I’ve been a Maine Coon Momcat for almost 40 years. And I’ve loved them all, but to me, there was no one in the world like Oswald — either time.
Oswald was what I call a “second-shot soul.”
I first met him in 1992, in Georgia. I wanted a Maine Coon — I’d been without one for a few years — and found a wonderful breeder who came well recommended.
When I arrived at her house, she said, “Well, you’ll have a lot to pick from — we have two litters who were born at the same time.” I was ushered into the kitten room, where seventeen Mainer babies with rocket packs up their butts were ramming around ecstatically.
I plonked myself down in the midst of the furry chaos and said “Okay, there’s a job opening in Marietta — who wants it?”
And at that point, one little brown tabby boy broke from the maelstrom, climbed up my chest and bit my nose.
I scooped him up and said, “Okay, you got the job.”
He was named Oswald, after one of my favorite World War One fighter aces. And for seventeen years, he was my heart’s partner, shepherding me through divorce, a move from Georgia to New York, another marriage and a third bout of cancer.
The last day. The last cuddle.
Years passed. He grew old. He was in pain. And it was very clear that he needed to cross the Rainbow Bridge and would need our help with the Final Kindness.
Our beloved vet, who we called “Uncle Doctor Dave,” came to the house to administer the shots. Oswald was clearly mad at having to leave, and fought it, which left me in floods of tears. Still, we knew that it was the right thing to do.
I went to bed that night shattered, my eyes swollen almost shut from crying. I wasn’t sure if I’d sleep at all — but sleep I did. And in the midst of all my dreaming I saw Oswald — hale and hearty and the size of a small moose, the way he was in his prime — come bounding up the road, jumping into a small boat that I was in, and sneaking in the prow where he settled in, curled up snug and very pleased with himself.
I woke up. I realized the pain was gone. Completely and instantaneously. Instead, I had…joy.
Oswald’s message was clear: “Mom, thank you SO much for what you did. That body SUCKED and I’m glad it’s gone. But don’t cry, because I’m coming back. Watch for me.”
So we watched. And waited. In the meantime we got another Maine Coon, a ginger and white boy, named Manfred (after the Red Baron), who would be his companion.
A terrific animal communicator told us not only which breeder he’d come in through, but also which litter.
“How will I know which one he is?” I asked. She chuckled.
“He says he’s got it handled.”
Ten months later in 2009, I sat in a small room at another breeder’s house in Binghamton NY.
Four kittens were asleep in a pile.
I called out softly, ”Ossi? Ossi?”
“Where ya BEEN, Mom?? I been WAITIN’!”
Three of them didn’t move. But one kitten shot bolt upright at the calling of the name, and came rushing over to my lap.
“Where ya BEEN, Mom? I been WAITIN’.”
Once we brought him home, there were too many resonances, habits and quirks that had been solely Oswald the First’s to believe anything but what had been promised: Oswald the First was now Oswald “da Grate” — and he proceeded to captivate everyone he ever met.
Oswald da Grate — or as he referred to himself,
“Da Magnificent ME.”
Oswald’s personality was even bigger the second time around. Hundreds of people followed his antics on his own Facebook page, and he had fans all over the world. He was lively and funny, and madly attached to me, and inspired the phrase “Maine Coons are love and comedy in furry porta-packs.”
But his body this time wasn’t nearly as healthy as his first one. We had two serious respiratory bouts that landed him in the hospital. We faced two cancers.
In 2020, when we were prepping for surgery for the second, a heart scan gave us news that was shocking, unexpected: Surgery was impossible. Tests showed massive cardiac deterioration. We were told that he had a few months at most; paralysis from a thrown blood clot was very possible, and the pain from it would be excruciating before he died. We had to spare him that.
Prawn, getting instructions for how to become
the High Commander of the household.
For the next two days, Oswald and our newest Maine Coon, Prawn, stayed very close to each other, unusually so; Prawn kept a paw on Oswald whenever he could. I have to think that Oswald was giving Prawn final instructions on how to care for us and how to take on his new responsibilities. Prawn would have big paws to fill.
And the animal communicator who found him for us originally helped us “hear” Ossi one last time. Two lives were enough, he said, and they were good ones. He felt content, and didn’t see a need to come back a third time. He knew why we were choosing to release him then: because we loved him. And he was ready.
Oswald da Grate’s memorial plaque
So that afternoon we again gave Oswald the Final Kindness at home, as all humans who love their furkids must be ready to do. And once more, our dear friend Uncle Doctor Dave came to his aid, sending him over the Bridge easily, gently and without pain.
There were fewer tears this time, because he was as ready as we were for him to cross the Bridge. And as a result, I gained huge gift.
I’m a medium, and I hear folks that have crossed over. Two-leggers, anyway.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised at what happened that evening…but I was.
In the middle of nothing special, not thinking about him at all, I heard a clarion voice in my head that clearly wasn’t mine, that shouted “I’m okay, Mom!!”
And I dissolved into amazed, happy tears.
Our back hayfield — now Oswald’s forever
rompin’ and stompin’ grounds.
We know Oswald is still around. Occasionally, my third eye will see him ecstatically romping in the hayfields that surround our house. His energy is the size of a panther.
So for those of you who think that maybe a beloved cat (or dog) has come back in a new body, believe it.
They love us. And if we are lucky, we will find that our pet is a “second-shot soul,” who has returned to companion us again.