In Tribute to Zeki the Cool Cat

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Dear Friends:

Zeki the Cool Cat, who miraculously survived being skinned with a hunting knife as a sweet stray to become a certified therapy pet and a very tolerant pet first aid demo cat, crossed over into feline heaven on Saturday. Though she didn’t quite make her sixth birthday, she accomplished much in her short life.

In her travels with me, I observed that she never seemed to have met a stranger or felt like she was in a strange place. She would enter a hotel room and confidently leap up on the king-sized bed and find a comfy spot to snooze after a long drive. She traveled by car and by plane, visiting people in eight states.SuperZooZekiWithFamousSkateboardBulldogTillmanAndRonDavis

Zeki partnered with me as co-keynote speakers at the Pet Sitters International conference in North Carolina; me-WOWed attendees at Blog Paws in Las Vegas, met canine celebrities like Tillman the Bulldog while sampling products at Super Zoo and even helped me open a dog park in Carlsbad, Calif. And during two Cat Writers Association conferences, she plopped in a cushiony chair – sans a leash — to meet and greet old and new friends and even attend a couple happy hours.

Among our favorite memories:

* Enjoying a “date” with Jackson Galaxy, host of “My Cat from Hell” on Animal Planet. He describes Zeki as “My Kitty from Heaven.” ZekiLicketyStikJackson

* Playfully “crashing” a book signing event for dogs and dog lovers for Dr. Marty Becker, on a national tour for the release of his latest dog book.

* Wowing Victoria Stilwell, dog trainer extraordinaire, at the Del Mar pet expo where we were all featured speakers. As she held a calm Zeki in her arms while circled by a pack of confused canines Victoria declared: “This is the best cat ever!”

* Bringing joy to a terminally ill gentleman in a wheelchair whose sister brought him to a national cat show in Del Mar to specifically meet Zeki, who was giving pet first aid demos. Ignoring all the loud speaker announcements and the throngs of people, Zeki calmly sat on this man’s lap and purred for more than 30 minutes. As he stroked Zeki’s soft coat, he began to speak softly to her and smile.

* Meeting Hall of Fame pitcher Orel Hershiser at SuperZoo. He was autographing baseballs to admirers and personalized one for Zeki and commented: “I do believe this is the first time I autographed a baseball for a cat.” Zeki showed no outward excitement.

* Tracking down a sweet senior named Edwina in Dallas with the help of Zeki’s foster parent, Dusty Rainbolt. Edwina and her sons heard painful cries from under a porch and discovered a bloodied Zeki after being attack with a hunting knife. Despite being on a fixed income, she wrote a check for $1,000 to help toward’s Zeki’s medical bills. Zeki and I were able to present her with flowers and thank her in person a few years later. ZekiMeetsEdwinaJan2013

* Hanging out at home with the other members of our Furry Fab Four: dogs, Chipper and Cleo and her older feline sib, Murphy — with regular visits from her canine cousins: Stanley, Buddy, Jeanne, Maddie and Gracie.

I have had cats all my life, but Zeki was special in so many ways to so many people, cats and yes, even dogs. This petite Turkish Van mix had a special way of bringing joy out in others, including a few who confessed that they “never liked” or “never really understood” cats until they met Zeki — and they looked forward to each time they got together with her.

For the past few months, Zeki’s health declined. She lost weight, became blind and then had difficulty breathing. We made frequent trips to our veterinarian, consulted veterinary specialists. Despite ultrasounds, comprehensive and repeated blood and urine testing, various medications and lots of love and prayers, we could never pin down what she had. Lymphoma, rabbit fever and histoplasmosis were among the top contenders behind her mystery disease. Please forgive me for not posting her medical woes publicly as it has been a very emotional roller coaster ride for me and my pets.  We were blessed to have a core of friends during this time, including Dr. Lorie Huston, Nedra Abramson, Jocelyn Shannon, Mark Winter, Cathy Conheim, Dan St. James, Flo Frum, Jill James, and my family – Deb, Kevin, Karen, Alicia, Chrissy and Andy.

My ache due to her passing is beyond words. So, I try to focus on the gift that was — and always will be — Zeki. I selected that Turkish name because it translates to “clever and courageous.” She was both. Zeki loved, loved, loved deli turkey and knew a fresh supply was always in the refrigerator where she would “guide” me often.

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She drew admiration and astonishment from many of our pet first aid students due to her leaping up on the demo table on cue, permitting strangers to brush her teeth, check her capillary refill and wrap her in a towel like a purr-ito. She taught classes in yoga studios, homes and even dog boarding kennels and never hissed once at a dog startled to see a cat in a canine hangout. And forever in my class presentations will be a short video clip of her doing chest compressions on a stuffed demo dog to illustrate that even cats know how to perform CPR.

Some cats live nine lives. Zeki lived 18 lives– plus. She taught me many life lessons, including to live in the Me-NOW. For those of you fortunate to have a special pet in your life — the one we refer to as “heart dogs” or “heart cats,” remember to celebrate each and every day you get to spend with them on this planet.

Sending hugs, tail wags and purrs,

Arden, Chipper, Cleo, Murphy and our new kitten, Casey

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This Post Has 26 Comments
  1. Oh Arden, I’m so sorry for your loss of Zeki. I know she was your Heart-Kitty, and you were hers! She was so lucky to have found you and to have had all the adventures you shared with her. I know first-hand, life will never be the same without her…. But thank Meow for Casey… may he bring you as much joy as you brought Zeki. Sending purrs & wags from our pack to yours, and big hugs from me. Long may you run, Zeki the Cool Cat!!

  2. Arden, I’m so sorry for your loss. I know how lucky you were to have Zeki in your life, if just for a relatively short time, and I also know how lucky Zeki was to find you. You guys touched a lot of lives together, and Zeki’s memory will live on with all who met her.

  3. Arden, this is an absolutely beautiful tribute to Zeki! You both touched so many lives in such a positive way. I know it’s painful to lose a great pet. May the warm memories of your wonderful journey together will be with you always.

  4. Thank you all for posting such wonderful messages. It is harder than I thought. Even Chipper, Cleo and Murphy are subdued. Thankfully, we have our kitten, Casey to provide us with some comedy relief and high-volume purrs.

  5. We miss our cousin, Zeki, very much. She was a very loving cat and we enjoyed hanging with her during our visits to CA. You will be missed!

  6. So very sorry. I am not a cat lover, but she is one cat that easily loved. I had her on my lap and she and I were not sure of each other, but both of us did well. I really love that cat of yours. She was so special. Good thoughts are going your way Arden. You know she is in kitty heaven with all her friends, playing and having fun. She will always stay in your heart which is her favorite place to be. Love ya.

  7. I will be among the many people who will never forget Zeki. I am sure you did everything possible to try to save her. Knowing how much she obviously enjoyed her life in the spotlight will help sustain your memories of her. We are sad for your loss and thank you for the lovely tribute.

  8. I am so sorry that Zeki crossed over. She was a great kitty. I met her at Pet Sitters International in North Carolina last year, and then at PetTech Training in November at DFW. She was so sweet. I know it hurts terribly to lose her. Many hugs to you and Chipper, Cleo and Murphy.

  9. I know there are no words, but wishing you and your family strength and comfort. Your tribute to Zeki brought tears to my eyes…

  10. So sorry for your loss Arden. Cats are very special. I recently lost my Mickey cat to a similar disease. We couldn’t find out what it was. His red blood count dropped and he lost his appetite and weight. The treatment was helping but then he took a turn for the worse and had to put him down. This was three months ago and I still miss him so much. He was 16 years old and also hyper thyroid. Sending you hugs and prayers.

  11. ((HUGS)) Arden.
    I was in love with her from “Meow. Turkey please?”
    I have never met a cat quite like Zeki. She was one of a kind.

  12. Arden, I am so very sorry to hear about Zeki’s passing. To know she didn’t even live to reach her 6th birthday makes it even more sad to me. She was truly a cat ambassador, and made a difference in the lives of many people and animals alike. I am so very sorry for your loss, Zeki will be missed terribly.

  13. Arden,
    Words cannot express the sorrow I have about your recent loss with Zeki. Thank you for providing her such a wonderful home and the ability to express herself to her fullest potential. Special animals like this come along rarely in our lifetimes. Surround yourself in the love she provided for you and all the “places” she took you in her short life with you.

  14. Arden,

    Your heart felt tribute allowed me to feel as if I had the privilege of meeting wonderful Zeki. May this favorite quote of mine be of some comfort:

    “They whom we love and lose are no longer where they were before. They are now wherever we are”

    Zeki is indeed with you every moment now…Bless you for giving Zeki such a magical life with you!

  15. Arden

    you know that I am NOT a cat person but Zeki definitely wasn’t a normal cat. She was a COOL CAT and Jack’s first kitty friend. She will be missed by all but what a life you gave her. Hugs to you from me and the rest of the Leash Your Fitness family. We all appreciated Zeki being part of your CPR class and she will be missed.

  16. Dear Arden,

    My heart and prayers go out to you and your fur family. I did not meet Zeki, but I did meet you once in New Orleans and just by reading your experience with Zeki I feel like I knew her. Thank you for sharing her with us. Even though she had a horrible beyond words can describe experience with a human. She decided that not all were like the one that hurt her. WOW!!!!

    Deepest sympathy,

    Nancy

  17. It is easy to see how loved she was, and always will be. My prayers are with you. This was beautifully written–you gave her such a good life.

  18. Deepest condolences for Zeki … She was an extremely “SPECIAL” extraordinary cat. RIP … Zeki!!! Rainbow Bridge gets another awesome fur angel. God Bless all those who helped her survive and also to her for those “she” helped as well!!!

  19. What a beautiful story. I am so sorry to hear about your (and the world’s) loss. Zeki was quite the cat and an inspiration to us all. I wish you and your family the best.

  20. I just found your website and Zeki’s story was the first thing I read. She sounds like she was a most awesome family member and I am sorry she left you at such a young age. But what an impact she had on so many is such a short time! Truly an amazing pet and you were surely blessed to have her in your life as much as she was to have found your love after such a brutal beginning for her. May she rest in peace until you meet again.

  21. With every dog or cat comes a lesson of unselfish love and trust. I only meet Zieki, for a short time during class but took from it a true gift. Trust, forgiveness and love. This little cat was sent from above. She had a beautiful soul. She will be waiting at the bridge arden. God bless you and beautul unselfish loving and trusting zieki.

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