Once upon a time I met this remarkable family. They were Susan, Richard, their son Bryan, and so many cats I have lost track of all their names over the years. I became a member of this family, myself, because we all bonded and fell totally in love with each other.
A few years ago, Richard, Susan, Bryan, three cats, and two birds decided to move from Newport, Rhode Island, to Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was in direct line, almost the halfway point in that trip, so I offered up my house for a couple of days respite, so then we had Susan, Richard, Bryan, my granddaughter, Kaylee, my grandson, David, my boyfriend, Don, my kids, Jamie and Ian, two birds, three cats, and two Dachshunds in residence.
After a couple of days of “rest” if you could call it that, and after a trip to my local vet’s office for kitty cat sedatives, we headed for New Mexico, now back down to the birds, the cats, and four people…in a small SUV that was packed to the gills.
I drove a lot of the way, but when we traded off and Bryan did some of the driving, Cami, that’s not a picture of her up there but it is a picture of a Blue Russian, who was Richard’s cat, and I, bonded. She quickly learned she could put her bottom on the back of the seat, her front paws on my shoulder, and rest her chin on my head for a very comfortable view of the world going by. She was stoned on kitty sedatives, too, which made this all the more enjoyable for all of us.
Now, I have never been a big cat person, but I absolutely loved that cat! She was special. She had yellow snake eyes that could send a really big message from such a small creature, and she loved to go out on her leash with Rich and take walks.
We spent a lot of time in a small hotel room, all of us together, and Cami and I became good friends, though her one and only true love was her daddy, Richard.
When we moved from the hotel into the house Susan and Rich had bought, it took, oh, about a day and a half before Susan had brought home two dogs and a three-legged cat to round out the family.
Life went on. Then one day, Cami was strolling around as cats are wont to do, and she had a run in with a couple of pitbulls. As you can imagine, Cami did not win that fight, and as Richard said today, “Those dogs killed her two years ago, we just kept her going for two more years.”
That’s true, too. She used up 8-1/2 of her 9 lives that day, and her soul really sort of left that day. I think she realized that she had to keep her body hanging around for a little longer until some sort of miracle happened to make sure her constant human companion would be okay. And last week, it did.
You first have to know that these are not just animals. The animals that this family own are just special. They never seem like cats and dogs. They get in trouble, they pout, they stand in the corner, they converse with you like you’re just sort of an odd-looking cat that walks on two legs. In other words, I call Susan The Cat Whisperer, and Richard is just as much a cat as he is a man, I believe that with all my heart.
Cami died. She gave up after her daddy returned from a trip to LA, waited until he got there, then said her good-byes. She was tired and sick and wanted out of that broken body which never was the same, anyway. And the next day, on a visit to the vet with another of their cats, a flyer was up, and staring back at Rich was a fatter version of his Cami, and her name was Gracie. A coyote had bitten her tail off, so she probably felt a little vulnerable being advertised like that, missing her tail and all, but Rich took down the flyer and said, “Susan, get me this cat.”
Now I have to tell you that just the day before that, there was never going to be a replacement for Cami. It was over…”Mick, no more cats, I just can’t do it.” And I smiled and said, “I know. Let’s see what happens down the road, okay?” I consoled a sobbing, sad, sickened family and prayed, “Please let them be okay,” and the next day or two, there was Gracie.
It was going to be about a three-hour drive to get her, and Susan, Richard, and Bryan called and told the lady who was keeping her that they would be for her in two weeks. I asked Susan, “Why two weeks?”
There was silence and then I said, “Richard, dude, go get your baby!”
And yesterday he did. Did I mention her name is Gracie and she has yellow eyes and looks at Richard like he is a god? And she talks? Did you doubt for even a minute after reading this story that Gracie would be anything but a human soul in a cat’s body?
Now, here’s the ending to this story. Gracie needed a new daddy. Her daddy had died, and she missed him so much. She consoled herself with food and is a little chunky, but when she starts having to deal with all the birds, other cats, dogs, and people in that house, she will trim up in a hurry…oh, but here’s the ending. Richard has a brother, Barry. Barry also loved, Cami, and I cannot tell you how many times when Barry and I would be visiting Susan and Richard at the same time that we would end up having to chase Cami, who Barry called, “The fuckin’ meow,” down because he would forget and leave the door open, and it somehow became partly my job to find the cat, even though it was not my fault she was on the loose again.
Sadly, Barry passed away during Hurricane Katrina. He was a beautiful soul, a fantastic musician, and he’s very much missed by many.
But if ever your faith in God, or at least in the existence of a power much higher than us, ever wavers, remember this: Ted, Gracie’s owner, her favorite human on earth, looked just like Barry. So now you have the rest of the story.
Cami held on until Gracie was available for Richard, and Barry and Ted orchestrated the tradeoff from their heaven. Cami is running from Barry as we speak, Barry yelling, “You fuckin’ meow!” free of her pain and suffering, and Ted and Barry plopped Gracie right into Richard’s and Susan’s lives. How much more evidence does anyone need that Richard’s brother was showing his love for him in the most poignant way he could come up with. That, at least, is the way I see it. That is my story and I am sticking to it.
In memory of Cami, the magnificent Blue Russian feline and Barry Cowsill, the magnificent musician from New Orleans…Love always, Mick.