Monday, July 20, 2015

Author Deborah Barnes…Dealing With the Loss of a Beloved Pet


Purr Prints of the Heart by Deborah Barnes - Thoughts in ProgressIt’s a pleasure to welcome fellow blogger, cat lover and author Deborah Barnes back to Thoughts in Progress.
Deborah joins us today to talk about her latest book, PURR PRINTS OF THE HEART, and a subject that overwhelms most pet lovers – the loss of a beloved four-legged fur family member. 

Welcome, Deborah.

For those of us that have loved and lost a pet, the grieving process can be unbearably heartbreaking. There are a multitude of books available on how to deal with this loss, but few are written memoir style from the perspective of the pet as to why letting them go can sometimes be the greatest gift we give them, despite how difficult it might be for us. 

As someone who has been opening her heart and home to animals for over 50 years, primarily cats, I knew a story like this was in order after I found myself sharing one of the most painful decisions of my life in 2013 –helping to cross my beloved 15 year old Ragdoll cat, Mr. Jazz, over the Rainbow Bridge – and that is how my second book, Purr Prints of the Heart – A Cat’s Tale of Life, Death, and Beyond was born.

It was not so much that his story was unique – Mr. Jazz, aka Jazz, was an ordinary cat and I didn’t have any grand adventures about his life to share. But in years past, when I lost a pet, my grief was private. But now, as a seasoned cat author, award-winning blogger, and animal advocate, my cat related personal experiences have become part of the public domain and the response I got from people on my blog who could relate to my circumstances were overwhelming. All of my emotions and feelings - from anger, to denial, to relief, to despair and more - were honestly bared to the world and I was getting bombarded with comments from people thanking me for being so open about what I was going through because it helped them process their own feelings of grief at the loss of their own pet(s).

It was because of that, my love of cats, and as a tribute to Jazz that I decided to share his story as a resource for helping people with the grieving process. But rather than writing it in a clinical, “self-help” format, I decided to write it in the wise, gentle, and subtly humorous voice of Jazz himself – from his early days as a sickly kitten that nobody wanted, to finally being adopted by me into a loving human and multi-pet filled family that had its share of ups and downs, to his final months whereby his health was declining and he had to deal with things like frequent visits to the vet, being force fed food, resentment issues with his human guardians, litters issues, and the finality of coming to terms with the fact he was dying and needing to convince his beloved humans to let him go.

Using my many years of experience with cats and my intuitive nature, I wanted to explore the subject of life, death, and even the afterlife (yes, Jazz actually did come to me in the afterlife through visions) through what I perceived was the mind’s eye of Jazz and rather than write in elementary “cat speak,” I gave him a personality rich in feline nuance that I thought befitting of him – wise, humble, practical, and intelligent – but also slightly sarcastic and ornery to tell the story of the life he shared with a cast of human, feline, and even canine characters. From mentor Kit who was a street cat by nature, to perennially bad boy cat, Zee, and his beautiful love cat, Zoey, to sweet puppy, Bailey, and many, many more, the story is replete with everyday situations that any pet lover can relate to.

But of even more significance, while the subject matter of the story might appear to be sad on the surface (yes, the book will make you cry), Mr. Jazz actually makes it a celebration. A warm, poignant, and comforting celebration of the treasured memories our pets give us, for however long or brief their time on earth in the physical sense is and his greatest message is the one that stays closest to my heart:

“All I ask of those of you reading my story is that you try to remember that life is finite. Love, treasure, and appreciate what you have in your lives as if it might be your last day because it very well might be. And when you lose a beloved pet like me, don’t be closed minded, afraid to feel love again – open your hearts and homes when the time is right to another pet that needs a furever home because there are so, so many animals in shelters who deserve a chance for a happy life. I promise it will not dilute the love you had for us, quite the opposite – it will fill our hearts with joy knowing you have given another creature a chance to love you the same way we did.”

Book purchasing link: http://www.zeezoey.com/the-book.php

The book retails for $15.95 in soft copy and $4.99 in electronic versions. Please use the above purchasing link to read book reviews along with information on all purchasing options, including the option to purchase an autographed copy directly from me (all books ordered directly from me include a custom bookmark and tissue wrap).

Deborah, thanks so much for joining us today and sharing look at how PURR PRINTS OF THE HEART came to be. Speaking from experience, it is difficult to lose a beloved pet, especially one that has been a part of your life for many years.

Now for those who aren’t familiar with Deborah. Here’s a bit of background on her.

Deborah Barnes resides in the tropical paradise of South Florida with her fiancé and feline family of seven. She is the author of the 5-star rated books, The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey – A Journey of the Extraordinarily Ordinary and Purr Prints of the Heart – A Cat’s Tale of Life, Death, and Beyond as well as the award winning blog, Zee & Zoey’s Cat Chronicles that continues to cover the everyday journey she shares with her cats along with topics from the humorous behaviors of cats to very serious subjects on pet responsibility.

Deborah was awarded 2013 “Writer of the Year” by Friskies Purina on behalf of the Cat Writers’ Association and she is also the Secretary of the nonprofit, Pawsitively Humane, Inc. of Miami, Florida, whose mission is to create public awareness and reduce the numbers of animals on the streets and in shelters through an extensive educational campaign.

For more on Deborah and her writing, visit her at the following links:

http://www.zeezoey.com (Website)
http://zeezoey.com/blog/ (Blog)
http://www.zazzle.com/zeezoeyboutique (Zazzle)
http://www.facebook.com/zeezoey (Zee and Zoey - Facebook)
http://www.facebook.com/purrprintsoftheheart (Purr Prints on Facebook)
http://www.pawsitivelyhumane.org (Pawsitively Humane, Inc.)

Thanks so much for stopping by today during Deborah’s visit. Are you a pet lover that has lost a beloved pet? If so, what helped you overcome or come to terms with your grief and sadness?

18 comments:

  1. That's a unique angle to take, but you're right, probably more effective than just a self-help book.
    Losing a pet is so hard because it's not a pet. It's family.

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    1. Alex – there is no doubt self-help books serve a purpose and I researched many of them to help with writing Purr Prints. But ultimately it was the feedback I was getting from my blog readers that made the difference. They truly needed an outlet for conversation to share their own feelings of grief and they wanted it based on real life situations they could completely relate to.

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  2. Since we recently lost Spunky, I know the book would make me cry.

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    1. L. Diane - I understand your concern that the book will make you cry and I offer my sincerest condolences at the loss of your sweet Spunky. What I have suggested to people in your situation, is that you get the book - but don't rush it. Take your time and when you are more ready, open it up. Some people have gotten it, purposely to read it on the day a particular pet has passed in tribute, some read the book in one sitting, and for some, it takes a while - perhaps a chapter or two at a time. Ultimately, the book is meant to offer comfort and you will not feel alone after reading it. The animal loving community has such a bond that we all relate to what you are going through.

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  3. Deb, thanks again for joining us and sharing this insight with us. Losing a furry, four-legged family member can be heartbreaking. Wishing you much success with this endeavor as I'm sure many will help it quite helpful in their time of loss.

    Hi all, thanks for stopping by today.

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  4. Mason -
    I am honored to be featured on Thoughts in Progress and appreciate the opportunity to share Purr Prints with your readers. It is a story that is near and dear to my heart and it gives me comfort knowing in some small way, that I can offer guidance and comfort to others who have lost a beloved pet.

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  5. awww.. such a lovely title!

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    1. Thanks Dezmond! I struggled with finding the right title for quite some time. Ultimately it came to me from a memory of Jazz I used to have – he would lie on my chest at night, near my heart, kneading me with his big bear paws while purring up a storm! I love the title and am glad you like it too!

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  6. Thanks for sharing this, Mason and Deb. One of the hardest things to do when you're a pet lover is to let go of a beloved companion. So it's good to have resources and support when it happens.

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    1. Thank you Margot - I am so glad to be able to help others. The hurt never completely goes away, but the memories of our dearly departed pets always stay in our hearts.

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  7. We absolutely LOVE that Deb Barnes is being featured here, and I also reviewed and ADORED Deb's book. It is a must read for anyone who loves animals. Deb is also one of the most genuinely beautiful people I have ever met (inside AND out!)

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    1. I swear everyone, I did not ask Caren to come by to write such a touching and kind comment about myself and Purr Prints! Caren holds a spot near and dear to my heart and the review she did on her Cat Chat with Caren and Cody blog was incredible. She really got the essence of the book and the review meant the world to me.

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  8. What a sweet title that is. Like you, I've had my share of Purr Prints on my heart. My last one left a year ago. What's remarkable is that none have padded their way to my door. Usually I have replacement kitty the day after the funeral. We live in a rural area and I know there's a kitty internet: "House at the end of the road needs a cat, STAT!"

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  9. Oh yes! I have been in your shoes many a time, cleemckenzie!! Cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs.... I've had them all find my door one way or another!

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  10. They wind their paws deep into our heart strings - and take a piece of us with them when they go. There are cats I have lost who I still miss - many years later.
    One of the cats who currently shares our life is Jazz. He is a rescue cat who came to us with the name Jazzpurr (which made me puke).
    This sounds like a truly beautiful book. Thank you Mason, thank you Deb.

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    1. Thank you Elephant's Child - they truly do take a piece of us with them when they go. I still remember cats from my childhood - all of them hold a special spot in our heart. We no longer have Mr. Jazz, but we have been blessed with a wonderful rescue that came into our lives last year - we named her Jazmine in tribute to Mr. Jazz.

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  11. As you know, Mason, I lost both my dogs and cat last year (they were all 17) I'm not sure you ever "deal" with it. I still miss all of them.
    Ann

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    1. I am so sorry to hear you lost your dogs and cat last year, Cozy in Texas. That is truly heartbreaking and my thoughts go out to you. I don't know that you ever truly deal with loss either, it's just a matter of trying to move on as best you can, which, of course, is always easier said than done. We keep the memories of our beloved pets close to our hearts, but does time truly heal all wounds? I honestly don't think so, at least not when it comes to letting go of something you care so deeply about.

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I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.