Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is published by William Morrow. It tells the story of my adventures with Atticus M. Finch, a little dog of some distinction. You can also find our column in the NorthCountry News.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Story Of Amadeus

(Mona Sigal M.D. and Julien Vaisman M.D. have dedicated Mt. Adams, to the memory of their beloved Amadeus, pictured above. Mona wrote this wonderful little story about Amadeus for us.)

Although I have been a cat mother for the last 26 years, Amadeus was the first cat I got after coming to the States in 1990. He was my soul mate and the most loving, affectionate and dedicated soul. He preferred living on my or my husband’s arms, and we always used to joke that he might forget one day how to walk. He slept next to my head on his own pillow. He was loved by us beyond belief or reason.

Then, one day in 2003, I noticed a little growth between his toes. To cut a very tragic story short: within 4 weeks he died of a rapidly spreading, disseminated cancer, that ravaged his little body right under our very eyes. He was dead before the biopsy results were even returned. The cancer cells were so poorly differentiated that it was impossible to tell where or in which tissue it had started. It just made no sense what so ever; he was only 13 years old, healthy, happy, 100% indoors, like all my babies. He was the youngest cat I had ever lost.
Several weeks after his death, my neighbor alerted me to a picture in the local newspaper about two magnificent pure bred cats at the local shelter which had to be adopted together. That and the fact that they were long haired was making it for the shelter difficult to place them.

I was inconsolable, and didn’t want to hear of it. After their picture ran for another 2 weeks in the paper, I decided to go and check it out. It was love on the spot, along with learning that these two beautiful 8 months old creatures had already had a very bad start in life. Bought by a young couple of drug addicts, they had been left alone days on end, unfed and uncared for. The parents of one of the owners offered to take the animals in (along with a bulldog, who had served pretty much as the only socialization contact), if the couple went for detox and rehabilitation treatments. The couple moved to town, and in with the parents, and their 5 animals. After about one month, the mother realized that she was completely overwhelmed caring for her own 5 pets and her son’s two cats and bulldog, which were behaviorally very problematic. So, the two cats and the dog ended up at the shelter, where they spent another month, without being adopted. The shelter rejected several prospects because of their inexperience with longhaired breeds and because of difficult interactions between the pro- spective adopters and the two cats. Until I came along.

And then the shocking realization: Upon carefully tracing back the two kittens’ whereabouts, it turned out, that their arrival in town (at the parents’ house) coincided exactly with the week Amadeus got sick. Since both the kittens and Amadeus were seen by the same vet office, this was easy to do. The week Amadeus died, the two were dropped off at the shelter.
It became eerily obvious, that in order for these two to be rescued from the shelter and their very miserable short life, my poor Amadeus had to die; I would have never in a million years adopted any more cats otherwise. And the timing was absolutely astonishing. It was in fact not at all surprising: this was exactly who Amadeus was: he loved with abandon, and he truly was the most unselfish creature we have ever seen.

I know this sounds like a bizarre story of coincidences, but I do not believe in coincidences, rather in cosmic alliances.

Adon and Celine, the two magnificent cats I adopted, after Amadeus died, proved extremely difficult in socializing and normalizing. It has also been one of the most fulfilling challenges; they are both extremely unique personalities. Talking about their own identities! They were brilliant diamonds in the rough, who needed a lot of patience and love to get to where they are today. And it could only happen because our beloved Amadeus gave up his place in this family.