Tales connect two 'saintly' cats

Posted by Lucy Luginbill on May 25, 2014 

This is part two of a previous Light Notes about Gabriel the cat. You can read it here and be amazed.

It’s been said that cats have nine lives. But could two felines also have “six degrees of separation,” a theory that six steps – or less – can bring a connection between everyone and everything?

It’s a question with an extraordinary answer.

The story begins in the 1960s at the height of the California hippie era. Haight-Ashbury was home to “flower children” – and multiple stray animals abandoned when psychedelic vans moved on.

One black kitty was among the rescued when a woman found it wandering in an adjacent neighborhood. Living alone and fairly new to the city by the bay, Marion enjoyed her newfound companion she promptly named Sam.

But Sam had a quirky habit. Each morning at 8 a.m., the little cat would meow insistently at the front door of the older San Francisco home. Bewildered, but wanting to give the animal some freedom, its new owner accommodated the crying pet.

Day after day the scene replayed until Marion’s curiosity about the cat’s whereabouts each morning had her slipping out the door behind the waving black tail. To her surprise, Sam scampered ahead to join an elderly woman and a blonde-headed child who immediately picked up the cat.

Quickly, Marion set the record straight: This was her cat, and, yes, it could be petted but not taken away.

“Oh no, it’s OK,” the little girl assured her as she carefully held the contented cat in her arms. “We do this every morning – and the kitty goes to church with us.”

A very saintly cat, indeed.

Almost 50 years later and more than 700 miles away in Washington State, another cat – often called “angel kitty” – had its own story to tell.

Gabriel first came into Liz Fisher’s life when she was grieving over the loss of her 28-year-old son. The grey-striped kitten brought her hours of comfort. But three years later in June 2013, the kitty disappeared while visiting their lakeside cabin in Florence, Ore.

Weeks passed before Gabriel appeared miles away at Janene Kibitt’s home where she too was grieving over her own recent loss. The timing of Gabriel’s presence and comfort was perfect. But even though Janene wanted to keep the angelic stray – and coincidentally name it Gabriel – she took extra measures that August to ensure the cat didn’t have an owner. But it did. Through a local veterinarian, Liz was joyfully reunited with her “angel-cat” Gabriel.

Later, Liz felt a thank-you gift in person would show how much she appreciated Janene’s kindness – and her understanding of how fond Janene had grown of Gabriel.

“I was at the lake,” Liz recalls of her December mini-vacation in Oregon, “and I took some Christmas goodies to Janene. “I’d never been inside her home before.”

While visiting and reminiscing about Gabriel’s angel-like appearance at Janene’s home two months earlier, Liz’ daughter, Catherine, drew her mom’s attention to a framed pen and ink sketch on the wall. It was a pyramid of a feline family starting with a lion at the bottom, a tiger, a black panther, a leopard and others, ending with the top cat. As Liz moved closer, she noticed that the artist’s last name was the same as her maiden name.

“There’s just my mother and brother and me with that name,” Liz says as she notes the unusual spelling. “We’re a small family, my dad passed away 30 years ago. Just about everybody is gone in our clan.”

Intrigued, Liz probed further.

Janene was acquainted with the woman and told Liz how the picture had been a signed gift to her. The budding artist had worked in her dad’s marketing group in northern California.

A delightful phone call ensued with the now 85-year-old artist – and promises to have her family help Liz discover if they were related. “They sent me this big thick thing of genealogy,” Liz recalls of the information that arrived in the mail, “and my husband, Joe, had done some searching at ancestry.com.”

With more research, Liz discovered that she and the artist were fifth cousins.

“I knew as soon as I found out, we should welcome new family into our lives and make it joyous,” Liz says thoughtfully.

She and Joe then chose the February anniversary of their son’s death to meet their new relative. It had become a tradition over the past six years to honor him in a special way.

“My son, Chris, was sort of an old guy in a young body,” his mom lovingly recalls, “and very much into history and family. He loved animals too.”

The heartwarming reunion took place in San Francisco, joined by two other cousins from the artist’s family.

“If our angel Gabriel hadn’t run off last summer,” Liz says with a catch in her voice, “I would never have met Janene who found him.” Then she pauses with emotion, “And I would never have seen the cat picture.”

And of course, Liz would never have met her fifth cousin in San Francisco – an artist by the name of Marion. Nor would she have learned about the cat pictured at the top of the pyramid. A little black kitty named Sam who went to church each day.

Six degrees between two angelic cats.

If you have a story idea for Light Notes, email lluginbill@tricityherald.com. Follow Lucy on Twitter @LucyLuginbill

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