February 25, 2012

Celebrating Nick

Alpha. Aggressive. Clown. Gentle Giant.

Nicholas was all of those and more.

Simmering between 17 and 20# for most of his life,  Nick never failed to cause a reaction when he met someone new, be it at home or at a new vet. Vet techs would brace to "deal" with the miniature panther, and then melt when they realized how utterly charming he was. That he knew they were there to help him feel better soon became evident.

Nick and Cookie shared an Odd Couple relationship. The same age, they already lived on our Kentucky acres when we bought the house. Neurotic and nervous, Cookie was befriended by my outdoor tabbies, Moose & Logan, and hired to run Nicholas off. Nick had worn out his welcome by trying to destroy them. Eager to please his new friends, Cookie took his job seriously.
Moose, Cookie & Logan in KY

I still have this picture in my head of small Cookie crawling up the brick barbecue after huge Nick, twice his size. Nick clearly was trying to get away from the pest, but Cookie was relentless. Nick could have easily pummeled poor Cookie, but there was something about Cookie that touched all of us. He always had his tail tucked between his legs, and would roll belly up when approached by man or beast, submissive and insecure...except when it came to Nick. He would be follow him, smacking his tail, chattering non-stop in his rusty weird little voice.

That relationship continued up until 2006 when we relocated to Southaven. Stuck inside the house together, their relationship evolved and soon they were Co-Alphas. Not really "Co" since The General, as we nicknamed Cookie, was more annoying than a leader, but as Nick aged I think he cared less and less about managing the younger cats. I fed Nick and Cookie side by side every day.

Eating is a sacred ritual among animals and experts declare that territorial animals should be fed away from each other. My method was the opposite. Side by side, they had to get along or one of them would go hungry. It worked for Nick and Cookie. And its still working as I carry out the same process with two of my outdoor males who started out mortal enemies at the beginning of winter, and as of yesterday were eating off the same plate.

Nevertheless, there were times when Cookie's neurotic behavior irritated the dickens out of Nick and he was forced to remind Cookie who the real Alpha was.

Barney, Herman, Nick, Opie, Kenny

Officially indoor cats once we left Kentucky, my gang of males had to learn how to get along. It was rough going. Anything could set one of them off. Usually it was a battle between Barney & Kenny who were considered bottom rung cats. Even Opie, who arrived January 2008 as a stray kitten, was "above" those two by matter of confidant personality. As a kitten Opie followed Nick around the house, playful and adoring. Nick surprised me by not pummeling the bit of orange fluff. Perhaps Nick recognized a kindred spirit. It was clear pretty early on that Opie one day would be Top Cat of the Kozlowski cats.

Herman, Joe Camel and Nick
There were three things Nick loved more than life itself: the outdoor, being brushed, and laying draped over my legs when I sat on the sofa.

Herman needs constant brushing to keep his baby fine hair from covering every inch of the house. I had to shut us behind closed doors because if Nick got wind there was brushing going on, he would come running and hip-check the cat being brushed aside in order to get his brushing. He loved it so much that after there was nothing left to brush, he'd insist I keep going.

Lounging outside was the highlight of Nick's day. He was always gracious enough to share the lounge with me.

During one of our annual Halloween parties, Nick went as a snake charmer. He had a playful side and if I told him he looked great wearing a snake or an air freshener tag off his tail, then he strutted proudly.

Nick, sitting on the deck of our Kentucky property is one of the ways I'll always remember him. We used to go for long walks together. He was born free, and even though I adopted him he continued to explore beyond our property. I saw him many times in the cow field across the road, standing on the ridge as I went to work. I'd worry about him of course, but he was a survivor. I recall one time I saw a red fox on our property...and then I spotted what it was after. NICK! They raced across the front lawn and rounded the corner of the house. I ran from the front window to the back just in time to see Nick enter through the cat door, clearly exhilarated by the chase. Meanwhile I had a small heart attack.

We lived at the top of a hill. Ray and I liked to take a long walks down our long steep driveway, down the country lane, past the cow fields, into a residential subdivision adjacent to our property. Because of the narrow road, when Nick followed us I told him to wait by the gate for us. He sat and we walked on. On our way home we decided to cut through back woods and entered our property from the opposite end. Around dinnertime that evening it struck me that I had not seen Nick since that morning. Then it hit me. Was he still waiting by the gate? I ran down and yes, he was still there, waiting patiently. My heart broke. I called him and he ran to me, his long tail flying high, his high-pitched voice calling, "he-he-he" like he did when he saw me. I gave him extra treats that night to apologize.

We would occasionally have camp fires on the gravel parking area on our property. We would pull out the camp chairs and enjoy the starry night and the flames, otherwise surrounded by pitch darkness. On the nights Nick joined us, I'd bring out an extra camp chair for him. This was our alone time with him as the other cats were inside or tucked into their cat house on the porch.

Nick wasn't just large and in charge...he was a train running full steam ahead! We were connected in so many ways, and yet with that connection came umpteen collisions, several of which landed me painfully on my backside. Last Christmas I was headed for the back door to feed the outside cats. Nick, figuring he was either going to get fed or go outside, raced ahead of me, then dropped back, and cut across me. The plate of food flew into the air and I landed on the tile floor--hard. I lay there for the longest time, thinking 'So this is why they invented Life Alert.' Ray was out of town, I didn't have my cell phone on me. I was pretty sure I'd broken my foot. Around me I heard the soft crunch crunch crunch of Nick, Cookie, Barney and Herm making sure the kibble wouldn't go to waste.

After we left Kentucky Nick was no longer allowed to run free due to a heavily trafficked road near our street. And so, when he did venture out beyond the fence, I had to leash him. Um...that's a dog's harness he's wearing. They just didn't make a cat harness big enough to fit him.

Nick loved me enough to let me swaddle him like a baby.
His favorite of all favorite beds. He had four in his final year.
There were very few times when I sat on that sofa without Nick in my lap. That he was 20# meant nothing to him. He would always smack aside whoever dared to sit on "his" sofa and then take his rightful place draped over my legs.
During his last hurrah outdoors, he relaxed in the winter sunshine. Since days before we had nothing but rain and cold wind, I'd like to think this particular day was a gift from God. We walked together like the good old days, free of harness, just enjoying our time together.
There were even a few trees that desperately needed clawing.
Born a loner, he overcame his rough start in life and became an affectionate house cat. He loved having his ears rubbed, his fur brushed, and me.

This is how I want to remember Nick. He loved to sunbathe and didn't care how silly he looked when he was contently enjoying himself. It was almost as if those rocks were strategically placed to create a soft cradle for him. I'd like to think of him forever more, lying in sunshine, warming his fur, dreaming of birds and mice...and me.


  1. Anonymous5:16 PM

    What a beautiful tribute. Nick will continue to live on in our memories.

  2. what a wonderful triubute. I'm sure he likes it too.

  3. Lovely... Nick was quite a character!

  4. TheTardisToms9:47 AM

    A great honour to Nick's memory, and such lovely photos

  5. the_tardis_toms9:48 AM

    A great honour to Nick's memory and some lovely photos