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A Thank You To You: My Community

It’s been far longer than I like to go between posts.

But at the end of May, our beloved Fanty Cat was diagnosed with terminal cancer. 10 days later, we had to say our final farewells. On June 8, a veterinarian came to our home and we sent our little man into his next plane of existence.

I haven’t really been OK since.

I don’t want to go into the details of grief or mourning. But I will say a few things.

Anyone who has lost a pet understands that grieving an animal is a special, deep, unrelenting kind of sadness. Pets don’t judge you, disappoint you, or hold unrealistic expectations. They see the best and worst of you, and accept you anyway.

Fanty chose me, 9 years ago, when a friend was seeking a home for him and his brother, Mingo. When my partner, Tim, and I started seeing each other, Fanty decided that Tim was his new and forever human, and the two of them were inseparable.

The two cats came to me serendipitously when I needed them most. I was in the midst of my Saturn Return, ending an unhealthy marriage, starting a new life on my own, independent, and living on my own terms. Fanty and Mingo have been with me since the beginning of that journey. They’ve lived with me in three homes, and traveled across the country with me and Tim in my little VW GTI. My little familiars.

Intrepid beasts on our cross-country trip. That’s Fanty in the front.

But Fanty’s health started to deteriorate several years ago. It started with chronic allergies. He’d scratch his face so much that he’d leave bleeding wounds. Then he developed a cataract. The allergies worsened. Then the cancer.

When our family vet told us he had a “mass in his lower jaw,” I knew that the follow-up veterinary visits would be expensive. Worth it, of course, but expensive.

I looked at Tim, tears in my eyes, and said, “I’m not beyond starting a GoFundMe.” And he agreed.

It’s OK to Ask for Help

Originally we thought that Fanty would just need dental procedures. Maybe it was an abscess or an infected tooth.

But when the veterinary dentist looked at his jaw and the mass in his mouth, she was nearly sure—even before the CT scans or the biopsy—that it was an aggressive form of cancer. And he would only have a few weeks, at most, to live.

Then it was clear to me that we would definitely need help.

Tim and I are not the kind of people who ask friends for large financial assistance. So setting up that GoFundMe page was uncomfortable and felt awkward, and part of me thought maybe it wasn’t appropriate. Maybe we should just try to figure out how to pay the veterinary expenses ourselves.

But I thought, “What the hell? The worst that could happen is that we get nothing extra.”

A Little Help Went a Long Way

So, I started the GoFundMe. And posted about it on social media. It felt like a Hail Mary throw. “What the hell?” I muttered as I hit that publish button.

But then, the donations started. And kept coming. And some were so large that I burst into tears when I received the notification. Some were from people I hardly know. Some were from longtime and dear friends who I know also struggle with money.

Because of many of you, dear readers, we were able to raise most of the money needed not only to cover the costs of Fanty’s specialist visit, but also most of the expenses of the euthanasia and cremation.

Knowing that we wouldn’t have to shoulder that immense financial burden while also grappling with grief and loss has been a priceless balm on our battered spirits.

More importantly, knowing that there are so many people around the world who are willing to give a little money to help us care for a cat that they hardly know gave us unexpected hope in a time when we most desperately needed it.

Community Transcends Common Interests

AJ Sophia Ravenna wrote a few months ago about how belly dance isn’t a community, but rather, a scene. I agree with her. We keep using the word “community” when that’s not really what we mean.

That said, without belly dance, I probably wouldn’t have contacts and connections with all of you: a community.

Because of our shared interest and affinity, there are communities in this wider belly dance scene.

A community helps others in the group when they need it and when they are able. And that help doesn’t always need to be financial. It can be any kind of support. A private message. A comment. A share. Even a little heart reaction on Facebook counts, as far as I’m concerned. These things let someone else know that we care.

And sometimes we don’t always agree or get along. Sometimes we anger each other, get catty, or drift apart. I know sometimes I can get wrapped up in the drama of the scene, but when push comes to shove, we can rise above it.

Helping another person in your sphere is what creates and reifies community… regardless of stylization, teacher, school, or location.

You Deserve Eternal Gratitude

I don’t know how I will ever be able to express my gratitude to all of you who reached out, offered advice, expressed condolences, donated, and checked in on us as we said our final goodbyes to Fanty. I’ve been a bit of a wreck since the diagnosis, but knowing that others understand what we’re going through certainly softens the edges of the sorrow.

So… thank you. Thank you all so much for reminding this introvert how important our connections are.

Fanty on the left, with his arm over his brother, Mingo.
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Hi! I'm Abby!

Welcome to my blog!

Here you’ll find my thoughts on everything from history and culture, to fusion and hybridity, to performance and training tips. I’m passionate about excellence, curiosity, and education in dance… in the studio and beyond.

In addition to holding Level 5 (Teaching Certification) in the Salimpour Formats, I also have an MA in Dance Studies at Mills College.

While belly dance and its related forms are my first love, I also teach American Modern Dance History at Mills College.

As director of the Salimpour School Berkeley, I hold weekly community belly dance classes in Berkeley, California.

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