Sessions with Vinny
In January 2015, I had the privilege to give massage and energy sessions to a cat named Vinny. She was a seven month old cat who had been through a lot in her short life. Orphaned, living in the NYC streets, her little body full of parasites, hit by a truck, she was saved from the kill list of a NYC shelter by the Justin Fire Survivor/Kitty Krusade rescue group. Surrounded by love and care she had recovered but alas around Christmas, she became very sick with what was thought be FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis). When I heard about her she was very weak and had mobility issues with her hind legs. I offered to give her massage and energy sessions hoping it could help with regaining mobility and strengthening her immune system.
I have trained in dog massage and over the years massaged a fair amount of dogs, but never a cat who was not mine. When I met Vinny she was trying to move around but it was obvious it was hard work. Her hind legs were dragging, yet her eyes were very much alive and showed a strong will and spirit. I waited for her to rest comfortably on her little bed and asked using surrogate kinesiology testing through her human Mom if I could touch her. She seemed agreeable to it so I started to do some energy work and then massaged her lower back and hind legs. Her inquisitive eyes were following my hands and then at some point she relaxed and started to rest into my hands. Giving sessions to Vinny was extraordinary on many levels.
Her eagerness to receive the work was unusual. When I worked on dogs, the sessions were short, fifteen to twenty minutes; my own cats were usually done after forty minutes. Vinny was quite different. Our sessions lasted sixty to ninety minutes. It felt like she was “absorbing” the energy. She would lean into my hands, taking in every touch, every breath. She was completely and intensely into it. And so was I. Because she did not talk, my attention and focus were intense. I did not want to be distracted and miss on the twitchings, the subtle movements of the whiskers, the ripples on the skin, the eyes movements, all which were giving me information about the efficiency and the results of the work. I was the most focused I had ever been. Time was irrelevant; staying connected with her was paramount in order to help her. She was benefiting so much from the sessions that after two weeks I came to see her every day. I also learned to schedule our sessions when I had plenty of time, not wanting to cut our sessions short.
I knew that Vinny was very sick and my main focus was to offer her relief from the pain and to improve her quality of life. Of course, part of me was hoping for a miracle; that her immune system strengthened by the work would be able to beat the disease, that massage would bring strength back to her legs. And there were some times when I thought we did it, when she was able to walk after a session, leave her little room and climb stairs. Vinny, in the sun, looking at the window or climbing the cat tree was a precious sight.
In many ways, working with her reminded me of my work with cancer clients. In oncology massage the goal is to bring our clients relief, whatever it is, for a few minutes, one hour or a few days. It is about presence, about offering compassionate touch without any agenda except making them feel better. There is no “fix it” attitude when you massage people suffering from cancer. You are a journey companion for a moment trying to improve their quality of life for any kind of duration.
Working with Vinny was a lesson in humility and a profound reminder of the power of touch and caring. In these days when our profession is trying so hard to get recognition from the medical community, let’s not forget that the most precious part of massage is the touch. We don’t need to fix to do powerful work. Our skilled hands soothe muscles and relieve tension. Our focused presence and care bring the compassion that so many living beings crave.
Vinny passed away peacefully on January 31st. I saw her a few hours before she crossed over. She locked eyes with me. Her big beautiful brown eyes were different, to some degree insistent. I felt she was trying to tell me something. I realized after a few minutes that she did not want a session. Her spirit was intact and vibrant but her little body was done. I understood afterwards that she was also saying goodbye. I saw Vinny twelve times and every session is engraved in my mind forever. Her passing broke my heart but Vinny taught me precious lessons that I will never forget and that have made me a better therapist.
Bringing temporary relief is enough, Presence is essential, Caring is everything.
Marie-Christine Lochot, LMT