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Slices of Life

When the human gets sick

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You don’t appreciate your health - until it’s gone.

Gosh this is true, and I’ve learned it the hard way a few times in my life - the most recently last Tuesday.

I woke up in the middle of the night, sweating (never a good sign). My body ached and I didn’t know it yet, but the headache that was to come was going to be a doozy. I tried to continue sleeping, but you know how that goes with body aches, which were soon accompanied by a fever - as my body fluctuated between hot and cold sweats, like only sickness will do to you. 

In the morning, I grabbed a pillow and headed for the couch. I could hardly move. I drifted in and out of sleep. 

Until my body aches pulled me back to reality. My joints shouted in unison, “We hurt! Roll over already!” 

While my throbbing head, which threatened to implode the core of my cortex, merely whispered, “Move a muscle and you will die.”

And then my stomach jumped in, in a churning manner. Even water sounded vomit-inducing. 

In short, I was afraid to eat, drink or move. 

But enough about me.

Midway into the evening (because I was dozing all day) I noticed my cat, sitting still, beside me - just staring. She’d been there all day. She didn’t meow. She didn’t do anything - other than try to shimmy up next to me. She stayed on alert while I slept, although because of my aches I didn’t pay her the attention she usually warrants.

Normally when I go to bed, she paroles the house for I don’t know how long. I guess however long a cat paroles a house. But on that night, she followed me right into the bedroom, and couldn’t snuggle close enough.

I woke up during the middle of the night and she was still there. When I woke again in the wee hours of the morning, she was still beside me, looking at me with her green/yellow eyes. She wanted to smell my breath and my skin and when doing so attempted to lick both.

Not a common cat behavior.

By this time, I was starting to feel a bit better - and hopefully my breath and skin reflected that. I guess it did, because somewhere around 6 a.m. she rolled up in her proverbial cat bundle and surrendered to a sound sleep. Her grunts and peeps gave proof to this and I understood that she understood that I was on the mend.

This got me to thinking.

Do animals worry? Do they experience loss and grief? 

When my husband was sick, she was his constant companion - even before we knew he was ill. I think she understood the situation well before any of us humans in the house did. She probably smelled it. Maybe on his breath, or on the sweat on his skin.

I wonder how much she remembers about that?

I think oftentimes we sell animals short. We think as humans we are so much further evolved. We have language and all, not to mention money, toilets and cable news.

But what do we really know - really?

Let’s defer to the Titanic. It’s probably just the tip of the iceberg - our knowledge about animals and our beloved pets.

They are far more in tune to their senses and instincts and perhaps - no, likely - that puts them ahead of us on numerous fronts.

I wish my kitty could talk. I wish she could tell me what she knows - what she really knows. 

We haven’t figured out how to do that. How to talk to one another. But we do communicate. She sniffs me. I pet her. She licks me. I kiss her. She purrs. We snuggle.  I tell her I love her and in-between purrs, I’m pretty sure she’s telling me the same.

In fact, I know it.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright and author. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.

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