Yudi, my Yoga Boy
Updated: Aug 23
Yudi was dying. It's life, I told myself. We're eternal beings, my teacher said, on a human path. Or on an animal path, like Yudi. I didn't want him to leave just yet. My yoga boy, purring under my solar plexus in cobra pose. How do I let him go? The most outstanding Zen teacher I ever had and my first cat.
I had been washing dishes when Michael brought him home in the palm of his hand. Sixteen years ago. Sir Yudi Boo Longfellow, we named him. Boo Boo or Yudi for short. At first, we called him 'Hey You!' as he raced through the house as we trailed behind him like fools. He looked like a rat drinking from bowls bigger than his dark, slinky body, ordained with a toothpick tail, ears that towered above his head, and a grin sliced across his inky black face. The cat was driven, tearing the house up to get me out of bed every morning. He made us laugh and lived for food. Killing for cantaloupe or garbanzo beans, batting his brothers to be the first.
Today my big boy was disoriented, bony, and blind and could barely walk. No one knew what was up or what to do to help him. Vets said it could be a brain tumor or a virus attacking the nerves. Yudi was deteriorating slowly. Vet number six suggested I euthanize Yudi immediately. I couldn't find the courage to put him down. He still wakes me in the morning, purrs when I rub him, and with help, eats like a horse. What if his soul's work isn't finished yet? I didn't want to interfere with his path.
Who was I to end his life? I had taken Buddhist vows in 1996. No killing or creating suffering for others. I didn't think Yudi was suffering. I asked him to tell me what he wanted. I was ready to honor and respect his wishes and requests, put my opinions and beliefs about euthanasia aside, and listen and respond to my animals with my heart and not my mind.
Yudi was one of the early felines who showed me animal communication. Through the years, he sat on the yellow-tiled kitchen countertop receiving and sending thoughts with me. Today people pay me to speak to their animals telepathically, but it's sometimes difficult to hear my own animal family. I get stuck in my stuff. Yudi knew this and usually got through to me in my dreams.
Two Sundays ago, Michael stopped by with Yudi's favorite treats, baked chicken and Sun Chorella. After he left, I fell fast asleep with all five cats on my twin futon and had a remarkable dream.
On a porch lay a large-boned dog with a long, sad face. The dog was lonely, isolated from family and his long-time friend. Suddenly a tiny black dog found his way back to the porch, nuzzled up to this big old dog, and laid his little black paws on his arm. Everything was all right! The big dog's eyes lit up as if he'd found his lost treasure. He lifted his heavy face into a wide Cheshire grin, exposing a row of flat human teeth.
At that point, I woke up, my eyes unfocused in the hazy moonlit room. Much to my surprise, one of my cats, with his head propped up inches from mine, was lying on the bed, staring at me. Coal-black paws rested on my arm. I thought perhaps it was Bubby laying there, my gentle boy cat who is also black. When you're nearsighted, everyone looks the same in the dark. I pushed my nose into his fur. Smelled like Yudi, sweet as cotton candy. I rubbed the tip of his ears. They were clipped, torn from early fights. They were Yudi ears! He was purring loudly, something I had not heard since his turn for the worst.
What was he consoling me about in my dream? Did he think I was missing Michael, whom I had recently separated from after 22 years? Was he telling me he was my friend at my side? Or was he telling me it was all right to let him go? That even when we're apart, he would still be here to hold my hand? I wasn't sure, but Yudi seemed to comfort me greatly.
I had always seen myself as his caretaker, although Yudi was always more loving and patient than I. Animals come into our lives as teachers and healers. Perhaps I had been the student? Although here we were, two dogs in a dream. As equal as can be, except for our vast difference in size, there was no difference. I was his big old friend.
In two months, Yudi's condition worsened. He was blind, incontinent, and pacing in circles. I felt guilty keeping him alive, but something inside told me it wasn't time. For clarity, I took him to a healer and psychic, Sandy Smith, who told me Yudi is a wise old soul, has been with me for a long time, and has always been my guide. Who was he? She closed her eyes, but no images came to mind. "Yudi does not want to be put down," she said. "He has some things to process."
"Tell him I am ready to let him go."' I told her. Yudi answered. "Her heart isn't."
A few days later, I sat under the Myer lemon tree in my little garden holding Yudi's frail body in my arms. He felt cool and brittle as a willow branch. He was barely hanging on. I asked him. "Who were you in my past life?" I closed my eyes. Immediately, I saw a vivid image. Yudi showed me a dark-skinned, black-haired Eastern Indian man. The man is dressed in white and has his arm around me. He is a wise teacher of some kind. One who cares deeply about my soul's journey. Yudi was my spiritual teacher. "Why did you come back as a cat?" I asked him.
He replied, "To open your heart."
I returned him to the psychic healer, who told me Yudi would pass in a few short days. She blessed him, did some transitional work, and held him with her eyes closed.
"He was a man," she whispered after minutes of silence ..." an Indian man. He was your spiritual teacher."
I nearly fell off the chair.
Yudi stopped eating and walking the following Tuesday evening. The next day he couldn't close his eyes, his body trembled, and he whimpered, and I knew he needed help with passing. It was my first euthanasia.
The doctor placed a yellow rose under his chin as tears fell from my eyes; Michael cried so hard the vet had him leave the room.
I was happy Yudi was released from his suffering. I was sad to see him go.
I remember how consoled I was waking from that dream that night, and I opened my eyes to Yudi's small face shrouded in the mysteries of the night. No matter my path or whose porch I, as the old dog, slept on, I know that Yudi will find me again. We never really die.
Thank you, Boo Boo, for opening my heart... and for that beautiful dream!
Animal Wellness Magazine June/July 2007