Zammy The Cat… as youngster

Photo by Jorma Kaukonen

It was almost sixteen years ago at the old farm on Kingsbury Rd. Izze wasn’t even two yet. When she had trouble sleeping either Vanessa or I would put her in her car seat and drive around on those old gravel roads until she nodded off. On one of this little rides Vanessa saw two kittens who had been abandoned in the road. Of course she stopped and picked them up. ‘Dad’s going to kill me,’ she quietly announced to the then sleeping child. The two kittens would be immediately named Zammy and Tali. That delightful pair immediately took up residence at Hillside Farm. We had inherited Mimi The Cat from my mom when she passed and there were a couple of other orphans in residence at that time. There is never a shortage of animal friends at the Kaukonen’s place.

Anyway, Tali never felt at home at Hillside Farm and one day she was just gone. I’d like to think of her hitch hiking around this great land of ours until she found a home that called her name. Tali left, but Zammy stayed. When we moved our residence to the Ranch, of course Zammy The Cat and Maverick The Dog moved with us. Also along for the move were our two other adopted cats, Mary Catherine AKA Mary Cat, and Aslan.

About a year ago Zammy developed a cancer on his nose. At first we thought that he had gotten into a fight in the woods, but it became apparent that it was indeed, cancer. There was really nothing that could be done for our dear friend other than love him and take care of him. This week it became apparent that he was truly suffering and it was up to us to help usher him through the Door Into Summer, as I sometimes call these moments. We have said hello and goodbye to many four footed friends in the thirty years we have lived in Southeast Ohio. I have only been home for one of these emotional transitions. In 2002 or ’03 I held Vinnie the Bull Terrier’s head while he made the journey. Nessa has always been there for these moments and I am sorry that i could not be there today, but that is how our lives tend to work.

It just never gets easier… never. People who love animals will know what I mean and those who don’t, well… that’s another story for another time.

Zammy, old friend, I miss you now as I sit in Los Angeles and I’ll miss you always. As a member of the Kaukonen clan, you always did us proud.

Run free Zammy… run free!

And from Vanessa:

I cannot begin to recount all of the animals in my life that changed my life. Zamir aka Zammy was one of the animals that took up a lot of space in my heart. I was driving home back when Izze was just a babe…not walking yet. I came across these two little kittens that were rolling down the road, looking very much like someone had just tossed them out of their car. I slowed down so as to not hit them then looked in my rearview mirror and saw both of them running after me. I stopped the car, looked at Izze who only had a few words but clearly understood me, and said, “Daddy’s going to be mad at me!” You see we already had several dogs at home some of who were strays that we just had to save. I opened the door and over they came. I scooped them both up on my lap and drove the rest of the way home. Their names came quickly. Zamir and Tali. Shortly after we got home, Jorma pulled up on the motorcycle and the first thing he saw were these two little fluff balls. The look on Jorma’s face was priceless. I put my hand up and said, “I had to take them!”.
Tali was Zammy’s sister and she wasn’t too pleased to be in this new place. She didn’t stick around long. She wasn’t very friendly…she let us know it and that was that. Zammy on the other hand was family. He became the stalwart cat. Two more ferrel kittens would be born under our porch years later (Mary Cat and Azlan) and our cat family was complete. They all moved over the Fur Peace with us and it became this magical land for all of them. At one time our cat family was Miss Kitty, Zammy, Mary, Azlan, Blackie, and Scotty. They became a part of the camps, and the shows, and were beloved. Zammy was particularly fond of our Road Manger, Phil Jacobs. Phil could not be seen by Zammy for years but when he’d come to the Ranch, Zammy knew who he was and he’d run across the compound meowing that half-scratchy meow that he had and jump on Phil’s shoulders and drool. I never saw anything like it.
I had to make the hardest decision a pet parent can make. Zammy had contracted cancer in and on his nose. It moved into his nasal cavity, his left eye, and his cranial nerves. Today, I took him to our favorite local vet and he held my hand as I told Zammy how much I loved him, how sorry I was, and assured him that he was the best cat ever! I watched him take his last look as he entered that door to endless summer days.
He was truly the best cat ever. Say hello to Marlo and Zola, Nana, Miss Kitty, Harley, Napoleon, Glory, Vinny, Scotty, and Eli for me Zam The Man. I will never forget you.

Zam… the Man

Painting by Andy Tucker


  1. Comment made on October 18, 2022 by Mike Anderson

    I grew up in horse racing, thoroughbred racing, we had a wide assortment of canine and feline family in my 68 years, we even had a fox who was really a trip! We loved them all, one of my cats, a tortoise shell coloring, she wouldn’t give my wife the time of day, until she was pregnant, in fact the cat knew before we did! She then became my wife’s best friend and slept on the door threshold to our newborn’s room. She lived to 20 years and we were heartbroken at her loss, along with the several other animals in our life. My stepfather was like the dog whisperer, they would show up on the farm and my mother would scold him that they couldn’t afford another dog or cat but we kept them anyway. He passed at home with his Jack Russell on his lap. We’ve had horses we loved and lost, it never gets easier and now we’re watching our now 19 year old cat decline and know the time will be soon to let her go as well, getting a lump in my throat just thinking about her. Much love to you, your family and your extended family, we love them all! By the way, my neighbor, who actually opened for you a few times up here in CT lost one of his cats at age 27, during the pandemic, we extended our condolences over the property border.

  2. Comment made on October 17, 2022 by chris Gill

    Hey there! I just ran across this searching about Flammang Guitars.
    I’m so sorry for y’all’s loss. I remember Zammy from the Ranch. It’s never easy to say goodbye to a loved one!! As you know.
    Sending y’all Love from Mississippi.

  3. Comment made on October 17, 2022 by JB

    All we can do is love our pets as much as they love us for as long as they are with us.

  4. Comment made on October 17, 2022 by Kevin Falvey

    Sorry for your loss, Jorma. They do become a part of us yet leave us way too soon.

    As for your being away for some tough times at home, I can relate. I travel for my living, too, and besides missing some good stuff, it seems that I am almost ALWAYS on the road for the bad stuff, whether that’s the passing of a loved one, or something more mundane like the roof leaking or the oil burner conking out. Must be some weird law of nature that causes stuff to happen while we are away.


  5. Comment made on October 16, 2022 by eaglesteve

    Bob Weir
    Oct 16, 1947 (age 75)
    Happy Birthday Bobby, and many more

  6. Comment made on October 16, 2022 by Howard Wade

    I’m saddened to hear about Zammy. The last time I was at the ranch he was my good buddy for the weekend, turning up every once in awhile for a scratch or a nose rub. What a great little guy. My heart goes out to you and Vanessa.

  7. Comment made on October 15, 2022 by Dale Radeleff

    Vanessa and Jorma,

    I bestow my condolences on the loss of your lifelong feline friend Zammy. My wife and I have rescued and lost three doggies in our marriage to date, we have 2 more rescues currently. When I say rescue, I’m not quite sure who is the rescuer and who is the rescued. Our last Dog/kid was only about 11 years old when we lost her, I felt Maxie was a full part of our family and as such I had a nervous breakdown that lasted several months and almost ended our marriage, that’s when I found Ellie and later on Little, it was through them that I was able to redirect my energies and these two continue to be a part of our family now. Again my condolences, may you see him again at the Rainbow Bridge.


  8. Comment made on October 15, 2022 by eaglesteve

    This sadness we feel………… because we loved them and lost them, and because we are humans, and that’s how we are built to feel. Our pit Brooklyn had nose cancer and we did what was right by her. I am sorry for you loss. I am sad for you loss.

  9. Comment made on October 15, 2022 by John

    Sorry I flipped the names.

  10. Comment made on October 15, 2022 by Arlen

    It’s very sad. Happened to mine a month ago. Knowing you gave him a good life might bring some comfort.

  11. Comment made on October 15, 2022 by John

    Farewell, Tali.

    (I guess I can confess now to sneaking a bit of the breakfast salmon to the kitty when I was there)

  12. Comment made on October 15, 2022 by Brad

    A hurt like no other. Tears do help, much as they can. I’ve cried a lot of them.
    Peace with your family.

  13. Comment made on October 15, 2022 by Jim Bacon

    So sorry Jorma, Vanessa and Izze, I loved seeing all the animals at the ranch and remember how kind Jorma was when I had just had to heartbreakingly put our beloved dog to sleep the day before and Jorma brought over his dog to give me some comfort – Hope to see you guys soon, Been too long –

  14. Comment made on October 15, 2022 by John R.

    Thank you for sharing, Jorma. Losing a pet is so sad.

  15. Comment made on October 15, 2022 by john o

    Our furry friends have unconditional love for us. My cat Suzy died last December and I was heartbroken for a couple days. She was always happy and glad to see me. She was 13 when she died and is buried right outside my windew in the garden where she played. Her affection, love, companionship is what I miss the most and look forward on seeing her again in Heaven.

  16. Comment made on October 15, 2022 by Bob S

    During our last visit to the ranch, I was having my first morning cup of coffee waiting for my wife to join me for breakfast. After my second cup, it was apparent she wasn’t coming any time soon. When I went outside to check on her, I found her sitting across the way in a rocking chair with that exact cat in her lap.

    We’ve had to put down several animal family members over the years. I know what you’re feeling. Words are just words… so I’ll leave it at that.

  17. Comment made on October 14, 2022 by John V

    I feel for your loss, as stewards of their lives it is such a difficult decision to make. I’ve had to put down many dogs over the last 40 years. As a good friend once told me “ I’m not sure what made these loving four legged creatures come out of the darkness to sit down next to us by the fire but I’m glad they did”.

  18. Comment made on October 14, 2022 by Joey Hudoklin

    Your stories describing the life and loss of your beloved kitty are very touching✌️&💔

  19. Comment made on October 14, 2022 by Richard

    So sorry for you lose. I have had many dogs and cats over the years. My first dog Pug who was not a Pug but a big white mutt who looked like Petey from the Little Rascals with a patch on his eye. Had him from 6 months old to 17 . Knew him longer then my brother at the time so was also like a brother too. We had to make that hard decision with him..Our last dog who was suffering and knew we had to end his misery finally passed one night so not having to make that decision made it easier but still hard just the same..Right now we have a grand dog along with the 3 grandchildren to love…

  20. Comment made on October 14, 2022 by Dan Nigro

    It is indeed one of the hardest things one can do, helping a fur baby cross the rainbow bridge. As many times as I have had to do it, and knowing it was time, it never gets easier. Hope you guys are all doing well, Zammy will be missed but always in your hearts. Peace

  21. Comment made on October 14, 2022 by Tom in St. Louis

    The Heinlein short story “The Door into Summer’ had a huge effect on me when I read it as a young person. What a beautiful tale.
    Sorry for your loss, Jorma and family.
    I remember when we lost Kanga the Cat, as I rushed her to the vet she breathed her last while the buildings flashed past and the smells of summer filled the car. What a great friend she was.

  22. Comment made on October 14, 2022 by Kevin

    I just realized I misspoke. Jorma referred to the “Door into Summer” which touched me so deeply. Vanessa referred to endless summer days which is just as beautifully poetic. As a married guy myself (of 39 yrs.) I noticed the slight differences in the relaying of the story of the kittens. LOL, I have experienced such differences many times in our stories or our life together as well. I shouldn’t have brought it up but I so fondly recall the two differing story’s surrounding the writing of “Third Week in the Chelsea” during the QUAHrantine concerts that I couldn’t resist the obvious. One of my top 3 Jorma tunes by the way.

    • Comment made on October 14, 2022 by Jorma

      Perception is interesting… and context a matter of opinion. It’s one of the things that make lasting relationships delightful. BTW As a kid i read Robert Henlein’s Door Into Summer… and therein hangs a tale… metaphorically speaking. My Chelsea story is the correct one but… oh well.

  23. Comment made on October 14, 2022 by Kevin

    “Endless Summer”, I absolutely love that. As usual your words, so clearly succinct and perfect, never fail to amaze how much emotion and meaning they confer, despite the brevity. I feel for Vanessa as I have had to make that last trip to the vet twice, for my dogs. The first with the “good boy” who started his life together with me when we were both pups. The second was when my daughters were still pups themselves. My condolences to the whole Kaukonen family.

  24. Comment made on October 14, 2022 by carey georgas

    Sixteen years is a good long life for a cat, or dog, for that matter. In 2010 we lost 4 dogs in one year. One was was run over. A Golden retriever had a stroke, and my wife’s little chihuahua Hootie and my Fox Terrier Little Queenie both passed at 19 years old. I had to put Queenie down myself using carbon monoxide, as I couldn’t find a vet to do it until late in the afternoon after listening to her scream in agony all night and could stand her suffering no more. Toughest job I’ve had yet. A couple years later we took in a couple of rescue dogs. One disappeared, the other one got run over before my eyes by a maniac driver going about 60 mph down this little county road I live on as I was taking a morning walk. Bastard didn’t even slow down. I had to suffocate that one by hand because I just couldn’t stand there and watch him gasp until he expired. We are just now considering new dogs after that traumatic year, and the subsequent fifth dog death. We have a pet cemetery with 20 or so interred over 40+ years. And you’re right, Jorma. It never gets easier.

  25. Comment made on October 14, 2022 by jürgen geissler

    a missof an animal friend is comparable with the lost of a friend. Humans slipping and sliding to the right side forced the growing of my love for wild animals and their domestic sisters & brothers.
    Please go on making and performing your music. greeting from (fu…..) germany jürgen

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