Even as a kitten, Zorro had healing in his paws. The eight-week-old Abyssinian-tabby mix who’d wandered into our backyard one summer morning always sensed when he was needed. He was a paws-on healer. After I’d had a bad day, he would seemingly materialize out of nowhere and lie on my chest. He’d place his paws on me, and tension would ebb out of me immediately.
I didn’t learn Reiki till years later. By then, Zorro was a crusty old codger-cat with failing eyesight, chronic upper-respiratory problems, and all the charm of a Dickensian con artist. Slowly, our roles reversed, and he started to come to me whenever he felt the need for Reiki. He would lie down and, stretching his paws out Sphinx-style, look up at me with those eyes that were still wonderfully expressive despite his thickening cataracts. He wasn’t a terrifically demonstrative cat, so I was careful not to touch him during our early sessions.
The energy would begin flowing immediately, and not all of it came from me. Zorro was a strong-willed old guy despite his age and infirmities. He’d seemingly telegraph things to me -– letting me know in the middle of a session, for instance, that he really needed the Baytril for his congestion, even though we’d been focusing on his stomatitis.
Somewhere along the way, Zorro ceased being an old family pet: he became my Reiki Master and taught me everything he knew about healing and reading energy. All that last year, we worked together, doing sessions two or three times a week. Once in awhile, he would bump his head against me whenever he felt the need for hands-on healing. For the most part, however, he simply lay nearby, looking content.
Zorro’s coat grew scruffier – he didn’t like me fussing with the mats – and his eyes cloudier. The nineteen-year-old cat’s spirit remained flame-bright, however, and my vet told me that his kidneys were in surprisingly good shape. My son Zeke and I joked about Zorro cheating death; and knowing my old guy as I did, I figured he was probably playing with a marked deck. At the end of our Reiki sessions, I’d whisper, “You’re going to have to let me know when it’s time for you to go.”
One night, when we were doing Reiki, Zorro’s energy was unusually low, a mere flickering of what it had been. The next morning, I found him wandering disorientedly around the cellar, stopping only to suck up the contents of the water bowl….I looked into eyes – sunken, all the light and magic gone out of them – and called my veterinary clinic.
Zorro’s kidneys were finally shutting down; and judging from the yellowish tinge on the inside of his ears, so was his liver. My vet gave him the abdominal injection that I always requested for my animals: it made for a more peaceful, if slower, transition. But here again, Zorro surprised me. Within seconds, he was gone, practically leaping into the afterlife. I’m outta here! I could imagine him saying, his green eyes shimmering again. Got places to explore --!
Through all our Reiki sessions together, Zorro had guided me, letting me know what he needed and when he needed it. As a result, he had been able to make his transition so beautifully, so seamlessly, it took my breath away. Saddened as I was over the old con artist’s passing, I knew that I hadn’t acted too soon or waited too long. My Reiki Cat and I had gotten it just right.
But that wasn’t the end of it, as I soon discovered. Zorro remained close by – on a consultant basis, as it were. As I delved more deeply into Reiki, he was there, guiding me and helping me puzzle out the hard parts. I felt his presence on my walks or when I sat outside by his grave with my morning coffee. He wasn’t going to let a little thing like death slow him down.
Besides, he had somebody to pick up the slack on this side – a Red Abyssinian, as it so happened. My Dawntreader or Dawnie, as we called her.
Dawnie was a former show cat, a gift from our breeder friend Mary. I had bred her years before, but her baby, Aspen, had died young. In the aftermath of her loss, Dawnie bonded with me.
There are heart-cats, and there are soul-cats. Dawnie was both. She knew when I had cramps, and curled up next to my stomach, pumping out an incredible amount of heat for a little cat…knew when I needed a good pick-me-up purr…and knew when I just felt like having somebody sit on the stairs and mull things over with me.
It was a two-way deal, however. Dawnie was high-strung and prone to nervous coughing fits that irritated her throat. I’d bring out the Reiki; she’d begin to relax, and the coughing would soon stop.
I kept up the Reiki with her and our other cats. After awhile, friends began asking me to send Reiki to their animals: I did it, figuring it was a good way to deepen my understanding of how Reiki worked.
Then, almost a year ago, I brought her in for what my vet and I thought was routine kidney-stone surgery. A few minutes into surgery, he called me: what he was looking at, he told me, were not kidney stones but a fast-growing untreatable tumor in her bladder. There was only one choice to make, and I made it. I told him not to let her wake up.
This was not the quick, clean leave-taking that I had experienced with Zorro. And I felt all the worse because I had not been with her at the end.
But the more I thought about it, the more that began to make sense. A lot of times, the dying wait till their loved ones
leave before they transition. That had been the case with both my parents, and it had been the case with Dawnie, too. Because of the titanium-steel strong bond between us…the bond that our regular Reiki sessions had deepened…she had to take leave when I wasn’t there.
A couple of months went by. They were bumpy ones and included the loss of another one of our feline old-timers. And, of course, it was all harder to take because Dawnie wasn’t there to soothe my soul with her own brand of Reiki.
All the while, I kept getting requests for Reiki. Usually, these requests involved friends’ animals, which suited me just fine. The bulk of my work had, after all, been with our pets, and I did not want to lose all the ground I had gained working with Zorro and Dawnie.
Gradually, I began to think about starting a Reiki practice in addition to my work as a writer. I let the idea grow inside me like one of my stories. Then, one morning, just as I was heading out of my bedroom, I happened to glance toward the built-in bookcase by the window. Dawnie used to like to sit on top of it, away from the younger cats who got on her nerves. Suddenly, time seemed to fall away, and it was as though she was sitting there once more, shimmering red-gold in the morning light…giving my practice her blessing. It was then that the name for it came to me, taken from an old poem I had written about her: Dawnstar Reiki. And I felt pretty sure that she and Zorro would be with me every step of the way, just as they’d always been.