The sun just came around to this angle again and I remembered Kelly sitting in this spot, waiting for me to come over to pet her. This is the photo I came to identify with A Little Bit About Kelly, little Kelly’s rescue story. Though I took the photo in 2011, Kelly is ageless in her petite stature, her tortoiseshell coat, her slightly uncertain expression, and she peeked around this wall at me for years. I never thought I’d catch it, but after many tries I did. Below is what I wrote when I first posted the photo.
She certainly looks mysterious in all that dappled sunlight as she peers around the corner at me.
Kelly used to be shy and frightened of strangers, but she’s taken up this spot very near the entrance door where she can greet people. She’s quite talkative, and while guests are admiring all those congenial black cats and Mistress Cookie, Kelly lets them know she is waiting. She stretches one sweet little paw way out in greeting and purrs so nicely, then does her graceful little dance routine ending with lots of face rubs on the visitor, who would be interested in any common black cats with such a precious tortoiseshell kitty right there?
It’s a joy to see Kelly, in her senior years, finally comfortable in life with humans and enjoying guests instead of always being cautious and hiding from strangers. She wasn’t feral but a stray cat trapped with a feral colony, and was so fearful in her cage at the shelter that she was to be euthanized because no one would adopt her and the shelter needed the space, though she was adopted at the last minute. I can’t imagine the details of her early life living in an abandoned building, though I’m sure it was traumatic for such a sensitive soul. When she came here it was weeks before I saw anything but big fearful eyes under the table in the spare kitty room. Step by step over the years she has become more relaxed and trusting. Kelly is 18.
Never give up on a kitty.
Kelly lived to be 19 years old.
And never give up on yourself. I had vowed to compile Kelly’s serialized story into a book, expanding on the story and with illustrations and photos. I am finally able to focus on her story, and I’m so happy.
Catnip Party, 2011
Three of the girls organize an impromptu catnip party on the sunny landing. Cookie was enjoying the catnip candy cane first, and invited Mimi and Mewsette to take turns biting, licking and rubbing their faces on the upstairs catnip candy cane.
Cookie gets her turn.
Then it’s time for Mewsette to have a little ‘nip. Mewsette thinks she is very small and no one will notice her. Cookie gives her an approving nuzzle.
Cookie acts tough over something Mimi said. Catnip has interesting effects!
As the elder statescat, Cookie gets to finish it off.
The Big Branch, 2010
Most of the snow is melted out there, and new snow falling is pretty but not amounting to much as Mimi and I continue to “look for spring”, but four years ago this is what it looked like—nearly a foot of snow still to melt though it was warm and dripping, and that big branch had fallen from one of the neighbor’s maple trees and immediately became one of Cookie’s favorite places.
Cookie was my longest-standing garden kitty and browsing photos I often encounter her interacting with the yard, including these from March 2010, as the snow slowly melted after a series of heavy storms in February and on our first excursion outdoors in over a month she first discovered “the big branch” that fell from high up in one of the trees from the weight of the snow, its heavy end landing right next to the picnic table and the branches leaning on the fence. While I had every intention of cutting it to pieces and using them to trim my flower beds, Cookie immediately stepped up onto it and walked all over it; the branch would be her second favorite hangout for the next two years, and also became her step up onto her first favorite hangout, the picnic table.
Even though I shoveled paths into the snow it was weeks before it melted down to the soil, and at 17 Cookie finally found that walking on snow for any length of time was just too uncomfortable on her tiny tortie paws and she would wait on the deck or the steps for me.
One day enough snow had melted that she decided to follow me around as I filled bird feeders and Cookie explored her strange new world.
One of the most endearing things I always enjoyed about Cookie was her fearless curiosity. If there was something new, she explored it—a box in the house, my art materials, a visitor, Cookie immediately and wholeheartedly acquainted herself with it.
Curiosity is legendarily a cat’s province, but a reason to consider this a little extra special in Cookie was that she always had difficulty walking just from weakness in her hind legs, likely from her early deprivation. Even when younger she couldn’t run or jump very high and while still young quit jumping altogether to climb step by step onto things.
This never stopped her, and it didn’t even slow her down because she got herself everywhere she needed to go, and her ingenuity at finding a stepping stone path of different levels anywhere in the house to get anywhere she wanted to go is something I’ll always remember. She never complained, just happily made her way around things; as she grew older I surreptitiously added things she could step on in every room.
So I look at her on this log at the age of 17 with fine balance but without a whole lot of strength in those legs. She walked down the muddy path in the snow, met the branch and happily stepped up on it and looked around, took a few more steps up and looked again, then walked out as far as she dared, then walked back. She was also wise in knowing exactly how far she could go, literally, and still be able to get herself safely back to where she needed to be.
The branch fell at just the right time because the previous year she had been able to pull herself up onto the picnic bench, but it was an increasing struggle. The first thing the next spring the branch had fallen and I guess she thought it had been provided for her. She used it from then until just a few days before she died to both sit on, scratch on and step up onto the bench.
“It’s just a tree branch, and I’m a cat. What’s the big deal? I’ll still be doing this years from now.”
And in browsing yet another folder on my computer I found a folder of photos I’d been gathering to use for another totally separate blog entitled “animal photos” where I’d feature my cats and all the animals who lived out in my back yard. I’d forgotten all about that plan, and I need another blog like I need another cat (I always said that when I had nine or ten) so these photos, prior to my daily photo days, sat in the folder. The photo below is Cookie on the same branch, but a month later, in April. What a difference in the yard! And Cookie looks so happy.
Vintage Photos: A Morning in Late Winter, 1994
No, it’s a different black cat in a photo from 22 years ago this month. It’s Kublai enjoying the sun on the landing where nearly all cats who’ve ever lived here have enjoyed it.
It was a sunny weekend morning in March 1994, featuring Kublai, Cookie, Stanley and Fawn on the upstairs landing that looks a little different with the temporary carpet I’d laid, and without the pine wardrobe where everyone suns themselves now. But it’s the same window, same windowsill, and even the same lace curtain, and the same eternal wash of late winter/early spring sunshine in the window.
I’ve always wanted to paint the top photo, and at one point I considered it as Kublai’s portrait photo (more on that below), but decided I’d rather have one where he was looking at me. This one, however, is still on the list, and it’s one of my favorite photos of him.
I found this envelope of photos from March 1994, and I can only tell the date that closely because I finished two pieces of artwork around that time and photographed them; sometimes a roll of film could sit in the camera for months waiting to be used up, and sometimes it waited years to be developed, so any dates on the prints are totally unreliable.
I know I had pulled these to use as reference photos for the portrait I painted of Kublai, “Are You Looking At Me?”, in 2005. Because the envelope was from one of the early boxes of photos, way in the back, it had been in the stray photo box since then. Well, at least I knew where it was!
Cookie, looking like the absolute doll she was, is hanging with her big brother, and Kublai has done with hanging out on my shoulder and decided to have a handy nap while I play. Cookie, I know now, was taking instructions from big brother, as she would in later years be expected to know how to take care of the human. A rainbow spot on the floor lets me know it was a magical moment.
Below, Cookie very quickly came to own the sink…and to fill it up, at age 2. She had been quite hungry upon arrival and it was possible her early diet of whatever came along changed her metabolism, but she also ate more than a kitty should. Yet even after I’d exercised portion control—and I had not let them free feed since well before Cookie’s arrival or even moving to this house—many of the “premium” foods I was purchasing had large amounts of corn, which no one seemed to question. Cookie did not digest the corn very well, her teeth suffered and she also gained far too much weight with it. Once I’d learned about corn in foods and found diets that didn’t include it, for several months at this time actually cooking my own meals for them and also raw feeding, Cookie lost weight with normal portions, but she was left with a rotund form, you know, “The Goddess”. And she was darned cute while occupying the sink, which really was the smallest pedestal sink on the market then.
In my ongoing effort to organize old projects and photos I’ve been sorting through a that box of misplaced photos. I’ve always been pretty diligent at keeping my photos in order knowing if I had to dig through all my photos to find any single one I’d never do it, so I rarely pull single photos, instead pulling the entire envelope of photos and negatives, mark the spot the had in their dated box, and try to return it.
But in this little house the photos were not always in a place that was easy to get to, and I did pull individual photos now and then too, thinking I’d put them back right away. Rather than risk their being lost by putting them in a desk drawer or hanging them on the refrigerator, I designated a box specifically for these photos I’d pulled, intending to return them when the massive set of shoe boxes and clear plastic containers was more easily accessible.
And now it’s interesting to look back, with the perspective of today’s feline family who we’ve all seen on this very landing, on a little family from so long ago. These four are the ones who were always with me, and while Cookie was a relative newcomer—she was only two!—she was, like Kublai, Fawn and Stanley, at my side wherever I was in the house. Not included in today’s array are Sally, Moses, Nikka and Allegro as well as Sophie, who still lived with my mother at the time.
My favorite photo of Fawn, a slender little torbie cat with marbled toes and stripes all over, and a long, long tail with two orange stripes on the end that were her flag of notification—depending on what those two orange stripes were doing I knew her mood right away, and when she sat the stripes were always laid neatly over her paws. She was about six here.
Fawn was the one kitten who remained with me from the very first mama cat I rescued. She was the “runt” of the litter, just a slender little torbie cat, very attached to me and rather friendly at that time. I had adopted her sister Nikka out to my brother, then took her back in 1993; Nikka made it her business to stalk and terrorize Fawn, who grew less social with time, but always attached to me.
Often I pulled photos when I’d resolved to get a start on a certain portrait or painting I wanted to do; some of these I did, some not. Other photos I pulled as reference photos for portraits or illustrations, not feeling the need to have the entire package out, and all became residents of the stray photos box. Later when I was better about pulling an entire envelope of photos I still wasn’t always good at replacing them, but I did at least keep it protected in the envelope and matched up with its negatives.
Apparently, it’s been a while since I’ve put photos away, and a visit to this particular box is always a trip down memory lane.
Stanley was so handsome with his big green eyes with the white diamond in between, and his friendly personality, though he was the most troubled cat I’d ever known. But I loved the moments when he was relaxed and happy, and I always knew he felt best when he was with me.
He was probably between 12 and 14 here, still with clear eyes and alert ears. He had suffered about five urinary tract blockages as well, and I had just started on the path to more natural diets and naturopathic treatments and homeopathic remedies of which Stanley was a major benefactor. Once we discovered the right diet for him I managed to control the urinary issues with observing and catching the effects with natural means, and Stanley was overall a much happier cat and never blocked again.
You will also recognize Stanley from the painting “After Dinner Nap”, the face that launched a thousand portraits.
And just for interest, the “poster” on the wall above the table is my hand-lettered version of “What a Wonderful World”, lettered in black on the left, and with the title in bold letters reversed out of the “blue sky” background of regular old chalk on the right. I had designed a number of these and sold a few designs back then, but licensing art was so cumbersome that I gave up and decided I’d try again later. I still have this in my studio.
Also there with Stanley on the table is my mahogany angel, which I carved in my senior art class in high school. I wanted her to look like a totem in the wood, rough and undetailed. The Norfolk Island Pine on the left was a housewarming gift from a co-worker when I moved here, decorated for Christmas for my first Christmas in my new house; this plant grew quite tall but finally quit growing new branches in about 2009, and no matter what I did it simply withered and turned brown. The Swedish ivy was a cutting from a larger plant I’d had for so many years I don’t remember; it grew quite large and woody, I took cuttings and started a new plant, over and over, and I still have a few last cuttings from this plant.
Browse some rescued cats and kittens!
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
Art and Gifts featuring cats you know! Visit Portraits of Animals
Celebrating Kelly With Tortie Girls Prints
Of all the photos I have of Kelly, this block print describes her the best. I have it as a print framed or unframed, and I also have it mounted on wood, on trays, printed on tablecloths and placemats. You can purchase this print or search for other items on Portraits of Animals.
© 2017 | www.TheCreativeCat.net | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski
Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!