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My Turn: Puma, the stray who stayed to heal

Puma, beloved pet of Celeste Targum of Albertson,

Puma, beloved pet of Celeste Targum of Albertson, showed up one day and became a "service cat." Credit: Celeste Targum

People say I’m sensitive. As a Pisces, I love music, art, gardening, solitude, spirituality, animals. But I was not prepared to test these personality traits until I adopted Puma, a stray feline, in 2000.

It was just a few months prior that my mother had passed, and with bittersweet sadness I was reinventing the steps of the early spring tour my mother and I would take in the garden, anticipating the lush foliage soon to blossom and the vegetable plantings we so looked forward to.

Puma magically appeared in the middle of the garden, crying as if she, too, was experiencing a meaningful emotional memory. I reached out to her, provided a cozy makeshift shelter, and offered food and water.

Over time, Puma became my “service cat.” she had this innate way of coaxing me out of sadness, anxiety, melancholy. I took care of her, putting my holistic knowledge into full gear — preparing balanced raw-food meals for her, healing her ailments, cuts, bruises with homeopathic medicine, and providing an array of daily maintenance such as clipping her toe nails, cleaning her ears, brushing her teeth, grooming her coat.

My world became Puma and me. I didn’t need more. It was so perfect. She allowed me to enter the mind of a cat. I could look into her eyes and feel her emotions as she fixed on a bird in the tree or angrily witnessed another cat crossing her territory. I was happy, at peace — grateful for this human-animal bond we shared.

One day, Puma jumped the gate of her garden pen to chase a large tomcat that sat at the perimeter of the garden. They engaged in a fierce fight several blocks away. I heard the howling and escalated audible cat screams. I desperately sought to get to her but she had jumped over many fences.

An hour later, Puma hobbled back to the shelter of her garden pen. She was bleeding from the face, swollen, limping and had deep bite marks across her head and back, permeated with lethal, infected saliva from the other cat. Several months later, she contracted feline leukemia virus, a lethal disease that would quickly end her life. I was not given the time to administer holistic remedies that might have boosted her immune system and given her a chance to fight this disease.

I buried Puma in my secret garden on a quiet, warm afternoon. It was bittersweet to reflect that she was placed at rest in the very garden that once felt her heavy footsteps as she’d walk on her leash, inspecting every inch of the garden.

People ask me when I’ll get another pet. It’s been two years since losing her.

I always tell them, “Never!!” For me, special relationships are meant to be savored.

A part of me is with her and vice versa. I’m OK with that. I’ll stick with the memories and give my sensitivities a rest.

Celeste Targum,


YOUR STORY Letters and essays for MY TURN are original works by readers that have never appeared in print or online. Share special memories, traditions, friendships, life-changing decisions, observations of life, or unforgettable moments for possible publication. Email, or write to Act 2 Editor, Newsday Newsroom, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY 11747. Include name, address and phone numbers. Photos if available.

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