Felis Schneideris: On Chia & Other Cats I Love(d)
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 7/1/02
I am a child
on a hot summer morning in 1971, or so. I am watching tv- Channel 13 in New
York. PBS. 1 of my favorite tv shows is on: Sesame Street. I am entranced
by a short 2 minute or so film. It is a time-lapsed film of a flower opening. As
its petals slowly unbud the camera pulls backward gradually. This is not a
nature film. The flower (of unknown color- for it will be almost 15 years before
we can afford our 1st color tv) is opening on top of a New York City
tenement roof. My childhood has known intimacy with such rooves. There is a song
(sans words) that plays in the background behind the film. It is Classical
music, it is hopeful. I would not know the song until nearly 30 years later,
last year, when an itinerant musician was playing the same song on a violin in
the Minneapolis Skyway across from the Hilton Hotel. The tune is 1 of
Vivaldi’s Guitar Concertos. As then, more than 3 decades ago, a year
ago, & now, I weep at the song’s beauty, the memory of that film unseen
for decades, the pull it exerted on a rent urban boy’s ability to dream. I
remember it all as I re-member the past, literally piece it note-by-note. I do
so often. I do so with my words. I do not know when you or I will be reading
these words (for the 1st time, or not) but I will try to re-member
& remember what it contains. Read on & see why.
As I begin this essay on 6/29/02 it is the 33rd day since my beloved little cat Chia escaped from the naďve impulse of my wife Jessica to let her experience a little bit of nature. I do not mean to bewail or bemoan more than is needed, but I do need to write. It is a compulsion that simply is- perhaps a way to fend off the impending despair & helplessness I feel. In the days since 5/27/02, a Monday- that dread Memorial Day- much has happened: the war against Afghanistan continues & people die cruelly & needlessly; people have died of natural & unnatural causes locally & worldwide in similar needlessness; a noted major league baseball pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals- Darryl Kile- simply dropped dead at age 33. All of these things have import- no doubt- to many people who breathe today, but none are laced with the personal twists that my lost little cat embodies, & none will be more than a footnote in 50 or 100 years. But I hope my writing perdures so that future generations will know that not all humans were so laced with greed & stupidity as they have read in the great Historical Archives yet crafted. I’ve detailed parts of Chia’s tale in 2 prior essays on the deceased scientist Stephen Jay Gould & Ethics & Grief, but I want to place her in to a larger context of my life & the world. A part of me feels I truly owe this to that sweet little cat I never got a chance to say goodbye to, & may never see, nor hold, again.
I am now 37 years old & have had what many would term ‘a rough life’- at least by American standards. Granted, a child laborer in Calcutta, or a waif in Peru, or a budding Kalahari huntsman may scoff. Then, again, how many of them could even comprehend the inner urban terrors that stalked late 20th Century America? Personally, I never really thought of such things until my mid-20s. As you live through things you just live through things. 1 can ruminate, as 1 of my propensities often did- yet until you have experienced something greater than what you accustom to, the context eludes. I never knew, nor really cared, that I was ‘poor’ until someone I cared for pointed out my childhood was impoverished- by most standards we Americans accept as ‘middle class’. When I was 6 years old (around the same time the Sesame Street film struck me) I saw my 1st murder & made my 1st deep connection with a member of the feline set. I detailed my relationship with Friend, the alleycat, in my earlier essay on Christmas. I will return with some more insights in a bit. But, now, let me return & unheave some of my emotions regarding lost little Chia.
Unfortunately Jessica, my wife, decided to pay no heed to my repeated warnings to never bring our housecats, especially Chia, outside. Being a bit younger than me Jess often resents my greater life experience & consequently seeks to learn on her own. The ability to learn from others’ mistakes & heed others’ warnings is always a sign of true self-confidence & maturity. Jess claimed Chia was at the window & mewing to come out. Jess took her less than 10 feet outside the front door, put her down on the ground, then something startled Chia, & off she went into the wooded area behind our house before Jess could react. (It was this very tendency of Chia’s I’d long noted- thus my injunction against bringing her outside.) Jess screamt ‘Chia got away!’ as she ran into the house, to me on the computer. Stunned, as I had never ‘lost’ a cat in 27 years of ownership, we searched & searched. No luck. Then Jess said she saw Chia that 1st afternoon a few hours later, out back, as she searched, but she could not catch her. That 1st night we could not get humane animal traps because the local Bloomington. MN Animal Control & other stores were closed because of the holiday. We reported her lost to the Animal Humane Society, our Vet, & police, within an hour, though. In retrospective error, I thought if we left no food out Chia would get hungry & come back. You should leave food out so the cat develops a pattern & returns to where it knows food is to be had. That 1st night, Jess awoke & in the middle of the night saw Chia on the driveway, went out, cornered her in our fenced-in backyard, but Chia got away. I was furious with Jess for not waking me, as I could have caught Chia, being faster & quicker than Jess. Every night since we have had traps out & about our house & other places of supposed sightings.
The 2nd night neighbors supposedly heard a cat hissing in the woods- was it Chia snarling at raccoons that inhabit the deeps? Or another cat? We were buoyed when Chia seemed to follow a typical cat’s pattern & on the 2nd Wednesday apparently returned to our backyard & took a big dump in the middle of the yard- as if to mark her territory. Indoor cats who get out frequently do such- neighbor cats have never done so in the 11 years I lived in this house. The dung resembled Chia’s (all cats have different coloration, size & shape to their scat), & had a leaf & dead beetle in it. We were encouraged. But it has not recurred. Thunderstorms racked Minnesota for the better part of June, & there were great mudsweeps which poured down some sewers in the road behind the wooded area Chia escaped to. The fact that Chia (who was not a 100% physically fit cat) might have been swept down a sewer in a flash flood still gnaws at me as a reason as to why she has not returned to re-mark her territory (our backyard). We made flyers & blanketed the neighborhood on foot & car- covering over a 1˝ square mile radius. We got an online service called Sherlock Bones to send postcards to over 1000 more addresses & local vets in a 6 mile radius. Chia has a microchip & if brought to a vet can be easily identified. After looking online in the 1st few days & coming up empty in a search for a cat-sniffing search & rescue dog we stumbled upon 1 flyer at the AHS a few weeks ago (3˝ weeks after Chia fled) & hired Don Olson, his ex-wife Amy, & his dog Shadow to hunt for Chia on a Thursday night. No luck. She may have moved out of the local area in the weeks before we could get a dog- damnable Fate seems to have been at our throats from the start! We’ve also gotten numerous calls from caring neighbors, & we’ve trapped on their properties, but they’ve been mostly dead ends. There have been some weirdnesses too- about a week ago 3 of the humane traps in our backyard had just come through a deluged night. 1 of the traps’ food dishes was eaten but the trap unsprung. 2 of the other traps had their bowls eaten, but the traps were unsprung & the dishes outside the traps- 1 about 15 feet away from the trap! Could rising water have lifted the bowls out, then an animal moved them? This morning, 6/30/02, 1 of our less-sturdy traps had caught something but it escaped & broke out the back- it pulled & bent some of the wires & forced itself out. Doubtless it was a raccoon (laden with its almost human hands) because a few weeks back we had to return 1 of our other less sturdy traps because another coon had similarly demolished it- the digging, smell, dirtiness of the traps, & remanent fur attested to this. Today I will return the 2nd broken trap. But the sturdier traps (both bought, & borrowed from a co-worker of Jess’s, as well as Bloomington Animal Control) have worked well in capturing non-Chia wildlife. To this date, at various locations, we’ve caught 10 raccoons, 2 cats, 1 opossum, & 1 rabbit. I released them all.
There is little help available to a bereaved pet owner whose animal has run away. Animal Control is part of the Police Department, but try getting a police dog to hunt for a mere pet! They are not as important as a lost person. & even if the day is crime-free, as is often the case in suburban America, God forbid cops actually do something positive with their excess time- there are too many phony speeding & parking tickets to write! Forgive me, but having grown up in the police state-like area I did I have come to a general dislike for the small men with big guns who are charged with serving & protecting the public, yet who twist that into serving themselves McDonald’s breakfasts at taxpayer expense, & protecting their own asses from their inevitable misconduct. Neighbors, however, are a different tale.
As said, we made many flyers & passed them around. Most people are indifferent but many are kind & helpful. Some folks have tried to call to the strays they’ve seen. Others have called us, but when we trap the cat has moved on. The other night we got a call & were there in less than 5 minutes- we saw the cat but it was not Chia. It was a gray & white cat. Human beings are terrible witnesses, but people’s desire to help is encouraging. Too often it is easy to dismiss most as uncaring, but to see the occasional good in Mankind is a small salve on my rent heart. A couple of weeks ago we caught a 6-toed little (6-7 lb.) female tortoise-shell that turned out to be a neighbor’s in the road behind us, in the same wooded area Chia 1st bolted to. Perhaps Chia fled the area because it had been marked by the 6-toed cat? We kept it for a week & Jess called it Polly (as in polydactyl). We made updated Chia flyers with info on Polly. We kept her rather than take her to AHS. She was, unlike Chia, unmicrochipped & may have been a stray. She was very affectionate with strange humans (Jess & I), but hissed at Shadow & Sassy, our 2 other cats- she was almost an inverse personality to Chia- who hid from human visitors to our home, but dominated Shadow & Sassy personality-wise. We laid Chia’s temperament on to possible human cruelty to her as a kitten- this may also be why she has hidden from sight so long- if she still lives! But Polly seemed to be a housecat. Sure enough, on the night that Don Olson & his female dog Shadow were to come search for Chia, a neighbor called. It took a week for them to miss their cat, yet the day we 1st caught it we had spoken to them & they mentioned they had a 6-toed cat but said it was a black cat. This cat was indeed theirs (also named Shadow- like our male cat- but was 8 years old) but they did not even know its color, nor miss it for a week! & note how much more creative & apropos Jess’s appellation was- these are the connections a creative mind makes- where a non-creative mind strolls dimly by. Yet, these nonchalant owners got their cat returned safe & sound. We, who have agonized far longer, are still bereft.
We have also had our share of insensitive people. The 1st few days we were searching out back the neighbor directly behind us in the wooded area started complaining. He’s an old fellow we have never learnt the name of, so simply call Old Nasty Guy. This fool was more concerned with the fir trees he planted than our lost cat. The ridiculous thing was his fir trees were all planted under taller trees’ impressive shade & many only a foot or 2 away from each other- they were strangling each other root-by-root. The saplings of this would be Johnny Appleseed of the pines were therefore all brown & dying. Then, about a week ago, just before midnight, we got 3 successive calls at 11:39, 11:42, & 11:44 pm from an obviously mentally unhinged woman named Jean- 952-831-2747- who chided us as bad owners for losing our cat- How dare we stick a flyer in her mailbox! Didn’t we realize Chia’s probably dead & at the bottom of a river? Or that lost cats make her neighbor’s dogs bite her & her children? Or that they cause cougars to come into the area & attack people? She demanded we call her back so she could curse us out specifically. We didn’t & she’s yet to call back. She probably took her medication & forgot she made such hateful calls- or succumbed to embarrassment &/or shame. A few other people have sneered at us as we’ve looked around their houses- including a beer-bellied young fool. But, most have tried to help. The false alarms, however, dishearten- we’ve gotten spottings in the 4 cardinal points separated by a couple of miles- Chia would need to be a Supercat to be at all the places.
But, a part of me does feel that I was a bad owner- or at least Jess was. After 27 years of safe & sound Schneider cats I am now a ‘bad’ or ‘careless’ owner- 1 of those who did not love my cat enough to keep it safe. I did not ‘really’ love Chia. Such is what the wacky woman said, & such is what I might have thought before all this came down. But, occasionally, it is merely bad luck which drives the circumstance. Yes, alot of times (if not most) it is careless ownership, or the nonchalance of the polydactyl cat’s owners, that causes the flyers to go up- other times just bad luck. Often, when I’ve seen LOST PET flyers I’ve felt an anger that people let their pets out- especially declawed cats. This is why I stressed to Jess never to do it. But, again, being a bit younger than me Jess is wont to take such statements as a powerplay by me. She feels a need to rebel. Now, of course, she has learned her lesson- but why do humans always have to learn the hard way & not siphon off the wisdom of their elders? &, did I need to learn any lesson? To me the pain is gratuitous? & Chia- what lesson did she need to learn? Fear, hunger? Please! I can learn from others, but I know I am very much in the minority on that score. It wrenches me, seeing Chia’s photos & flyers up on the lonely Animal Humane Society wall. It kills me- especially as the dates of her flyer, & the other lost pets, recede into the past- little can sadden me more. A part of me loathes the AHS as a place of despair. My pride has also suffered- I’m super-organized. It’s 1 of the reasons I’m a great writer. I simply do not lose things, much less a living thing! Would a better owner have more impressed upon his spouse the need to emulate his level of care for animals? Did I fail Chia, in failing to school Jess in the duties of being a good owner? Is it really all my fault, as head of the Schneider clan, that our family is not whole? I’d never have dreamt this scenario of pain a few weeks ago. I feel so impotent, & filled with rage- 1st at Jess for her actions, then at Chia for seemingly spurning the year or more of love, care, & adoration I gave her, then at the whole fucking COSMOS- is it too much to ask for the safe passage of a small cat back to her grieving owners?
Worse, still, are the well-meaning but insensitive people who cannot comprehend the love for a pet. My best pal Joe- who I love & has guided me through many a personal trauma in the near-decade of our acquaintance- was startled at the 2nd time I called & mentioned Chia- that I was so upset. Since he is a father I explained, that as a non-father, losing Chia was the closest thing to a missing child that I could conceive of. Joe seemed a bit lost at the comparison, but he extended greater sympathy. Worse are the people who believe getting another cat will solve the problem. It’s difficult for me to imagine the soul with such a disposable temperament. Or, rather, I can imagine it intellectually, yet feel no connection to such a disposition emotionally.
Since Day 1 so much has seemed to be against us, & Jess has been relying on a # of online Lost Pet Orgs for help. But Chia is such a unique cat that I felt little help would come from such. Chia simply is like no other cat I ever have known. I say this not just because she is the 1 missing, either. Unlike Sassy or Shadow Chia has no comparisons. 1st is Chia’s personality- very smart & loving, Chia yet dominated our other 2 cats, Shadow & Sassy, as she hid from human visitors. This may have been due to a human cruelty which caused her a broken hip & limp in kittenhood. Chia was stubborn, though- she always wanted to do things her way- The Chi Way. We got that expression from the Limp Bizkit song ‘My Way’. It was the Chi Way or the highway. To remedy her hip’s pain an AHS vet prescribed Rimadyl. Chia almost died from it & was quite zomboid for days. This drug, it turned out, has killed large dogs but Chia somehow survived. She got the hip operation & survived. She even charged out of the cat carrier case after coming home from the operation, & limped down the cellar stairs before we could catch her. She had spirit to spare! We spent so much time, money, & love- & now it all seems so damned pointless. I knew in my gut that she would most likely be unlike all the ‘miracle pet’ stories online because Chia was so unlike those other cats; she was a Schneider- therefore cursed with having the worst possible thing happen at all times; such as the rain in the last month being of near deluge proportions (greatly hampering, if not conspiring against, us), &-
See, now I must interrupt things to bring this idea into focus- & why this is so hard on me, in fact harder than any of the deaths (even murders) that I have dealt with in life. Notice how my references to Chia waver between the present & past tense? Do I love Chia? Or did I love Chia? Which is valid? Am I stuck in some real life Schrödinger’s Cat predicament? Death is so much easier- even, say, the death of Jessica would be. NO, I am not saying I would prefer widowerhood to losing Chia, but the fact is that the best thing about death is also its worst thing- its utter FINALITY! & spare me the religious afterlife/afterdeath nonsense! At least you can move on from death. I pity the poor parents of milk carton kids- give me the final agony of a corpse any day! It is the not knowing which is so goddamned carcinogenic. At least Jess, as Chia bolted from her, had a last image- & then 2 later sightings. But if Chia never returns to us I will not even recall the last specific time I saw her. Her loss was that unexpected, that inconceivable to me! No last GOODBYE, nor I LOVE YOU!- O, Fates, please be kind to my sweet loving little girl! But, most of all, return her to me!
Before this, I thought I had inured myself to pain- &, indeed, death does not affect me. I’ve seen too much to linger stolidly over any particular 1. This episode, unfortunately, proves pain can still claw & rip at me. I am still, I guess, thankfully a sensate human being. Death is a singular pain- the grayer losses are more corrosive. It’s just too damned soon to past tense her, to say I REMEMBER CHIA…. Again, I apologize if this 3rd essay seems too much for a grown man to wail over a little cat, especially in light of tragedies we all know of & don’t. Somewhere, in the world, someone is more agonal than I am- alot more so, & with less recuperative grit. My hand to you, dear sister or brother. Far away, a galaxy’s worth of civilizations are death throeing as their home meets some ungodly ecological &/or cosmic disaster. My soul to your souls, dear comrades. But I need not be so generic- where I work, in the time since Chia’s disappearance, an older woman I like very much has had her aging husband hospitalized several times as he is prepared for some major operations. Death lingers over him & she knows it, too. Another younger female coworker, who I know by name only, recently had her 3 month old baby die of SIDS [Sudden Infant Death Syndrome], less than a year after miscarrying a fetus after being hit by a car. Still, it seems that the publicly defined ‘real’ tragedies are easier to handle than these little pains that life inflicts. Chia’s loss is not the worst thing to ever occur- but it is a deep pain, nonetheless. Tragedies bring the masses closer, & evoke sympathies- even if only to forestall the disapproval of others. The little woes, however, do no such thing, & individuate us into our own silent cells of perdition. They seek out our weakest spots & attack. The 9/11 victims’ families had a nation behind them. How many 100s of lost or murdered people since have gotten a fraction of as much coverage? Is their gruesome murder or frustrating disappearance not as sympathy-worthy? Apparently not- as the myriad daggers of the everyday just are not sexy enough to hold the public’s attention. I recall the bigger events in my life- the murders I’ve seen, or the last breath of my dad as he died, & then was hauled off like a deer carcass by inured men in white, & say to life- I accept that these things have to occur for life to continue, but please spare me the little, unnecessary, & pointless pains.
Chia could have easily died last year from the Rimadyl or the hip operation. Her loss then would have been alot easier & caused less pain. The extra year of love from her seems pointless now- a tease- & a cruel 1 at that. But was it? If she is gone forever, lost or dead- swept down a sewer in 1 of the torrents of the last month- can I really bemoan all the love she gave me? Can I really dismiss loving her quirks? Her distinctive, inquisitive mews? Her loving, knowing head turns with eyes squinted, almost flirtatiously? Her following Jess & me into the bathroom each morning- & hopping on to bathtub’s edge to go between the inner & outer shower curtains? Her pulling out the water bowl to the middle of the kitchen floor just for her own inscrutable reasons? Closing doors to prevent her from chewing on my computer’s wires? (O, have at it now, Chia- just come home!) The mouse she caught last year in her mouth & brought to Jess & me as a present in our bedroom? The emails Jess would send & sign as Chia complaining about Shadow or Sassy? & many other quirks too numerous for my recall to detail here & now. She was not just another cat- she is/was Chia Schneider! How unique, how precious all she is/was to me. How I adore(d) that cat! See, the curse of tenses comes up with a vengeance again! I will admit, a great part of this pain over Chia is relative to the revulsion I have for most of humanity.
I have wearied beyond caring for most of the human beings who bring pain & misery into their lives by their own weaknesses, perversions, needs & greeds. Most are slugs, even though a person of below average intelligence has infinitely more promise to bring joy & good to the world than Chia ever will. Yet, they choose-consciously or not- to reject their ‘inner angel’, for lack of a better term. I reject the notion that a human being’s life is more worthy than a lower animal’s simply by virtue of its humanity. Let’s face it- most human beings are just way stations for the people who really make a difference in existence. How many of the children of great people achieve greatness themselves? How many of the ancestors of great people were great? Most humans are just genetic placeholders for the greats few & far between them. But animals are different- especially pets. They give love, affection, company, & require only minimal provision. They lower the blood pressure in old folks, they bring out lucidity in the retarded, they make the embittered humanize, & the forlorn hopeful. The worst a pet has done is broken a possession or pissed on a rug- or, occasionally, by dint of species (usually in self-defense) attacked someone- but all without malice. They have not plotted against you in love or at work. They have not callously & wantonly murdered. They have not manipulated stocks for a brief reward. They know no greed nor spite. The love for a pet is truly unconditional love. I say this because, despite protestations to the contrary, human-to-human love is fundamentally conditional. We love others- absolutely- because of qualities we find desirable. Sexual love is obviously this way- even if shallow & based on things many of us would not deem adequate to demand the term love attached to it. Even the vaunted love for a child (even a mother’s love that politicians sickeningly preen over) is conditional- how else to explain all the sundered parent/child relationships? Now, I’m not saying it’s right that it should be conditional (although I believe it is)- but there’s no denying the fact. I’d even prefer to see human children in pain over most animals- because the odds are likely the kid will grow up into a selfish, slimy, abusive adult filled with fear, anger, hate, & all that trio exudes. But, a true pet lover loves their pet because it is theirs- even if a boa constrictor. This brings me to another quandary of terminology along the lines of my fury with tenses. Let me state this in no uncertain way: Chia Schneider is/was a SHE, not an IT! She is/was a sentient being capable of love, inquiry, fear, & a host of other emotions. While society recognized us as her owners she was no mere possession. Return me my baby & I will gladly exchange my car or stereo for her. A car or stereo does not rip a family asunder! It’s a small family & a small cat but she held open a big place within it.
Sometimes, I feel that if I get too cocky or complacent life slaps me down. After a horrible 2001 I felt 2002 was going to be, & already was, a much better year. I spoke too soon. In early May a lot of unethical bullshit at my work forced me to start looking for other employment- I will detail this further in a later essay. Then, that month’s end saw Chia’s loss. Just a few months ago winter seemed peaceful- my job was dull & unfulfilling, but secure, & Chia, Shadow, Sassy, & Don Moss’s winter-visiting cat Mango (Da Boss) would wait for us after work, then go to bed with us, & watch a silly tv show like ‘Elimidate’ before snoozing. I never took it for granted, like most folk would- but why to end it all so soon?
Already Jess wants to perhaps adopt a new cat- we’ve seen kittens at the AHS when we update our flyers. But, for me, it’ll be months without retrieving Chia before I can think of such a thing. I’d feel absolutely unfaithful to Chia- like I did not give it my all in hoping for her return, & like I was not giving true love to another cat- only stale, leftover, & borrowed love. I must wait to let myself love & open to possible pain again. It’s totally irrational- but then I’m only a man. Also, I’d need to be working elsewhere- to make a clean break of things. This unended loss is truly 1 of the 3 or 4 worst things that has probably ever happened to me- & off the top of my head the other worst things come up a blank. This is the closest I think I’ve ever been to devastation (although I’m really not close- it’s just a relativity thing)- & this is from someone routinely exposed to the cruelties of urban life as a child. It’s a slow torture. Even in the last week or 2, since the failure of the search & rescue dog, I’ve felt a creeping guilt over feeling myself move slowly away from all-out grief bit-by-bit. Again, this is merely the self-preserving pull of healing doing what’s natural. But it feels, slightly, like I’m giving up my Chia to death or worse! Damn- I never got that GOODBYE! It’s like when my dad died, but not. There, for a few years, we all knew he was dying but I put off saying all the things I wanted to say (how much I loved & respected him, etc.) because he would always be around another year, another month, week, hour, minute, etc. Now he’s over 19 years dead &, although I know he knew how much he meant to me, I never actually said it to the man face-to-face. I failed that test. Still, I know Chia felt my love. When she’d snuggle between Jess’s & my pillows & purred, I knew. It hurts to not have finality- even as a sliver of hope remains. O, to go back & stop Jess from taking her outside! O, to erase her memory & the pain! But, then, the love would be lost utterly, as well. COUNT ON NOTHING IN THIS LIFE! VALUE ALL YOU HOLD DEAR! In an instant you can lose it- like Chia- with all the years of expected warmth & love gone with her. It’s like waking a la Rip Van Winkle- she’s gone, after living her whole cat’s life- or all 9! This seems to be 1 of those damnable losses you must take in life. We are now reduced to just hopes & miracles. Chia’s best hope for safe return is also her worst- she’s a Schneider. Bad things happen disproportionately to us, yet we seem to overcome. Will it take a miracle? Hard work & persistence? Luck? Or are we kidding ourselves? If she is forever gone we will adjust, this is why we’re human. We Schneiders always seem to invite or inspire the worst case scenarios. We seem fated to be 1 of the 99% of non-success stories you never hear about. As I said, Jess has buoyed herself with online Lost Pet websites that tell great tales of animal recovery. You never read the stories of total loss there. But, a quick trip to the Animal Pound reveals the truer, starker side of the coin- most lost pet flyers are in vain. Think of it like those stories you hear of people who claim psychic precognitive experiences. They dream of a plane crashing, cancel their flight, & the plane indeed crashes. Oh my God! A miracle! Right? Well, no. What you don’t hear of is the 999 times such ‘visions’ turn out to be meaningless. Because the .1%, by chance’s virtue, panned out, people believe there was something miraculous- but it’s not. It’s known as chance. Same thing about the 1 time in 100 where you are instantly attracted to someone & finally- in that 1 time- it’s reciprocated. Must be ‘love at 1st sight’! No? Well, attraction is not love & humans are wont to forget all the times such lust fizzles- but get that 1 rare success & disproportion reigns! This is- in fact- the very seat of myth-making.
I am not stating these websites should not boast of the ‘miracle pet’ stories- but a disclaimer as to the #, & proportion, of forever lost pets would be welcome! Chance is the greatest force in the cosmos- believe it. No god nor demon has the sway chaos does. Is my gratuitous & undeserved pain the sign of a god? A demon? No, just bad luck compounding itself. Human joy & purpose have no truck with the cosmos. Karma? Did caring & protecting the little 6-toed polydactyl cat Shadow for a week earn us any? No. Synchronicity? Did the captured Shadow, our own cat Shadow, or Don Olson’s search dog named Shadow bring any luck our way? No. Is her return too much to ask of the cosmos? Perhaps this pain is, indeed, karma? Perhaps it is payback to me? But I am a good, decent, honest, & honorable man. Well, perhaps in another life I was Jack the Ripper, or Josef Stalin? Perhaps it is because, years ago, when I worked at Finast supermarket in New York, I killed 100s of mice that infested the store? But, I spared them unnecessary pain, no? Perhaps it is because of my accidentally killing a seagull on Wisconsin Point in Superior, Wisconsin 2 summers ago? Or, maybe, it was because I did not kill the pedophile/murderer, named Scummer, when I had the opportunity to do so & get away with it, over 15 years ago? It seems my life has been spent exerting 10 times the amount of energy most do to get ahead in life, just so I can tread water & not lose ground- be it personally, emotionally, intellectually, or financially.
I try to veer away from paranoia but times like these make you feel as if you are cursed, or marked. Let me expound on 2 pet ideas I have- 1 general & 1 specific. The General I call my 90/9/1% Theory: that is, on average, 90% of the cosmos is wholly indifferent to the desires & needs of life, 9 % of the cosmos is antipathetic toward such- or bad might be the term, & 1% & is favorably inclined, or good. There is therefore no incongruity between the assertions that far more is out to get you than aid you, yet far more has no ill will at all. But, make sure, at all times, to take advantage of, & glory in, that 1% of the good! The Specific I label my 99% Push Theory: That is that life tends to enjoy torturing me to the point where many others of a lesser fortitude would break, yet- somehow- at the brink (that 1% of the time not being harried), I survive, recover & regain my strength just to allow life its 99% torture time, again. It’s my own Sisyphan dilemma.
As proof of this let me briefly detail the problems I have had at my job in the months & weeks before Chia’s flight. I work at AT&T, in the Minneapolis Collections Department. For nearly 5 years I had accustomed myself to the dull repetitive & unrewarding aspects of the jobs & accounts I worked. The obvious mismanagement by Management was a tolerable annoyance. I was, & am, a valuable employee who always took pride in my perfect attendance & excellent work record. Last October 4 young (under 30) guys started conspiring with the Management team & passing out anti-union literature. The 4 willingly did management work & spied on the work of co-workers. The leader of the 4 even vowed to get 2 older women he did not like fired. The 4 had devised a system that allowed them to grossly inflate the department’s financial figures, so that they would garner praise. It soon became obvious that they were cooking the books & targeting other employees for disciplinary actions- up to firing. After getting ample proof of their assorted misconduct against fellow employees 7 of us filed a grievance with our union. But being weak, the union did little to settle things. The head boss, from New Jersey, had gone along with the 4’s scheme to cook the books & started targeting the folk who grieved. A couple of people lost their jobs, over highly questionable circumstances, & I- who wrote up the grievance- found I was accused of wrongdoing along the lines of the 4 miscreants- ‘coincidentally’ my 1st evidence of misdoing came within 24 hours of the New Jersey boss’s threatening my job. It was obvious I was set up & I now have proof of my computer being tampered with that I will unleash when I get other employment. However, the union could do little at the time & I was suspended, lost pay, & put on final warning- despite my prior perfect employment record. Management wanted me silenced- not gone! The manager in Human Resources who ‘investigated’ the matter found no such tampering- but that this person was investigating me was odd, since 2 years earlier I had reported him for rummaging through the private belongings of a then-employee. This Management tolerated. All knew I was set up. My manager, at that time, could not even look me in the eye- she silently went along with the recreant behavior- the lessons of Nuremberg have never trickled down! As all this was rounding out, then Chia bolted- her loss helps me only in that I do not care so much over my ill treatment at work any longer. Sadness reigns not at work, only because anger & detestation do- for all the scumbags within! But, the 4 scumbags & the HR Manager are not made to suffer such a loss- then, again, such shells of humanity must be incapable of love & such loss. It also reminds me of the many cowards & liars who harassed me & Jess via email, telephone, & legally, during Cosmoetica’s 1st year of existence- they never endure such; but even if they did it would only be justice- to them, if not the poor lost soul (animal or human) that caused them pain. But I do want folk like that to suffer- they deserve pain- not me, & certainly not a poor little housecat! Yet, I cannot even name the scummy bastards here for the blind & dumb law protects their evil by allowing them to sue me for defamation if I merely expose their evil- & name them! Sweet little Chia is not only more worthy of existence in this world than such people- but 1000-fold more worthy!
This brings me to a crucial realization that has occurred to me because of Chia’s loss- why I am a cat lover, & merely a dog liker. It’s a case of knowing 2 facts separately but never connecting them. In my earlier essay on Christmas I sketched out the fact that it was that old gray alleycat I dubbed Friend that I held to my bosom in fear of that dread day I 1st saw life taken from another human being. Scrunched down between the garages & rosebushes of a communal alleywaythe 2 of us were silent as the killers crept by, trying to discover if anyone witnessed a thing. I did, but only now do I make the connection that part of my lifelong affinity for felinity stems from the fact that it was a stealthy cat I clung to in fear- not a yippy dog. I often felt that eyes were upon me that day- did the killers actually see the little boy & a cat hiding from view? Did the sight of the cat direct mercy to emanate from a murderous soul? Animals, pets, & especially cats, have always been a greater more dependable source of strength & comfort for me than any human. Friend lived in 1971, & the month or 2 I knew him has significance I cannot possibly do justice to in mere words. 3 decades have not diminished him.
Yet, words DO have power- thus why any writer writes. It is, however, a power that affects in small ways over great time- a fact which writers ever deny as they primp themselves with self-importance they fear- & know- time will dismiss- if not ignore totally. It’s why in my poems I write of horror & beauty. I want those who come after me to know they are not the 1st to know & feel such. Hopefully, I can make my experiences SEEM real to you who read of them- but we both know it’s an illusion, so we wink & nod at it, as if old pals on a common bond. Friend is long gone, some 30 years or more- BUT still here, now, as I write. Is Chia in a similar spot? Do I read this decades hence & recall my lost little darling? Chia in 2002, Friend in 1971. I feel, now, a need to tell you of all the cats that I was ever close to. Such power they brought- it is difficult for me to remember life before we got Chia- as it is difficult to recall the joy before we lost her. Damn the mind & its games! How distant 5/26/02 is! It may well have been the Devonian Age.
Let me go chronologically. I include only my cats. I never knew Jess’s 2 cats that she grew up with, although the photos of them hang over our computer- big orange & white Snoopy- now 19, & little black Spunky- who died last year at 15. That task is Jess’s to relate, perhaps, someday. Although Friend was an alleycat, & I knew him only for a short period in the summer of 1971, he was- for that time- MY cat. He was a generic, nondescript big gray tabby from the rough alleys of Queens &/or Brooklyn. He was probably a few years old when I knew him & probably lived a few more years after our parting. Rest easy, Dear Friend.
The 1st real Schneider pet (excluding goldfish) was a little kitten we got in the summer of 1975- this was Suzy-Q. I believe we got her from the North Shore Animal League in Nassau County, Long Island. We decided on a birthday of 7/17/75. We could have no pets in our old apartment but in 1974, for the 1st time, the Schneiders- mom & dad- became bona fide homeowners (or mortgaged debtors). Suzy-Q was white with grayish splotches- & 1 around an eye- I believe her right eye. She was a little hellion & so mischievous. 1 day she got caught up in the basement ceiling’s boards. She was covered in brown soot. I loved that little cat, but she came down with feline leukemia & died on the rug in our kitchen on October 9th, 1976. As the strength left her body her tongue relaxed out between her canines in a sort of snaggle-toothed grin I’d become familiar with. My sister, Christine, & I wept. I believe an older relative we called Grandpa Lehmann (although not really our Grandpa) died a few weeks earlier. The tears were not nearly as steady for that kind old man as they were for little Suzy-Q. I, who had witnessed a dozen or so murders (& many other instances of death, rape, & violence) by that time in my life, could not escape the pain of this little cat’s death. She was so tough, so spunky, so full of life- until it was robbed from her. I had some nicknames for her- as I did all my cats (previews of my wordsmithing abilities)- but the years have robbed me of their recall.
A few months went by, for we had to let the feline leukemia virus go dead before bringing a new cat into the house. I believe it was a week or so before Christmas when mom decided to adopt a huge neutered & declawed male cat named Freddy. A lady who lived down the block from us had taken care of this 2˝ or so year old behemoth since kittenhood. Legend had it she named him Fearless Fred (after the comic strip character Fearless Fosdick) after she caught the plucky kitten fending off a huge German Shepherd in an alleyway. By the time we got him Freddy was 25 lbs. But he was amazingly agile & athletic. He was heavy but a solid heavy, if you know what I mean. He was also very aloof & not that friendly. He was black with a black nose, but with a white belly & mittens. If you stood him up on 2 legs he resembled a penguin. We settled on a birthday of July 4th, 1974. For the 1st few years Freddy & I lived together & occasionally played- but he was really, in most ways, Christine’s cat. Freddy longed to get out the back door & explore the neighbor’s backyards. Often Christine & her pals, or I, would have to retrieve him. He learned to stretch up & push the screen door’s handle, & force open the door if it was unlocked. He was a determined puss! Over the years he acquired assorted nicknames: Goings (pronounced Goyngs, not Go-ings), Fatso, Fat Boy, Fat Stuff, Fatty (which he responded to because of its sound similarity to Freddy), Blubbomaniac, & Fwed. He was a rough & tumble boy’s cat, too. I enjoyed rough-housing with him. But he got me back- often he would find where I was sitting & jump straight onto my groin area. 25 lbs. of cat right there leaves its mark! He could also knead you so violently as to almost push you off the chair or bed he wanted to himself. Then, at about 7 or 8 years old something odd happened. Freddy’s personality totally changed. Can a neutered male cat go through menopause? Apparently. Where he had once been aloof Freddy seemed to experience a 2nd kittenhood. He became playful, affectionate, & a little dumb- perhaps he had gone senile? Nonetheless Freddy was a very lovable cat after that.
Perhaps, however, his conversion started a few years earlier- in 1979- when we adopted this stray tortoise-shell female we called Kitty. She was the runt of a litter & apparently abandoned by her mother. After a few weeks of trying to catch her we succeeded in doing so by leaving cat food at the bottom step of our cellar door, where Freddy was at the other side of the screen. Kitty took a shine to Freddy, went down, & I snuck up & closed the door. She was ours. Dad named her because he called her ‘Itty Bitty Kitty’. She was the consummate scaredy cat. She NEVER wanted to go near the kitchen door that Freddy could not keep away from. We decided on a birthday of 8/1/79 for her. We caught her late in ’79- as it had snowed a bit. She & Freddy were inseparable pals. They slept on the same shelf together at night, when we would put them down in the basement each night- (until we relented & let them up all night- mostly because Freddy would loudly bang away at the door to be let out), & looked out our backyard window, upon our old radiator cover, for many years. Until we had Kitty spayed a few years later she would yelp every month in heat & attract all the tomcats in the neighborhood. It was at the spaying we discovered she had cancerous lumps on her ovaries. After that, all was well. The 2 cats spent 11 happy years together. Kitty earned a few nicknames too- the 2 most used were Boo-Boo, because if you went ‘Boo’ she’d run, & its derivative, Booey. Kitty feared me & Dad (till his death in 1983- & it took me over 7 years before I cried over his death!), but was attracted to mom & Christine. I resented Kitty’s coldness to me & would sometimes deliberately scare her- although it was hard to sneak up on such an alert scaredy cat. 1 day, she was up in my bedroom when I walked in. I saw her & shut the door. She was trapped. I opened a drawer to get clean underwear & Kitty- still smaller than a 6 month old kitten- hopped in. She took a shine to that drawer & for many years my underwear was laced with tortoise-shell colored hairs. Then, in early June of 1990 we noticed Freddy had lost some weight- old age had caught up with him. In a few weeks he was under 15 lbs. On 6/15/90 the Vet said he was terminal. By the 19th the once-impressive, yet agile, behemoth was too weak to walk. The next day- 6/20/90- we took Freddy to be put to sleep. Mom & I were with him as he took his last breath at 2:52 pm EDT. Like Suzy-Q, death relaxed his tongue into that snaggle-toothed grin. Freddy, whom I’d had innumerable conversations with (giving him his own human voice & dialect), was dead at 16. The last couple of days Kitty shunned & avoided Freddy. She sensed Death’s cold grip on her lover & friend. She was devastated, & would often search for Freddy, yet never find him. But she would be alone for only a few weeks.
The Freddy-Kitty dynasty had a brief interloper, however. In the summer of 1980, I came upon a little kitten. It was a male less than a week old. He was a gray tabby- apparently abandoned under our front porch. It was only the 2nd week of my going to my new High School. He was so tiny. Mom & I decided to call him Reggie- after New York Yankees baseball star Reggie Jackson- a hero of mine- & mom’s. I wanted to keep him inside, warm, & fed, & nurse him. Dad insisted 2 cats were enough & told me we could keep him in during the day but at night we should put him in a basket with a blanket so his cries could call his mother to come get him. I thought this unwise, but Dad was the boss. Each morning, before school, for the next few days, I’d check the basket. No returning mother. On the 4th or 5th day- a Tuesday- little Reggie was dead- stiff & cold. I wailed & blamed Dad for his cruelty. If Reggie had been abandoned why would his mother come back? I was so distraught that I cried myself ill & missed the rest of the week of school. 15 years old, a High Schooler, yet I missed nearly a week of school over a kitten I’d known only for a week. I believed Reggie was born 9/18/80 & know he died 9/30/80. Other than his very kittenhood I recall only his squeaking, Freddy’s indifference to him, & Kitty’s hissing at him- the hoped for maternal instinct was absent. Yet, this brief interloper was a Schneider cat!
Less than a month after Freddy’s death, on 7/15/90, at 10 am, Mom & I went to the North Shore Animal League to get another cat. Mom was severely missing Freddy, whose import to her had grown since Dad’s death 7 years earlier. This is when we got Sassy & Darren. Mom picked Sassy because she had always wanted an orange cat. Sassy was an orange & white 6 or so month old kitten with a pink nose. The League folk named her Sassy & it was an appropriate name. Mom, to this day, proudly recalls that she swiped Sassy up because a little child was also looking to adopt her. I convinced Mom that we should get an older male cat, too, because they are rarely adopted & often put to sleep. I found a big gray tabby tomcat who reminded me of Friend in looks & Freddy in size. He was generically named Darren. As we drove home I recall Darren was passive but Sassy gnawed her way out of the cardboard carrying case the League gave us. From Day 1 Sassy was sassy! Kitty was not expecting new pals. She hid. Within 24 hours we knew something was wrong with Darren. He was leaving diarrhea in the litter. We quarantined him & took him to a vet. This was when we 1st heard of the feline equivalent of AIDS: FIV- feline immuno-deficiency virus. Unlike HIV FIV was transmitted not through sex but through stool & airborne matter- much like the feline leukemia that killed poor Suzy-Q years earlier. We had no choice but to kindly put him to sleep. I stayed with the big alleycat as he snaggle-tooth grinned his unfurled tongue into kitty heaven. He died 7/25/90. We decided he had been born about 7/1/85.
The other cat, Sassy, we decided had been born about my birthday- or the day before- 2/1/90. While she was healthy, we noticed her growing fatter. She was pregnant. A week or 2 after Darren’s death she gave birth to 5 or 6 orange kittens who were undeveloped & died. Sassy was too young & her body too small & immature for a pregnancy. She was spayed after delivery. After recovering for about a week Sassy soon assumed dominance over Kitty, who seemed to long for a protector. The 2 became buddies (although Kitty was never as close to Sassy as to dear old Freddy), & often napped with my mom on the couch at night. Sassy would lick Kitty’s head in much the same way Freddy had. Kitty knew, & enjoyed, her place as a sidekick, it seemed. Though Sassy was about Kitty’s size, at 1st, she soon dwarfed Kitty, who was never more than about 5 lbs. Sassy has ranged up to 16˝ lbs. over the years. Her early pregnancy had a weird quirk- it distended her belly to such a point that it never sprung back & Sassy has had a shaven pouch (for her shaved area never grew back after giving birth) which hangs down over her anus. Rarely has her butt been totally clean. Sassy would often use her front paws to pull herself along a rug & scratch her butt. This left brown smears on the rugs we would have to clean. What a sight to watch this chubby cat scat-scoot like that! She & Kitty made the trip out to Minnesota with us in 1991- the 1st & so far only Schneider cats to fly in an airplane. Like fat Freddy before her, chubby Sassy longs to go outdoors. She is not a scaredy cat but, in ways, is more bluff than bite- she will avoid human visitors & hiss at other cats. Some of her nicknames are Chubby Girl, Wubby Girl, Girly, Chubbinsky, Wubby, Chubbenheimer, Sassenheimer, Sassmeister General, etc. But Jessica, my wife, has never liked Sassy since meeting her in 1999 & calls Sassy Assy. She is now 12 & the oldest surviving cat.
In spring of 1993 I was still longing for a big rough & tumble male cat to fill the niche Freddy had, & which poor Darren could not. At a strip mall I chanced upon an organization that was opposed to Humane Societies’ treatment of animals. I forget the name but they were weird & opposed declawing & euthanasia. I spied a big gray tabby similar to Darren. He was about 3, I was told. I inquired about adopting him, but told them my tale of Darren & FIV being legion amongst strays- especially old toms. I was assured that this cat- called Buster- had passed muster & had a clean bill of health. A lady came home with me to inspect our house- to see if I was a cat torturer or not. I also passed muster. I adopted Buster 4/10/93. However, Buster did not pass muster. From his 1st dump he had diarrhea. This is often brought on by the stress of changing environments- a first sign of emerging FIV. The vet we took him to confirmed he was FIV-positive. I took him to be euthanized so snaggle-toothed & grinning, on 4/19/93. I decided he was born on 3/1/90. I called up the organization I got Buster from & derided their direct lying to me about Buster’s medical status. How dare they feign being more caring than the Human Societies, yet foist ill cats on unsuspecting animal lovers, & endangering those peoples’ other pets! Especially considering they dared to question my competency as a pet owner! Of course, they did not answer my calls. This was another case of well-intended zealots doing more harm than good. From then on I decided older gray tabbies (especially stray males) were just too risky- despite my wanting to give hearth to these undesirables so often overlooked in favor of the newest kittens.
By 1995 little old Kitty was nearing the end of her life- she was the same age as Freddy was when he died: 16. Perhaps there was a certain synchronistic tinge & poetry to that fact. As she had done years earlier with Freddy, now Kitty was shunned by Sassy, who sensed Death coming for Kitty. On 5/29/1995, at 9 am CDT (ironically, another damnable Memorial Day), we frantically knocked on the Bloomington Vet’s door to let us in & let poor Kitty die in peace. At 9:12 am she was given ether. At 9:15 she snaggle-toothed her unfurled tongue into death. Little Boo-Boo was gone. Mom & I were with her. Mom adored her & vowed Sassy was the last cat she’d ever own. The pain of the losses was too much for her to take any longer. It was only then that we learned from the Vet that Kitty was blind- & had probably been for over a year. This explained why- in her old age- I had been able to often sneak up on her without her running away. When younger I’d never been able to do so to the hyper-aware Kitty. Yet, Kitty’s other senses took over & she navigated the house almost as well as when sighted. Earlier, I declaimed how organized I am- this is why I know the dates of all these events, as I have faithfully recorded them over the years- I NEED to do so. These are very important- & positive- events in my life- 1 laced with too much of the negative. By contrast, I could not tell you the date I lost my virginity- such are my values. Over 4 years would pass & Mom & Sassy became inseparable, until in 1999 Mom & I flew back to NYC to visit Christine, her husband Bob, & my niece Amanda. Mom was hospitalized as her legs swelled up. She nearly died from emphysema & spent a week in a NYC hospital. The following year, when Jess & I married Mom moved into an apartment nearby & Jess moved in. Sassy & Mom were separated & Sassy took to me greater than ever before- especially since Jess would always chase her & tease her- sometimes meanly. Jess did not realize the trauma Sassy felt over mom’s departure. She took Sassy’s snubbing, & bewilderment over losing mom, as an offense.
That winter of 2000-01 was the 1st winter we watched Don Moss’s & Marj (No Relation) Schneider’s big orange & white long haired cat named Mango, as they did their usual wintering on Tybee Island, Georgia. He was clawed & an outdoor city cat. Jess took to him & Sassy did not, although she was no match for a full-grown adult male of 8 or 9 years. He established dominance & became known as Boss- or Da Boss, as in ‘Mango Moss, he’s Da Boss!’ Although, technically he was a Schneider, too- Marj’s cat. But Mango Moss is/was so much more poetic. That December we went a few times to the AHS & saw some cats we though of adopting- 1 was a cat with the name Chia- I liked that name. Come April, 2001 & Mango was just a few days from being picked up by Don Moss on his return, when on 4/14/01 we adopted the 2 latest Schneider cats: Shadow & Chia.
Shadow was a medium-sized, medium haired black cat with a gray underbelly- easily the most muscular, trim, & athletic of all my cats. He was about 2 & we decided on a birthday of 1/1/99. He apparently had spent a year & a ˝ with a family before they gave him up because they moved into a place that did not allow pets. Then he was adopted by a girl whose parents would not let her keep him. A week or so earlier Jess had seen him at a Petsmart near her job, & he was so friendly that she remembered his name & that one of his ears seemed to have been bitten & torn. The name seemed apropos & he answered to it, so we kept it. When we saw him at the AHS Jess recognized him & we adopted him. He was even friendlier than Freddy after his 2nd kittenhood. He’s constantly snuggling & trying to lick you. He is so lovable, & loving. I often told Jess we got the 2 best possible cats we ever could have gotten- ugh!
He was a good match for the 6-8 month old kitten we’d adopted. She was nameless but listed as a ‘found’ cat- aka a stray. After Darren & Buster I was wary of strays. But it turned out she had been brought in with her mother & fostered by a family. But, she tested negative for FIV & feline leukemia, so we took her & Shadow. Sassy did not like the new cats. But, I soon noticed Chia’s limp. After Mango left we took Chia in for an exam. We were told had the vets discovered this before they would have euthanized her & never put her up for adoption. But we already loved this kitten I decided was to be called Chia. The AHS vet prescribed Rimadyl & this nearly killed Chia- whose kidneys needed to be flushed out. After a week’s worry Chia was OK. A month later she was spayed, declawed, & had her hip fixed by removing the ball of her right hind leg. She’d always limp, & might get arthritis with old age, but she should be a healthy old cat when she finally ‘left us’. After the operation her shaved side took a month or 2 to grow back. Her black & white pattern was not just her fur but went down to her skin- she looked like a cow & we called her our ‘Little Heifer’. She & Shadow were instant buddies & we caught them humping on our bed once- 1 of many times they probably did it. They slept together, played together, ran up & down the hall, chasing each other, as their footfalls echoed behind them, off our wooden floors, in the night. The 2 were such pals, in many ways even closer than Freddy & Kitty because their relationship was more equal, & I don’t think massive neutered Freddy ever tried to mount little Kitty. Shadow has a weird meow/squeak that goes’ ‘Nyeh!’, & we would hear his Doppler shift squeak its way from the kitchen to the bedroom, right till he hopped up on the bed. Shadow was a cat who slept at the head of the bed with us. Chia preferred the feet. Shadow is so easy-going. Chia became the dominant cat, personality-wise (even this past winter when Mango returned little Chia would often chase & harry Da Boss- not to mention aging Sassy). She plumped up from under 6 lbs at the operation, to about a healthy 13˝ lbs the day she bolted. By contrast the larger Shadow is only about a lean 11˝ lbs. We would watch as Shadow & Chia would playfully wrestle on the bed. Chia would start in, Shadow would usually subdue her, & then Chia would squawk as though she were innocent of the instigation. We called it the FWF- Feline Wrestling Federation. Both cats earned many nicknames. Shadow was Da Boy, Boy, Horny Boy (from whence the other names came- before being fixed he once ejaculated on Jess’s arm), Gray Boy, Gay Boy (as this past winter, when Mango returned for 4 months, Shadow would try to hump the older male cat- who was indifferent to the omnisexual Shadow’s advances) & Doppler Boy. Chia’s personality lent itself to many poems by me & Jess. Her nicknames derived mostly from the Chi Way sobriquet (from the Limp Bizkit song): Chi Way (which sounded Chinese- therefore Jess called her the Ancient Poet & Prophet Chi Way; also because the outsides of her eyes slanted upward more than any cat I’ve ever seen- when she’d squint she looked like a cartoon rendering of an Oriental person), Chiest Of Ways, which gave way to the Hispanic sounding Estofways (Estevuez?), then to Chispanic (Chinese & Hispanic- a native of Chispańa?), Glorchia Estofways (ala Gloria Estefan), simply Way, Jess’s ‘Girthy Girl’, my ‘Velveteer’ (over her smooth shiny coat of fur), Little Girl, & ‘Little, Little, Little, Little’.
Then, it all ended on 5/27/02, at about 3 pm. You know the rest. It is the unknown which kills- especially not knowing if she lives & is suffering, or has died, & suffered. Again, is the failure mine? Shadow has shown small signs of stress & loss. He tries to chase & hump Sassy- thinking she’ll play like Chia. Old Sassy does not respond. It’s as if Abbott lost Costello. Shadow seems lonely. When the 6-toed cat (another Shadow) was here for that week Shadow tried to play with her like with Chia- she did not respond- except to hiss at him, yet our Shadow was merely bemused, ‘Nyehed’, & went on his way. Sometimes Shadow just runs wild, but his running buddy is gone. He looks, but where is Chia? I have no answers for Shadow, or for me. DAMN! I feel such hatred for so much- especially the scummy humans I work with, the criminals I see on tv, etc. I long for a call from a Vet that someone has brought in Chia, or that someone has finally caught her because she was so hungry she showed herself. Let this be before winter comes & she freezes. Or is this all moot because she is already dead?
Chia has become my own Moby-Dick- except she symbolizes all that is good in my life- that which tantalizes & then goes too quickly. How many years shall my heart pursue her? Shall I even after years have gone well beyond her expected lifetime? This is the 35th day without her- & I know other cats have returned after a longer time away- but those cats were not Chia, nor their owners a Schneider! 35 days, 35 years, 35 centuries? How long? Bodily death be damned! Where is my Pequod? What is my Pequod? Or is she a ghost? I see the photos of Chia that are on the flyer I attach below- is that all I will ever have of her from now on? Is she dead, or has she found a new home? I am not so selfish a man that I’d prefer her dead to being with a loving new owner. But even that meager solace eludes me. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, a thing from years ago wends its way into my mind. It is 1 of my Dad’s favorite songs- Sunrise, Sunset.
The image I have is of a giant bloated orange sun rising through the haze of a billion years ago when Chia, I, & all my cats were just pale twinkling dreams in the tiny churnings of some would-be ameboid’s organelles, which even then contained the seeds of us all, & the relationships we shared. How the mind taffies time- short decades unnoticed, long days of agony, etc. I miss Chia more than I can say.
Wherefore the predicament that compels the crafting of words even as it ordains their utter failure? These words will- & for me must- carry Chia far past the silly Afghan war, that dead pitcher, the hospitalized husband or dead child of my co-workers. I want you who read this to know these things were & are of value- always, they are important, & are ‘of me’. These words, which in my poems & essays, sculpt a singular Schneiderverse out of our shared universe, only to invite you back in, closer to me, are a cosmos, a hedge against the oblivion of forgettance. This is art’s power & true purpose! Thus I write & glory the inevitable failure!
I was reminded powerfully of this a few Sundays ago when I caught a great old rerun of The Odd Couple tv show, from that fated year of 1971. It was the Calypso episode where the boys vacation in the fictional Hocaloma. For about 30 minutes my grief was abeyed.
Then the art was gone & the grief returned. I will & must remember & literally re-member for I’ve wept too much for her to not do so. Even in 35 years, if she never returns, her very name will bring tears of her loss. But I will be different- literally. Every few years the entire human body’s every cell is replaced. By then I will be through several renewals & an old man. Yet, still the scheme of me will remain, buoyed by my memories- & that will retain Chia’s scheme- all that is & was of her, to me & Jess. This view of life has no place for a god nor God- to say it is part of a plan both says it all & says nothing at all. I believe the greatest lesson to be learned from & about most things is that most things (corporeal or experiential) are innately void of ‘lessons’- save this very fact itself. That’s where human sentience comes in- any lessons learned are merely what we imbue things with, only to retrieve & store within ourselves.
Each day that passes seems to bring less tangible things for us ‘to do’ in order to recover her. We are left with chance (miracles, if you prefer), & setting the damned traps every night. Is she even alive- I wonder? Or, like Suzy-Q & Reggie, will she never grow old?
Perhaps I will open & re-read this essay in those 35 years hence, & it’ll all flood back to me like the Vivaldi Guitar Concerto, from my childhood tv show. Sweet Chia will dance through my aging mind, reminding me of lost moments I loved her, & all things. Let me scream this! My cats will always BE! Perhaps not in the Nietzschean eternally recurrent way- but just in me, as I remember & re-member them all- those gone, here, & yet to be. There is/was Friend, Suzy-Q, Freddy, Kitty, Reggie, Darren, Sassy, Buster, Shadow- & yes, adorable lost little Chia!
O, damn the fucking tenses- wherever, whenever- CHIA, NO MATTER THE OUTCOME- I LOVE YOU, & ALWAYS WILL!
***A Flyer: Chia in her ‘Chi Chair’ & on
our kitchen floor!
LOST– A Cat! Reward!
5/27/02 1 of our cats ran away as my wife was playing with her in our yard at
about 3 pm. Our names are Jessica & Dan Schneider. Our address is:
On 5/27/02 1 of our cats ran away as my wife was playing with her in our yard at about 3 pm. Our names are Jessica & Dan Schneider. Our address is:
[our address & contact info]
UPDATE: Given the time that has passed Chia is probably thinner, more ragged looking & unkempt than she was. She may be in feral cat mode & not be responsive to humans. We have had numerous sightings which turned out to be other cats or dead ends. But we appreciate the efforts of the kind & caring people who have attempted to help. If you think you see Chia call us & try putting out a dish of tuna or some food to attract her so she will return. She will then be easier to trap if she has a single place to return to for food. If you hear a strange sound under a deck or porch, cats often hide under them. Also, she may be getting food from someone who leaves food out for cats- let us know of anyone who does such as their property may a place to trap. We appreciate the help so far & will reward anyone who aids in returning Chia to her home.
Thank you. Jess & Dan Schneider
2/17/03 UPDATE: Chia never returned. By September we'd given up trying to snare her with the food & traps. But our love for her is constant. In her grief Jess tried those ripoff artists known as pet psychics only to have a cruel 1 tell her Chia died horribly. I attempted to do an exposé of these demons but that fell through. By August, however, we'd decided to get 2 other cats- not as replacements, but because poor Shadow was so depressed over losing Chia. It was so sad to see him looking for her. We adopted, on 8/11/02, a cute 4 month old white, with odd gray, black & white markings, male kitten named Figaro, whose name we quickly changed to Oscar because he was always running wild. Wild Oscar- Oscar Wilde- get it? We also adopted a 2 year old Calico named Molly but she hated Oscar & the other cats & acted out wildly & violently. The next weekend we exchanged her for a 2nd kitten- with somewhat similar markings like Chia. But she is much thinner. We named her Kiwi- nicknamed Teeny Girl, because we called her the Great Kiwini (Itsy-Bitsy Teeny-Weeny Little Black & White Kiwini) after we saw her escape from a closed room by crawling through the space between the door & the floor. She has big round eyes, & is more energetic than Oscar & always getting in mischief. She was 2 months when we got her. Oscar was nicknamed Little Guy (& Oscargizer, because he's always on the go), but now at 10 months he's bigger than Shadow- but Kiwi is a small cat. All 3 are buddies & the trauma of Chia's loss no longer affects Shadow, who has new pals. I wonder if he still thinks of her? I know Jess & I do, & always will. DAN
THE GANG: Shadow, Kiwi, & Oscar (left-right)
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