1988 - 13 August 1998

Levi, we believe you were born some time in 1988.  You were a Birman, a relatively rare breed whose names are assigned according to the year of their birth.  You were born in the "L" year which we believe was 1988.  My sister, Pat, who lives in New Mexico found you in a pet store when you were a kitten.  We believe you were in the pet store because you didn't have the little white shoes on the tips of your feet that Birmans are supposed to have.  You were chocolate brown with uniformly dark brown legs.  Pat wasn't looking for a cat.  She had just wandered in to look at the animals and you reached out to her with both "hands" through the bars of your cage in your most friendly, imploring way.  She couldn't leave without you even though she already had dogs, cats, horses, etc.

Pat sometimes "rescues" a greyhound whose racing days are over.  When she would bring a new one home, they would see you and think "the rabbit!"  She would train them carefully though to understand that you were not the "rabbit" but instead, a member of the household to be respected like the other members of the household.  The greyhounds made a heroic effort to ignore you as they hurried from place to place through the house.  They would pass you forcing themselves to think "that's not the rabbit...  that's not the rabbit...".  Once, you were lying on the arm of a couch and as one of the greyhounds passed by, you reached out playfully to touch it.  It whirled around and shouted "WARF!" right in your face.  You didn't reach out to them any more but everyone seemed to get along ok.

We visited Pat a few times over the years and fell in love with you when we first saw you.  A couple of years prior to writing this, when we were visiting, Pat said you were not getting enough attention there since there were several greyhounds, two other cats, and, outside, goats, and horses to care for.  She asked us if we would like you to live with us.  We already had cats in the house but you were so lovable that we hesitated not a moment.

As we started out in our motor home to make the trip back from New Mexico to Arizona, I held you in my lap as Susan drove.  You were a house-cat, unaccustomed to traveling.  You did not like traveling.  All the motion and the noise.  You forcefully pushed your head under my arm to hide from the world that was rushing by.  I believe you made a few little meows of the type we identified as your "fearful" meows.  You finally chose to lay on the floor behind the passenger chair for most of the trip.

When we reached our home, you were introduced to the other cats.  Cats always establish a dominance hierarchy.  Since you weighed 17 pounds (you were simply BIG, not overweight), and had an irrepressable spirit, you soon became "top cat" and there was eventually peace within our little cat community.

You were so special.  I know all pet owners think that of their pets, but you were an exception among exceptions.  We've had other cats but none have been so endearing and intelligent as you.  When we would talk to you, you would look right in our eyes as if you fully understood what we were saying.  Your beautiful blue eyes were so penetrating it seemed as if you could see to the depths of our souls.

Before we left New Mexico with you, Pat made sure that you took your "collection" with you.  You had a collection of ten little yarn balls of various colors.  We placed your water and dry-food dispensers up on the counter in the guest bathroom and put your collection there.  Your favorite ball was a light blue one.  This is the one you would bring us when you wanted to play "fetch".  You would decide on your own when you wanted to do this.  We would be reading in the family room and you would show up with the ball and drop it at our feet.  We would throw it and you would dash through the house after it.  You would bring it back to us in your teeth and again drop it near us to throw again.  When you tired of the game, you would take the ball in your teeth, saunter back to the bathroom, and deposit the ball among the others in your collection.  You always kept your collection complete.  There are still ten balls there.  You often kept one, two or three of the balls in your dry-food dispenser tray.  The purple one is there now just as you left it.

Levi's Collection

They say that one of the early signs of higher-than-average human intelligence is the making and keeping of collections at an early age.  Your collection of yarn balls of course was one of the things that convinced me that you were more intelligent than the average cat.  The other thing was the tuna-fish episode.

I don't believe that Pat had ever given you tuna fish.  One day, I went to the cupboard, got a can of tuna-fish, opened it, made a sandwich and ate it.  Since you didn't know about tuna-fish, you did not react in any way to all of this.  I think you were lying on the rug where you could observe everything I did but I didn't think you were paying attention.  When I finished the sandwich, there was a little tuna-fish left over so I gave you a taste.  You liked it!  I didn't really give it much thought.  The next day, when I came home from work, you met me at the door as you always did but this time, you meowed and acted like you wanted me to follow you by running off then walking back, etc.  I followed you.  You took me to the upper cupboard where the tuna fish cans were stored!  You put your big paws up on the lower cupboard, reached up to the upper cupboard, looked over your shoulder directly at me and meowed!  I don't see how you knew where it was except by back-calculating where it came from after I gave you a taste.  You must have thought "Now where did that come from?" and thought back through my actions of going to the cupboard, getting the can, opening the can, making a sandwich, eating the sandwich, then giving you a taste.  You would have had to remember a twenty minute sequence of events and understand the connection between them and you did.  I was told that tuna-fish was not particularly good for cats so we very rarely gave it to you although you frequently led me to that cabinet when I would come home from work.  I would say "Yes, tuna-fish but we're not going to have any today."  We were thinking of your health.  Now I wish I had given you tuna-fish more often.

Sometimes I would eat in the family room and set a glass of milk down on an end-table.  I wouldn't let you drink from it of course and I thought you could not get at it if I drank it so that it was below where your tongue could reach.  You solved this problem when I wasn't looking though.  You reached in, dipped your "hand" in the milk then licked it off your "hand".  This was so cute, I let you get away with it often.  I'd protect it until there was a quarter of an inch or so left then let you "dip in".  You would reach in many times to wet your "hand", pull it out, and lick it.  We did manage to get photos of you doing this.  I now think we should have taken many more photos although we do have quite a few.

Levi Helping himself to my milk.

There are Birman pages out on the internet.  The Birman motto seems to be "You have not been loved until you have been loved by a Birman".  You certainly made it clear that you loved us.  You would climb into our laps and purr so loudly.  You really enjoyed being with us.  (Our other cats are much more independent - they can take us or leave us most of the time.)  You would even come into the living room and greet all the people during our Bluegrass jam sessions on Wednesday nights.  You seemed to love everybody and I know everybody loved you. After greeting everyone, you would often perch on the back of the couch with your left feet hanging over one side of the couch and your right feet hanging over the other.  You really knew how to relax!

Levi lounging and listening to music.

Most days, on the weekends, you would usually go wherever I was in the house and watch me or sleep nearby.  You would do the same for Susan on weekdays.  I usually go to bed about 10.  You would follow me to bed.  If I stayed up a little late working on the computer, you would come looking for me to go to bed. You liked a pillow!  You wanted your head up a little higher.  Sometimes you would fall asleep with your head in the crook of my arm as I fell asleep. Sometimes you would let me hold your two little front feet in my hand as I fell asleep.  You would purr loudly.  Because Birman's have a "Roman" nose, you sometimes snored a little!  It wasn't very loud and I thought it was cute and would always smile when I heard you.  Sometimes, in the middle of the night, you would wake me so that I would pet you.  You purred so loud!

In the mornings, I would feed you canned cat food.  You really liked it!  Each morning, just before my alarm clock went off - even if it wasn't set - you would forcefully butt your head under my hand for me to pet you and semi-gently bite my hands and arms until I got up to feed you.  Sometimes I walked on the treadmill first and you were very patient through all that but watched me closely with those intelligent blue eyes and meowed when I finished to be sure I would feed you.

Cats live longer than dogs.  Their life-span is on the order of 20 years. We thought we would have you for at least ten more years.

Then, suddenly, over the space of a week or so, it seemed as though you were not as insistent about getting me up to feed you.  We noticed that we could feel your backbone and realized you were eating very little.  We became alarmed and thought you had some sort of obstruction.  I noticed that you had chosen a place to die under the living room curtains.  You would venture out to drink water and use your box but would always return there.  You would not purr.  (Michelle, a cat I had for 19 1/2 years purred right up to the last - I let her die naturally at home, in her chosen dying-place, of old age, because it seemed right for her.)  We took you to the Vet confident that at worst, a simple operation to clear the obstruction would have you back in good health.  The X-Ray images devastated us.  They showed a liver many times normal size, compressing all your other internal organs including your stomach.  We brought you home with instructions to force-feed you through the weekend.  Your last night at home (Friday) was restless.  Once during the night you lay beside me and extended your little paws so they would reach into my hand and I held them.  By Saturday, we thought that you needed professional help to get you through the weekend.  You were transferred to the animal hospital and had an IV line to keep you hydrated.  They force-fed you to keep you alive.  We just had to know if you had something that we could help you recover from.  A series of further tests that seemed to drag out endlessly, although it was actually only a few days, showed that you had an unusually rare and extremely aggressive form of plasma cell cancer.  We could force-feed you with a tube, periodically take you in for heavy chemo-therapy, and perhaps extend your life 6 months during which time, you would probably feel miserable.  That would have been a solution for us, not for you.  We believed you were in some pain although not severe.  We reluctantly had to face the fact that ending your suffering was the only reasonable alternative.  Susan held you in her lap for the final moments.  You seemed a little uncomfortable but stretched out in her arms.  The end was extremely swift.  As the vet administered the injection your head sank smoothly and within less than 5 seconds, you were gone.


"It is never easy to lose these precious little souls.  I am so sorry you had to go through it with beautiful, loving Levi.  I wish none of us had to feel this pain, but there is no way around it when you are an animal lover.  They should be with us for our entire lifetime.  That's how I would have designed it.  But they just weave in and out of our lives like they have somewhere else to be."
    - Pat

Though our separation, it pierced me through the heart,
You still live inside of me, we'll never be apart.
    - Adapted from a Bob Dylan song

Copyright 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 Howard C. Anderson