By Shobhit Raj
Dear Shakti, my love,
Words will never do justice to the beautiful bond that we have shared over the last 5 years, but I wanted to write you a letter as a token of gratitude and love.
You walked into my life when there was a need for emotional healing and a heartfelt yearning to nurture a pet. It was love at first sight when your foster mom dropped you at my house. Your elegance, affection and curiosity were so appealing that I knew deep in my heart – this was meant to be.
I did not change your first name and connected with you as ‘Spotty’. Unlike most adoption stories involving cute kittens, you were an 18-month adult cat who lived on the street for a year, had a litter and lost your kittens, and then neutered while being fostered for a safer, healthier domestic life.
As a natural consequence, the first few days were anxious for you while adapting to your new home. You were hiding under the bed almost the entire time and we interacted only when I offered food and water underneath the bed.
In the initial days, you taught me patience and how to understand your needs without personal motives. This paid off within a week, and you began to trust me and felt comfortable at home.
It was a sheer moment of joy when you slept in your little bed and eventually felt comfortable on my bed. Within 2 weeks, our connection was so strong and we were inseparable. We were enjoying happy moments and lots of cuddles, until I came home one evening to find you missing.
Lost and Found
I returned home from work and found one of the windows left open. You were always curious and I knew that you had lost your way back home while exploring new territory. I felt a sense of guilt for not checking the window before leaving, but I was determined to find you.
I immediately printed posters of “Missing Cat” and displayed them across the neighbourhood. While looking for you in the evening, I found you in one of the houses on my lane, but you were so stressed with the incident that you ran away.
For the next two weeks, I searched my neighbourhood almost every morning around 4 AM as that was your wake-up time. I also looked for you late at night when everything was quieter.
I went to each house in my lane and the adjacent one, while showing your photo and asking if anyone had seen you. Some of the neighbours said that they had seen you and offered food, which gave me a ray of hope.
It is strange because we had spent only one month together before you went missing. But, our connection felt very strong. After almost 2 weeks of sleepless nights and anxious days, I surrendered and left everything to destiny – which answered through a phone call after a few days.
It was one of the residents of a house in my lane. He had seen the “Missing Cat” poster during his morning walks and found you in his home’s utility area. I immediately rushed from the office to his house and felt elated to see you after weeks of endless searching.
You were shivering, scared and in dire need of comfort. I offered some of your favourite wet food and once you recognised me, you ate the food and then sat on my lap in silence for the next 10 minutes. Time stood still and it showed how much we loved each other within a month.
This was a sign that, although I was looking for you, you were desperately finding home too. I gently placed you in your basket and brought you home. This incident is a reminder that some connections are beyond everything the rational mind can perceive.
A Blissful Life
The trauma of the incident was evident for the next couple of weeks, but you healed with lots of affection and care. Apart from time, love is the greatest healing force. While I thought that I was feeding you and taking care of you, you were the one healing me and awakening the softer qualities of kindness and compassion within.
Over the next few years, we shared so many beautiful moments. Soaking the sun in the mornings, enjoying cuddles, belly rubs and head messages through the day, listening to classical piano music in the evenings, sharing a meal, and so much more.
I understood the nuances of your body language, facial expressions, and vocal sounds. I knew when you were hungry, irritated, seeking affection, wanting space, feeling overwhelmed, or just grateful. You were also finely attuned to my emotions and state of mind. What a wonderful synergy!
There were times when you were at the receiving end of my frustration, but your love was so unconditional that we always made up as though it never happened. You taught me how to forgive and approach every day without yesterday’s baggage.
The Bitter Truth
Life is a bittersweet journey, and we both were struck with some unpleasant news one day. While caressing you, I found a small lump on your abdomen. During the annual vaccination visit to the veterinary clinic, we could not inspect the lump as you were very tense and the doctor suggested that it is fine as long it does not bother you.
But, the size of the lump started growing progressively and a biopsy scan revealed that it was a mammary tumour and highly malignant. We had to resort to surgery to remove the tumour and it was a very traumatic procedure for you.
But, you have always been so courageous that you fought your way and healed from the operation within a few weeks. It was difficult to watch you in pain, but you are a warrior and braved cancer so gracefully.
Due to the aggressive nature of cancer, it relapsed after a few months and metastasized to the lungs. The synchronicity is that just a day before finding out about the relapse, there was an inner voice which guided me to name you ‘Shakti’.
I believe that every name has a vibration and significance. So, ‘Shakti’ seemed a very apt name because you are a pillar of strength and we both needed that for the last chapter of your life.
You had always been a fighter and survived a difficult street life initially, losing your kittens, missing for two weeks, healing from multiple injuries, dominating the other cats in the neighbourhood, and eventually battling cancer.
Towards the end, there were moments when I wanted to give up because it was painful to watch you suffering and your health deteriorating. But, you fought the cancer relapse and taught me the true meaning of courage and perseverance.
The warrior in you showed me again the immense resilience you had. You continued enjoying food, going for morning strolls, being quirky, sunbathing, and giving me lots of affection.
But, there came a point when the bad days started to outnumber the good ones. You were withdrawing from daily activities, losing weight rapidly, had a lot of trouble breathing, and did not have a zest for life anymore.
It was difficult to watch you deteriorate from a vibrant, healthy cat to a frail, dying one. But, the last few months were also the most affectionate moments we spent together.
You enjoyed every caress, kiss and cuddle because we both knew how special it was. We also exchanged some deep eye contact and I felt the true depth of our bond.
Watching your condition worsen over the last few months prepared me mentally to accept your death. It was a blessing in disguise because you would not suffer as much and depart peacefully.
One morning, when you were struggling to breathe, the decision to euthanize was finalised after talking to your adoption mom and vet. It was a challenging moment, but I knew that it was the right call considering your health. In hindsight, I had a strong gut feeling that the moment was approaching as my sleep had been disturbed around that phase.
After an emotional goodbye video call with family and friends, the appointment was booked for the next morning. I could not sleep that night because I wanted to spend the final moments together.
The next morning, watching you go through the quick euthanasia process and becoming lifeless at the clinic – made me cry profusely because it was the moment of truth and you had left your physical body.
After thanking the veterinary doctor, I took you to the animal crematorium for your last rites. Watching your body burn to ashes was a humbling reminder that nothing is permanent and the beauty of life is being grateful every moment.
The drive back home was accompanied by a feeling of lightness because I knew that you are resting in peace and free from suffering. We both were.
But when I reached home, the first three days were very emotional. The house felt empty and my heart was heavy. I found comfort in eating warm food, watching movies about animals, and looking at your photos.
I cried a lot and allowed myself to grieve your loss completely. Although I am functional now, my heart still feels heavy and I feel your presence every moment. I don’t think that it is mere imagination, but it seems like you are right here.
I also received a message from you that I should take care of myself and look after my health. Whenever I think of you or look at your photo, there is a smile on my face and I am deeply grateful to you for everything.
Your gentle warrior spirit taught me resilience by example, being curious about everything, and finding joy in the little things. Most importantly, you showed me how to be kind, sensitive, patient, and loving.
I strongly believe that the major milestones in life are predetermined. Our journey together has been a living testimony to this. Deep in my heart, I know that our paths will cross again and we will be part of each other’s lives soon.
You will always be in my heart and I am truly grateful to you for everything. You were not just a pet, but my best friend, confidant, teacher, and soulmate. I never saw our bond as human-animal, but it always felt like an eternal soul-to-soul connection.
Now, when I have tears in my eyes, they are tears of gratitude and not sadness. You brought so much joy into every life that you touched.
I am thankful to everyone who has been a part of your journey to help nurture and heal you with their affection, blessings and support.
With endless love,
After a wonderful life, Shakti now rests in peace.
(18 Aug 2016 – 11 Oct 2022)