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.
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:
* 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.
* 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.
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