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Secret Origins: Ziggy

It was a late August day back in 2010, Dad left a voicemail on my cell. A bit cryptic–simply telling me to call him. As my aunt was in the hospital for something, I immediately feared the worst, and called in a panic…only to find out it wasn’t anything urgent.

Dad had been online and came across a Craigslist listing for a cat at a nearby shelter, and Mom had insisted that he needed my blessing before there’d be any consideration of getting this cat, as I was in visiting often, and it’d only been a few months since we’d lost Kayla after having her over 18 years.

I found the listing Dad had seen, and immediately approved.

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The shelter had him tagged as "Sigmund." I’d planned to add "Dewey" to that, both for the library-cat and figuring it would sound quite distinguished. Sigmund Dewey.

The shelter had posted the listing too early, so Dad had to wait a few days–they had to allow time for notification any potential owners to come in and reclaim him. During that time, I recall posting in a blog at cxPulp that whether he knew it or not, this was a lucky little cat–because though he was in a shelter for the then-moment, he either had a family that would reclaim him…or he already had a family that wanted him.

And as things went, on September 7th, 2010, Dad went in. As he’s told me, he walked into the place, and even with the other cats meowing and reaching out and clamoring for attention–Dad only had eyes for Sigmund.

…Sigmund, who huddled in the back of the cage and wanted nothing to do with anyone, let alone being pulled out of the cage. But Dad got him out, and that day, he brought this cat into my life.

My conscious plan was to "tolerate" this cat, to "put up with" its presence…I wouldn’t be mean or anything, but I’d be indifferent–he was gonna be Dad’s cat.

That evening after work, I drove the hour in to meet this cat. Such a significant thing, adopting anyone new into your life–and I had to see this cat for myself.

One look at him and I got down on the floor to get his attention. He wasn’t sure of me at first, but then came over to check me out, and allowed me to touch him. (And for the rest of his life, "our thing" was that I was the one that would get down on the floor with him, so he almost never would hop up onto me).

While we were talking, the matter of his name came up, and Mom had a slip of the tongue, clearly saying Ziggy where Dad was calling him Siggy (for Sigmund).

The cat looked RIGHT at her, and we realized in that moment that THAT was his name.

He was Ziggy.

And he got several "pet names" or nicknames. In my own recollection, I most think of "Little Buddy" from Dad, as he’d call Ziggy or get his attention. (And that he was, he was Dad’s little buddy!). To me, he was "Handsome Cat" (cuz I thought Handsome more fitting than Pretty or Beautiful, though those absolutely fit as well). And to everyone, he was also just Zig, or Zig-Zig, or such. But Ziggy was what his "full name" has always been, at least to me. Just like I’m Walter, but go by Walt. He was Ziggy, though he’d go by others as well.

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The first photo above is the photo from the original listing, the very first photo I ever saw of him, the very first, period, that I ever saw OF him.

And just above, him resting on Mom, is the final photo I have of him.

The very earliest photo I have of him. And the very last.

Dad brought him into my life on September 7, 2010. And I had to say goodbye to this sweetest, gentlest cat I have ever known, on December 7, 2017.

And in between these photos?

I have THOUSANDS more. It takes all I have right now to hold it together just handling these two photos right now. I’ve shared hundreds, maybe thousands of photos of him before–on Facebook, in messages to friends, occasionally in this very blog.

And I know I will share even more yet, as I somehow learn to live in a world without this precious little cat. I can’t begin to find the proper words, in the proper order and quantity, to feel I’m doing the little guy justice. And as I break down now typing this, I can only say that this is far from the last I’ll have to share of him. But though he’s at peace now…

It is us, those left behind–Me, Dad, Mom, our other cat Chloe, friends and family who knew him–that suffer. Hurt. Have to pick up the pieces of broken hearts.

And me?

Absolutely nothing in my life before this has ever hurt so much, or affected me as this has.

Ziggy Kneeland.

Sigmund Dewey.

Little Buddy.

Handsome Cat.

Zig.

Zig-Zig.

This quiet, gentlest of spirits…

So very, VERY loved, and missed more terribly than words alone can ever begin to describe.

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Remembering Kayla on the 27th Anniversary of Her Birth

kayla_cornerSometimes it seems like Kayla’s still just around some corner somewhere.

But as in years past, I’m taking a moment to publically remember my little cat.

Today–October 4th–is the anniversary of her birth, back in 1990.

It’s hard to believe that now, in 2017, it’s been nearly 7 1/2 years since losing her, back in May of 2010.

She’s the only cat I’ve had or ever known where there was a definite date of birth…Kayla was a "purebred," that Dad found in a classified ad when we started looking to get a cat, back in 1992. He’d been a fan of the Himalayan breed, and though I wanted a kitten, he followed up on an ad, and we wound up bringing Miss Kayla Krystal home one January Thursday. As a purebred, she came with "papers" detailing the date of birth, and so on.

Said "papers" got stowed in a compartment on the plastic "pet taxi" vet-carrier and somewhere along the years disappeared. Because we didn’t care about ’em.

Kayla was instantly a part of the family, and other than as a clinical "fact," her being a "purebred" never mattered.

Even now, all these years later…I’ve yet to be able to string together a lengthy post about her. So many memories, across nearly 18 1/2 years…and for all the writing I do, have done, will do…there’s no doing justice to what this little cat meant to me.

To date, she remains one of THE primary "constants" in my life, a presence far longer than anyone other than immediate family.

She’ll always be here, until no one remembers. Always here, always part of my heart such a precious part of my life.

Below: several times Kayla was the focus of a "cover" in my The Life of Walt series of photo pieces.

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Remembering a Kitty

Kayla had a documented birthday, and the novelty of that and the impact it made on me (barely 11 at the time) stuck with me, cementing the date in my memory. October 4th, 1990. She was basically 15 months old when we got her in January of 1992.

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We had to say goodbye to her in early May 2010. While I’d known we didn’t have much time left with her, the exact timing still came as a shock, and crushed me. She’s still with me, often in thought, often in memories. One of extremely few constants in my years of life.


But it’s not the loss I’m noting here…it’s her life. Though I have far too few photos of her, those I do have are too many for a post like this. I’ve selected a quick few to share. I’ve probably shared at least some of these previously, but I do so in the moment today without regard for prior sharing.

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In one of my "go through a bunch of longboxes" projects in October 2009, Kayla joined me, curious about all the activity (if not just seeking attention/company…we were the only two living soul in that house at the time). I had the boxes piled around, and she seemed to have a great time climbing around, checking them out. Kayla rarely would allow any box (or bag or other container that she could get into) last long without her getting into it or on it (or both).

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At one point, I’d left a longbox open without a lid, and she found it, and loved the texture of the comics–she hunkered down and pawed madly at ’em. Some folks might’ve been horrified at the cat doing that to their comics…but me? I grabbed the camera and caught her in the act, comics be darned. My kitty was engaging with the comics.

kayla_pooped_on_wolverine_01Now, back in the early 1990s, there were a bunch of "local one-day events" for comics, including a "First Thursday of the Month" recurring event, held at a local hotel. I’d convinced Dad to take me several times, and one of those times, I found what was at the time a true treasure for me–a $6 copy of Wolverine #1.

Turned out it was a bit water damaged, hence the price at the time. Still, I had Wolverine #1!

HAD.

Kayla did not approve, and one day, I found the issue laying out on my bedroom floor.

Kayla had pooped on it.

Even though it was in a bag/board…I threw it out. I’d not been happy with the waterlogged nature of the thing anyway, so she did me the favor of providing an excellent excuse to trash the thing. (I later obtained a much better-condition copy for a whopping 25 cents!).

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Here she is kinda looking up at me taking the photo.

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And here she’s simply settled in by her ‘feeding area’…in the later years, she’d sometimes sleep here…it was an out of the way corner where she wouldn’t be bothered; she had the cool floor and often a sunbeam…and she was already by the food and water.

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I really like this photo of her in a recliner. Big ol’ chair, small little cat. Like a throne. And she was definite royalty, at least to me.

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This one’s not the greatest photo of either of us…not my best, and she’s turning to squirm away from being held as the photo was taken. But it’s one of extremely few photos that I have where I am actually in the photo WITH her, as I’m 99.9+ percent of the time the one doing the photography with cats…

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This one’s also less than wonderful of me, but has me holding Kayla. She was a ‘purebred’ Himalayan…but I’d swear she was part ‘Ragdoll’ the way she’d let me pick her up and she’d just go with it, totally chill. (By contrast, present-day, I pick Ziggy up and he squirms almost immediately to be put back down).

I could pick Kayla up randomly, and she’d just settle into my arms–even when I’d pick her up and hold her like this on her back.

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Miss Kayla Krystal. October 4, 1990 – May 10, 2010.

Today is the 26th anniversary of her birth. And as far as I can tell, and as far as I did my best in my part to do so, she had a great life…19 1/2 years, just over 18 of which she was part of my life.

Happy Birthday, Little Cat…

25 years ago today, Miss Kayla Crystal was born…a purebred Himalayan. At 15 months, she joined our family–I was 11 at the time. She was just Kayla to us–our cat, a part of our family. Being a Himalayan was incidental to the fact of her place with us.

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Though she left this world in May 2010–nearly 5 1/2 years ago (preceded in September 2008 by our younger cat Christy), her memory is still there, is still here, is still part of me, she is still in my heart and memory and mind and…there just aren’t words for this feeling.

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One of my favorite memories of her, from 2009…I was searching comic boxes, and curious as ever, she joined me, and seemed to really enjoy climbing on the boxes, pawing at them, and even at one point found one I left a lid off and I caught her pawing madly at the tops of some comics. Where some might’ve been horrified…I just wanted the photo of her doing that.

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I miss you, Kayla…

#SaveWinston Ends On a Happy Note

winston_on_comics_carol_and_johns_comic_book_shopI was quite dismayed early on Monday to learn that Winston, a Cleveland-area comic shop’s shop-cat, was missing.

I’ve been to this shop (Carol & John’s) a handful of times, and even if I’ve only caught a glimpse of the kitty, that’s made me smile, and justified the visit. (And I once drove out there specifically hoping to see Winston…something I’m contemplating doing this weekend again).

For me, there’s just something to there being a “shop cat” around…particularly given the way I’m such a “cat person.” I’d encountered a shop cat at a comic store in Pennsylvania about 6 years ago that I’ll always remember–he followed me around, stuck his paws down between issues while I flipped through a longbox, and even decided my head was a plaything while I knelt to flip through a box on the floor and he was stretching down as far as he could reach over the edge to swipe at me, trying to get me to play with him. I had also once “discovered” a book/comic/something shop when I moved for grad school back in 2004…the cat curled up in the window caught my attention, or I wouldn’t have even noticed the store.

There’s also the story of Dewey, chronicled in the book Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World that gets to me.

I ‘discovered’ Dewey barely a week after I lost my first cat, Christy…and reading the book had a huge impact on me, was truly cathartic and really helped me, in its own way, to deal with that loss.

And aside from that, it’s just fascinated me ever since, to consider there being a library or a shop or such with a resident cat that I might see every time I went there.

Even as I type this, a memory’s just surfaced that when I first “discovered” Carol & John’s, I researched the place online, their web page, before I went out, and it was the notion of Winston, their shop cat, that “sold” me on driving out immediately, and the inward thrill of actually seeing him briefly (it was late and he’d probably had enough for the day–I recall him going behind the counter away from the main part of the shop).

So when I saw the top edge of a “Missing Cat” poster in my Facebook newsfeed early Monday afternoon, I had that immediate thought I always have–feeling bad for whoever has lost a cat, but was shocked and then dismayed to realize it wasn’t “just” Carol & John’s page sharing a local missing kitty, but it was their own kitty–a kitty I’ve met, that I “know,” and it was a gut-punch I don’t usually get from such postings.

I’d shared a couple of the posts on social media myself, doing what I could to get the word out so anyone local-ish would know and could keep an eye out, all the while dreading what seems to be the “usual” horrible news.

winston_found_screenshotSo when a friend shared a post to my newsfeed last night, I was first curious about the post…but my heart truly leapt with a beat of joy when I saw what the post actually was:

Great news!

He’d been found, he was safe, the story had a happy ending.

And I’ve thrilled tonight looking at the Carol & John’s facebook page, reading all the comments, seeing several recently-posted photos, and generally seeing just how well-loved this cat is, by so many in the community.

I’d commented to a couple friends last night that I’m sure Winston’s gonna have extra visitors this week, and as mentioned above, I myself am really thinking I want to take a trip out there to see him (regardless of a Not-At-Comic-Con sale the store is holding this week).

And obviously the situation touched me in such a way that it’s what I chose to write about tonight, superseding any other posts I might’ve written.

If you’re in the Cleveland area, it’s well worth paying Carol & John’s a visit. Great service, amazing stock, plenty of bargain-bin ($1) comics, lots of new stuff, a kids’ play area…and of course, Winston the cat.


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Photo (above): Winston laying on some comics, back home again after going missing for a couple days. This particular photo was posted as the profile picture of the Carol & John’s Facebook page Tuesday evening 7/7/2015. Please visit their page, check them out (enjoy photos of Winston at least!), and all that.


You can find them at 17462 Lorain Ave / Cleveland, Ohio in Kamms Plaza.

I Was the Cat [Review]

iwasthecatognWritten by: Paul Tobin
Illustrated and Colored by: Benjamin Dewey
Lettererd by: Jared Jones
Edited by: Jill Beaton and Robin Herrera
Designed by: Jason Storey
Published by: Oni Press
Format: Hardcover (6" x 9")
First Edition: August 2014
Cover Price: $24.95

These days, almost exclusively, my reading is ongoing super-hero stuff…primarily Valiant, Ninja Turtles, and starting the summer, Marvel‘s Secret Wars (2015) stuff. Even the occasional collected volume is generally something whose content was originally serialized, such as trying one of Image‘s vol. 1s or some other $9.99 first volume. I only have so much budget and don’t often care to take a chance on unknowns when I’m perfectly happy with and have a huge backlog of other stuff I’m already reading/trying to keep up on.

So last summer when I saw ads for this book, I Was the Cat grabbed my attention. Full-page ad; full back-cover ad, actually, and I’m a cat-person. So the prominent cat on the cover and the title gave me cause to look and consider. The book turning out to be a hardback was a bit of a surprise and the price seemed a bit steep "on paper." Then I saw the book and its presentation was attractive, it was pleasantly thick, and looked to be well worth its price. But I was buying other stuff, and tacking an additional $25 onto the purchase was not something I was prepared for, so I passed on it.

But where often passing on "the immediacy" of something, letting it slide past that initial "gotta get it" moment, and time moving ever forward tends to show me I’m not nearly as interested in something as I might have thought, or that any perceived interest was merely hype and I "forget" about a book…this one stayed on my mind. The title, and the image, and sheer curiosity.

Thus when I came across the book again…I picked it up, deciding anything else I might find to buy could wait–I was not passing on this again. Though I had some slight worry about it living up to my months’ worth of expectation, I’m glad to say I needn’t have worried.

In simplest terms, I Was the Cat is about a talking cat–Burma–who is nearing the end of his ninth life. As such, he hires Allison Breaking–a blogger–to write his memoir, so that he doesn’t simply pass away unnoticed. In execution, we meet said blogger and her friend and gain insight into where she’s coming from and her reaction to learn that her employer isn’t some eccentric rich guy but actually a real-life talking cat. Amidst Burma’s telling tales of his past lives through history we begin to see that there may be something else going on. Burma isn’t just a cat that can talk…he’s been part of significant historical events, sharing time with many famous, influential individuals…and he’d had his sights set on ruling the world. Unlike most cats that people say must want to do so, Burma was able to do something to attain the goal…and it turns out that on more than one occasion the world had actually been in his grasp. But those times behind him, it remains simply to chronicle those times and pass his knowledge to the world at large after all this time. There’s a subtle dynamic sprinkled throughout with a bit of mystery, and I found myself piecing things together along with Allison, and quite enjoying the experience in general.

As said, I am a cat person, which is largely what drew me to this. And Burma is an interesting character; the whole premise of the book is interesting. We get some of the typical cat-stuff here; but more than just some novelty of "a talking cat" we get a fully-realized character in the cat; someone who has learned and grown from his experiences, had dreams, pursued long-term goals, has a life…and just "happens to be" a cat. That the character has been such a part of history comes from the notion of a cat having nine lives. This plays out as a sort of reincarnation–Burma has had a number of different appearances…it’s his soul that’s remained consistent. Despite the many human attributes, he remains a cat–in appearance, mannerisms, poses, and interactions. It’s an authenticity that I really appreciated and made this believable in its own way, without requiring extra suspension of disbelief.

Typically I expect comic book cats to be cartooney, but Dewey maintains a realistic visual style, and Burma and other cats never come off as being anything but ordinary cats. And as much as the story is engaging, the whole thing is sold by this realism and avoidance of visual tropes for cats in comics. Transitioning through multiple lives means multiple deaths…and while not gratuitous, the simple notion of seeing a cat that’s dead or injured cuts to my heart, and there were several panels that pained me, feeling for Burma in a way that human/superhero deaths in comics do not. While cat lovers may find the scant handful of such panels disturbing, they should not be enough to put one off from reading this…I myself kept peace with the narrative thread that it’s Burma in the present talking about his own past, and that though his bodies experienced deaths, we weren’t seeing his finality.

To be reserved in my phrasing: I was suitably impressed with this entire book. The story, the art, and the physical package as a whole. I Was the Cat is well worth its cover price, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys cats…or conversely, anyone who is highly suspicious that their cat or a cat they know might have more going on than merely existing in a life of luxury, their every need catered to by their humans. I wish I had bought and read this immediately when it came out, but having read it nearly a year later, instead of being one of my favorite reads of 2014, it gets that candidacy for 2015.

Another year

My Kayla would have been 23 today…

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