Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Very Special Muse Is Gone

 by Glenys O'Connell

We've been talking a lot about the women who've inspired us, motivated us, given us an example to follow or stood up for our rights to fulfill our dreams.
This might sound a bit hokey but I believe that sometimes we can draw our greatest strengths and inspirations from sources that aren't, shall we say, human. I know many people who quietly proclaim that their pet – whether that creature is a dog, a duck, a pot-bellied pig, a horse, goat or cat (I've heard them all) - have brought comfort, friendship, and motivation at times when loneliness, grief, health problems or some other bump in life's road has brought them to the point of giving up their hopes and dreams.
One such was my very special Muse, Miss Martha the Cat. You can see from her pic that she's special – one look in those deep eyes when I saw her Ontario Humane Society Shelter photograph had me hooked. A visit to the shelter in Kingston and I knew that Martha and I were meant to be together. We were soul mates.
When I first met Miss Martha (her Shelter name was Skittles – nowhere near dignified enough!) I was grieving deeply at the loss of my beloved LucyFur, a cat I’d adopted while in Ireland and brought back with me when I returned to Canada. I thought my heart would never recover from his loss, but Miss Martha seemed to sense the way I felt – she would curl up on my lap, purring loudly, and look into my eyes as if to say" "It will be all right – you'll see!"
It was a look I was to see many times from her in the five years or so I was privileged to know her. As every writer – indeed, every living human being – knows, life can deal some awful curve balls. Contracts you are sure of suddenly fail to materialize; jobs you'd set your heart on don't come; people let you down. But Miss Martha knew that there is one truth in life – you lie in a sunbeam for a while thinking, then you pick yourself up, dust yourself down and go on.
An independent minded lady, Miss Martha seemed able to look into your very soul. She'd known some hardship in her day. Her first owner had obviously loved her, despite having her declawed. But one day she had packed up her possessions in boxes and moved away, leaving Miss. Martha with a friend. Poor Martha had eventually settled in and, five years later, her new owner pulled out boxes and began packing. Martha found herself in a cage at the Humane Society. In her feline mind, two humans had betrayed her trust, and when we adopted her at the age of ten, she seemed to hold herself back as if afraid to trust us totally.
Then disaster happened.
Off wandering her domain, Miss Martha got lost. Maybe she was chasing a butterfly, maybe hiding from that nasty old tom cat who lived three houses away, I don’t know. But Miss Martha got lost. But we advertised, drove many, many miles to areas where people phoned to say they thought she'd been sighted, and shed many tears at each disappointment.
Then a notice appeared in our village post office: Male Cat Found. Grey & White. Desperate, I took a chance and called the number. The teen who answered said the cat was a neutered male (Oh, how Miss Martha would have railed at that indignity!) but when I asked if she was wearing a neon pink collar, it became obvious this lady was no tom cat! We drove over to the next township to claim her, paid a humingous vet's bill, and brought her home.
She was found five weeks after disappearing by some kind souls spending a summer weekend at a cottage on a nearby lake. She was in awful shape – skin and bones, her paw caught in her collar and her neck and shoulder seriously cut and painfully infected. We'll never know what she lived on in those weeks.
And from the moment she came home, Miss Martha found her trust again. She loved us – after all, hadn't we come and found her when she was lost? She would sit on my desk watching as I wrote, adding her own comments by walking across the keyboard, and she'd sense when the story wasn't going well and come and sit on my lap to make sure I didn't give up and walk away. Or she'd curl up on my office chair with her friend, O.J. (Orange Juice)- see below.. Her presence was an inspiration.
Sadly, when Miss Martha was almost 16 years old, she developed problems with her innards. Discreetly, she was seriously constipated. She lost weight, although she still caught mice which she presented on the door step as if a gift. But the day came we knew she had to go to the vet.
That's when we learned about Feline Megacolon. Apparently cats – usually older ones but not necessarily so – can suffer from a weakening of the bowel muscles. That's why it's important to ensure they get a diet that has some fibre, although not too much as that can actually cause constipation.
Miss Martha was kept at the vet's overnight for an enema. For some reason, and we still don’t know exactly why, the procedure led to her bowel being perforated.
Miss Martha died in my arms, peacefully, in the small hours of the next morning.
We buried her by the cedar tree close to her favorite napping spot in the long grass.. She left behind a family who still grieve, and a writer who wonders if she'll ever find a Muse like Miss Martha.
If you have a cat, do look out for bowel problems. There's lots of info on the Internet, but I also found a group of terrific people online who share information and support about Feline Megacolon – you'll find them here:  I found them too late for Miss Martha, but I'm writing this in hopes of helping someone else with a furfriend in need of help.

Cat lover Glenys O'Connell writes romantic suspense and cosy mysteries, and her work can be viewed on She also writes non-fiction books such as Depression: The Essential Guide and PTSD: The Essential Guide, and when not writing enjoys poking about in other people's minds as a counselor.


Alison H. said...

Glenys, I can barely see to write this. My husband and I have lost two precious cats after long, loving lives, and my sister is trying to come to grips with the death three weeks ago of Spike, her gentle giant. You obviously loved Miss Martha and she returned the affection tenfold, as kitties do.

Brenda Whiteside said...

I've had a few special feline friends. When my son lost Puck, he cried for days and I had to comfort him long distance on the phone - and my son was a grown man. Touching post.

Jannine Gallant said...

I have tears in my eyes. Losing any pet is tramatic. Sometimes the only way to get over it is to adopt a new, loving friend. Thanks for sharing Miss Martha's story.

Jerri Hines/Carrie James-Haynes said...

Pets are people too, you know. I don't know what I would do without my doggies and cat. When you lose one its like losing a member of your family.

Barbara Edwards said...

Your post made me cry as I recalled several pets I've had to let go. I've always buried them in the garden or under a flowering shrub bought especially for them. A small comfort to see the flowers over the passing years and remember them.

Betty Ann Harris said...

I can empathize with you and the loss of your cat. My husband and I have adopted 4 dogs altogether and lost 2 in the last few years. It is so hard to lose a pet as they definitely become a part of who you are. Hugs! BA

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Glenys,
What a lovely, touching story of your Miss Martha. I am sure she is reigning supreme now in cat heaven.



Vonnie Davis said...

Miss Martha was a gift to you, just as your family was a gift to her. We become as close to a pet child as to our human children, I think. My sympathies on your loss, yet how nice to focus on all the sweet memories she gave you over the years. She truly was special.

glenys said...

Thank you to everyone who commented, both here and to me personally. I'm going through a rough time and really miss Martha's comforting presence, and it means a lot to know there are furbaby lovers out there who understand that. We're not alone - and if mentioning Feline Megacolon can help other kitties & their families, then that's all good.

Diana Layne said...

Oh, what a sad story! My sympathies to you on your loss!

glenys said...

Thank you, Diana - and thanks for taking the time to visit and comment!