The inspiration behind Transitions With Tails, Precious Joy Sasha Kaplan Solomon
Back in 2009, after losing my first cat Buddha to a heart attack, and then my second cat Pud to cancer, I was set on being settled with my small family of three. Along with my chihuahuas Cubby and Chloe, and my parrot Pierre, I had no intentions of getting another cat. That is when Precious Joy (P.J.), came into my life. A childhood friend who was living in Los Angeles contacted me while visiting her hospitalized father in Chicago. He had taken a turn for the worst, and she was very concerned about the quality of care her childhood cat, P.J., was getting at his home. I remember her telling me “Be, if you don’t take her I think she is going to die”. I agreed to have her bring this kitty over, and remember clearly her placing a 19 year old, saggy, mushy fluff ball in my arms. The first few weeks of having her she would spend her days in the highest loft of my condo, and look out a window while siting on a chair covered with her father’s shirt. I agreed to watch her as long as he was in the hospital. Sadly after several months, due to complications with his hospitalization, Marty Kaplan passed on, and Precious Joy became Sasha (a name I felt she asked me to call her) and Sasha became mine. We became deeply bonded very quickly, as she constantly wanted to be held. If I was home, Sasha was in my arms. I learned how to cook and do household tasks with one arm, and would even swaddle her onto my chest while cleaning. Every time I came home she would shuffle down the stairs one at a time to greet me. I don’t know if she knew I was coming home, or if she would just be waiting for me at the top of the stairs, but she would always be there, as slow as she moved.
Often times when she would be in my lap, I had a hard time getting up because I didn’t want to disturb her. She would take her time getting comfortable and finding just the right position, I would feel guilty about getting up. This led to some of the deepest meditations I had ever had. I noticed that when I would hold her in my lap while meditating, I would go to a deeper level than I ever had before. I learned so many lessons from meditating with her.
Eventually Sasha’s time to go home had come. At the age of 22 her kidneys were failing, and she had to have daily injections of subcutaneous fluids. She tolerated them very well, and they greatly extended her life, but after a mild stroke, she began to decline. I continued to give her fluids and entice her to eat the best I could. It was only until she could barely stand I started to question if her time had come. I took time away from work to care for her, but the times I could not be home, I was forced to put her in the bathroom covered with towels and pads. One day all she could do was muster up the energy to crawl into the corner, where she would attempt to dig herself into a hole. I then knew that it was time to let her go.
I struggled greatly with the decision to assist Sasha in her transition. I consulted family members, along with spiritual advisors and the vet and came to the conclusion it was time to end her pain. She was not eating, could barely stand up, and I was forcing life onto her every time I would administer her fluids. That day at the vet was extremely traumatic to me. When I brought her into the exam room, she mustered the energy to jump off my lap and began to stagger around the room. Interested in exploring what she could even with very little energy to even keep her upright. The vet came in and explained the process. They took her to the back to position the needle into her arm where the fluids would be injected. The first was to release her from consciousness, and the second was to stop her heart. I sobbed the entire time, feeling conflicted and guilty. Afterwards they wrapped her in a towel and placed her lifeless body into the carrier I brought her in.
I took her to my car and placed her into the back seat. I had made arrangements with a cemetery that buries pets and was off to take her there. Several times on the way, I believed I heard movement coming from the carrier. I even looked back to make sure it was only my imagination. There was even a time or two I could swear I heard her meow. Although I continued to come to the reality that this was not possible.
I got to the funeral home, and they took her from me and placed her into a small burial container on a blanket that I provided that she had enjoyed. I petted her one last time as I said my goodbyes. Even then it did not look as if she was gone. I really struggled to let her go.
That night I wandered around the city with tissues in hand, not wanting to be home where her presence would be missed. My mind began to mess with me. And although I knew there was no way it was possible, I started to question in my head if I had buried my cat while she was still alive. In fact I had to call my sister and admit to her what was going through my head, and asked her to help me to know that it could not in fact be true. She explained to me there was no way the vet could make mistake like that, and that in her condition there would be no way to survive that process. I knew she must be right, but I cannot accurately explain how in some sense I didn’t believe it. It was very painful and confusing and traumatic to me. I felt such guilt for ending her life, even though somehow I was convinced that this was the correct thing to do.
As the days passed, the pain became less and less. My connection to Sasha changed to solely an energetic one. She would still come to visit me in my meditations, however I now see aspects of her in many animals. She taught me so many things about myself, and in fact her passing was the springboard for my decision to put my life in Chicago behind me, and along with Cubby and Chloe, move to Los Angeles to start anew.
The experience of euthanasia of Sasha was a horrific experience to me. I was confused as if I was doing the right thing by her, and was traumatized very much by the process. It took me quite some time to come to a place of healing where when her memory would come up, it would be associated with good things, and not her final moments. Sasha taught me how to deepen my connection with other living beings, and is the inspiration behind Transitions With Tails. Through animal based meditations, I have developed a process of helping others who are also conflicted about ending the life of their pet, and who are seeking guidance on whether the choice is the right one for them and their pet, and how to aid in the trauma of the process and transform what could be a emotionally challenging experience, to a process that could take the depth of the connection to their beloved pet, to an entirely different level.