Familiar Familiar

When I speak of my late cat, Diego, I speak of him as my Best Friend and Familiar. Apparently there are some individuals that equate the word familiar with family…perhaps they are thinking of the word familia (a household or religious community under one head, regarded as a unit).

According to Merriam-Webster, the word familiar has no connection to the word family:

n. a member of the household of a high official;
one who is often seen and well known (especially an intimate associate);
a spirit often embodied in an animal and held to attend and serve or guard a person;
one who is well acquainted with something

I feel so fortunate to have known a number of cats (Puff, Merrick, Ortoloni) with whom I developed extremely close relationships (and consider all the cats I’ve lived with part of my “family”), but Diego is the only cat who has been a familiar. We were connected spiritually, as if we were one entity. I don’t expect to experience that level of feline love and attachment again in my lifetime.

The French poet and cat fancier, Charles Baudelaire, believed in familiar spirits.

Having said that, it will be interesting to see what sort of bond develops between Ramses and me. Whatever form it takes will be special, of that I am sure.

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Prince Ramses XII

My previous Post, You Have to Believe, sets the stage for this one. Yesterday I brought home a new friend. Aside from being black, he’s physically and characteristically different from Diego, but he possesses the same sense of self-awareness.

So without further ado, may I present to you Prince Ramses XII.

Ramses is 6 months old which makes him a Gemini and he has a lot of the distinctive qualities found in the Siamese and Oriental Shorthair breeds:  tubular body; wedge-shaped head; long, slim legs; and small, dainty oval paws. Like the Siamese, Ramses is very communicative. VERY communicative. But his voice is more kitten-like as opposed to sounding like a baby crying (thank God[dess]) – and he has a strong prehensile-like tail.

Ramses loves human interaction. Friendly, sociable, he constantly purrs and “makes biscuits”. We are so very fortunate to have found each other.

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You Have to Believe

Before I begin, I would like to thank everyone who has left comments, messages, and sent cards of sympathy regarding my recent loss. You cannot imagine how much your thoughtfulness has meant to me.

And please forgive me for discussing Diego so briefly in this Post. Once I’ve finished Ortoloni’s story, I will write an online treatise of my life with that extraordinary cat. His section of my website, House Greychin, will never be taken down – neither will his YouTube Playlist. Additionally, did you know Diego had an gallery of black cat art?

I invite you to visit all three – Diego would’ve loved that.

Diego was living with me when I lost my precious Ortoloni. Ortoloni and I were extremely close and (like two cats before him, Puff and Merrick) I thought I’d never find that kind of connection again. I was wrong. In SPADES. Diego not only provided the comfort I needed after my loss but became my Best Friend. My other half, if you will. Now that he’s gone I’m experiencing a “no cat household” for the very first time in my adult life.

On December 11, 2019 I wrote the followimg:

I lost my best friend of 16 years yesterday. I’ve had close bonds with several cats in my lifetime, and each time they’ve passed away I say that I won’t ever experience that closeness again. Today is no different. Diego and I even shared a birthdate (4/4) which made us as much alike as a human and cat can be.

In Santa Clara Diego and I inhabited a small bedroom with adjoining bath. But boy, did we have a great view out our window:  a large tree that proved to be a bustling freeway of birds and squirrels! Many Sunday mornings Diego and I would lie in bed and take “selfies”. I remember one Sunday morning we were lying in bed when 4 hawks appeared in the tree – 2 adults and 2 young ones. We sat in bed with jaws agape as we watched the parents encourage their offspring to take flight. The young hawks would fly to a nearby tree, then return to where their parents waited. And every time I went out at night, he would sit in his bed (on my bed) and watch me getting ready with a look that said “You’re leaving AGAIN!?!” Needless to say, he got treats BEFORE I left AND when I got home. LOL!

Every day, throughout the day, I would look around for him. I’d watch him enjoying the fresh air while sitting in an open window. I’d watch him peacefully sleeping. I’d catch him going “bug nuts” with one of his toys. More often than not I’d find him sitting in his bed (on the bed) looking at me – waiting for me to notice him. I’d go over and give him a hug. Or a kiss. Or just administer a pet or two. There was constant interaction between the two of us.

When I’d leave to go on my morning Power Walks, I’d kiss him goodbye and always greeted him when I returned. He was the first thing I looked for in the morning, the last thing I reached for at night, and he always slept right next to me – either beside my pillow or in his bed (on the bed). And let’s not forget all the times he kicked my ass at Scrabble, not to mention his participation in the annual Hallmark Channel Kitten Bowl!

I find myself still looking for him. Getting up from my chair and moving to the bed to cuddle with him. I see him everywhere. On the bed. In the windowsill. Walking around the room. Playing with a favorite toy. And lastly, talking to me. We had a special language between us that developed over the years. And when he’d meow, he’d do it with his whole head as if to say “What’s up?”

And then I realize he’s not here anymore. And I cannot stop crying. And I feel like my whole world has died. I miss him with all my heart and soul.

This was written on December 14, 2019:

Diego had been battling what we all thought was allergies but which turned out to be a tumor. This was evident a week ago when he began to go downhill very quickly. I made sure he did not suffer once I realized what was going on and he was a very happy cat right up until the end. But like I said, he had been battling some issues for many months prior.

When I began volunteering at the local cat shelter on November 8th, there was no way I could have foreseen losing Diego. One Tuesday, however, sticks out in my mind:

As I walked around the “cattery” (a huge open area with 2 rooms, a couple of very large cages for newcomers and kittens, and plenty of high places and cozy spaces) I found myself face-to-face with this young black cat. A newcomer. I took an instant liking to him. For some reason he reminded me of Diego because of his “presence”. Although I didn’t physically interact with him, I innocently whispered to him, “If I didn’t have my guy, I’d take you home with me.” (Needless to say, I would never have brought another cat into the house because Diego would not have tolerated it – and I would never let anything destroy the connection Diego and I had.)

Yet, there was something about this cat and I looked forward to seeing him the following Tuesday (unless he found his furever home before then). The following week he was still at the shelter and I interacted with him this time. I did not expect our connection to increase. Once again, Diego was doing fine at that point and knew he would be with me for another few years, so I told myself, “This little black cat will find a wonderful home”. End of story.

But then, the last week of November, My World started falling apart and I finally lost Diego on December 10th. (December is a rough month for me because I’ve lost several cats during that month, including Ortoloni who passed away many years ago on December 4th.)

In addition to my extreme grief over Diego, I kept seeing this other cat’s face. In the midst of my heartache, something compelled me to visit the shelter yesterday. He was still there. They had named him Onyx Binx, but I call him Ramses. He’s a 6-month-old Oriental Shorthair and as I sat with him it was apparent that we were starting to build a relationship.

I woke up today reaching for Diego and thinking about Ramses. I felt so conflicted… I ran into a neighbor on my Power Walk who immediately asked how Diego was doing. Of course I broke down and told her he was gone. Then I found myself telling her about Ramses, and how I felt I brought about Diego’s death by what I said to Ramses that first day. (Stupid, huh?) Debra was comforting and when I waffled about not knowing if Ramses was THE ONE she said “I think you DO know.”

When I look at the sequence of these events, there are many synchronicities. These thoughts keep running through my head:
Deep down did I somehow know that Diego was really ill and I just wasn’t facing it?
Why did I feel such an urgent need to volunteer at the shelter? Why then?
Was I supposed to be at the shelter at that time because of Ramses?
Did the Universe have all this planned?

Diego and I shared a love and bond that I will have with no other cat – just like Ortoloni and I had our special connection. They will always be a part of me. But I realized today that my heart is large enough to accommodate another love.

As I sit here writing this I am in tears, still grieving much for Diego. Lord Greychin. My Best Friend. My Familiar.

However, there’s also a lightness in my soul. A small light of hope. Ramses.

I drew this 3-card spread the day after Diego passed away:

The spread speaks of Hope (The Sun), Surrender (The Hanged Man), and a premonition, surprise, or secret revealed (Seven of Knives).

Waking up this morning I had an moment of clarity. When we open up our hearts and home to a pet we know we will get our hearts broken. With the exception of some birds, our pets will not outlive us. Yet we still take that leap of faith. Of Hope. We Surrender to it. And we are blessed with the Secret of love returned – unconditionally.

I was then reminded of a card given to me when my Dad died. It included a portion of a poem that speaks of hope and believing that you will find love and happiness once again. Here is the poem in its entirety:

You have to believe in happiness

You have to believe in happiness,
Or happiness never comes.
I know that a bird chirps none the less
When all that he finds is crumbs.

You have to believe the buds will blow,
Believe in the grass in the days of snow.
Ah, that’s the reason a bird can sing,
On his darkest day he believes in Spring.

You have to believe in happiness –
It isn’t an outward thing.
The Spring never makes the song, I guess,
As much as the song the Spring.

Aye, many a heart could find content
If it saw the joy on the road it went,
The joy ahead when it had to grieve,
For the joy is there – but you have to believe.

– Douglas Malloch

I will close with this. I discovered an online forum for those grieving the loss of a pet. After I posted the December 14th piece there, I received this very touching reply from one of the members:
“…I don’t think you knew Diego was ill. I think he knew he was ill and somehow he or some divine power led Ramses to you and you to him.”

We Don’t Move On from Grief, We Move Forward with It

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Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary (Thanksgiving 2019)

After having a wonderful time during the first visit, I couldn’t wait to go back on Thanksgiving day for their annual “Thanksgiving Feast for the Animals” – and the place was packed!











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