Lessons I learned from Mr. Tigger O’Malley Koehler

Tiggy a couple of weeks ago.

In the spirit of Pacifica’s farewell to our sweet Herbie, I’ve decided to write my own tribute to our sweet Tiggy. He’s been missing for five days now, and we’ve presumed him passed on. Everyone keeps telling us to hang on and be patient…that he will come home. And, as difficult as it is, I have to admit that I’ve known since last Saturday that he isn’t coming home. Whether he passed away or just decided to go live with another family, the reality is the same, and Bruce and I have been heartsick.

This cat has been our constant companion for almost a decade. We rescued him off the street ourselves back in 2003 (with the help of our trusty neighbor Kathleen). Tigger was the most loving, gentle and kind cat I’ve EVER KNOWN. He never scratched anyone on purpose…never hissed…was never out of humor with the humans. He was kind to babies. He was sweet to dogs, although he wasn’t afraid of them either. He didn’t take their crap if they were at all agressive. He was incredibly intelligent. He was full of shenanigans.

A “wild thing” outside my office window

You may say “what cat isn’t??” but seriously everyone who knew this cat loved him. I often heard people say things like, “I don’t even like cats, but that one is amazing!” Yes he yoweled like he was on fire half the time. Yes he peed on things as a way of punishing us when we wouldn’t let him out. And yes he shredded our furniture down to the wood frame. But he was also affectionate, funny, and way smarter than the average person. So yeah, everyone loved him. So, in honor of this inimitable kitt-an, I thought I would note the things that I was lucky to learn from him.

1). True Friends are worth a slurp in the face

Dogs and cats are enemies in the wild (think lions and hyenas). But Tigger was able to see past the species divide and give love. He taught me that true love means acceptance of other creatures as they are…even if the other creature is a stinky, slobbery K9. When our 18 year-ancient Brittany spaniel, Chester, lay on his death-bed, Tigger sat in the window and watched him every minute. After we had to put Chester to sleep, Tigger sat and waited…a loyal friend forever. He and Chester were unlikely allies, but totally allies nonetheless. When Lucy arrived, Tiggy accepted the hyper, bouncy little puppy with grace and patience. Lucy was tiny. She weighed only 4 pounds when she arrived. Friends and family often asked me how the cat took this upstart. Well, it is true that Tiggy would play with her. But somehow he also knew that Lucy was vulnerable. His claws never opened against her. He played soft paws and never popped her too hard. It wasn’t until he knew she was able to protect herself that he began to play a little more rough, and even at that he never hurt her. He was incredibly sensitive. He taught me to practice acceptance of what Martin Buber called the “wholly other” in other creatures, and by doing so, he taught me about my relationship with the divine in us all.


A loving cat/dog pairing

2). If you are passionate about something, never let your passion fade.

Now, any of you who actually know us and knew Tiggy are aware that this cat…THIS CAT…HAD TO BE OUTSIDE!! Bruce and I kept him inside for 8 years. We accepted his systematic destruction of our house and his yoweling! OMGnss the yoweling! He cried all the time. And he never gave up. That crazy cat wore our butts down. Any time the door opened, he was there. If a window was open, he was there. Many a book, paper, lamp, electronic device, and pair of glassed ended up on the floor because of him. He attempted to go up the chimney. He tried the mail slot in the front door. He even climbed up a ladder left by some workmen and got into the attic, thinking he could get out of the vents up there. Each attempt proved futile, but Tigger didn’t care. He was possessed by the idea of returning to the outdoors. It was part of his identity.

After 8 long and painful years, Tigger finally got his wish. On a sunny day last November, we released him from the house. I cried for an hour (only one hour because he came back). I knew that one day he would not return. Truth be told, I think I began to grieve him at that moment. I knew that the act of letting him out of the house required letting him go. And as my BFF, Britta K, has often said, “Every cat dies; not every cat truly lives.” She’s right, of course, and I know it. But so strong was our desire to protect him that we took 8 years of his freedom. I still think it is better to keep a cat in the house, but Tigger wasn’t having it. Sadly, he lasted only 9 months after his release, but he was happier than ever. That crazy kitty! I always looked at him at said, “Tigger! What do you want out there? Here you have food, safety, shelter, and love! Sure we get angry over your behavior, but we always loved you!” He simply looked at me and meowed to be released, because that’s what he needed. He reminded me to never give up! Never surrender a dream that truly lights you up inside. Who would think a cat would  cry for 8 bleeding years to be released from a home that was feeding him and loving him. But his freedom was a part of him, and he refused to let go of that. That’s commitment, man!

And, it reminds me that I am too often willing to give up.

Thanks for reminding me Tigger.

3). One should never pass up the opportunity to lay in the sun

Tigger was a master at what many people call kitty yoga. He would sleep in crazy poses–laying in the sun for hours at a time–often with whiskers twitching and chittering in his sleep. On the bed, in our kitchen window (which we often called the kitty sauna), on the couch, on the walkway, and on the BBQ. It really didn’t matter where. Anyplace you saw him sleep, you would also see that joker-like smile on his face; a smile of pure kitty bliss. Like any other cat, he enjoyed his sunshine. But it’s not just about that. It’s about joy. Tigger taught me that there is joy to be found in any situation. He reminded me that no matter what, the sun will always shine on your face. Thanks for that lesson Tigger.

Tigger, you were the kindest and best of cats–our own Colonel Brandon meets John Nash meets Abraham Delacy Guiseppe Casey Thomas O’Malley the alley cat meets Puss in Boots meets Captain Jack Sparrow. We miss you. We will always miss you. We will always love you. And should you ever need/want to return (Lord knows I pray all the time that my intuition is wrong), our home is open to you. But if you don’t, wherever you are, please know that we are happy that you went the way you wanted to go–as master of your own cat tree. May you rest in eternal Elysian fields of catnip you fantastic feline.

Epilogue: I spent some time the other day thinking about all the nicknames Bruce and I had for him over the years. Tigger was all personality. The first time I saw Puss In Boots in Shrek, I shrieked because it was so like him.

Here’s a moment of sharing some of his aliases: Tiggy, Tiggy-Wiggy, Mr. Tigger, El Diablo Gato, The Furbear, Furbeaster, Monsieur le Fur, Monsieur le Meow, Mr. Frisky-Two-Times, Captain Jack, O’Malley, The Clickety-Clack Bastard, Mr. Mou, Cat, THE MEOW, Tigger-The-Rapist (long story), Kitt-AN, The Evil One, Kitty da Beast, Puss, The Golden Boy, The Sleek Weasel, The Bengal Boy, Mr. Sweet Cream, The Sweet Genius, and John Nash.


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