Fighting Parkinson’s, and Pumpkin the cat

Pumpkin, our friend and cat, died on Friday. She was an outdoor cat and was almost 18 years old, which I understand is about 16 years beyond the 2-year life expectancy of an outdoor cat. I learned a lot about acceptance, compassion, and love from Pumpkin, so in her honor and memory, I want to share a story with you.

Pumpkin was the daughter of our outdoor cat Snowy. Snowy died a few years before I got Parkinson’s. Snowy was the “hold me” loving cat. Pumpkin was not. I fed her every morning…that is, I put the food in the bowl while she kept her safe distance, and after I went back inside, she came to the bowl to eat. She was fed in our garage, just outside the kitchen door into the garage, and we always kept the garage door open 6-9 inches so she could go in and out for eating and hiding (it was her safe place from potential conflict outside).

The day after my Parkinson’s manifested in internal tremors, I went out the front door of our home to get the newspaper in the morning, and Pumpkin was there right when I stepped outside. And, she was meowing a lot. I looked around and saw no other animals, I bent down to try to touch her to pet her and calm her. As had been her behavior for 11 years, she would not let me touch her. Finally, I sat down on the stoop because I did not know what else to do.

Pumpkin promptly walked over to me, stopped meowing, rubbed her head against my leg, and climbed in my lap; she curled up and started purring. All I could think was “she knew.” And I started crying. I felt in my heart that she sensed my illness, and she came to sit with me and give me acceptance, compassion, and love. I petted her, hugged her, and told her very many times “thank you.”

This was our morning routine for nine months. On the day of my full recovery, I walk outside the front door just like every other morning, was greeted by Pumpkin, and sat down on the stoop. Pumpkin approached me, got very near me, and then she turned around and walked away. I got up and followed her, calling to her and letting her know that yes, I had my full recovery, but it was my turn to take care of her. She wanted nothing to do with it. She knew I was better and her work was completed.

However, as you know, in my recovery, I learned gratitude. So, the next morning when I walked out to get the paper, I sat in the driveway very close to Pumpkin. I told her how grateful I was for her taking such good care of me in my recovery, and I let her know that I imagined that she had been very lonely since her mother had died. I told her I would sit with her every morning for the rest of her life. I then slowly slid on my bottom until I got close enough to reach her, and she let me scratch her under her chin. And she purred. And I smiled.

That had been my morning routine with Pumpkin for the last 5 and 1/2 years. I would go in the driveway and sit. She would come not-quite-arms-distance from me and lie down, and I would slide over and scratch her under her chin and talk about life with her.

Another thing I learned from Pumpkin is letting go of fear. When you keep your garage door open at the bottom and the food is in the garage, the occasional raccoon or opossum will makes its way across the driveway and have meal in the garage. Pumpkin was not afraid. Occasionally, I would see her lying in the driveway and not flinch when one of these other animals made its way directly in front of her heading in or out of our garage.

To help me fight fear when I had Parkinson’s, on occasion, I would sit zazen in my driveway in the path that the raccoons or opossums would use. It helped me accept myself as part of nature and the Universal energy and to not be afraid of what might occur.

One morning last year, I happened to be looking out of the front of our home as one opossum was leaving the garage. You can see Pumpkin look at the opossum in the first picture and simply watch the opossum as it walked by in the second picture. As I said earlier, she was calm and accepting of the situation, and did not flinch. These are amongst the qualities that probably assist a cat in living outside for nearly 18 years. You may click the pictures to enlarge the images.

Howard Note 3 009

Howard Note 3 010

We had known for some time that Pumpkin was close to reaching the end of her “cat’s nine lives,” so when she died it did not come as a big surprise. She got to see our daughter Genevieve who was here for Thanksgiving, and she got to see our son Steven when he visited around New Year’s. And, she got to spend three weeks with our daughter Victoria who was home from college. Pumpkin died the day before Victoria returned to school. Pumpkin had hung in there long enough to spend a little time with every family member before she passed on.

For nine months of Parkinson’s, a part of my morning was spent receiving acceptance, compassion, and love from a cat known as Pumpkin. Pumpkin, I love you, and I am forever grateful for the important part you played in my Parkinson’s recovery.

Here is how I always will remember you:

Howard Note 3 127

So, in the end, there are many things I learned from Pumpkin, including acceptance, compassion, unconditional love, and no fear…not of life, and not of death. These are meaningful things for all of us.

Accept yourself and others.
Have compassion for yourself and others.
Find unconditional love for yourself and others. This is 2016…the year of love! Isn’t it?
Have no fear, not of life, and not of death.

And, be grateful. This life is a precious gift, and each and every one of you is worthy and deserving of a happy life. Be grateful for this gift of life, find joy and happiness in your heart, and find full recovery on your path. I am grateful to share this beautiful journey of life with all of you, my courageous friends.

You can do this.

You are worth it!!!

All my best,



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35 Responses to Fighting Parkinson’s, and Pumpkin the cat

  1. Sara says:

    Hi Howard, so sorry to hear of Pumpkin’s passing. Eighteen years is a fantastic age for any cat – indoor or out – so you must have cared for her well. I’m sure she’s waiting at the Rainbow Bridge for you.

    I have two cats of my own and yes, they do teach you a lot (often about humility and your place in the universe being lower than theirs!).

    RIP Pumpkin

  2. Tony says:

    What a great story Howard! It’s amazing how animals know exactly what’s going on with us. I do believe that animals can heal us when we show an animal love we are experiencing love joy, happiness laughter peace of mind, these are all the attributes one needs in order to rid themselves of Parkinson’s. Thank you for sharing this!

  3. hans says:

    Thank you for sharing Howard. A beautiful story….

  4. Bernadette says:

    Hi Howard,

    Sorry to hear of Pumpkin’s passing – but a lovely, touching story.

    With very best wishes


  5. Kathy says:

    This is such a beautiful story Howard! I’m so glad you shared it. You and Pumpkin were destined to share a special bond, trusting, loving and nourishing one another. Animals have a way of loving us even when we don’t know how to love ourselves. I know he will be missed.

  6. Nancy Thomas says:

    Pumpkin sounds a great deal like my cat patch. She also was a standoffish cat except when I was recovering from back surgery and again after parkinson’s diagnosis. She lived to 16 1/2 years, and in the past few months I could tell she had a different look in her eyes that told me her time was near at hand. Yesterday morning I found she had passed peacefully overnight. Hope she and pumpkin are hanging out

  7. Debs says:

    Beautiful Howard. The wisdom expressed by your cat simply being alive present in the moment, allowing his cat self to receive information and respond. No thinking, no conflict simply being in the moment. Cats and animals have much to teach us. And beautiful that you were available to receive his wisdom…love your story. I aspire to be present like you cat and you Howard,

  8. Karen in Ireland says:

    Howard, I’m still crying as I type. What a beautiful stunning story of spirit, between the spirit of a cat and a man and his family. I loved it. It brought back memories of my cat who died last October. I still miss him. I truly know our animals are connected to is always, and cross our path for a reason. I’m sure Pumkin is having a ball with Snowy, so happy to be reunited.
    Big Love,
    Karen xx

  9. Sage Birchwater says:

    Thank you Howard for the moving story about Pumpkin. We too have a cat with a wild side. Gus was born outside and comes and goes through his cat door. At 15 years old he is constantly connecting us with Nature and loving us as only a cat can do.
    Thank you so much for your inspirational sharing Howard. My partner Caterina finds your words very uplifting.

  10. Laura Doyle says:

    Thanks for sharing Pumpkin’s story. We had to have our nearly 14 year old dog, Louie, put down in late November. Despite being a somewhat rambunctious Labradoodle, who before I broke my hip like nothing better than running to bump up against my legs, he never threatened my stability for one instant after my accident, and my subsequent diagnosis with Parkinson’s. We miss you Louie, but are glad you are free of suffering.
    And thanks for helping to teach us about respect.

  11. sue in sf bay area says:

    Thanks again for a touching story & the end comments about what we can learn from pets. My 1st cat was indoor/outdoor and lived 18 1/2 yrs, still missed but wonderful memories. Your blogs are always right on & timely.
    Thank you so much. I’ve just referred you to someone newly diagnosed. I know it will help her.


  12. Lohren says:

    What a wonderful compassionate story!

  13. Helen Gill says:

    Such a special beautiful story. You will miss her. I feel love for her reading about her. What a cat! Yes love and acceptance for ourselves, and other’s is so important. Big love to everyone. My dear Pug dog Bellazena teaches me about patience, kindness, love and joy. Animals are so deep and caring. They say so much with their eyes and smiles. Thank you for sharing this Howard..

  14. Shawna Carol says:

    Dear Howard,

    What an amazing story! I have an outdoor cat name “Miracle” and she has an amazing story to inspire us all.

    Miracle was born in the house of my next door neighbor. When she was a few weeks old, my neighbor stepped on her by accident, causing her little head to bobble and sending her walking in circles. A week later, our neighbors moved away. They asked me to take care of this little injured kitty and I agreed.

    Her name had been “Bobble” due to the constant movement of her head because of the neurological damage. I decided to rename her “Miracle”, setting forth the intention that she would be cured. A few weeks after she had been living with us, a friend came by and gave Miracle a spiritual light transmission with her hands. For the next five days, Miracle received a Divine Light transmission every day. She had been unable to walk up the stairs to our house previous to receiving these five days of light. On the fifth day, she scampered up the stairs and has had full recovery ever since.

    As I write this, I wonder if she did it to prove to me that I could have full recovery from Parkinsons.

    Blessings to you, Howard and to Pumpkin as well.

    Shawna Carol

  15. Leena says:

    Howard your story simply proves that animal instincts are higher than humans. They can sense and feel the things way ahead of what we humans can sense . When we have pets they become a part of us & we miss them often when they are no more around us. Pumpkin has taught us through Howard’s story that when we stand by our dear one in time of distress that strikes a cord with the other person and stays with them even after one’s gone. As Pumpkin does in Howard’s memory and he will retain this incident till the last.
    So warriors let’s be one another’s strength and share our good and bad experiences with one another so that we remember each other till we breathe our last.
    May Pumkin’s soul rest in peace.
    Howard, Pumpkin has carved her presence in your heart and it is tribute to her that you have shared her story with us all.
    With deep gratitude

  16. Helen says:

    Yes Shawna a gift to see her recovery as an example of how you can recover too. What a gem

  17. Helen says:

    Wow beautiful Leena

  18. Barbara says:

    Thank you for sharing your story and your love for your cat.
    Animals give unconditional love and comfort.
    I am so sorry for your loss.
    Love and blessings to all

  19. mayarita says:

    One of my cats stared and stared at me at begining of pd.
    Now all cats gone last one a month ago. I can’t stroke my dog easily now. She knows
    a friend looks after her. I am pracitcing to love feel love with my daughter.
    Animals are great teachers.
    Love and thanks dear friends for your comments.

    • Karen in Ireland says:

      Hi Mayarita, are you feeling any better this week? ????xx

      • mayarita says:

        hello thankyou dear karen in ireland slowly trying to learn to accept and have pacience. So much going on physically and mentally it’s hard to tell. sending you love dear friends. feel like a dam has partly opened but still not enough energy to release Back to doing some of the recipe every day and slowly getting of meds . I have much work still to do.
        I hope you are feeling better.

  20. Waseema from Birmingham UK says:

    Howard. What great memories you have of Pumpkin. I’m sorry for your loss. Pumpkin had a purpose in your life and he fulfilled it with love and diligence.

  21. jimmy says:

    It,s true Leena , that animal instincts are higher than humans. They can sense and feel the things way ahead of what we humans can sense . here a prove of this,

    hello mayarita how do you feel?

    • mayarita says:

      Thankyou jimmy for asking. I am trying to weather the storm. Thanks for the encouragement you are very inspiring. Hope you are doing well. xxx

  22. Debbie says:

    Thanks for sharing your personal story about Pumpkin with us. Thanks for sharing the lessons that can be learned by all of us. You are a blessing in my life. Thank you.

  23. Bailey says:

    Oh my! Such a sweet and poignant story! Thank you for the wonderful reflections and the deep souls sigh it gave me. Sigh… 🙂

  24. Christine says:

    Dear sweet Pumpkin.Thank you for being there for Howard and thank you Howard for sharing this precious story with us!

  25. judy says:

    What an inspirational story. I have never felt close to any animal or pet, and have always considered them to be a bother, and beneath me. I don’t want to be “that person” anymore.

    • Karen in Ireland says:

      I love and admire your honesty Judy. I think the right Pet just hasn’t found you yet! But it will cos your now ready 🙂 xx

  26. Trish in Colorado says:

    i had a 5-year-old beautiful calico cat named sophie. we had 5 cats but she wanted to be the only cat. she constantly attacked and beat up the others until we just didn’t know what to do. sadly we prayed about the situation knowing only god could find the perfect solution. our daughter’s friend lori who knew our dilemma was traveling to a conference with an associate. this lady told her that she and her husband had lost their beloved cat a year before and were wanting to adopt another cat, but not just any cat. they wanted an older cat, a single cat, and not a kitten. they wanted a calico cat and were going to name her, you guessed it, sophie!!!

    lori could hardly believe her ears! she told the amazed lady about our situation and the rest is history. they adopted sophie and absolutely adore her. she’s an indoor cat with her own bay window. she sleeps in her new family’s bed with them and is one happy cat! It’s such a testimony to god’s loving care for even a little creature’s happiness!!!

  27. Howard says:

    Hi All,

    Thank you for your sentiments and condolences regarding Pumpkin. I appreciate all of the kind words. Also, thank you very much for sharing your own stories of your pets and experiences. We are a beautiful community of very loving, caring, compassionate people. That feels great!

    Wishing all of you the best.

    With gratitude, love, and blessings,

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