Archie came into our lives in 1999 just a few months after we lost our equally unique and beloved Orange Tabby "Derf". Archie was just the friend we needed to sooth our hearts and to our surprise and delight become a "brother in spirit" of sorts to Derf because they both lived long eventful lives of adventure, love, joy and were loved by everyone who met them. |
Derf (Fred spelled backwards.) was 21 years old when we made the sad decision to say goodbye. As a 2 month old kitten, Derf wandering into a rock and roll club where I was working and was taken home by the bartender who upon seeing that I had been feeding the little guy table scraps from my customers figured I'd be likely to want to adopt him. Of course I did and Derf became mine. I was 22. I lived in CT with Derf until spring about a year later when I visited my sister in Boulder Colorado, fell in love with it there and decided to move. I didn't even fly home. The only things I wanted were my record collection and my darling Derf. My parents packed up my car. I found a student from Boulder to drive my belongings from CT to Colorado but unfortunately, my funky old Landcruiser broke down in Ogallala, Nebraska. The part was going to take a week to order, the student had to take a bus back to Boulder to be in school and poor Derf went to live with the mechanic for a week while waiting for the part to arrive. When the repair was finished, I took a bus from Colorado to Ogallala, paid for my car repair and off Derf and I went to live in Boulder, Colorado. Derf was an unstoppable wanderer. Several months later, while in Boulder, he was shot by an angry neighbor with buckshot. His right back leg was shattered. I took him to the best clinic in the area, ironically called the Gunbarrel Veterinary Clinic of all things! They did their best but recommended further surgery. I decided to fly Derf back to CT where my father would see to further look after him and he was operated on in New York. His recovery was good and because I was still in Colorado at school, he lived with my father. Derf lived on 4 acres, hunted, climbed trees, wandered off for days at a time and just when I thought he was lost, I'd hear he had come home. He was gentle yet fierce, mellow yet strong. He lived at my fathers with his best cat buddy "Porter" for many years. A few years later, I came back to CT and yet didn't have the heart to take Derf away from his best friend "Porter". Once dear Porter passed, I took Derf back to live with me permanently. By this time, I was living with Tim and his son Josh who lived in England but visited in summertime was as devoted to Derf as we were. Josh first met Derf when he was 5 and was 11 when Derf died.
Derf left us on March 27 1999 and we needed time to recover our hearts but it broke our hearts to think of Josh coming from England for a year to live with us and not having Derf there for him. We decided that it was time to open our hearts for a new little fur baby in June, as I was absentmindedly looking through the newspaper I saw a real estate ad for a home for sale. In the ad was small corner picture of a great big cat with a white bib, white front paws and an expression a little like Jimmy Cagney. The ad read.."I'M LOOKING FOR A HOME TOO!" My heart leaped on to the page and I made a call, not for the house, but for the CAT! I had had my heart set on a kitten but this guy was NO baby. Tim and I were greeted at the home of a wonderful man who had recently left corporate life to devote his time and resources to animal rescue. We went into his big lovely home and saw a plethora of kitties, most of whom he was fostering. His name was "Fred". Yes, that was odd given that dear DERF's name was Fred spelled backwards and yes, I took that as a sign from Derf that we were in the right place at the right time. Fred pointed to a huge orange cat on the other side of his living room. He called out "Archie...Archie". He ignored us completely and went on about his business. We waited, and waited and eventually his curiosity got the best of him and he came to investigate. His back legs were long and high. His proportions looked exaggerated because his markings on his back legs were white boots and his body so long and strong! Round face, creamcicle coloration but still obvious stripes. He was lighter in color than Derf and had the white markings where as Derf had no white on him but he was delicious! Fred explained how he got his name. Archie came to Fred because Archie had no foster home to go to. Someone had agreed to take him temporarily not into their home but into their work place which I believe happened to be a library. He didn't have a name at that point. However, in the building Archie had a preference to hang out in a room that was devoted to Archival Records and from that, the people named him "Archie". As an aside, on one of the last few days we knew Archie would be with us, and despite the depth of our pain at knowing we were going to have to say goodbye came a light moment when Tim looked at Archie and said with all sincerity - "Archie, I love you so much sweet boy...I've loved you since the very first time you ignored us". Despite the pain we were feeling, we both cracked up. It was the truth.
When we said we would love to adopt him, Fred hesitated briefly as he said, because he and his wife had fallen in love with him and had considered keeping him for their personal brood. We promised we'd love and cherish him for his whole life. After a few more pleasantries, we got the OK. Archie would make his home with us. Several days later when things had all checked out, we brought Archie back home. I don't remember too much about those first few days except that it was still bittersweet having a cat in the house that wasn't our Derf. As the days passed and we all got to know each other, Archie's unique personality began to emerge and we knew we had a friend for life. He was more standoffish than Derf. Derf went out to find you, Archie not so much. He was boldly independent and had his own mind -- could take or leave you. He bonded with Tim first. I got jealous, then he'd surprise me with a nibble or a lick and a purr and I knew he liked me too. But, if he didn't want you near, watch out. He'd swat and hiss until you got the message. He'd summon you if he wanted you but you had to take him on his terms! By the time Josh arrived for his visit in July, Archie had made his mark in our hearts, our home our neighborhood.
Always having had outdoor cats, we allowed Archie out after keeping him indoors for 3 weeks so he would remember where home was. I was never so nervous when letting him out for the first time and with good reason. He was a wanderer, adventurer, gladiator! Like Derf, he'd take off and be gone but where as Derf would be gone for days, Archie never more than an overnight here and there. I had my special call for him and he'd usually...emphasis on "usually" come trotting back. I'll never forget the joy I had the first time he came back after being out for a long stretch. I knew he KNEW where home was.
That summer, Josh was besotted with Archie and our little family was united. And, so it went for that year.. and beyond.
Archie was an "only cat" until about 2005 when one day, I visited a shelter and fell in love with a beautiful solid white kitty. We adopted her and called her Lily. Archie was not happy, but he adjusted. Then, in 2006 along came a solid black kitty we named Stella and lastly, in 2008 came a mischievous special needs kitty we named Chance. These three were strictly indoor cats and they had their own unique bonds but Archie..warrior and the Prince of the Prowl kept his watch and began to adopt people in the neighborhood in his rounds. I will say that with each successive adoption he wanted to spend more and more time outside and his adventures began! He had a thing for losing his collars. He must have lost a dozen collars over the years and people would find them and drop them in our mailbox. Archie, camped out on peoples stoops, visited families blocks away, sunned on porches for as many as 5 blocks away. He was street savvy. We never worried about his ability to dodge cars even though we live in a quiet neighborhood. He was a nomad and preferred to roam his Kingdom, survey his domain, visit his subjects. I'd go on a walk and see him 6 blocks away just lounging on someone's porch. He'd see me and run to me and walk the rest of my walk with me. He had fans, a following - he was a ROCK STAR! As the expression goes, "Dogs have owners, Cats have Staff". This describes Archie to a T!
Once in a while I'd get a call from a family down the street..."Archie is here playing with my girls, is it OK if we feed him?"... Or ..." I found your kitty Archie is he missing". "No", I'd say, "he's just making his rounds". I'd always go pick him up but a few days later, I'd get the same call.
Then, in 2010, Archie began disappearing for longer stretches. I tried not to worry. I wondered whether he had finally had enough of his siblings and decided to make a home elsewhere. He would stop running to me when I'd call him. He wasn't with in earshot I suspected. But then, again, I knew he could be full of hijinks..he'd sit quietly under a thick shrub in our yard while I called and called. I'd be crying and worried and he'd just let me suffer! You just never knew with him. Alas, one night I got a phone call at midnight from a neighbor two streets away that said he had Archie in his house. He had come by and triggered his exterior lights and woken up the owner of the house by walking back and forth in front of the light trigger! Archie got the boot and then came home.
That year, at Christmastime, we received a Christmas card addressed to Archie from "Mittens, Smokey and Princess". We were touched and amused at this sweet gesture but had no idea who the people were although there was a return address..and because our address was on Archie's collar the other party knew where we were.
Archie continued in his travels. He was so popular that I began to nickname him "The Mayor" of Leonard Place. Only later did I come to find that he traveled far and wide and really was The Mayor of many local streets. He was staying out longer and on cold nights I'd be particularly panicked and drive the streets with my window down even if it was 3:00 am. I'd hollar out the window.. "Archie, AAAARCHIE Kit Kit Kit.." One night I came across a man who obviously had trouble getting to sleep because he was standing at the end of his driveway on a frigid early winter night smoking a cigarette. He looked harmless and I explained to him that I was looking for my big orange cat. He said "do you mean the Archie? Yep, he was over at my house playing with my kids earlier today." I just smiled and laughed because it was true, everyone knew Archie. And I knew he was probably just fine.
So, then, at Christmastime that year, I send a Christmas card to Mittens, Smokey and Princess from Archie. I got a call at some point in that time and the gentleman on the other end of the phone introduced himself as Lou. LOU had a story to tell me that was so profoundly moving, so bittersweet.
Lou had lost a beloved fur baby by the name of Lady. Lady was only in his life for 6 weeks as he adopted this poor girl on deaths door, a stray and a little angel who had never received or known love and warmth. Lou devoted 6 weeks and un-tolled resources to her care and recovery. He loved Lady like no other and to make a long story short, tragically she died of complications from a seizure while making her recovery from the ravages of her former life as a stray. Lou was devastated. His heart torn apart further by a clerical mistake with her autopsy and Lady was not returned to him for burial or cremation. He grieved and felt he had failed his darlin' Lady. Nothing could be further from the truth, because in the end, Lou had given this dear girl 6 weeks of love, nurture, devotion that she never would have had. We all wish it could have been more but alas..it wasn't to be.
Lou explained that shortly after Lady died, his outside lights began to be tripped at night by an animal. He was intrigued to see a huge orange cat in his yard who would sit out side his basement window wells, his mouth meowing silently until the screen door was opened and demanding his attention. No surprise, who this was! Lou's connection with Archie was instant and he explained that he felt Lady had sent Archie to help him heal his broken heart. And so began the greatest of friendships between man and cat and then extended to Tim's and my life.
Archie began to devote his time pretty much exclusively between our house and Lou's. Lou because "Uncle Lou" to us and to Archie. Archie would ask to go out every day and every day he's make his way, rain, shine and even in a couple feet of snow over to Lou's. During the heavy snows we had in 2011 Lou always used the snow blower to clear a path for Archie who marched over there daily for his Uncle Lou fix. Lou would feed, brush, indulge, photograph and adore Archie until about 6 pm when Archie would ask to be let out. But Lou, bless his heart, wouldn't let Archie out, instead he'd call us to see if we were home and then Uncle Lou would drive Archie over the couple of blocks to our house riding shotgun between the two front seats with his front paws on the center of the dashboard and his rear legs perched on the console peering out on to the road. The kids in the neighborhood used to wave at Lou with Archie in his Chariot! There are dozens of Archie and Lou stories to tell but the one most important story is of their love which played it self out quietly and genuinely every day. Their bond was indeed, very special.
Archie began to slow down in spring of 2011 and he showed signs of weight loss, vomiting and Lou was never further than a phone call away. We all decided that it was time to keep Archie indoors for good as he was getting on in age. We treated him for stomach issues and after one crisis, he got better. Lou came a couple day a week for visits, always arrived with treats for him and for our other three always devoting himself to his beloved BOY! Lou babysat our cats for 2 weeks that year but not like you think. Lou came 3 times a day to feed, visit, play, photograph our cats. He even read books to our fur babies! He babysat our brood again this past summer for 3 weeks total and checked in on my Mom who was living in our house while we were gone. To say Lou is part of the family is an understatement and at the center of it all was Archie.
By late summer 2012 Archie was losing weight more rapidly and it slowly became clear that something was quite wrong. On the day Hurricane Sandy hit our worst fears were realized..he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Brave Lou had been the one to take him to the vet for fluids but returned having made had additional tests. And so, in the week of recovery from the aftermath of the storm, we kept round the clock vigil to keep him comfortable. Lou, Tim and I nurtured and loved Archie with every molecule of our bodies and hearts. We made numerous trips as a threesome over to the vet, we took turns encouraging him to eat, Lou prepared dozens of tempting meal choices and spared no expense in time or money to give him anything he wanted. We read volumes of internet articles about his condition, but we mostly just were there for him when he needed love. We all waited for his baritone purr deep round warm tones like you'd imagine a mountain lion would make. He'd oblige us one at a time with a gentle head butt, a lick on the arm, an extended paw over your hand or just that soulful look into our eyes that told us he knew we loved him and that he loved us. We were all there with Archie took his last breath and we were all there when we picked up his ashes two days ago. We will be there for each other at anniversaries and had holidays and every day, just to remember how lucky we were to have known Archie. And how lucky we were to have had Archie bring us all together.
Archie was more a "force" than a kitty. He was LOVE on four legs and he helped heal Lou, he helped heal Tim and me and he was loved by everyone who met him. We will miss his presence everywhere but know he is watching. In fact, the other day, when Tim was driving his car down the highway, he was crying, sad, feeling lost so he rolled open the window of his car and cried out the window, "ARCHIE -- WHERE ARE YOU, I MISS YOU SO MUCH..". He wiped his tears and hoped for, but didn't expect a sign yet, moments later he looked ahead at the car in front of him. The license plate said one word. "MEOW". That's our BOY! And that's a symbolic sign of the mystery of how strong love is and what miracles love can do.
BLESS YOU DEAR ARCHIE. WE LOVE AND MISS YOU ALWAYS BUT KNOW YOU ARE FREE AND IN A BETTER PLACE. THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME ON EARTH WITH US. VISIT US WHEN YOU CAN AND WE WILL VISIT YOU IN OUR HEARTS AND SOUL AND HERE ON THE RAINBOW BRIDGE.
LOVE YOU ALWAYS AND FOREVER,
December 26, 2013 - Dearest Archie. My heart is full today with thoughts of you and all the joy you brought to our lives. Today, this day after Christmas is a quiet one and one in which I can feel you near. Thank you my precious Boy for all you brought to all who love you. We miss you our little Angel. Merry Christmas! xxoxoxoxo Mommy, Poppy and Uncle Lou
NOV 6 2016 4 Years today Archie you left for Rainbow Bridges, Your Mom Kathy, Your Dad Tim, and I Uncle Lou Miss you so much, you gave so much LOVE to all of us, Some day we will join you at the bridge, will you wait to greet us and we will all be together again..Love you. Mommy, Daddy, uncle Lou