29 Mar Saying Goodbye to Buffett: The Hemingway Cat Who Helped Me Write a Children’s Book
“The dream scene shifted. Felina appeared, her blue eyes gleaming. “Have faith and believe. Only noble cats with the purest of hearts can sense me. In time you will complete your journey. But the Hemingway House may not be your final destination in life.”
— Felina, the angel cat, in Treasure Link.
Buffett, the Hemingway Cat
Buffett, my seven toed Hemingway cat became a character in Treasure Link: The Adventures of a Hemingway Cat by way of a bit of synchronicity.
The tale began during a visit to the Hemingway House and Garden in Key West for my 60th Birthday Celebration. I noticed more than two dozen polydactyl cats roaming around the property and remarked to my friends who were with me, “I have an idea for a book.” I imagined an opportunity to integrate my professional experience counseling kids who had been teased, into a fanciful story about a Hemingway cat with extra toes. The struggles of Buffett as the main character would appeal to the “misfit” in every child. And the themes of bullying, diversity and friendships were relevant to issues facing children who had been in my classrooms over the years.
When I returned home I began the writing process by creating a cat character and digging into research about the history and environment surrounding the Key West community. Then one day I visited a local shelter in Indianapolis where I live, and found the exact cat that matched my character, even his 7 toes and orange fur. I knew then I would finish the book. I adopted him. A few years later in 2013 Treasure Link was published, and Buffett was enjoying a comfortable life with my other shelter cats.
In his elder years Buffett loved spending time outside in my backyard sanctuary, chasing chipmunks and birds. He never strayed very far from the shade of three old pine trees, or the protection of an overgrown bush on a hill overlooking bird feeders and water bowls. On January 1, 2019, he left the inside of my cottage for the last time. When he didn’t return within a half hour I knew something was wrong. And the search began. I heard from neighbors he had been spotted with a fox on several occasions. For two and half months I did everything possible to find him.
An Unexpected Adventure?
On the sunny morning of Saturday, March 16, I received a message from Dawn, a dear friend who had been part of my earliest dreaming circles at the Unity Church of Indianapolis. She knew how I struggled with grief about how Buffett had gone missing on that New Year’s Day. She always had the knack for the journey and tracking practices we experienced during our circle sessions. She sent me the following story she created from her tracking of Buffett’s disappearance. I cried, then sobbed, and finally felt deep gratitude for her gift of love, allowing me to finally release the grief my heart held.
The orange cat with the extra toes lay under the small juniper bush, behind the protective thorns of wild blackberry and rose canes, along the bank of the river. The place on his side where the fox had bitten him, no longer ached. The cold January ground had started to feel comfortable, and the pangs of hunger and thirst had faded from his awareness. He was content to lie and watch the small birds hopping on the branches above him, He purred quietly, deep in his chest. Hawk knew he was there, Sitting high in the top of a nearby oak, Hawk could see the rise and fall of the cat’s flank as he breathed. Hawk made note, but had no interest. Hawk notices everything; very little is of real interest.
The orange cat with the extra toes had encountered the fox not far from the back door of the cottage when he had emerged to explore a few days ago. The fox was a recent visitor to the riverside sanctuary, and the orange cat had been cautious, but curious. At first the encounter had been friendly. The dog fox was looking for a mate and a fresh source of food, but did not consider the orange cat to be either. He too was curious, and being a fox meant he was also bold. The two had circled each other for a bit, testing the scents and the energy. Then the fox had rushed at the orange cat in a sudden feint. The orange cat had leaped straight in the air and landed three feet to the right. Sitting down, the fox considered his next move. He was a young creature and had played this game with his siblings while growing up. First, you shot in and out a few times while your opponent leaped and twisted and landed where you did not expect. After a bit, there would be a wrestling match and perhaps a game of chase. All was in fun.
Having sat down himself, the orange cat eyed the fox suspiciously. His nerves told him to watch for another attack. His tail twitched in anticipation. He was not used to this kind of encounter, having been a mature cat living with other mature cats for some time now, however the energy of the game was already building and could be felt. When the fox moved again, this time the orange cat leaped up and over it and in passing, playfully batted him in the face. Game on.
Soon the two were dodging and feinting and flashing among the bushes and trash cans and fences. First a flash of red, then of yellow could be seen. Then red again and orange-orange as each leapt and turned and ran from the other. Suddenly, in mid-turn, the fox doubled back on himself and managed to grab the end of the orange cat’s tail. Momentum kept the orange cat on his trajectory and he let out a screech as the fox clamped down and the tail tip came off in his mouth. The energy was abruptly changed. The orange cat paused briefly to lick his injury, then launched an attack of his own at the fox. Now they rolled together, growling and biting. The orange cat scratched the fox’s face and the fox bit the orange cat’s flank and ear. As fast as they had started, they disengaged. The fox running south along the river, the terrified orange cat running north. After a time, the orange cat had tired but, still frightened and suddenly feeling his injuries, he sought a place to hide. The screening brush and overhanging tree offered sanctuary. He wriggled in, and curled up; more than half a mile from home.
Days passed. Fever and pain and fear, kept him huddled and quiet. Several times his mistress, searching for him, had come within a few yards. But he could not respond to her calls, and she moved away. So it happened that he dreamed. He sent his spirit to the cottage, to converse with the spirit of the dreaming human. To let her know he lived but was far away. Thus informed, she made a decision. Soon, there was a new orange and white cat living at the cottage. And the orange cat with the extra toes dreamed his spirit to meet and play with the newcomer. His spark was hot and bright and moving. He came often to visit and walk between the worlds.
Beneath the juniper bush, as spring arrived, the cleaners of the earth came and absorbed the gifts that the orange cat had left for them. Hawk sat in her tree and observed, always aware. Farther down the river bank, a fox family played in the doorway of their den. The dog-fox with the long scar on his face is a good provider.
Dawn told me her tracking story is just that, a story of what may have been. She said “There are hundreds of other scenarios. All are true, or none are. It is a dream.”
I told her how heartbroken I was. That with all I did to find him, the ads in pet finder sites that went to over 8,000 viewers, the hundreds of fliers, the weeks of crawling through bushes and the numerous trips to shelters, none of it helped. I told her that I felt as though I didn’t do enough, and that he may have left this earth alone and scared.
She said to me, “We experience, but we also interpret. Perhaps his desire, and that of the Universe, for the greatest good, created the situation for purposes yet unknown. How do you WANT to feel? I am choosing a benevolent Buffett, who had an unexpected adventure, who then did not suffer, but leapt peacefully into vibration and is watching things unfold.”
Buffett, now of my dreams
I was also reminded that during my search for Buffett, Dawn sent me a lead for a cat being held at a shelter in a country just north of where I live. When the cat in question was not Buffett, I encountered a homeless cat named Oscar in that shelter. I was moved to bring him home because of a meaningful coincidence. My son’s elderly dog named Oscar had just crossed the Rainbow Bridge earlier in the month.
As soon as Oscar moved into the house with Buffett’s mate, Margarita, Buffett began visiting in my dreams. The last dream was more like a vision, a goodbye visit. I had just awakened. As I glanced into the living area where the cat’s toys lay scattered on one of my Persian rugs, I saw three cats sitting around a scratching pad. I blinked. The third cat was Buffett. I stared a long time until gradually he faded, and there were only two cats left. I knew in that moment that Buffett’s soul had finally moved over the Rainbow Bridge, knowing that his family would someday be joining him.
Dawn’s story was a gift. It opened my heart and helped me release the deep and profound grief I had stuffed during my nearly three month search for Buffett. In the flood of tears, I had to forgive myself for not doing enough to find him, and to understand that the greatest gift I’ve received from my precious cat was more than a book about Key West. His truest gift was one of enduring love. And I thought about something else. The gift of our own grief and suffering for the loss and pain of a loved one, becomes part of our medicine of compassion for others. In some magical manner Buffett found me, inspired me to write a book, and is now leading the way home. And that home is always about Love
Today I opened a copy of Treasure Link to a scene when one night Buffett the Hemingway cat was dreaming about his Key West life.”
“Peeking through the leaves of a sea grape bush, he watched the backside of an orange cat running down an alley. Standing in the harbor, he saw a loggerhead turtle swimming beneath a boat, a pelican choking on a fishing line, and Ratsin glaring at him from the top of the tower, his paw gripping a gold treasure link.
Felina appeared. “You are safe with your new friends,” she whispered.”
I know that it has always been Buffett’s destiny to find a way to his true home in paradise. And now he is safe with many new friends on the other side of the rainbow bridge.
Treasure Link is a mythic tale about a cat who dreams his way back to his family’s home at the Hemingway House. Along the way he grows courage, learns about his true identity and discovers the value of friendship. Readers of all ages have enjoyed this hero’s journey, packed with unlikely adventures, charming characters and a bit of true history about Key West and the Florida Keys. (Illustrations by Key West artist Eduardo Antonio Rodriguez)
When Treasure Link was published in 2013, I dedicated a portion of the proceeds to the following organizations located in the Florida Keys: The Key West Wildlife Center, The Turtle Hospital. The Audubon House and the Florida Keys SPCA. I presently have 8 copies in my personal library, I will donate all the proceeds of the sale of these books to one of these organizations.
In deep gratitude to dreamer, writer, and dear friend, Dawn Frick.