February 10, 2012

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Realizing the wonder of God’s animal kingdom

Shirley Vogler MeisterRecently, I received an e-mail from a hometown friend in Belleville, Ill., which prompted me to share something more for my readers about the blessings that we receive from animals.

Loretta Schuetzenhofer—whose grandson is Brandon Evans, webmaster of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and online editor of TheCriterion—responded by sharing a story related to something that I wrote to her.

I told her that I suffer from a lumbar disc problem, which required surgery, and that I am slowly recovering. Some days, I’m in “a heap of hurt.” Other days, I can control the pain better.

A few years ago, our daughters bought my husband, Paul, an electrically controlled recliner chair after he had heart surgery. So when my pain is brutal, I sit on the recliner and read or watch TV until I get relief. Then I get up to do chores and housework or write my column.

When my back pain returns, I sit on the recliner again. It’s not a perfect solution, but I’ve learned to even do all my regular exercises in that comfortable chair.

I explained to Loretta that when I am sitting on the recliner and feeling miserable even with medication, I try to be upbeat and positive despite the pain.

The best remedy, however, is when one or the other of our two cats, Domino and Elmer, sit on my lap and purr until the pain eases.

We rescued Domino and Elmer. When I rest on the recliner during episodes of brutal pain, one or the other cat somehow senses my discomfort, sits on my lap and purrs as I stroke his fur. The cats stay with me until the pain has eased.

This is a mystery to me, but if any readers understand how this can happen I would be so grateful to hear from them. My doctors were even astounded when I shared that story with them.

I remember reading an article a few years ago and wished that I had kept it. The story reported that a nursing home’s resident cat would automatically go to the bed of a dying patient and stay with that person until he or she died.

The cat’s behavior alerted the nursing home staff members that it was time to notify the person’s family members.

Many retirement homes, nursing homes and hospitals provide pet therapy with dogs or cats. I appreciate those places that thoughtfully try to keep their residents or patients happy.

As for my friend Loretta’s e-mail, what she shared that brought happy tears for me was that after her husband, Willie, died his dog grieved for a long time.

By the same token, we who love our pets also grieve a long time when they die. Will we who have loved and mourned our pets see them again in heaven? I count on that!

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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