Sunday, June 16, 2013

Catman: A Father's Day Tribute

Bob has never raised a child biologically his own, but he loved and nurtured Debra McDermott, now 51, his stepdaughter from his nine-year first marriage. He also mentored three special Little Brothers in his 22 years with the Big Brothers program in Los Angeles: Paco Pliego (who will be 44 next month), David Hughes (now 40) and Ryan Grady, who recently turned 30. Ryan, only 9 years old when they were matched, is now a social worker and psychotherapist and is very much like a beloved son to us.

Ryan and Bob hanging out in L.A. recently

Bob has also nurtured several generations of beloved rescue cats. It all started with Freddie, our first cat, who was an integral part of our family from 1982 to 1998. He was tough, athletic, full of personality -- and he dearly loved Bob from kittenhood to his dying days. Freddie taught us important lessons in love and loyalty -- and courage as he lived fully every day of his life, even when battling cancer.

Bob and kitten Freddie in 1982

Bob and dying Freddie in 1998

And even as we cared for Freddie in his last days, Bob still said a heartfelt "Yes!" to two abandoned kittens rescued by our vet. Timmy and Gus became part of our family during Freddie's last four months of life, bringing joy and energy and comfort to our home.

Bob with kittens Timmy (l) and Gus (r)

Bob and Timmy forged a special friendship. Timmy loved to curl on his shoulder and give him kisses. He touched his nose in greeting when Bob arrived home from work. And he loved to be with Bob whatever he was doing, including meditation.

Timmy kissing Bob - 1999

Timmy greeting Bob - 2002

Bob and Timmy meditating - 2007

When we lost Timmy to melamine poisoning from tainted cat food in 2007, we were heartbroken. He had been such a special friend to Bob, a therapy cat in my private practice and a very bonded brother to Gus, who howled for three weeks until we adopted a new kitten to help Gus -- and the two of us -- heal. Maggie was a dainty Bombay, a little black kitten Gus embraced immediately and who quickly developed a loving bond with Bob as well.

Bob and Maggie - 2007

Checking out new iPAD in 2012

Maggie comforting Bob during neurological test -2012

Maggie helping Bob with Situps - 2013

Maggie keeping Bob well-groomed - 2010

Marina, a beautiful flame point Siamese, was up for adoption when we went to Petsmart one summer day in 2008. We were looking for cat food -- not another cat -- but we couldn't resist this sweet two-year-old who had been given up by not one, but two families in as many years. They said she was too needy. We thought she was perfect: affectionate, sweet, loving and joyous. She was a wonderful companion, worked as a therapy cat in my private practice and slept on my pillow at night. 

Marina brought incredible joy to our lives in the tragically brief time she was with us. Diagnosed with leukemia shortly before we moved to Arizona in 2010, she continued to live joyously -- purring and trilling as she sat between us on the drive to our new home and reveling in the joys of the new house -- with its tile floors and granite counters. But three weeks after our move, she crashed -- and died of total organ failure a day later. We held her close and told her how much we loved her as her life slipped away.

Bob and Marina reading - 2009

Bob and Marina in AZ only days before her death - 2010

I missed Marina's Siamese intelligence and flame point sweetness so much that I began to look for another Siamese mix kitten later on in 2010 -- and I learned an important lesson: one cat does not replace another -- ever. Sweet Pea, a lynx point Siamese and tabby mix, has a personality all her own - sometimes sweet, sometimes contentious. But one thing was clear from the start: she loved Bob.

Bob and baby Sweet Pea in 2010
This photo inspired Bob to lose 40 pounds!

A year ago, in June 2012, we got a notice that Friends for Life, a rescue organization in nearby Gilbert, AZ had an orphaned flame point Siamese kitten. They called him Prince Charming. We named him Hamish -- and he won our hearts (and the hearts of our three other cats) immediately. Now as he grows into a sweet and affectionate young adult, we have to admit his first caregivers had it right: he really is charming!

Bob and baby Hamish - 2012

Chilling out with Sweet Pea and Hammie - 2013

And now Bob has plenty of company, no matter what he's doing: reading, practicing Tai Chi, napping, meditating or watching t.v. sports.

Reading with Hammie

Tai Chi with Sweet Pea and Maggie

Napping with Hammie

Meditation with Hammie

Bob and Gus watching t.v. sports together

And, in all the years he has nurtured our feline companions, Bob has discovered that they give at least as much love and caring as they get. When he suffers from his epilepsy-related depressions, night terrors and nightmares, Gus appears immediately -- lying on Bob's chest purring to calm him, lying across his legs to keep him still and, lately, he has been inspiring the other cats to help Bob as well.

Gus comforting Bob...

And inspiring Sweet Pea and Maggie to join them

Saying "Yes!" to love, to connections and to caring, whether it's for a lonely young person needing someone to notice, spend time with and encourage him or for an abandoned animal in need of a home, can bring incredible richness and joy to one's life. Through giving, one receives so many blessings.

Happy Father's Day to a singular Big Brother and Catman who has earned the enduring love of a very special young man -- and of several generations of wonderful rescue cats!


  1. there are all kinds of dads -- and I think cat dads are especially important. I'm a little biased. But I have to say as cat dads go, I think you hit the jackpot! I love all these photos -- I love the gentle affection and camaraderie between Bob and his brood. They break our hearts when they leave us. But yes, another happens into our lives and the love happens all over again.

    I loved getting to know Bob better through this post. Many smiles this Father's Day -- cats need dads, too!

  2. How satisfyingly wonderful! "Through giving, one receives so many blessings," is such a powerful truth. I loved the picture of Hammie on top of the sofa with his paw stretched down onto Bob. All the pictures were great.

    Happy Father's Day to Bob!

  3. A man doesn't have to have biological children to be a dad, for sure ... The youngsters with whom he shared his life would attest to that.

    Your many cats were/are so lucky to have you and your husband as their people. You are right: cats make great companions, they each have their own unique personality, and they capture our hearts completely. This was a touching post!

  4. This was an interesting and touching post.

  5. Oh how I have missed your wonderful post. So happy I did not miss this heart touching Father's Day post. Bob has certainly been a loving father to many.
    These pictures are so adorable. Would be hard to choose a favorite.
    Funny how I needed to read this post tonight because I am dealing with my outside cat Billie Sue being hit by a car and having surgery. She is doing fine and is suppose to come home tomorrow. I have worried about how to pay for her vet expenses and bringing her full time inside from now on to join my Tinkerbell. After reading this and all of your wonderful stories I have faith that Tinkerbell and I will adjust just fine to a her living inside with us.
    I have missed you but my blogging days have slowed down almost as much as I have.
    Hope you are well. As always I loved my visit here tonight

  6. Dear Kathy, this posting touched me deeply because, like you and Bob, I am a true cat lover. And I have tried always to be a friend to the cats with whom I live. And all of them have befriended me and filled my life with sweetness, delight, joy, and adventure.

    There must be something in Bob's very being--the sweat of his body, the smell of his pores, the sound of his voice, the touch of his hand--that speaks to all the cats with whom the two of you have lived. How wonderful! Peace.

  7. How wonderful. Bob and Timmy remind me especially of my Willie and Liza Bean...