Self-Portrait – July

I’ve been dragging my feet on this post. (Clearly, as today is August 17th)

July was an emotional month.

That’s a slight understatement. It was a whirlwind month of packing, cleaning, and “one last…” trips/meals/drives/hugs etc. I had lived in Michigan for the past 28 years. In the same tiny 30 mile radius in the southwest corner of the state. We were moving to Seattle WA. Clear across the country. Everything was changing. And while I was excited for the change and wanted it – the realization that things were shifting set in and the sadness resulting from leaving loved ones crept upon me.

I had a hard time deciding what July’s self-portrait should be. It should be something that sums up my favorite memories in this state… me at the beach, or wandering through an orchard or vineyard… even me by the “Pure Michigan” sign off the bypass. Something that captures all of what MI is to me.

Then things shifted and I knew what my photo had to be. I delayed a couple days taking it… and then I didn’t have anymore time. So here it is. Not the best picture. But it speaks volumes.


Over 11 years ago Cory and I had been married for just over a month when we went to the humane society and wondered through the cat section looking for a new family member. I was crouched down looking at the kittens. Cory was standing up walking among the older cats when this cat thrust his paw out of the cage and grabbed Cory by the arm. Literally. He was up on a shelf about shoulder height. Cory was impressed. I looked at the cat. He was at least a year old, maybe more. Not the fuzzy kitten we (I) had gone in to get. Yet he was cool. He just stared at us. Paw half out the cage – he had gotten our attention. He chose us. And he came home with us.

He was by far the coolest cat ever – you can ask anyone. All of our friends – even the ones who didn’t care for cats that much – loved him. He would look out the window and chatter at birds. He jumped into my arms from the floor. I carried him around on my hip like moms carry their children. He played fetch with cat toys and fuzzy art supplies of the boys. His favorite toy was a piece of rope about 6 feet long. He would drag that around and we would flip it and wiggle it and he would go crazy chasing it, pouncing on it, chewing on it and waiting for the game to start again. He was our baby. He slept with me at night and curled up with Cory on the couch after work. After we had kids he loved them too. He was patient and tolerant of little grabby toddler hands.

Then he got sick.

We took him to the vet and got the diagnosis ‘it’s either … or cancer. we will have to do exploratory surgery to be sure’. Our hearts sank but we knew surgery wasn’t an option. We treated the symptoms and he had good days and bad days. Then he had good weeks and bad days. Then several weeks in a row with no symptoms. He started playing with his rope again. We were thrilled. It seemed we had his medication figured out and that he was going to enjoy a few more years with us.

Then he started going downhill. He was always a worrier. As our move got closer he got sicker and we knew, deep down, that he wouldn’t be able to survive the move to Seattle and starting over there. We had made the painful decision to put him to sleep. Cory and I talked to the kids about it. Cody cried for a long time. The morning of the appointment Cory and I dropped the kids off at my parents and went to the vet together. This had been our vet from the very beginning. They loved him and knew him. They cried with us. It was the most painful, difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. Dr Horn sedated him first, so he just fell asleep. While I was sitting on the floor with him, petting him as he went into a drugged happy sleep, I listened to his purr for the last time and knew I would never be the same. An era was ending. This chapter, which I thought could go on forever was closing. Part of me would be left behind at the vet’s office this day.

I cried for days. Periodically. Random things would remind me of him. The worst was having to fall asleep without him curled into my arms. Or waking up in the middle of the night and him not being there, knowing that he wasn’t sleeping on the couch. That he just wasn’t….

Memories and photos are all that remains… and these I hold dear to my heart. For this cat helped shape who I am as an adult. This cat taught me so much about life and love and patience and humor.


About Danielle Nielsen

I am a photographer who loves to bring out the best in you and your life. Capturing those little moments that make you special are my favorite. I am an "on location" photographer and available for travel anywhere you'd like photos taken.
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10 Responses to Self-Portrait – July

  1. sharne says:

    This is so sweet and sad….poor kitty!!! Such a sweet kitty : ) Im so glad you did this little tribute to him <3 Love you

  2. Beth says:

    I cried the first time I read this, then had to read again tonight… Tears again. Maybe because I have two cats and one that looks a lot like yours. You wrote this well. Miss you lots, sending hugs your way. Tell Cody and Gavin ( or as Ethan says Zach and Cody) Ethan and Logan say hi. :)

  3. Summer says:

    You wrote this beautifully and the pictures really captured him. Many hugs sweetie :(

  4. Mom says:

    Dani…this is the first time I have seen this post. Thank you so much for sharing this loving awesome tribute to that wonderful kitty of yours. He was truly special. I will miss him as I miss you all right now!

    Love you sweet heart,


  5. beth barter says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your furry friend! We miss u all and hope you are getting settled in Seattle.I will always feel like you’re here when I look at your pictures….. Hello to Gavin and Cody from Beth Barter. Love to u all………..

    • Thanks Beth. :)
      We miss you too. The boys are planning to come back and see you soon. I read them your “hello” and Gavin said “I want to go to Miss (long pause) Beth Barter’s house.” Love you

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