My heart is broken!! Two weeks ago we said goodbye to our sweet Olaf DaVinci. I’m just now able to write about it.
I firmly believe animals are one of your great gifts to us, God, and I thank you for every day of the 15 years that this furry little friend and constant companion graced my life.
Oley was a big, beautiful, majestic and totally lovable Maine Coon cat with a flamboyantly irrepressible personality. He had a studious little face, thick luxurious fur and a magnificent plume of a tail. Here he is on the table in our sunroom, the king of all he surveys.
You first brought him into our lives at an Animal Protective League shelter when he was a year and a half old. He insisted on coming home with us. And I do mean insisted.
We had gone to the shelter looking for a cat to adopt and had spent at least a half hour petting a variety of cute kitties to see if one of them might choose us. When Pete sat down on the floor, Oley immediately hopped into his lap and began giving him repeated head butts, as if to say, “Me! Me! Me! Look no further!”
When we told the shelter staff we wanted Oley, they told us, “He has a friend.” They then introduced us to Champaign, a very frightened kitty who had been abused in his previous home and spent most of his time hiding under a chair to avoid being bullied by other cats.
Champie and Oley had formed a tight bond at the shelter and the staff said it would be really nice if they could be adopted together. So home we went, with two long-haired tomcats. We’ve never regretted that decision, despite a lot of shedding.
Champaign spent the first two weeks hiding in the basement, only coming upstairs to eat when Pete and I left the house, and it took quite a while for him to truly warm up to us. But Oley kept him company and Champie eventually came around. Now he’s a regular cuddle bear, thanks to some socialization from Oley as well as from us.
Oley and Champaign liked to hang out together when they weren’t negotiating territory. (They had the house, and us, neatly divided between them.) One of their favorite places was a chair in the sunroom.
A cat with a personality such as Oley’s naturally managed to acquire a number of nicknames. At the vet’s office, he was Mr. DaVinci. To us, he was Fluff Budget, Little Bud and Baby. Oley could do the “hang dog” look so well, another of his nicknames was Puppy Cat.
No matter what we were doing, Oley always wanted to be in the middle of it. If I was making the bed, he and Champie would both jump up and “help.” If I was sitting at my desk, Oley would literally tap my arm to let me know he wanted onto my lap. If I was sorting laundry, into the basket he’d hop. “Oley, do you need to be washed?” I would ask him.
God, this little cat you created didn’t just have a distinct, unique personality. He was a real character, in the best sense of the word. He was the most irrepressible kitty I ever met, bar none.
Here he is, hoping to persuade Pete to give him a bite of people food. (Cat food? Boring!) When friends came to the house, he would make the rounds, getting each guest to pet him and share tidbits of smoked salmon or cheese.
The camera couldn’t capture the way his cute little nose would work while he brazenly wheedled us for people food. But the photo below captures a little bit of his flamboyant boldness.
Usually during meals, he would start out sitting in the middle of the table, then inch closer to one of our plates very slowly, as if he thought we might not notice.
He loved his water straight from the tap. As he got older and a little arthritic, he had Pete trained to lift him up to the sink so he could have his sip.
According to Oley, one needed appropriate supervision in order to practice one’s instrument. Oley gladly provided this service.
Even the most onerous task can be made more endurable with the right assistance. Oley often helped Pete grade student papers.
He had a way of making sure I kept my priorities straight as well. Anytime I sat down at my desk or in my recliner, there he was. He loved sitting on my lap.
He could be really patient when he needed to indulge his humans a little. Pete and I have a habit of kissing our kitties on the head to show them how much we love them, and just because they’re so darn cute. The oh-so-patient look on Oley’s little face when we did this to him was priceless.
Our cats have always seemed to know when one of us is sick or sad and needs company or comforting. Here, both Oley and Champaign joined me the day I got home from gallbladder surgery.
Oley sat in my lap for hours and let me stroke his soft fur as I mourned the loss of both my parents, followed by at least a dozen family members and close friends during this ghastly pandemic.
One of best things our sweet Oley did was join me for morning meditation. I had already developed a meditation ritual when he came to us – sitting in my recliner with a cup of coffee by my side while I journaled about my priorities for the coming day. And Oley, being Oley, wanted to be right in the middle of it.
For 15 years, my little cat burrowed his way into my morning ritual, sitting in my lap while I journaled and prayed. Sometimes Pete would join us as well, serenading us with his dulcimer. (I wish I had a picture of this.)
Champie always looked up to Oley, and frankly, so did we. In the end, when Oley’s health began to deteriorate, he would prove to be such a brave little trouper as I tried medical interventions that would help him for a while. He certainly taught me some things about life.
The Bible in several places talks about animals on the other side of eternity – lions lying down with lambs, cows and bears grazing together and children safely playing with all of them. I just know Oley is there right now.
I love to imagine that the first thing Oley did when he met Jesus was to jump into his lap and greet him with some serious head butts.
God, I will always be grateful for the wonderful gift you gave us when you blessed us with our beautiful Olaf DaVinci. Today, as I try through my tears to count my blessings, I certainly count this magnificent little creature to be one of those blessings.
With love and gratitude,