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Remembering An Old Friend, And A Beloved Pet

By: Robin Young

Robin’s cat, who had to be put to sleep last week.

So, it’s a new week, thankfully, because the last one just stunk up the place.

At home, we had to put the big fat black cat to sleep. That was what my niece Gwynna called her, but in the end, she wasn’t all that fat, and I just didn’t want to see that meant she was really sick.

Still can’t believe it. One second she’s there, purring in your arms, then she’s gone. Every fiber of your body screaming… Wait!! even though we knew she wouldn’t survive the surgery she needed to end her pain.

To paraphrase Charlotte’s Web? She was some cat. When we found her, she marched into the house, took one look at the ailing Benji dog, and proceeded to groom him, holding him down with one paw.

Later when he was failing, she’d patiently wait for him to struggle to his feet, then hook her shoulder under his and slowly walk him down the hall.

She slept on my head. Sat between me and my guy. Where did cats get this bad rap about being aloof?

You might remember we called a vet once to ask how to deal with her loud purr! sound…so loud..
She would actually would put her paws on either side of your neck..and hug. Oh I miss that.

So, it was a bad week, but it turned out an old college friend was having the worst week of her life.

Mike Serventi passed away in April. He was an old college friend of Robin Young. (Courtesy mikeserventi.weebly.com)

Gail’s husband Mike Serventi was a force of nature, but no match for the car that swerved and hit him while he was riding his bike. Just like that, gone.

He was the guy who went home after college to tiny Perry New York. When hundreds of his friends descended this weekend to say goodbye, we probably doubled the town population. He’d come home to run the family business, later sold Archway Cookies, made a small fortune and devoted his life to helping the less fortunate. Again to paraphrase, some guy.

Have you heard about ghost bikes? Old bikes, painted all white, every inch, and placed where a rider was killed? My college roommate told me about it and we’d like to do something like that for our friend.

It’s inevitable, you’re going to have weeks like last week. What is it that Queen Elizabeth said? Grief is the price we pay for having loved. And even though I hate how this feels right now, hate it!! ghost bikes, phantom hugs, you want to be there right?

Standing in the Greek Chorus that lets the world know, a life counted. You want to show up.

And I guess I personally think you get a head start, if you’ve already had your heart cracked wide open by having loved, and been loved by, a big fat black cat.

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  • Dialyn

    I’m awash in tears.  Thank you.

  • Joyce

    time (an acronym a friend and I coined for Tears In My Eyes).  I’ve never commented on a story before, but I just heard Robin’s piece about her friend and her cat and I just had to let you know that I was moved to tears. We too have a big fat (but gray) cat who could never be called aloof. We got him when my triplets were 18 months old and he was supposed to be mommy’s cat, but from the minute we brought him in the house he was the kids’ cat. He loves those kids so much – always in the room they’re in, doesn’t even flinch when they jump over him, never walks away when they drape him with necklaces, ribbons, little foam snowflakes. And he’s the only one who comes to dinner the first time I call. We’ve had seven great years with him, but he’s had asthma for 6 of those years, and now as arthritis as well, so we’re not sure how long he’ll be around. We had a scare a couple of months ago and when we let the kids know they made him a special place to rest (pillows, cozy blanket, two chairs with a blanket draped over it).  Sure enough, he quickly made himself comfortable there, the Grand Poobah reclining on him pillows. After a round of antibiotics he was his old self playing with his little buddy (a small, nervous black cat.) Thank you, Robin, for the reminder to love him while he’s here.


  • Dorian

    Anyone who’s ever loved and lost a beloved pet would understand your grief, but to then hear of the sudden loss of your friend Mike shifts the perspective substantially, and I “got it”. Cat= bad. Human= way worse. I was feeling sad but in control, until I heard your “big fat black cat” purring loudly into the mic. Just that tiny bit of reality of her life with you made me burst into tears, the wave of grief and sympathy was palpable. I’m sorry for your loss. Your kitty sounds unbelievably wonderful, and your friend, even more so. 

  • Guest Reader

    I’m sorry to hear about your friends, furry and otherwise.  You’re right about cats, btw.  People who call them aloof have never lived with one.  They’re as special and individual as the humans they live with.  Especially black cats.

  • Wwwoolf

    Stopped in my tracks while recycling old paper and plastic, I heard your big fat cat story
    Having just left my big fat black cat who wraps his arms around
    my neck and my ancient teeny black cat who sleeps on my head,
    we all send hugs and cat hair and thanks for making the statement that
    love and loss rip the same hole in the heart no matter how many limbs they have.
    Tima in Alaska

  • Ljvickerman

    Robin, I too lost my dear dog last week who had been with me through infertility, 2 pregnancies and births, job losses, moves etc. etc. etc.  We had to put her to sleep on the 28th and I can tell you, that empty hole sure is DEEP.   I miss her every moment and am grieving so hard.
    It helps to hear from friends and even strangers, who reach out to say “so sorry for your loss”…it does help.  So, with that,
    I am so sorry for your loss.  Slowly, painfully slowly, it will get better, and we will be able to celebrate having them rather than grieve their absence.
    Best to you.

  • Beth

    That was very moving, Robin. So sad to hear about your kitty and about your friend. I hope you’ll feel better soon. And I wish we could find safer ways for cars and drivers to coexist.

  • BW

    Amen.  Loved hearing the purr — I have fat and black cats myself, one who is aging fast.  I will always willingly pay the price of grief in order not to miss out on those hugs and purrs of love.  I am so sad for your friend who lost a wonderful husband – ghost bikes is a fitting tribute.  I will eat a cookie in his memory.

  • Jim

    Robin, so sorry for the loss of your cat.  In our household we’ve had to to put three cats down over the last 5 years as they became older and fell ill with incurable cancers of some sort.  It is never an easy thing to have to decide when to end the life of a pet that you’ve shared many years with, who comforted you and was your companion but sadly that is exactly the time when as an owner you have to make these painful decisions for the good of the pet you love so much.  Remember the good times with your cat and know you gave her a good life. 

  • Leslie

    Robin, you truly touched my heart with your extraordinary tribute to your dear friend Mike and to your great big fat black cat.  Thank you for sharing a moving and deep side of yourself with us, your listeners.  I wish you healing (and know that with time  it will get easier!)  

  • cat lover in CT

    ‘Until one has loved an animal, part of their soul remains unawakened’  Your moving, sad story made me think of this qoute, author unknown. My cat has shown me love in ways I would have never known otherwise. Thank you so much for sharing. The sound of your cat purring brought tears to my eyes. Thoughts, prayers and hugs to you and may your big fat black cat rest in peace.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kathy.wolosiewicz Kathy Wolosiewicz

    Driving with tears in my eyes. I’m so sorry to you and yours!

  • Robinvk

    thanks for the good cry I had in my car at lunch… to love a cat, is the best thing in the world.  You really brought it home.  Also, I am sorry for the loss of your friend.  What a week!  Here’s to a better one. 

  • Bbdavis6469

    I had tears while listening to you read this.  We had an 18 year old tabby boy who was a sweetheart among sweethearts, and we had to put him down 2 or so years ago.  Brought back so many of the sad feelings, but, I remember him with joy, and miss him everyday.  I am so sorry for the loss of your dear friend, such a huge loss.  The ghost bike idea sounds fantastic!  What a statement and tribute.  Thanks for a wonderful sharing of yourself.

  • Ejm

    So sorry, Robin. Pets bring such incredible joy to our lives…and losing them brings such enormous sadness. Your big fat black cat is, no doubt, hugging you from afar…

  • Walt Slaughter

    We humans know how unique every feline companion is. There aren’t many big fat black cats who arrive on the scene and begin grooming an ailing family member. There are cats who thank their providers (with a nudge) before meals and cats who would never sink to the level of a common supplicant. Some demand to be nurtured and seek our laps while others spend a feline lifetime indifferently avoiding intimacy. We love them all the more for their personality quirks.
    And it’s why their loss hurts so much. That special personality and individual charm gone so cruelly from our households–never to be remotely duplicated or replaced. All we can do is take in another stray or visit the shelter, and start the whole magical process over again. Bless you Robin for providing the sanctuary where a succession of fortunate felines purr on.

  • http://kclanderson.com/ KCLAnderson (Karen)

    Lump. In. Throat. My sincerest condolences on your losses, Robin.

    I’ve had cats my whole life (and I am just about to turn 50) and my experience with them is much like yours with BFBC. I currently have two black cats, both female, and both such loves. 

    I hope a new furry friend makes his or her way into your life when you are ready.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/ANBQHDAM4NLB5XZ7CGIHL6RKEM EC

    Those special cats come along once in a lifetime if we’re lucky. Mine’s been gone for two years, and I have two lovely new guys, but Teddy will never be replaced. Live with her in your heart.

  • brian e.

    Sorry to hear about your cat Robin…a song by Gotye about losing a pet that might help ease the pain: http://youtu.be/le34ygtODfI

  • Flamingo1253

    Robin I began to cry when I heard about your cat.  I have had cats for most of the 58 years of my life and although I have loved them all dearly the one I have now is my all time favorite.  She is 13 and appears to be in good health but I have put many cats to sleep and fear for the day when the inevitable will happen again.  I’ve missed them all but when this one goes I really don’t know how I will cope.  But I will and I will get another one because I cant’ go through life  without sharing it with a cat.   
    What a terrible week for you.  I know things will improve.  Thanks for sharing this with all of your listeners.  Take Care. 

  • C Lacabe

    Thank you for sharing about your bad week with all of us, I lost my husband a few years back but I still have the company of his favorite kitty I can’t wait to get home and give him a big hug. Those losses never go away but remember all the love and wonderful times you had with those 2 extraordinary creatures; my thoughts and tears are with you.

  • Billiousgoat

    Robin, thank you so much for sharing a very touching story. Grief is indeed the price we pay but it is a small price and well worth it. My wife and I still share often told stories of former, four legged family members who have crossed the bridge. We know we could well face the painful decision you just made with any of our current brood but we could not imagine being without them. You gave BFBC a lot of love and a wonderful life.     

  • Mryclr_kirkwood

    Our home has both felines and cyclists and both are dear to us along with the annoying early morning rising for one to get a ride in and a midnight pouncing on the bed to find the warmest nook to be had I can’t imagine a moment without the two of them. I am sorry for the great loss of these two souls. My heart swells with purring and deflates with the sadness of the suddenness of Mike’s death.  
    the Kirkwood Family

  • Jim2home

    Thank you Robin, we had to put our little Molly cat down last week, too. I can’t believe how much I, a “grown” man, can cry over the loss of a cat. But what I know, is there is more love to be given, and we will (after a few months) find another receptor for that love

  • kevin

     Thank you, Robin.  I lost my sweet Skittles last week, and your story was reassuring to hear.  He was a 15 year old basenji mix…  odd in both appearance and manner.  We adopted him four years when he licked our hands at the mobile adoption unit in a shopping center parking lot.  His age finally got to him last week, and he went down hill quickly.  I called the vet to make arrangements to have him put to sleepy, but he was fortunate to die in my moms arms at her farm in the Ozarks before I had to take that dreaded trip.   Ill-tempered much of the time, bad breath, and the endless circles he would make before he would finally go to the bathroom on walks (we called it his poopie dance)…  I miss those things as much as I miss his sweet eyes when he’d look back at me from his place at the foot of the bed, and his constant habit of getting under foot because he refused to leave our sides.  Your story came at just the right time to help me deal with losing an animal friend, that completely shaped my life for a few years… but will be remembered always.

  • Christy

    I heard your heartfelt story today as I was driving to pick up my son from preschool and I had tears rolling down my cheeks. I also have an awesome cat who we adopted 7 years ago. We love her dearly. She is the sweetest, funniest, smartest cat I’ve ever seen and I occasionally shudder and get choked up just at the thought of losing her someday. Your story displayed such love for your companion and also such compassion for your friend’s husband. I don’t know how you got through telling that story with composure intact. Thank you for sharing. I’m so very sorry for your loss and that of your friend.

  • cheap tisa caps

    Nice blog,keep it up.
    Will come back soon.
    Thanks for sharing .

  • chezjulianne

    I my thoughts are with you Robin for both your losses.
    As a two-cat owner (brother and sister) I recognized my two in the actions of your own big fat black cat. 
    Thank you and get ready to love a four-legger again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1452592209 Marilee Odendahl

    I listened to your piece in the car sitting in the park at lunchtime.  I liked the piece, I really did and I agree your week pretty much sucked…  but geeez as much as I like cats and cry when they die – they really don’t merit first place over the death of a close friend.  I don’t think you intended disrespect but this piece reminded me of the time when my doctor called me after the death of my son and blurted out, “I know just how you feel – my year old filly just died this week.”   Clearly he was upset by his own loss and just meant to “share” , yet it felt a whole lot like he was equating the two.   My son – his horse.  How completely insensitive and obtuse can a person be?   Anyway I fired him and chalked it up to over-educated stupidity.   I agree animals are sentient and very, very important in our lives but had you written/spoken about my husband in the same breath as your cat I’d have had to call you on it.

    • Robin

      of dear, first of all, so sorry for your loss. The death of a child, can’t imagine.

      And I guess I didn’t make my point clearly enough. I had a bad week.
      She had the worst week of her life.

      But I take your point, and again, most important. SO sorry about your loss and
      the way it was treated! Glad you “fired” him..



  • Nadia


    Thank you for this story… I have lost loved ones in the past and yet to be loved by a person but my deepest love has been that from a beautiful black cat.  http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1301236951 is my requiem for my Mira… who started chasing mousies in the other plane last Thanksgiving Day and I still cry when I think of how much I miss her mighty purr.

    Thank you for this story.


  • Elainedunn03

    Hi Robin,
    Thanks for your decades of  great work on radio.  Been listening to you for years.  I am sorry for your losses.  Thank you for sharing your grief.  Many/most of us have suffered losses as well.  So I will cry a tear for your Furry family member and your dear friend Mike.

  • Wordygirl

    I am so sorry, for both losses.  We still count among our family members the dogs and cats who have gone on but in some ways never leave us.  And when I think of the humans we miss dearly, deeply, desperately, I know each of them would understand being included with the pets in our chronicles of loss and, most importantly, of love. 

  • Allison

    My heart goes out to you for your loss.  Your words were beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  • Merlotone

    Thank you so much for these beautiful tributes.  I am so sorry for the loss of both your friend and your cat.  I am owned by 3 cats, so your cat story really touched my heart.  I started crying as I was driving home from work.  My husband asked what was wrong and I told him your story, sobbing.  We both continue to be amazed in the ways our cats, and our friends, take a piece of us when they go.
    Thank you for sharing.  I know they both feel your love.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/ODPTG2EUA34OJEI6A4IMAW4G7M LAURIE

    You know, it’s very hard to drive and cry.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matthew-Soliz/100000048996283 Matthew Soliz

    Hi Robin, I know what you mean.. I was a baby when my mom got our “Family” Cat.. his name was Riff.. he moved everywhere with us and ate our leftovers off our plates.. from Tamales to spaghetti.. he wanted to eat with us. You could say he was a fat cat but he moved fast.. was a great hunter.. lived til 17, he got sick and started to lose weight dramatically.. he was put down to spare him the pain.. the day before he wanted to sleep on me and laid on my chest. It’s my last memory of him. I know how you feel. Keep the memories and know that we’re listening and we understand.. I kinda teared up typing my memory. :/ Thanks, Matt S in AZ.

  • Teresa

    You say it all so well. I love listening to your show whenever I get the chance. Your stories about your cat and your friend Mike, you expressed so beautifully. As so many of your listeners have already commented, it was hard to drive with all the tears coming down. Two huge losses, my condolences re both losses. 
    I so appreciate that you are willing to share your thoughts and feelings with us. 
    Thanks for what you do 

  • Ruth Baker

    As a very enthusiastic admirer of you and your program (I’ll have what you have, for breakfast!), I appreciate that you  share  a part of your personal life, including the past stories of your Mom and other members of your family, as well as the recent stories of your friend and cat.   (Yes, the tears came for me, too, since I’ve lost beloved animal companions.  . .)
    Thanks for sharing your experiences, and we’re very sorry for your losses.

  • Beth

    Robin, I am so sorry for the loss of your friend Mike and of big fat black cat.  It meant a lot to me that you shared them both in the same story.  When you lose a human friend, as you did, it’s sometimes difficult to mention the grief you are feeling for the loss of your cat.  Because people say it just can’t compare.  My best friend died of a heart attack.  I rescue Newfoundlands and have lost nine of them.  I loved my Newfies as much as I loved my friend Linda.  It’s a different kind of love but in my case anyway, I felt the same grief and sorrow.  The photo of Mike is so sweet.  He looks like such a nice man.  It’s so sad that he was here and then he was gone.  You think of “if only”, “what if”, things you wish you could say to him.  But the  heartache we feel when we know our cat or dog or horse or other critters need us to make that decision to let them go because they can no longer live a life without pain, can no longer hug us around the neck or chase a stick ———–we know we have to do it but it is excruciating.  It is a gift of love to them that we give them so they won’t hurt anymore, as our hurt deepens and we hate that we are allowed to make that decision.  It is a gift of love, a thank you to them for all the joy and love they gave us.  I wish you peace Robin.

  • Vickie

    Everyone would be the better and the wiser too for having loved a big fat black cat, and a really good old friend.

  • Prinehart

    I lost a dog back in 2009, and it still gets me every time I think about her.  http://bayinghoundales.com/remembering-an-old-friend/

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