Cats I have loved and lost
|Nigel, my first cat|
|Chi-Chi my second cat|
How I came up with the name, Filkin...
(excerpts from emails written in September, 1988)
Subject: you little filkin
Last year we had FILKIN and MILKIN.
This year we have a customer named SPILKIN.
I'm NOT kidding!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Subject: ... and what about ...
Subject: Re: you little filkin
HEY! I've got five kittens at home... maybe I should
name them FILKIN, MILKIN, WILKIN, SPILKIN, and NOD.
** unfortunately, I do not have gale's replies**
Subject: Re: ... and what about ...
Great minds think alike! I put the "and NOD" in BEFORE
I read your second reply!!!
**And, when the kittens were weaned**
I put an ad in the paper for my kittens,
and they've all been taken except for two.
I'm keeping one.
I mentioned this to Abby, and we talked, and
she said I could give out the phone number at
Farmers' if I get any calls after all my kitties
are gone. So, I'm gonna do that, OK???
**17 years later***
originally written: December 15, 2005
Filkin the cat passed away today, at our home at the age of 17, due to kidney failure.
Remarkably, I was present at Filkin's birth, in August of 1988, and at her death this morning.
With the exception of a few "vacations" when Filkin would disappear, sometimes for weeks at a time, we were together for all of her 17 years.
Filkin's most memorable "vacation" happened when I moved myself and the cats to Long View Farm in May of 1990. Filkin and her mother, Love Kitty, disappeared for six months (I believe in protest!) only to return to the Farm when winter arrived, wanting a warm place to sleep! I had grieved their "deaths' on that, and on many other, occasions, only to be surprised when they'd turn up hungry and cold. Love Kitty, tragically, was hit by a car on our dead-end, dirt-road on June 21, 1996.
Filkin was born in the bathroom of the house across the street from where Gil and I live now. She arrived in our world when I lived at that little cottage alone (see www.k2k9.com/song/winter.cfm).
Those of you who worked at ALSG in the 80's may remember a teacher client by the last name of Filkins. Mr. Filkins took large groups of students overseas with ALSG every year. Someone once remarked, some time in 1989, in regard to his traveling group "The Filkins?! It sounds like a litter of kittens!" A couple of weeks later, Love Kitty gave birth to a litter of six identical gray tiger kittens. I gave away five, and kept one, naming her Filkin, of course.
Over the years, many of you have helped take care of Filkin during my numerous vacations and business trips. I thank you so much for that help, and hope that the attached photo of Filkin and her dog, Hobie (taken just two days ago), will brighten your day.
Filkin was a treasured member of our menagerie of pets, and will be missed and remembered every day.
Love and best wishes during this holiday season,
|Charlie, the cat (top); and Mr. Kitty (bottom)|
In 1991, about 20-some-odd cats came to our care at the farm. These 20-odd cats were promptly deposited into our barn, having been driven in a VW hatchback several hours from their New Jersey home where three times that many cats had been living in one house.
Of the 20-plus cats, one very young male cat made himself an immediate friend to us. Much to the chagrin of many of the people living at the farm. These folks could've been described as "anti-cat people."
At the time, I was a "cat person", having not yet adopted my two dogs Hobie and Hector, who would come to us many years later. Oh sure, I had my faithful Timba, and we had Annie and a few others, but during the early 1990s, I most assuredly and most definitely loved cats more than dogs. To have 20 cats deposited on my doorstep was a dream come true. I was in love with every last one of them.
This one young male cat was very small, very skinny, and rather sickly. Someone called him "Skinny Bops" -- I mean even people who hated cats couldn't help talk about this cat and give him a nickname! That's how likeable he was. "Skinny Bops", later to be re-named "Mr. Kitty" by me, was originally mistaken to be a female. He was so tiny and sprightly, and he just seemed rather feminine.
Many of the anti-cat people were not happy about the cats. They wanted to have the cats destroyed, despite the well-known fact that their previous owner was promised these cats would be cared for for the rest of their lives, and despite the fact that the cats had been saved from certain destruction -- at great personal expense -- in the form of an old woman's broken heart. The woman loved those cats as if they were her own flesh and blood. She felt responsible for them. She made us promise they would not be destroyed. We promised. They would not be. They would not be destroyed.
The first cat to be considered for euthanasia was "Skinny Bops". He (she, at the time) was very sickly and had a giant bald spot on his (her) side which he (she) would lick for hours on end. He (she) wouldn't eat, and seemed to be wasting away. People talked about having this particular cat "put to sleep" at length. We stood in the way. This was our most favorite of all the cats that had been delivered to us that day.
We started noticing, when cars pulled in the driveway of the farm, the dogs Timba and Annie (and other visiting dogs) would run up and greet the people arriving. Along with them, every time, was the little black cat. I started declaring that he (she) was not just a cat. He (she) was a very special cat who was really a reincarnated dog! He (she) acted like a dog in many ways. While many cats run away and hide from people, or at least sit in defiance, aloof off in a corner with one eye open, this cat was different. He (she) would run up to people, greet them, meow at them, rub against them and hang around with the dogs, not with the other cats! He (she) was part of the dog's pack!
We started allowing this cat to hang out in our living quarters at the farm. We had a large painted wooden deck that overlooked the 150 or so acres of rolling farmland right outside our sliding glass door that the dog, Teaneck (also from New Jersey) knew how to open with his paw, even if it was locked! The little black cat also learned how to open that sliding door, as well as an old-fashioned "half-screen" that held open the window in the summertime. The cat would open the door, or the screen, and dart off in search of bats that lived in the cupola of the barn in great abundance. This cat could catch a bat, in his mouth, every time. He would bring them to our apartment as "gifts", and then we'd have to enlist his help in catching the flying critter again, so we could escort the little Count Draculas of our apartment.
I started calling the cat "Missy" because she (he) was a bit mischievous. I would say things like, "Hey, Missy! Don't open that window!" The name "Missy" eventually evolved into "Miss Kitty" -- in spite of the character from the old Gunsmoke television show.
One day, Miss Kitty walked up to some inanimate object, I don't remember if it was indoors or out, backed into it, and sprayed a big long stream of urine onto the object. That was the day it occurred to me that Miss Kitty was not a Missy at all. She was a he! We immediately renamed the cat Mr. Kitty, and that name stuck.
We never did allow anybody to kill Mr. Kitty. He ended up living with us for years, and becoming elderly. When we left the farm, Mr. Kitty was one of only seven cats we were able to rescue from certain death. Mr. Kitty moved with us to our next house where we lived for about a year. And then back to my little cottage on the pond where we all lived -- me, Gil, Timba, Mr. Kitty, Love Kitty, Filkin, Maggie, Charlie, Louise and two parakeets. We picked up Pointy at the cottage. We lived in the little cottage, all eleven of us, for about three years, and then we moved across the street where we still live today, minus all of the cats except Maggie. Mr. Kitty came along for all those moves. When we moved across the street, he refused to be brought over in a cage like he had the previous two times. Instead, he walked across to the new house with me and Timba.
Mr. Kitty remained Timba's companion, going with her on her morning walks every day, and her afternoon walks every day, for the next 5 years or so. When Timba passed away, Mr. Kitty was as sad as the rest of us. He became old himself.
In the end, we tried to provide medical cures for Mr. Kitty, but it was hopeless. His kidneys had failed, and he, the former "Skinny Bops" was losing weight. The vet sent us home and told us he'd euthanize Mr. Kitty if and when we needed it to happen. Mr. Kitty even lived several more months after that. In October of 2002, Mr. Kitty hadn't been outside in about a year. Never being a house cat, it was difficult for us, because he really didn't know how to use a litter box. One day in late October, it was one of those Indian-summer days when it's warm during the day, but cold at night. Mr. Kitty "asked" to go outside. We let him out. He walked the neighborhood, on the same route as he had once done with Timba. He went door-to-door, visiting all of his and Timba's old haunts. He didn't come back in the house that night. We left the garage open for him -- all our cats know to go to the garage if they have to stay outdoors overnight.
The next morning, my neighbor hollered over to me, "Are you missing a cat?" I said yes. She said she found a dead cat in her yard. She put the cat in her trash barrel. She asked me to come over and ID the body. Sure enough, lying there curled up in a little ball was our beloved Mr. Kitty, dead as a doornail, and flat as a board. She said, "He's flat as a board. Why is he like that?" I explained that he had been very sick for many months. Poor lady thought her husband had run over the cat with his car! No, Mr. Kitty was just that skinny. Skinny as the day we met him in 1991. No, skinnier.
We buried Mr. Kitty in the Timba Memorial Park, right beside his beloved canine pal, Timba.