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Charlie’s Story

—July 7th 2008

This gorgeous girl arrived here in April of 2004, mourning the death of her beloved person. Subsequently, her human “uncle” had taken her, along with sister “Honey” to a vet hospital—one girl tucked under each arm, dumped them unceremoniously down, and requested euthanasia. Thank goodness for our kind friend Sally, who contacted us, so that both Honey and Chewy could continue their lives at BrightHaven.

The 18 year old Chewy was fearful, resigned, cat aggressive, angry and dealing also with the indignity of having her beautiful, but matted coat shaved off—all but head, tail and feet. She really did look like Chewbacca, for whom she had clearly, and somewhat appropriately, been named!

Charlie came to us with a diagnosis of hyperthyroidism, chronic renal failure, elevated liver enzymes, as well as with evidence of inflammatory bowel disease! She was obviously feeling none too wonderful. I gave her the pretty new name of Charlie-girl, and made her cozy in a huge cage bank of interconnecting “houses”. This gave her lots of space to be private, lick her proverbial wounds and get used to her new life and friends.

Charlie loved her new natural raw meat diet and her coat began to grow back in—with lots of long and luxurious black fur. This girl had clearly been exquisite in her heyday. In the early days Charlie was lucky to be accepted as a patient of the renowned Dr. Christina Chambreau and soon began to blossom under her new regimen of natural diet, classical veterinary homeopathy and the BrightHaven balance of immune support and lots of love! Charlie showed us her strong need for security, refusing to leave her safe house, but clearly loving her interaction with us friendly humans! We would find her perched on the bed, with paws hanging over the edge, staring expectantly at my bedroom door, waiting for her dinner to arrive.

Charlie always bore a look of wonderment in her eyes—and was communicative in ways both good and bad (!!) She was very much her own person and hated to be fussed with! Grooming has never been on her agenda, although these days I swear she actually enjoys it at last!! Gradually the recipe for healing took over and Charlie began to blossom….however it was not until almost two years later that Charlie left the safe haven of my bedroom to join her very large family. She made it clear from the start that other cats, as well as the dreaded dogs were not to be a part of her agenda for life, and hissed and growled at all who came near to say hi or, perish the thought—try to make friends in any way! Charlie had accepted, and even grown to love the humans caring for her, but was still a loner and not about to change for anyone.

She lived happily in her own private world hidden by the mask behind which she hid herself from view—never again to be hurt by man nor beast.

Imagine our surprise one happy morning, when Charlie stomped forth to the center of the house, claimed a cute and cozy bed to call her own, and proceeded to chase a toy mouse across the floor. This is the kind of thing that does your heart good and gives us all the more reason to continue our mission to care for these sweet beings.By now the amazing Dr Adriana Sagrera had been enlisted to continue in the care of Charlie’s health and this girl was truly blossoming. We were not however prepared for the changes we were to witness in this quiet lady’s character—perhaps the very reason for which she was born!

It seems that, hidden beneath the reserved and reclusive nature was the enduring love of a mother just waiting to surface and, over time Charlie has allowed us to be privy to the most special moments of her life as she has lovingly cared for many of those BrightHaven animals now departed, in their final days, hours and moments. They say that pictures speak louder than words, and so I will allow some of those treasured photographs that chronicle her journey, speak volumes to you of the love of one special cat for her fellow beings.

For a very long time Charlie has seemed to be approaching the end of her life and I have oft felt impelled to begin her wonderful story…but…just not quite yet…I never could, as she went on from strength to strength – barely able to stand and walk by herself, and then caring for yet another, and then another.

I have neither the space nor time to chronicle all her loving relationships, but will simply mention some old and very familiar names of those she has helped through times of illness or death: Gingi, Bentley, Oscar, Barney, Beauregard, Ollie, Lily-dog, Sushi and Patti (dog).

Charlie responds in a wonderful fashion to homeopathic medicine, and her journey with Dr Adriana has been miraculous to say the very least. Over and over she has bounced back from certain death and we have acknowledged with love, that this girl will choose her very own way and time to leave us. It is not for us to guess!

Two short days ago Charlie started to have serious seizures and, although responding well to remedies, I feel the time has finally come when I need to share the beautiful story of her BrightHaven journey with others so that you, in turn, can experience the magic of how animals care for, and can help each other through transition and the beauty of the end of life.

Today Charlie is a little spacey and has had two large seizures, but she is often bright and happy too, and eating very, very well, as has been her pattern for many months. She is back once more in her favorite spot – that of dear old Ollie’s bed. (Ollie was our 23 year old Dachshund who died surrounded in cats, several months ago, as you may recall!) The BH crystals still adorn the bed and Charlie spends long hours gazing at them or lying contentedly with paws or head on the healing stones.

PS: As I write to you this morning, Charlie is astonishing us by playing with Blanca—and batting playfully at her hair. The sweet and dainty Dafne-Ann is with her much of the time—I will be writing very soon of dear Daf’s own journey.

In honor of Charlie’s last days


Almost six weeks ago I wrote Charlie’s story, which ended with the words… “Two short days ago Charlie started to have serious seizures and, although responding well to remedies, I feel the time has finally come when I need to share the beautiful story of her BrightHaven journey with others so that you, in turn, can experience the magic of how animals care for, and can help each other through transition and the beauty of the end of life”.

At that time I had no thought that it would be another six weeks before I would write to give news of her death, which I did, sadly, this very morning.

Her story told almost all, and this piece, which I am impelled to write in her memory, will be given mostly to pictures which will show you the love she gave as nurse Charlie as well as the love given to her by others in her last days, most notably from nurse Lucy Nightingale, as we now think of her!!

Charlie’s last days were spent in love. She was surrounded—by her human family of Richard, Fray, my Mum, Blanca, Jessica, Melissa, Elvia, volunteers too numerous to mention, and animals; again too many to be able to mention everyone, but Lucy must take precedence as she only left Charlie’s side for moments at a time. We started to envision her wearing a starched white nurse’s hat, as she would lean in close to watch us ministering to Charlie – We felt certain she was ensuring we were doing our job right and her patient’s comfort was of tantamount importance!!

Of all the photographs we have, I regret not taking those of our night-time vigils, when the blow-up bed would lie beside Charlie’s own and Richard, Fray and I would share the night in shifts beside the girls. Of course we were joined by cats-a-plenty and always attentive Joey, who would never be left out!!

In the last month Charlie again responded so unbelievably well to homeopathic care that we almost wondered if she would astonish everyone and recover, but deep down we knew this to be indeed her time and saw her as happy and savoring every last moment.

And, so my friends, that is exactly what she did. For the last month Charlie smiled as she sat up to request a drink or more food—generally the case! This girl ate her way through veritable mountains of food—brought lovingly by the attentive humans in her service. She ate well until the last week, when her abilities slowed down daily, and we realized time to be running short.

During the last days the weather gradually grew hotter and with it came the flies…OK by us generally, but attracted to our girl – NO!! we said.

Blanca came to the rescue and, soon Charlie and Lucy were cocooned in pink pretty netting—fit for the princesses they were!

At first we thought they may be a-feared of the swathed material, but no—they seemed to know it was there for their comfort and this picture shows you how beautiful they looked! I wanted to show you this as there are many ways to be inventive in the care of our loved ones—and this is an extra special one!!

For the last couple of days most cats stayed away—their farewells said, leaving Lucy with her charge. The journey became more obvious as Charlie became unable to eat or drink more than a sip or two. A caring nurse to the end, there was Lucy always happy to oblige by finishing any leftovers for her friend—especially the pureed natural diet mixed with baby food that has now become her own special treat!!!

Last evening Charlie simply called me with an unusual, sweet but loud, meow…I went to give her a drink …and gave her a couple of drops—but she wanted just to hold my hands—tightly—and then I realized…I carried her with me, as I telephoned Fray to come quickly—and we all lay together on the couch.

Charlie left in just a few minutes—the most peaceful and gentle passing anyone could ever wish for. Lucy was with us on the couch to say farewell—and we all sat together a while.

I will forever be grateful that she called me to be with her as she sped from my arms to those of the angels, or maybe those of innumerable BH animals before her!

Today Lucy lies alone in the bed they shared for so long. She is OK and so well loved that we know she will bounce back—most probably into the arms of her previous love—or husband perhaps – the tubby Mr. Woody, who is waiting patiently in the wings for her return to my office. We will see.

For now our memories are sweet, treasures to be shared and we will be talking of this most sweet and selfless lady for a long time.

Please enjoy her pictures and join us in thanks to her wonderful vet and friend, Dr. Adriana, who helped us both through many days, night-times too. She is indeed a bright light in BrightHaven’s sky.

To die proudly when it is no longer possible to live proudly. 

Death of one’s own free choice, death at the proper time, 

with a clear head and with joyfulness, consummated in the midst of children and witnesses: 

so that an actual leave-taking is possible while he who is leaving is still there.

-Friedrich Nietzsche, Expeditions of an Untimely Man

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