"It was an incredible lesson in living in the moment," author Ingrid King tells PEOPLEPets.com of Buckley's perseverance. "Not getting caught up in fear and worry, but rather focusing on what was still good, and what she was still able to do."
These lessons are what make Buckley's Story more than just another feline memoir. King shares tales of how her pet companion helped her to pursue a path she never had the strength to embark on before — opening her own business, Healing Hands, a Reiki practice for pets and people. King opens her heart to talk about Buckley's terminal illness, and how, in the last days of her cat's life, King learned to live each day to the fullest.
Before she met Buckley, King was working at an animal hospital in Middleburg, Va., spending her days doing what she loved, surrounded by animals. In 2005, everything changed when Buckley came in — it was love at first sight for King. She was drawn to then-7-year-old cat for reasons she can't quite explain.
"Sometimes you just can't tell what it is," King says. "It's almost like they pick you."
Whether it was Buckley's openness and willingness for friendship during their first encounter, or her feisty personality (the simplest exam would require four vet assistants to hold her down!) King admired her feline's ability to live life by her own rules. Buckley's independence and approach to life awakened a part of King to take more control over her own, and motivated the hospital administrator to start her own business.
"Being around this little cat, who was one of the most freedom-loving little spirits I've ever come across, really helped me identify that part of myself and ultimately make the decision [to quit]," King says.
King left the veterinary world and started Healing Hands, where she uses Reiki energy therapy to benefit pets and their owners. For the next three years, Buckley and King shared what King calls a wonderful, spiritual connection. Then, in the spring of last year, King got some heartbreaking news – Buckley was diagnosed with cardiac disease.
"Initially, it wasn't that upsetting," King says. "It was a low-grade heart murmur, and the subsequent ultrasound wasn't too worrisome."
But the disease hit the fast track, and about a year later, Buckley's condition turned severe. As much as King followed her vet's orders and recommendations for treatment, she listened to herself and her cat, and assessed how many more tests, procedures and pills Buckley could take. Toward the end, King stepped in and said no more. Ten-year-old Buckley died Thanksgiving weekend 2008.
A longtime believer that animals are amazing teachers, King wanted to share Buckley's story and her personal experience of what it's like to live with a pet with a terminal illness. From treatment options to morale to even end of life decisions, King hopes that in telling her story, others might be able to learn that they, too, can get through a devastating loss.
"It's really important to me," King says, "that people understand that they're the advocate for their animals. They need to trust their own intuition."
Karen J. Quan