Oliver The Original Gallery Cat
A Tribute To Oliver: The Original Gallery Cat
Oliver was the cat who helped change my way of thinking of myself as a dog/horse person to include cats. Living on a farm we have a few barn cats to help keep the rodent population in check. But I had never had an indoor cat in my entire 30 some years of existence. You see I come from a long line of dog people.
Ollie was with me for far too short of time. A mere 4 years. He died quite unexpectedly on Christmas Eve. Now we have a new gallery cat called Budda who is in many ways the polar opposite of Oliver despite the fact they look the same. I've had Budda now for almost 3 years and I adore him. But there is almost not a single day that I don't think of Oliver and the joy he brought to my life.
So this lens is a tribute to Ollie. May you reign forever in kitty heaven (with an occasional foray into doggie heaven just to show 'em who's the boss). I hope you are napping in a warm sunny spot and eating all the kibble to your hearts content.
A Little About Me
Mona Majorowicz of Wild Faces Gallery
My name is Mona Majorowicz I am a professional artist who has been making my living selling my work for some time now. I am an animal artist, (meaning I paint critters) who works primarily in Oil Pastel or Water Soluble Pencil.
I own and operate Wild Faces Gallery with my husband Mike in a small rural town in Iowa. There we sell my original artwork and prints, as well as do quality custom framing and offer Giclee printing for other artists as well as for ourselves. I have over 20 years experience in the art and framing industry, both as a business owner and as a working artist.
I write a regular column for Apples 'N Oats (an equestrian magazine) about painting horses. If you would like to see real life photos of Catch, or want to follow the painting's progress (with full story) from start to finish please visit my blog, Fur In The Paint
Animals are my passion and art is how I chose to express it.
Oliver The Gallery Cat Was An Orphan
I Found Him Half Frozen And Frightened
I walk daily and on one particularly cold October day I heard a loud mewling noise coming from the ditch. I spoke, most likely saying something like "where's the baby?" Since I have barn cats I tend to say things like "where's my babies" when walking to the barn, as opposed to the usual "Here Kitty Kitty." I got a mew in response.
So I call again and get another mew. I begin to climb down into the steep ditch being careful not to tumble headlong into it. All the while I keep speaking and waiting to hear a response so I can zone in on it's location.
He was such a tiny little thing. Maybe 4 weeks old. Surely not yet weaned from his mother. It is my guess that the mother kitty had decided they would never make it through winter (which as a wild cat, they wouldn't) so left them to their fate. I say them, because I know someone else who found a single lone kitten in that same area. I scooped him and he promptly quite his yowling and sort of collapsed in my hand. I tucked him under my sweater, near my heart to comfort him and headed back to my farm.
It's probably a miracle he had survived that long out in the elements. It had actually frosted the previous two nights and such a little body with no food in his tummy, it must have been very hard. I opened a tin of catfood and watered it down some, unsure if he'd take it, but he hunkered over like a wolf (err ... maybe a mountain lion) and took large mouthfuls. My dog Cisco came over to investigate and got a scratched nose for her troubles.
When done he mewed and meowed. So I picked him up and he promptly feel asleep. I spent the rest of that day with the little bugger tucked under my clothes on my shoulder. I even had a city council meeting that night and he was unseen and unheard all evening. It wasn't until we took a break and I took him outside to do his business that anyone even knew.
In order to keep an eye on him I took him into the gallery for the next several days. I had many offers from people to adopt him but a kernel of an idea had emerged. I was working very long hours alone in the gallery. And while I'd never owned an indoor cat before, I thought he might just be the companion I was needing.
Thus the very first Wild Faces Gallery gallery cat was adopted.
Oliver Was Not At All What I Expected In A Cat, And Yet He Was So Much More.
Sometimes the animals come into our lives may not be what we wanted or expected but they are what we needed.
Oliver was incredibly easy to train. He learned very quickly what areas he was allowed on and what areas he wasn't. I was like "why does everyone say cats are impossible to train?" Most times all I had to say was "Ollie?" in a firm tone and he promptly stopped whatever activity he was or thinking about doing.
Oliver learned to ignore customers, which is a real trick to train an animal to do in a business setting. And people flocked to him. He treated most everyone with disdain including my husband. He was a known slapper. Oliver considered the couch his (which you can see by the fact that so many photos have him on it.) and so if someone sat down on the couch he thought it perfectly acceptable to clamor over them. He would sniff here and there. I would warn people to push him off, because if Ollie found something (Lord knows what) disagreeable about you, he's slap you right across the face. And I don't mean a cute little pat. I mean he whacked people hard enough to make a little smacking sound where pad met cheek.
Despite this Ollie had a following. Cat people in particular seem to find this sort of thing perfectly logical and he was simply demanding his birthright to be worshiped. Our critter sitter would even often bow (mockingly of course) to him, which I think he found a proper tribute. Still he'd chase after, swiping and sometimes trying to bite the sitter on occasion.
Oliver received hundreds of toys for Christmas from gallery patrons. If someone went away on a trip they brought him back some goody. I would have people come in the gallery and call to him. Not to me mind you, the owner of the business, but to the cat. Yes indeed. Oliver held the hearts of many people during his short time on this plane of existence.
A Tragic Loss
The Unexpected Death Of Oliver
I went into the gallery on Christmas Eve 2007 and and called out to my cat Oliver as I have done for the past 4 years. I was greeted with silence. This bothered me because usually he would meow as soon as he hears me jingling the keys.
Oliver passed away sometime in the night. I was at a total loss. I held him and cried for hours. I railed against the Powers That Be for the senseless cruelty of it all. Somewhere deep inside I hoped he would come back to life. I have never had an animal just die on me. All of my animals have lived very long, very healthy lives. And then at the end, I would struggle with when I should finally end their suffering by taking them to the vet. All of this ritual gave me a chance to say good-bye. A chance to adjust to the loss before it even happens. A chance for closure. Not this time.
The day before he was healthy and playful and every bit himself. He antagonized Mike and cuddled with me for over an hour on the couch before I left for the night. He then ate his supper and used his box and then died. We had 4 years together and I had expected to have 10 more. I now had a gaping hole in my life and I can barely tolerate the thought of going into the empty gallery where his ghost will be around every corner. He was my constant companion, always with me in every room.
He was a joy and made me laugh every single day. A gift like that will be so very much missed.
Books On Coping With The Loss Of A Pet - Helping You Deal With The Loss
I am an animal person. My life has revolved around animals both on a professional level as well as personal level. My critters are my family and as such I feel their loss like it. I muddled through it but suffered from depression and struggled with working in the space that we had shared. I think perhaps I had a read a book or two on the subject it would have helped.
More Books On Dealing WIth The Loss Of A Pet
Ghosts in the Gallery
A Story (from a blog post) From Shortly After Oliver Passed Away
So today I went in to the gallery for a total of 3 hours. Cried only twice. Came close more times than I could count. The rooms are full of him. I move something to find a toy. I roll up something and think of how he would have grabbed it. I sat at the computer and thought I heard him meow in the other room a couple of times. Occasionally I thought I saw him out of the corner of my eye.
He had this thing where he would walk up to me while I was on the computer. Stand up and ever so gently put his paw on my arm, then push lightly. Of course I would look at him and then he would meow in a drawn out sort of way, wanting me to push back some from the keyboard so he could climb up on my lap. I thought this happened once today (the gentle push thing) and it actually startled me.
The thing is, he was always with me. When on the computer he sat on the back of the chair and rested against me purring. When working on a painting he would sit on my lap. When doing picture framing he was either under the table or sitting on a chair watching me or napping. He was very vocal and I would talk to him as I would a person and he would meow back and give me kitty winks. (For those who don't know it is an expression of love. He makes eye contact, then slowly closes his eyes and opens them again. A very (very) slow blink.)
The place is just so empty and hollow without him.
Oliver always looked so noble when lying down, like a library lion.
Photos of Oliver As A KittenClick thumbnail to view full-size
A New Life And A New Beginning
Meet Budda The New Gallery Cat
Note: I only just recently added this bit. When I first wrote this lens I thought Oliver would be incensed at the thought that another cat was in his domain. However, leaving it at Ollie's death seemed a sudden ending and not a happy one.
I had trouble working in the gallery for months. I don't think I was depressed but the joy of being at my business was gone. My husband suggested I get another kitty. I quickly pushed this idea away as I don't believe you can replace love you can just make room for more. I wasn't ready for more just yet. After a few weeks of his casually mentioning it he finally got a little more serious in the suggestion. I was leaving early most days and often stayed home and just left Mike run the place. He had grown weary of this and so we had a couple of kittens at the farm that he suggested I play with them more.
It was winter and one of our females had a late litter (just like Oliver mother) but we brought her and her kittens in to live out the winter in the porch. As a result I had three little tubbies rolling around my feet. Which was really great therapy but still I found it hard to take in another cat to the gallery.
However playing with them eventually worked despite them being wild little banshee cats who climbed me like a tree and bit and chewed any exposed surface. I often referred to them as the Hellcats. But one of the 3 kittens was not a biter. And after climbing into my lap would melt into a puddle of purring happiness. This is the little guy I eventually choose. I had named him Budda because when young he often sat up on his little butt like a circus poodle and his fat little tummy stuck out.
As I write this Budda has been with me for almost 4 years now. He is a completely different cat than Ollie. But he too makes me laugh almost daily. And holler as well as he gets into everything. Budda loves to cause trouble, to disobey and he often meows to draw my attention to his nefarious acts if I don't just happen to catch him at it. Life is a big game to Budda. Where Ollie was royalty Budda is a clown.
No you definitely can't replace love ... but you can make room for more.
Note: I deliberately misspelled Budda's name. I have a gallery blog and I knew he'd be the focus of more than a couple of posts so in the hopes that it wouldn't draw folks looking for enlightenment, I altered the spelling. Well it turns out many folks don't know how to spell correctly. I can't imagine what they think when they arrive at my blog to a story about a naughty cat. :)