“I believe that pets are God made visible…Sometimes, when God seems very far away, all I have to do is reach over and pet a tail or massage a furry head, and there He is. I have learned that each animal in his or her own way represents an aspect of God’s goodness.”
―Father Paul Keenan
Good morning and happy Friday! I have an extra special article for you this morning to help celebrate and wrap up our "Month of Love" on this final day of February. It's a very touching story about the love we have for our animal friends, but I must warn you that it may stir up some tears of joy ♥
This lovely story was shared with us by a dear friend of the late Father Paul Keenan, who was a columnist for SoulfulLiving.com, between the years 2002-2008. We have missed the wisdom he shared with our web magazine very much, but we are so delighted to be able to publish this story – one of his last works – an excerpt from his final book, "Why We Love Them So: Surviving the Loss of an Animal Friend."
As a cat lover from a very early age, I was very pleased recently to come across this photo of my eleven-year-old self with my precious childhood cat who lived to be 18 years old. I still think of her every day. Our pets touch a place in our hearts that are never, ever forgotten. And, I wholeheartedly agree with Father Paul's quote, above. It is at those times when I am sharing love with my furry friends that I experience some of my deepest feelings of connection with the Divine.
I hope you enjoy today's article and that it brings up the very special feelings of love you have shared with your precious fur babies, who may be living now, or who are, perhaps, a special memory of your past. Blessings to you and your furry ones ♥
by Father Paul A. Keenan
When my 25-year-old cat, Teddy, passed away in April, it gave me the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of life, and how love can help people and animals to live well and even under difficult conditions. Teddy died in his sleep, and without pain, one thing for which I felt very grateful as I tried to come to terms with the loss of my friend who had come into my life 18 years before.
The fact that Teddy lived so long, and that I had the opportunity to accompany him through the various stages of his life, is a testimony to the power of God and to the power of love. Teddy was very sick his entire life. One of my mottos derived from my long tenure as a cat-parent is “there’s no such thing as a free cat.”
Some friends had given me Teddy (and Flicka, who passed away in 2000, also at the age of 25) to help them reduce their cat population from four to two. I had never had cats, and wanted to, and, it seemed, the price was right. Little did I know that, within a month, I’d be rushing Teddy off to the animal hospital for emergency surgery on his large intestine! The bill, of course, was staggering. No sooner had he recovered from that than another vet diagnosed him with a chronic immune system deficiency, which left him with bouts of flu-like illness at fairly regular intervals.
Over the years, I learned how to care for Teddy at home, how to let him sleep when he needed to, how to feed him when he had lost interest in food. Throughout these episodes, I credit the power of prayer. Many times I would hold Teddy in my arms, all the while praying for him and letting him feel whatever I could mirror of the Father’s gentle love. Every time, it brought him around. Over time, his health improved, and the bouts of illness were much less frequent and easier to deal with. It was the power of prayer and the power of God’s love that made all the difference. In return, I was the recipient of a million lovely visits, when Teddy would snuggle up into my lap and fall asleep. I learned that love can travel in two directions at the same time.
Looking for life lessons in my long relationship with Teddy is a fairly easy task. Here are a few. Love can conquer the distance between the human world and the animal world. Love bridges gaps. When we feel limited in our ability to love, or feel separated or misunderstood or far away from loved ones, we can know that a simple sending forth of a loving thought or prayer can bridge even the widest of gaps. And at some level, whether we think so or not, an impulse of love comes back in return. Jesus taught us that — he called it the hundredfold.
Living a happy and meaningful life does not require always being in the best of health or other outer circumstances. Indeed, adverse circumstances can soften our hearts and bring into our lives those people who are really true friends. They often create our dearest and most cherished memories. And best of all, God’s healing and protecting love is always there, whether times are good or bad, whether we feel well or feel poorly, whether we are financially secure or shaky. If we refuse to let our adversities harden us, we can let them open us to new wisdom, new understanding and an abundance of love.
I am grateful to Teddy and to all of the animals I have known over the years who have helped me to understand the meaning of life and of God’s powerful love. They have been marvelous ambassadors and communicators of that which is most real and precious in life.
Copyright Father Paul A. Keenan. All Rights Reserved.
Visit Father Paul's Website to learn more about his book, "Why We Love Them So: Surviving the Loss of an Animal Friend," and the non-profit foundation, Perseus, which receives all proceeds from the book.
Read more about Teddy and Flicka in this article by Father Paul Keenan, "Of Friends and Tails, published at SoulfulLiving.com in 2002.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments! Please scroll down and leave your comments below.
And, if you haven’t already done so, be sure to pick up your special package of inspirational goodness exclusively for our Daily Soul Retreat Newsletter Subscribers — a “Soul Retreat Gift Pack” filled with over $300 worth of Ecourses, Ebooks, Audio Workshops and Meditations, donated by our awesome SoulfulLiving.com authors. If you aren’t already subscribed, click here for all the details. If you are already subscribed, watch your Daily Soul Retreats for all the details.
Wishing you a day filled with much love!