It’s been over 5 weeks since Louise went to the Rainbow Bridge. I still can’t believe she’s really gone.
Everyone that knows me – even if only in passing acquaintance – knows how much that little black cat meant to me. And you know how my heart is broken so I don’t need to tell you how hard this past month has been. But the wonderful memories I have of Louise come bubbling to the surface with each tear cleansing away the grief.
In celebration of Louise’s life I’d like to share some of the stories that make me laugh and smile as I remember them. I hope they bring a smile to you too – or maybe just to shake of your head at how crazy in love I was with that cat!
Louise was just a few weeks old when she came into Preston’s and my lives. She became my “To Go” kitty as I simply packed her up and she went everywhere with me. Camping, business trips, shopping, horse shows, family vacations, dinner at friend’s houses, the grocery store…….
We like to think maybe we started the trend of “pocket pups” where people pack their Chihuahuas and other tiny dogs wherever they go. Years before that trend became popular with the Hollywood set Louise was going everywhere with me.
We earned astonished looks wherever we went – especially at the horse shows where I walked Louise on a leash around the show grounds. I became known as the woman with “that black cat” and Louise had a legion of fans who were amazed at how she’d sit on my shoulder and watch the horse show.
Preston would haul horses to Southern California with Louise as his travel companion, looking out the drive side window smirking at the funny looks people gave. Like they’d never seen a guy driving a 1 ton crew-cab dually hauling a 30 foot horse trailer with a cat on his lap?
Every day brings another memory of Travels With Louise.
A visit to my mom’s in New Jersey found Louise attending church with us on Sunday. A week-long trip to a resort in the mountains of NY State and Louise joined in every activity. Business trips to Chicago, Baltimore, New York, Seattle – I was probably the only business person on the plane with a spare travel-size litter box in my computer bag. Visiting friends in Maine, Virginia and all over California. Las Vegas to visit the big kitties at the Mirage. Several trips to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah along with side-trips to Bryce Canyon and Zion Parks where Louise experienced her first snow storm (she wasn’t amused at that photo opp). Boating trips all over California found Louise joining in at all the parties but she drew the line at going out in the boat. Even Louise had her limit of what adventures she would take part in. And, countless horse shows, horse camping adventures and, in recent years, nearly every weekend at Red Rock in Nevada during fox-hunting season.
Just for Louise, I designed Louiseware. She had a wardrobe of those colorful scarves to rival any teenager’s closet. I started creating them to share with 4-footed friends of all sizes. Then when we started FieldHaven Louiseware became a fundraiser for the shelter and volunteers took over creating the wide variety of designs sized for anything from kitten to large dog. We haven’t done much with Louiseware for the past few years; maybe it’s time to revive the label.
Louise always enjoyed her scarves and wore them proudly. We would tease her about being undressed if she slipped out of one.
She also wore her harness with grace. This was standard wardrobe for extra safety whenever we traveled.
But, like boating, Louise let me know that she drew the line at wearing a kitty size horse blanket. One time at a horse show I spent a ridiculous amount of money on a tiny Baker Blanket sized just perfectly for Louise. I was so excited about putting it on her and showed it off to all my friends. I ran back to the barn area and dressed Louise in it. My enthusiasm was abruptly squelched when Louise looked at me with fire in her eyes, flopped on her side, started whipping her tail around in anger and refused to move until I removed the utterly embarrassing piece of apparel.
That tail was often Louise’s “voice” – it was in perpetual motion. From a slow, rhythmical movement (happy and content) to snapping it like a whip (pretty pissed off), her tail would communicate her mood. I could always tell what she was feeling and thinking.
Louise’s house was her domain and she didn’t tolerate other cats with any patience or even pretend to be happy about sharing her space with another cat. As little as she was she had no inhibitions about ripping into a cat that wandered into her house without asking her permission first. For as much as she became an icon for saving the lives of homeless cats and kittens she was frankly fairy selfish about keeping us and her home to herself.
Louise was always an indoor-only kitty although she would try to sneak out when a door was accidentally left open. Louise liked to go on her walk-abouts. To her it was no big deal. But for me it was an emergency that took on the proportions of an All Points Bulletin – all hands on deck searching for Louise until she was found. Usually munching on some grass that she would later hurl onto the floor once she was safely back inside the house.
Oh…yes, the chewing habit. Louise savored anything she could get her teeth on. Plants, flowers, pens, straws, antennas – yes, antennas. I can’t count the number of antennas I had to replace on the old-style cell phones – and a couple of times, the phone itself. All the pens in the cup on my desk had their tops chewed off and the little microphones on my telephone headsets were unrecognizable. If you left a drink with a straw on the counter Louise chewed off the straw. Flowers couldn’t be placed anywhere in range of Louise – she’d eat the most colorful blossoms then barf up brightly colored slime. More than once Preston’s thoughtful, romantic bouquets of roses for Valentine’s Day, Anniversaries and other special occasions had to placed high out of her reach or they’d become (expensive) regurgitated kitty vomit.
Louise had the most captivating and expressive golden eyes. Their uniqueness became her trademark feature that highlights the many pictures of her. From casual snapshots to staged photo shoots, Louise was a remarkably photogenic cat. Just like the super-model she was, there was an air of arrogance around her especially when capturing her image for a FieldHaven photoshoot. She would patiently pose in any situation I would put her in. In spite of her patience she didn’t necessarily like being a model. She knew it was one of her jobs and would pose, pasting a contented look on her face. But the whole time her tail would flip in ultimate impatience and she’d often grumble under her breath. A true diva who knew her duty but wasn’t in love with the role.
In 2003, when my sister and I founded FieldHaven we embarked on an adventure to help the “Louises” in our community. The FieldHaven logo proudly bears the likeness of Louise. I often spoke of Louise when telling the FieldHaven story; describing her as “very simply the most important cat in the entire universe”. To me she was…..and still is.
I’ve often told the story about how Louise came into my life at a time of personal challenges. She was truly my personal pet therapist and was instrumental in helping me heal during that difficult time. Louise’s healing ways have continued even during the past few weeks as her spirit has sent healing messages to me.
Louise and I had a deep connection – and in spirit still do. She was always waiting for me by the door when I’d come home. She followed my about the house and made herself a part of every activity that took place in our home. Just picking her up and holding her in our special Louise hug and burying my face in her fur beat the hell out of any therapist.
As Louise’s illness progressed late last spring and through the summer, I spoke several times to Linda Schooler, an animal communicator. Linda was able to help me “talk” to Louise and understand what she was feeling. Several days before Louise’s passing Linda told me 2 things. One was that there was a strong link between Louise and horses. Given her history of living with horses her whole life this wasn’t surprising. But what left me a little concerned was Linda’s discussion about the possibility of a horse coming into my life that would have distinct personality traits that I would recognize as very Louise-like. Admittedly, I was a bit bewildered and a little concerned by this. Having an 8 pound cat with an independent, strong personality is one thing but in a 1100+ pound horse? That could be a little troublesome. I remember thinking to myself that Louise’s distinctive traits weren’t something I’d find favorable in a horse!
Linda also mentioned a strong feeling that something significant would be happening on October 18th. At first I thought maybe that would be the day Louise passed to the Rainbow Bridge.
Louise passed away on October 14th and in my grief I thought nothing more of that date for several days.
On the 18th of October 4 tiny black kittens were brought to FieldHaven…………….could it be? Frankly, I was reluctant to accept the gift. It was too soon and my heart was hurting too much. But I could foster 2 of the kittens. That’s not making a commitment, right? Well, not unless you become a Foster Failure and end up adopting one of your foster kittens. Last week Norma Louise Smith officially became a member of our family. She makes me laugh and her soft, shiny fur and rumbling purr dry my tears and warms my heart. I think I'm falling in love.
The horse with the Louise personality? On October 15th I met a wonderful black horse that I instantly fell for. The purchase of Taylor was finalized and he arrived at FieldHaven on October 18th. Our courtship before purchase was short and we had a lot learn about each other. Well into our first week together certain issues about his personality began to emerge; when mounted he will do anything I ask of him, he is a pure delight to ride. However, on the ground he can be more than a little on the temperamental side. When annoyed he very strongly lets anyone around know it. We’ll work on adjusting that attitude but I think I know where it’s coming from.
The spirit of that little black cat surely is with me every day. Thank you, Louise for 11 incredible years together.
Thank you for letting me share with you my story of the “most important cat in the entire universe”. I know you have one in your life too…..please share your stories below so we can all celebrate those treasured relationships. And, I know I’ll have more Louise stories as my memory is jogged to remember a silly story or a special time.
As you may know, we are building a new shelter for FieldHaven. There are a number of opportunities available to sponsor rooms and items in the shelter. I am determined to sponsor a community room in Louise’s name and have made an initial donation towards the $5000 and donations have been made in Louise’s memory but there is still about $3000 to raise. If you are interested in donating click here.
Click here for a photo album of some of my favorite Louise pictures.