Earlier this week, my beloved cat Joni died. I wasn’t sure if I could share personal news in such a public space, but many friends and family have encouraged me to write about my time with her. And, you know, she was a big reason why I started this little blog in the beginning.
I adopted Joni at a hard time in my life. I had just gone through a brutal breakup, and was living alone for the first time. My friends took me to our local animal shelter, and when I spotted her tiny shock of orange fur curled up in a rainbow-colored blanket, I knew we were meant to be together. It was love at first sight. She completely changed my life.
Our relationship was uncomplicated. I loved her completely, and she loved me back. There was nothing ambiguous about it. Joni was affectionate, loving, playful, and smart. I used to look forward to coming home after work because it meant that we would get to hang out. She would curl up right on my chest when I would read on the couch and hang around my neck like a warm scarf. She liked to sit on my record player and stare at the sky through the window. She used to weave in and out of my legs when I cooked dinner. She always had to be around other people; the kitchen was her favorite space. We liked a lot of the same foods. I would sneak her bites of pizza or little licks of fish. (She loved ranch dressing, Doritos, and burritos, too.) I remember how soft her fur was. It was like flaxen corn silk.
When Joni moved with me to Portland, she loved to hang out in my backyard where there were overgrown rose bushes and big dragonflies. She was very patient when I tried to dress her in a little eyelet dress that I thrifted from Value Village. (But she was very clever when she ran outside, somehow tore off the dress, and buried it somewhere. We never did find that dress). When she was with me in San Diego, she would sleep in sunbeams all day, and then chase mice and birds and lizards and drop them proudly at our doorstep, her mouth dripping with blood. My mom loved to spoil her and feed her roast chicken and grilled swordfish steaks. She was truly the best. I know a lot of people probably say this about their pets, but I think everyone really loved Joni. She touched the heart of everyone who came in contact with her. She was so friendly, open, and honest in her love.
If you’ve been a pet owner before, you know that it is so much more than ‘pet.’ It is soulmate, it is partner, it true love, it is friend and family. Joni… Joni was home. I have reread this so many times in the last few days, I want to share it here again:
Truly, truly you couldn’t speak of discovery of the unknown unless you were unknowing. You have to make a room inside your own ego for what you don’t yet understand, and hold open the possibility that this is what you’re actually looking for. And that then becomes a very personal matter rather than a universal one, because you can’t account for what other people don’t know. But you can acknowledge inside yourself those things which you did not perceive until the encounter forced you into a recognition. You cannot keep score of that for anyone else, but you can acknowledge transformation of your own perception by experience. When you find something about yourself, you don’t throw it away, it’s a treasure. It’s symbolically very important because it acknowledges a transformation in yourself.
Just a few days before the accident, my mom emailed me a beautiful drawing of me and my Joni. It seems only fitting to unveil it now as my banner, so I can be reminded every day of her impact on my life when she was still with me.
RIP to Joni, my kitty soulmate.