Thursday, September 5, 2019

Imperfectly perfect ... together.

Life is funny in that we often get exactly what we need when we need it. The intervention, gift, or blessing might be nothing like we asked for or hoped for – but the genius as to what and how is the most enduring reason for my belief in a Divine Creator. Our greatest obstacle is always ourselves – when we are given these gifts, we must have a heart of courage to win out over logic and doubt – and take the opportunity instead of rationalizing it away. We find what we seek - but only if our hearts are open to it. This is the story of how a tiny homeless kitten taught me to live and made me want to be better for us both.



MY LIFE WITH ANOREXIA


The day my life changed started just like any other during the ten years I’d fought anorexia up to that point. I’d stayed up most of the night before – not wanting my meager encounter with food to end. At that time, to me, food was love. To be loved meant to feed me. And starvation was either a pronouncement that I didn’t need love or that I didn’t deserve it. The battle between these opposing forces defined my life for years. The time it took me to eat was sacred – I waited for my then-husband to go to bed – until I had all my chores done – so I could savor my meager ration in private with the same reverence a believer has when he realizes there’s a God. At that time, a sandwich easily took six or more hours for me to eat. To make myself approach food with such control and restraint was grueling. And some part of me was never happy. If I ate, I felt guilty. If I didn’t eat, I felt alone and unloved. When I finished eating, I was filled with despairing sadness and loneliness. To sleep, I had to take enough sleeping medication for three men, despite my emaciated figure of one hundred pounds. 

 

I’d been in treatment for anorexia twice before that day in 2006 – for a total of seven months. For years, I’d been in therapy, under the care of a psychiatrist, monitored by a medical doctor for complications, and helped by a nutritionist, though I never followed her advice. YEARS AND YEARS of my life were devoted to anorexia and recovery. But something was missing. Some piece of motivation eluded me. I fought with believing I was worth recovery. I fought with the parts of myself that couldn’t conceive of a life without anorexia. One of my biggest challenges was determining who I am without anorexia. How can I feel good about myself without starving myself? I cried at how far I was from any plan I’d ever made for my life – and I cried at my inability to walk away from anorexia even though I knew it would kill me eventually.


 

I knew all the complications of anorexia – had experienced most of them – been hospitalized, given a feeding tube as a last-ditch effort to save my life – and yet, I couldn’t muster up the courage to walk away from all that pain and dysfunction – not even for my sick Mom who needed me – or the brother I was so close to and cared for like a son so he would never discover the depth of my pain or the emptiness, despair, and feelings of being unloved at the hands of my parents. My then-husband was no different in that he came second to anorexia. I lived in fear every moment of every day that it would be my last – but remained powerless to do what I needed to do to make me safe. Most of the time, I was dizzy and weak. At times, due to my anorexia, I’d lost the ability to walk and see, struggled with heart irregularities, and pushed the majority of people out of my life – so I avoided connection and the embarrassment of others knowing the consequences of my struggling. Anorexia doesn’t leave room for anything besides one’s dysfunctional relationship with food.


My marriage was crumbling because of my priorities and my inability to stick with recovery and I felt powerless to stop all of it. Even worse, I’d given up hope of ever having a life free of anorexia. I couldn’t conceive of a life without intense self-hatred and contempt, PTSD, anxiety and panic, self-harm, depression, and the pain because of my life growing up. I’m not going to address that more than saying those people don’t deserve to be mentioned – especially not for what they did. They are part of my story, but they don’t define me. What matters more than what they did is how I overcame the consequences of their actions: Bear and I together were responsible for that.

Anorexia sounds like the enemy – but the truth is my pain was so severe, I had only two choices. I could kill myself and end the pain – or I could find a way to live and manage the pain – albeit in a way that was dysfunctional and harmful to myself. My anorexia let me live and numbed the pain. Anorexia is the only reason I survived long enough to find something different. I didn’t want to die – but I was also too scared to live. My entire life was spent in survival mode. My self-worth was dependent on how much I ate, what I sacrificed for the people around me, and how well I took care of their needs.



BEAR AND I


And then I met Bear Cat. I came home from grocery shopping to find a small mackerel tabby kitten with gorgeous green eyes [who weighed four pounds when I found him] hiding under the deck by our front door. He seemed so tiny – so scared – so overwhelmed by his surroundings. I could understand – most of my life has been lived in fear or one thing or another – and I’m often overwhelmed by the ugliness around me. That day, it was as if we were terrified of, but curious, about the other. We sized each other up – we knew there was some connection though we couldn’t make sense of it and we weren’t entirely sure we wanted to. We saw something in each other. It took us both committing to find out the purpose we had for each other. Bear Cat was as starved for love as I was. He demanded I stop and pet him – he simply refused to be turned away. Once he decided he loved me that was that. I named him Bear because he’d wrap his paws around my wrist and move my hand to his belly to be rubbed – just like a bear hug. Here was this tiny homeless, hungry, scared and lonely kitten and all he wanted from me was ear and belly rubs? I knew immediately that he wasn’t like other cats. And I also knew that his behavior – his priority of being loved over being fed – couldn’t be explained by most people’s conception of cats. There was some part of his essence that reminded me of myself. But this story isn’t about how we met – but what we’ve built together and meant to each other. 










The details of our life together are boring. Bear wasn't my first cat - but my heart cat. Day in and day out Bear made me smile – usually exactly when I needed it most. His ridiculous antics made me laugh and admire the little guy with the ginormous attitude. Around me, Bear was confident, lived with his whole heart. I admire this because it’s everything that I am not. Some of his greatest hits include chewing my textbooks and my homework, putting a fang mark in just about everything I own, getting his back paw stuck in a jar of peanut butter, sticking his paw in the toaster to get my attention, climbing the clothes in my closet, stealing every little thing that wasn’t bolted down (and once, even a teddy bear ten times his size) and he could carry, playing fetch, playing in his water bowl, defending me from the blanket monster, heart attack provoking jumps, knocking the contents of my bathroom shelf into the toilet, getting a plastic bag handle caught around his body, enjoying sitting in the pantry, being the bug-master – but always, and I mean ALWAYS, he was at my side – if not laying against me. These things were all about getting my attention – even my love. And my admiration grew – thinking one day maybe I’d be that bold. But the thing is, he was only that bold around me. If anyone else was in my home, he’d mostly hide. He’s so terrified at the veterinarian that his tail tucks up tightly against his belly. But when it was just me and him, he acted a bit too big for his britches. But he never felt that he was too good to snuggle with his Momma and spend the day in my arms.





 

Besides these antics, there are so many things about him that I love. For example, he ALWAYS raises his tail as he walks toward me – or even when he just hears my voice. Instead of hiding when he doesn’t feel well, he comes to me for reassurance and snuggles in my arms. I haven’t been the poster girl for any kind of healthy ends – but the way he interacts with me – checking in and then doing his thing, only to check back in a little later – he is the epitome of a securely attached being. Not only that, but I can wrap my arms all the way around him. He doesn’t feel trapped or get scared – he settles in and savors the time with his Momma. And he always lies with me. If I lie down, he’s not far behind. He sleeps with me in bed. And while this stressed me out in the beginning, I’ve come to need that closeness and connectedness to sleep well.



There were also times I broke down in tears because it was always something. He always had some scheme or project or obsession. The moments of frustration never lasted very long – but he could be a handful and I admired him for it.

Bear changed everything for me - transformed my life completely - taught me to accept love (which came in handy in relation to loving myself ... and letting my now-fiance love me) - showed me that my parents' legacy of selfishness and self-involvement was not my own (I managed to adjust myself to Bear's needs even when it made me uncomfortable and uneasy) - and he taught me how to do something other than just survive. After years subject to the cruelty of the humans around me, only this little guy was up to the job of helping me heal. Not bad for a kitty I encountered carrying the groceries in one day. Homeless, feral, stray ... whatever you want to call it ... if my life matters - so must his. 

With Bear in my life, I had enough. I could be happy. I could feel safe. I could finally determine who I was and what I wanted in my life without interference or judgment.




WHAT BEAR TAUGHT ME


Beyond the lessons I share elsewhere, Bear’s taught me much about living and loving. He’s been an example of who I want to be. And by following his example, I’ve also found a way to heal.

With my love and security, he does everything with his whole heart. He might crash into the wall, but it’s always at top speed – and preferably with an audience. He doesn’t apologize or second-guess himself. He just does and deals with the consequences later.

He showed me the folly of being stubborn - and the folly in expecting perfection from myself. In terms of being stubborn, I learned that I am not the most stubborn living being as I’d long thought. Bear would escape outside just to prove he could – and realize he’s standing in the pouring rain and stubbornly sit there daring me to come to get him. He didn’t mind not being perfect and I loved him for it. And he loved me equally when I wasn’t perfect. 




The most enduring and profound lesson that Bear taught me is that love has the power to truly change everything. And our love did change everything – not only for a tiny homeless kitten – but also for the human who opened her heart to him.




WHAT DOES A CAT RESCUING A HUMAN LOOK LIKE?


Bear and I both wanted to be loved – simple, strong, pure, and unconditional. While I was prone to not reaching out – Bear wasn’t afraid to demand I love him. Bear Cat was never afraid or even hesitant to love me. He’s always been a complete – and unapologetic – Momma’s boy. Other than expecting my love, Bear had no expectations, didn’t judge, and didn’t hurt or betray me. He didn’t look down on me because of my struggles or faults – for the first time in my life, I was loved without reserve – loved in a way that wasn’t contingent on anything. I didn’t have to be on guard with Bear. I didn’t have to people please to be good enough, I finally didn’t have to be someone I’m not to be loved or accepted. And there were no grudges. Most importantly, he didn’t make me feel crazy about my feelings or setting boundaries.



Bear knew what I’m supposed to do – and what I’m not supposed to do. When I cut or took part in other self-harm activities, he’d place himself close enough to remind me that I wasn’t helping myself or making anything better. And he knew what he wasn’t supposed to do – and relished doing it anyway just to prove he could – often watching me closely for my reaction.

When I cried, he never complained about my tears wetting his fur. When I felt unsettled in my body, he acted no differently toward me. He loved me no matter whether I weighed seventy pounds or a hundred and seventy pounds. When I had violent, horrifying nightmares related to my PTSD, he sat on my back until I became grounded in reality. He sat with me when I was scared or I did something I didn’t want to do. He showed me that my parents’ legacy is not my own. Right away after adopting Bear, it was obvious we had two different interpretations of closeness and intimacy. He wanted to be on me all the time. It made me uncomfortable – feel crowded and claustrophobic – but I could tell that he needed that kind of closeness. And by adjusting myself to his needs – instead of being overwhelmed by my own, I learned I am not my parents. My Mom always looked for others to save her – and I saw how that mindset served her – it didn’t. Bear increased my self-esteem enough that I realized I could save myself and be the master of my own life. I decided to give up my eating disorder – and while it took several years in practice, this was the seed that launched my recovery and I never looked back.




REFLECTIONS ON OUR STORY


For years, I’ve blogged about the lighter side of my and Bear’s life. But this – the story of HOW Bear saved me - was always the story I started blogging to tell. At the same time, I wanted to write the piece to be good enough to honor Bear in the way he deserves. In search of the perfect way to tell our story, I hid behind not doing it at all. See, I've backed away from all the things I really wanted in life because I was scared I might not succeed or be good enough. So I never commit to anything and hope for success (if it happens, great! - if not, well I'm not fully invested). But the only way to get past that is to do it anyway and deal with what comes up, and Bear might be the one passion that gives me the motivation to do better - as he always has. He loves me as I am: scaredy-cat, broken, imperfect and because of that I want to give him more. He gives me the will to fight the trauma and ridiculousness of what happened to me before. He doesn’t demand I change – but his love makes me want to.



Bear didn’t change my life in a moment - or even a year. I wish I could say loving Bear magically changed my life instantly. I wish I could say it was fireworks and fanfare. But it wasn’t any of those things. I don't have defined memories of how those things happened. I just know the fruit of our relationship – the amazing transformation in my heart and mind. As we shared a life, I didn't see the change. It wasn't simple or planned - and most times, took me by complete surprise (ex. I fought anorexia for 18 years ... got all kinds of treatment, but in the end, it was not wanting to leave Bear behind and not wanting to give weeks of being without him that made the difference. By that point, I'd pretty much given up hope of ever recovering. I wasn't fighting to live, I was fighting to not die.) The life Bear and I share wasn't built in a day or a year or ten years - it was an everyday decision to do the hard thing for each other - to be different than we've ever been before. We healed (or I healed anyway) just by sticking around and giving it my all. It was an everyday decision to do the hard thing - motivated by Bear to do better for us both and step outside my comfort zone. I healed by persevering when things got difficult, giving it my all, and remembering who I was on the day Bear and I met and what he meant to me over the years. 




Loving Bear made me a better person - a more loving person - a more understanding person – someone I‘m proud to be. And that love doesn't end with his life. The transformation he inspired is permanent and carries forward in my relationship with other people and cats. In the way my love reaches other people ... and more people beyond that ... his love and life is a gift that keeps on giving. And because a loving heart is loving, it doesn’t discriminate. It loves cats and other humans – maybe even one’s self one day.

When I look back, my life wouldn’t have been a life without Bear. He’s given me life – a life – OUR life. His presence is larger than life and he’s challenged me to be a better person and not pass on my parents’ legacy. And by making a different decision – by doing the hard, right thing, I healed. Bear loved me no matter what – just like I loved him no matter what.




Bear and I were two IMPERFECT, afraid, lost, broken and hollowed out shells fighting daily to survive, yet aching for a MORE we couldn’t imagine. Over a lifetime we created/built one PERFECT love … a story … hard-won and filled with ups and downs, laughter and tears … a LIFE. Bear and I both had to be willing – and open to where our path took us through a future was never promised nor guaranteed. We were given a gift of another being appreciating and acknowledging each other for who we truly are - and not the narrative others created for us. We saw the same brokenness in each other. We saw the beauty in the others' souls - even if we couldn't articulate that's what it meant at the time. I trusted my heart for the first time; it was difficult for a logical person like me - scary ... terrifying ... but I think also necessary as I continue to build my life up around my recovery from anorexia. My recovery wasn’t a straight line – but Bear and I got there eventually, with Bear’s steady love and our peaceful, safe, and quiet environment - the exact opposite of my life up to then.




Where did our path together take us? To a place we never would've reached alone. To a bond that transcends, builds, creates, and grows. A bond formed by determination and strength we didn’t know we had that changed EVERYTHING. A bond that made the fight to live worth the pain of growing and shedding everything one knew before. A bond that helped me choose life … choose connection … fight like hell to live - with the tiny once-homeless kitten that led me there and walked beside me all the way.


© 2019 Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat - Published by K. Kern. 
All text, pictures, images, and other content are original and copyright by Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat [K. Kern]. No part of my post may be used without my written permission. If you see this post posted on a site that isn't Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat, please contact mommakatandherbearcat@gmail.com. 

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52 comments:

  1. This is such a beautiful post and I'm sorry you had to go through all that. Life can be tough for so many.

    It's obvious that you and Bear share a great bond and it's amazing the way he came into your life. I believe our pets are little angels who come into our life to make us better people. I too struggled with self-worth and never felt good enough. I still don't feel good enough as you probably can tell from some of my posts.

    My cats have always been my soulmates - especially Athena and sweet Suzy, who I grew up with.

    Take care xx
    Marie

    Purrs xx
    Athena

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    1. I've said it many times ... I think we come from the same place and have fought similar battles. As much as I hate knowing other people have suffered as I have - I also find great comfort in knowing it can't be my fault if people I care about and admire have been through the same thing.

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  2. Science says that cats and people share 90% of the same genes. I reckon in some of us it is far more, and the difference is made up for in love and caring, and that magical bond. One plus one really does make more than two.
    Magical purrs
    ERin

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  3. What a beautiful story, you take such good care of each other, hugs. Cats are angels that chose fur over wings.

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  4. My goodness. Having met you and experienced your dynamic and joyful personality I would never have guessed you had to deal with any of that. Hugs and love to you and to your special life coach Bear. Thanks for joining the Thankful Thursday Blog Hop!

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    1. Humor became my most effective coping tool. So many people think that if you know how to laugh, you can't cry. But finding the humor in the pain is one way past it!

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  5. I relate to your story so much. This is a beautiful testament to how our kitties can help us through the worst times in our lives. I am so glad that you and Bear have each other. And if you ever need a friend, I'm here. You and I seem to have been through some really similar things. You are a beautiful and strong woman, and I'm proud of you for overcoming so much! <3

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    1. Thank you! I can't wait to read your story about Carmine!!!

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  6. Having cats in my life has made me choose different paths than I would have if I'd been alone, and I am grateful for that too!

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  7. This is an amazing story and a testament to the healing power of animals. Tucker was my heart cat--he got me through an unexpected divorce and some very dark days. Continue to take care of you.

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    1. Thank you. It's funny that we think we know what we need - but there's a certain wisdom in how it plays out.

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  8. What a beautiful post ! You have an amazing story with Bear ! Not all angels have wings, some have whiskers... Purrs

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  9. K;

    it took a great deal of courage to hit PUBLISH when you composed this post; I hope you know that.

    thank you for sharing your story, bears story and both of your stories...together ~~ ♥♥♥

    L

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    1. It was really scary and I feel very vulnerable - but this is who I was and how far I've come and I want people to see Bear as I see him - not just the cat with the attitude - but a true Momma's boy.

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  10. You made me cry. Thank you for sharing your story. It's courageous to open up and tell others such intimate details. May your future be the best possible.

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    1. Thank you. I want people to see Bear as I do. Sure, he has a bit of an attitude sometimes ... but he's a Momma's boy!

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  11. This is a very powerful post and it took great courage to not just write it but to click on that one little word, "publish".
    It is an amazing story of how love can overcome so much. I admire you for it.

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    1. Thank you. I really struggled with reading the post over and over to edit. It's a part of me I wish I could forget - but the good parts were even sweeter from where I started.

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  12. Thank you so very much for sharing your story with us. You are so very strong and courageous. And your journey is such a triumphant one, seeing where you once were and the battle that you have been through and how you now continue to stand strong.
    I'm very grateful for your little Bear Cat. You two were meant for each other :)

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    1. I agree. Especially when my marriage crumbled - with everything I'd sacrificed for it - and the one thing I could say without a doubt was that I had Bear.

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  13. Thank you for sharing your story. It makes us think...who rescued whom. :)

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  14. Oh awnty Kat, we are so purroud of you. And we're happy that you and Bear found each other and the luv that brought you where you are today. That luv will take you further than you could ever 'magine. And we're so thrilled to be a pawrt of your lives. Big hugs fur both of ya'.

    Luv ya'

    Dezi, Raena and mommy A

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  15. That is an amazing story.We are so glad Bear came into your life. Cats are just the best. They are such good company. They are always there when you need them. We are so glad that Bear helped you so much but not surprised at all. My cats sure keep me somewhat sane.

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  16. Such a beautiful story to honor Bear. You were meant to be together, that's for sure.

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  17. These furry creatures are so tuned in to our souls that often it's quite scary. Kudos to you for sharing your pain, your journey and for finding that little fluff ball on the front porch. 🥰

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    1. Thank you. That little ball of fluff is now a larger ball of fluff with fangs and claws ;)

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  18. What a beautifully written post. It's clear that cats are so special and have the power to change one's life. Bear clearly did that for you - and I'm so happy you rescued each other!

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  19. I waited until I had uninterrupted time to carefully and respectfully read yours and Bear's story. You have great courage, great love and you are a shining light to many whether you realize that or not. I can't say strongly enough that I have the greatest respect, and a deep caring for you. A beautiful thing happened when you needed it, and you reached out and took the blessing. What's more you fashioned your life while looking at the love you had from Bear and not looking back. Now others love you along with Bear. The Boy, and all of us.

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    1. Thank you. To me, I just did what I needed to. And I ALMOST made the decision to leave him outside. I would've regretted that day for the rest of my life. To be honest, my ex-husband talked me into bringing him inside. We are so lucky to be surrounded by people who appreciate us for who we are. That is the greatest blessing. And I'm so grateful for your friendship!

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  20. What a beautiful story! I loved knowing how you found Bear and you really are lucky to have found each other! How special! And I always knew he was a giant softy!
    AMARULA: You can hide on my porch any time Bear! and I've always said that your presence is larger than life!!!

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    1. Err ... you didn't read Momma's first post about how we met, right? She might've been confused about my manliness and called me Lily ... Phht. Stupid humans. My masculinity is off the charts! ~Bear Cat

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  21. It's difficult to know what to say, because it is such a beautiful story that simply says it all on its own. It brought tears as I finished it. It had to be difficult to write, I can only imagine...I have a story I'd love to tell someday too, but have not found the courage yet. It's not as tough as all that you went through, but still is close to me. This also made me think more about Luke, his fears, and how his reactivity has affected me personally. It's inspirational. I am just so happy for you that Bear came into your life and helped you to heal. ♥

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    1. Thank you. And thank you for always supporting us and being our friend. I wasn't sure I'd ever get the story out - but I'm so incredibly glad I did! These little furry guys are capable of so much more than most give them credit for!

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  22. It took a lot of courage to write this post. Bear certainly is a hero. I was kinda afraid that something happened to Bear as I was reading it and realized much of it was in past tense even as you talked about the love you still have for each other. Concats for crawling outta the rabbit hole and kicking life in the pants.

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    1. I struggled with tense and which one to use. Bear and I specialize in kicking life in the pants ... like you specialize in biting life in the pants. ;)

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  23. We haven't been visiting any blogs because of Dorian and are so glad we didn't miss this one. It took courage to post this and we are so happy that you have come so far and that Bear appeared in your life when you needed him.

    Love and Hugs,
    The Florida Furkdis and Mom Sharon

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    1. Thank you. We're lucky to be surrounded by so many wonderful friends!

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  24. I admire you for sharing your story. I am sorry you went through so much, but I am glad you and Bear were able to save one another. XO

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  25. Wow, that is some powerful stuff, Momma Kat. Love is like that, isn't it? It's amazing and wonderful that you and Bear found each other when you needed each other most. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It's beautiful and so, so important! Love and hugs to you all. XO

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  26. You are a very strong and courageous soul.May your journey forward be filled with light and blessings. Thank you for telling your and Bears' story. It needs to be heard so that others may know there is hope. Signed, one who has also been through fire.

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    1. Thank you. I'm humbled by your words - but they mean more to me than I could ever put into words.

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