphic novels. When they were out, they would pass people and she would know things about them. That woman needed to see her doctor because there was a valve in her heart that had something wrong with it. That man was going to come home next Sunday to find that his son had come back home. She no longer told people what she knew as she had learned they did not want to hear what she had to say. And by then she had learned on her own to control what came out of her mouth.

Sometimes in their journeys, she would see an animal that was hurt, a neighborhood cat, a small squirrel, even once a shy thin coyote. These creatures she would help. She knew to sit very still and she had a silent way of calling animals to her. She soon learned that she could help them by working her hands over their bodies. With time she could get almost any animals to trust her and soon the animals that were hurt knew to seek her out. Sebastian was fairly tolerant of these smaller creatures and would sit at a distance watching her work with them. He knew that the work she did filled a place in her heart that was empty and needed filling. Sometimes if an animal was very badly hurt she would ask Sebastian to help her by adding some of his energy to what she was doing and he would because she had asked.

She knew what plants healed and where to find them and knew what to give these animals to make them better. Sometimes when she was walking through the forest or in a park she could hear the plants and trees talking to her, whispering on the breeze.

More time passed and Oliver grew up into a young woman with soulful large green eyes. She was beautiful but distant to people. When she walked, she moved with a softness that made it so she could pass without gathering much notice. Sebastian did not age as fast as normal cats did and Oliver had a feeling that somehow in linking them together he had been giving the lifespan of a human.

When she was eighteen her old uncle died and left her the small building they lived in. She decided that she would take the only skills she knew and put them to use by opened a small clinic in the storefront on the ground floor of the building, doing healing work there. She did not advertise but the people who needed her services had a way of finding her. She lived in one of the small apartments over the clinic and rented the other one out. With her business and the rent she received, her and Sebastian were comfortable and did not want for anything.

For the most part she avoided having close relationships with people but there was a loneliness that still lived deep within her heart. Sometimes late at night she would feel a longing for having another human she was close to, then she would snuggle closer to Sebastian and hear the beating of his heart and feel the warmth of his thick coat and decide that she was fine. However on rare occasions even when Sebastian lay against her, the piercing edge of that loneliness would work its way up out of her soul, making it so she could no longer contain it. On those nights she would gently lift herself out of bed and make her way over to the window, looking out at the still night. Lifting up her hand to trace the raindrops on the glass that feel in rhythm with her own tears, she would sob in silence, holding in the sound that should rise up out of her own body as to not wake Sebastian.

Happy Cuddly Kittens

Saturday, January 12th, 2013


raventugNothing makes me more happy than seeing my kitty boys snuggling together. Raven was so happy when his little brother showed up a couple years ago. They now sleep together, play together and occasionally fight together. Just like brothers should!

Confessions of a hospice worker

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

I have the best job in the world except for on the days when I want to go become someone’s secretary, when I would do anything to not have to be a responsible adult anymore. These are the days that I can no longer deal with one more animal I love dying, one more person I care about losing their best friend.

A long time ago I was told about the basket. The basket is where you put your own emotions, your own problems while you work. It is a common thing for anyone in a health profession. Every morning I get up and I put my own problems in the basket, I put my sorrow for the lovely golden retriever and the Irish setter with the great sense of humor who I both knew for six years who recently passed away, I put my fears over if the 16 year old dog I am seeing that morning will be here next week, I put my worries about if I will be able to help the little dog newly diagnosed with cancer, I put the frustration and unfairness of seeing so much death, I put the guilt from when I can’t help. It all goes in the basket.

They say at the end of the day you take that basket down again and you face everything you have put in it. But you know the truth; most days I can’t face it. Most days I go from work to being a mother to my son, to feeding and loving my four feline companions, to supporting my partner, to making sure we are all feed. Most days by the time I get to a point of taking down the basket I decide I would rather bury myself in a good book and ignore it all.

People talk about compassion fatigue. When I worked at the shelter we had workshops on this. You know when you are the one sticking the needle in and killing healthy cats and dogs while trying to save as many as you can there is a lot of that. We all suffered from it. Some days I would go home and lock myself in the bathroom and cry my eyes out but the next day I would get up again, pick myself up and go back to work. I believed that the good I was doing outweighed what we had to do everyday. I still believe that. But there are still nights I have nightmares about all the animals who died at my hand.

My work now is different. I no longer have to see animals die because we have too many. I know it happens, just not in front of me. I no longer allow myself to be the one holding the needle in the end. The last euthanasia I did was almost six years ago and with it came up every animal I had put in the basket while I was at the shelter and I vowed that I couldn’t be the person holding the needle any longer. I learned sometimes if you fill it too high the basket will overflow when you don’t want it to.

I know it is the time of year when this always comes up for me. I know once we get to summer things will get better again. Less animals die in the summertime. Fall and spring are the hardest for me, for them.

I have people ask me why I don’t see more animals, why I only work four days a week. I think what they don’t realize is I need time to get the basket down, I need time to be sad, I need time to not have to keep it together. I need time to curl up in a little ball if I need to or go down and sit by the sea. I need time to love my family, be a mother, be a partner. In doing this I am able to be more present in everything I do.

And in this all, the basket is really quite helpful. Because of it, when I am at work, I am able to be there fully.

Let me tell you about my work. I love the animals who I work with, I don’t know how to explain how much they touch my heart and teach me. But the part you may not know about is I also get to meet and know some of the most amazing people, people who know the true meaning of love. I feel like I become part of their family and they become part of mine.

I have watched children grow up, I watch people navigate through career changes and jobs, I get to hear about the joys and sorrows in people’s lives, I hear about people’s dreams and what they want, I see people grow and change alongside their animals. I see the incredible love that passes because a dog, a cat, a rabbit and their loved human family. I hear when they feel all alone and feel like no one understands how hard it is and what they are going through and their friends say, “its just a dog.” It and not he or she. I get to see the best of people, I see their love, I see how much they care, I see their true essence of who they are shine through. My heart opens every day as I see the care and love people give their animal companions.

My work is about loving and sadness, joys and losses, miracles and death. Most people only touch death a few times in their lives. I touch it daily. Sometimes I feel alone because of this. The key is in learning how to touch death and still stay alive inside. The danger is in closing down. I know it is better to feel like I can’t do this anymore than to feel nothing. I know that feelings pass and change. I know that after every hard week or day there are easier ones. After every difficult appointment there is someone who makes me laugh, some dog who kisses me on the face, a pug who comes in dancing, a poodle who comes in laughing, a mutt with the funniest ears and expressions. Of course let’s not forget the cats who spring up on the couch and declare that they are king of the universe for that hour as we blink at each other and pass cat kisses back and forth. I ask myself how could I possibly not do what I do. I would miss all this so much. This is what keeps me going day after day. This is what gets me up in the morning.

So it’s strange that the same thing that makes me think I can’t continue is the same thing that makes it so I can continue. It is what I get every day from those I love and work with both human and animal. In love is sorrow, in sorrow is love. This is the risk we all take in loving.

Sometimes I just need to remember that I am human.

I can’t save everyone, there are too many animals for me to help them all, I can’t be two places at once and sometimes it’s ok to lose it, to let the basket overflow. Sometimes it is ok to cry especially when I have loved. After all there is always a fuzzy being there to lick away my tears and make me smile. And in this comes healing.

Did I mention that I have the best job in the world?

Little orange dragons

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

She lifts her head suddenly to listen, putting a finger to her lips, a look of wonder and puzzlement on her face. Quietly she pushes herself up and walks to the edge of the field. She softly raises a hand to taste the wind, fingertips stretched towards the north, twisting her fingers so that they point down yet still reach for the stars. The wind softly blows her hair back from her face as she looks up into the sky. Out of the north comes, what looks like a butterfly at first, its soft wings beating against the wind. As she reaches up to meet it, a small orange dragon, barely larger than a hummingbird lands on her fingertips. It stares at her with purple eyes and beats its transparent wings a couple times before folding them against its little body. Oliver stares at it, questioning. She has never called dragons before. The small dragon lifts its head to the north as it utters a shrill cry and suddenly she can see hundreds of dragons flying in, answering its call. A soft cry of amazement escapes from Oliver as dragons surround her, landing on her head, her arms and flying around her. Sebastian runs circles around her, batting at the dragons with his huge paws. He chases after them but they are always a step ahead. The dragons dance on the wind above her, their small cries piercing the still night. They move together, the dragons filling the night with a warm breeze and her and Sebastian on the ground, connecting earth and sky.

The first little dragon lands on her hand again and let’s out a small burst of flame. Oliver reaches out to catch the flame in her other hand before she thinks about the danger of it. But it doesn’t burn and she stands there holding the dragon fire in against her fingers. She can feel the warmth of it against her hand as she presses her fingers in together forming it into a ball of flame. She watches it burn, as she holds it no longer afraid of it. Bringing it closer, she blows on it softly. The flame reaches out, blue fire against the night, leaving her hand to spiral into the air above, heading back up into the sky where it came from. The dragon flies away after it, catching it in its small mouth and reabsorbing its glow.

Oliver lays down her head on the dew-covered grass with Sebastian nuzzling up close to her. The dragons settle around them, softly folding their wings and closing their eyes. She can feel the warm of their fiery hearts, so small yet powerful. Her love and their power come together as she slips into the land of dreams.

I want to be able to draw little orange dragons. But you see I’ve never been an artist, in fact I gave up long ago. I can see such wonderful images in my head but when I go to try to make them into a picture I end up with little stick figure people and funny animals that look like they were drawn by a five year old.

“What I beautiful donkey you drew there honey!”

“Actually it’s a dog.”

Up until now I’m been content to be able to write, to take those pictures in my head and put them on paper. But maybe I can be an visual artist, maybe I can learn to draw. Last year I wrote a picture book, but the thing with a picture book for children is that it isn’t much of a book without pictures.

fairySo I began my quest. I went to the local Barnes and Noble and bought a book called Fairy Artist’s Figure Drawing Bible and started to learn to draw people. The only problem is that while now I can draw a person that at least you can tell is a person they all have pointy ears and often wings. I guess I need the how to draw fairies without pointy ears and wings follow up book.

Next I bought How to Draw and Paint Fairyland . I figured I should give these little people I was drawing homes. Now I also can draw mushrooms, features, and leaves.

Lately I moved on with dragons with a book called Drawing Dragons . You see I want to be able to draw Oliver, Sebastian, and the dragons. So far my dragons don’t look like what is in my head but I’m going to keep trying. I hope that someday I’ll look down at what has come from my hand and see Oliver standing their calling the dragons.