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.
Painting by Andy Tucker