Today’s Cat Woman Wednesday features Jessica DiPaola of silhouPETte custom pet silhouettes and pet jewelry. Below she tells the story of the cats who made her who she is today and even inspired her business.
My cat-obsession started at the age of four. My sister and I were sent to the corner store and came home with milk, Lays Potato Chips, and Smokey. A similar incident happened on my 11th birthday when I came home from school with flowers, balloons, and Silkey. From Smokey and Silkey I learned the value of unconditional love and pure and absolute loyalty. Those two kitties changed my life.
Our local “cat-lady” lived next door to our neighborhood market and I can’t remember the details of how we adopted Smokey from her, but in hindsight, it was pretty crazy she let a 4 and 7-year-old walk away with a kitten!
I’ll never forget the first night he spent at our house: he was a grumpy little guy and he growled at all the other animals from the corner of the living room. He was not a friendly kitten. At the time, we had four other cats and two dogs. But what was cool about him is how quickly he adapted. He immediately became a friend-to-all and he eventually was the “grandpa” kitty who welcomed all other animals into our home – and there were a lot of them!
You know how animals can just sense things? Well, one day after learning of my Uncle’s passing I was in my room crying, and out of nowhere Smokey jumped onto my bed. He sat facing me with his paw on my leg purring, and looking into my eyes as if to say, “everything is going to be ok… I’m here.” I bawled even harder. We sat together until I was done crying, and cuddled up for the rest of the day. He was the only one I wanted to be around. He knew exactly what I needed.
Smokey was magical. He lived to be 20 and he was one of those kitties that converted the most stubborn non-cat-lover into a feline fanatic. Smokey’s motto seemed to be to kill with kindness. This beautiful and fluffy grey cat approached everyone proactively and with love. After that first night he spent at our house, I never saw a nasty side of him again, and no matter what “phase” I was going through he always treated me the same. To give you an idea, in elementary school I dressed him up in doll dresses. Middle school I tried giving him a “hair cut.” He tolerated it all.
Silkey entered my life when a group of five middle school friends just gave me a kitten for my 11th birthday. My mom thought it was pretty crazy, and I have to say I can’t blame her. I think my parents are just the coolest for always encouraging my animal-rescuing and adopting habits.
Silkey was a beautiful black cat that oozed love. At parties, she somehow managed to gather all the girls to sit around her in a circle, petting her and giving her 100% of their attention. It was something about her sweet kitty kisses, the melodic and relaxing pace of her loud purrs, her dainty little paws, and her overall warmth that made everyone fall in love with her.
I lived without Smokey and Silkey for two years while I was in college. When Smokey became sick, I brought them down from my parent’s to Los Angeles, and we spent the remainder of their lives together. After Smokey passed and Silkey and I were living on our own, we had this cute way of being with each other. She always waited up for me. At night when I got into bed, she would jump up next to me and pat the blankets with her paws. That was my command to lift them, so she could snuggle up next to me as little spoon. We would lie on our sides and she tucked her head under my chin, her little body cuddled against mine. I slept with my arm around her all night. It was some of the most peaceful times in my life and I miss it so much it still hurts.
Silkey was both my mama-hen who watched out for me and had a good read on people! She was especially patient during the first two weeks my husband and I started dating. I spent many nights at his house and would leave her favorite movies on repeat when I left the apartment. I couldn’t bear not having her close, so I packed her up and moved her into his home. She moved in to my then-boyfriend’s house after two weeks of our dating. Yes, she moved in before I did – no wonder he became my husband!
Though it happened within the last four to five years, it’s still too painful to talk about how Silkey and Smokey left this world. They were everything to me. Smokey and Silkey were part of my family for the first couple decades of my life, so we all grew up together. What I can say, is that through remembering all the sweet ways they impacted my life, they stay alive in my heart.
I look at our Figaro now – he’s our 2-year old Tuxedo cat – and wonder how Silkey and Smokey would be with him. I imagine Smokey cuddling with him under the sun and Silkey schooling him on how to be a good, sweet-natured kitty.
My business, silhouPETte, started one night when I was living alone with Silkey looking for Christmas gifts for friends with pets. Silkey was sitting next to me at my desk and the idea emerged when I stopped to adore her beautiful profile that I still remember so vividly. Hers was the first-ever silhouette bust design I made.
I decided to expand my hobby to make it accessible for everyone. Whether someone is dealing with the loss of a beloved animal-companion, a new adoption, or is just somewhere their animal is not, I hope a silhouPETte of their pet reminds them that they’re always close – they’re always in your heart.
Today, my husband, Mark, and I live with our two amazing and endlessly entertaining fur-babes: Dixon, our beautiful and loving yellow lab and pit mix, and Figaro, named after the mischievous kitty in Disney’s Pinocchio. They live together as true brothers. Though Dixon is about five times Figaro’s size, they cuddle, play, eat, and sleep together. It’s very sweet and I’ll let their pictures do the talking.
I recently came across an article about “Why it’s better to date women with cats.” It was entertaining and I could totally relate to some of it. If I were writing it, it would read, “Why people with pets are my kind of people.” We all just “get it.” Something opens up inside us when we develop these unconditionally loving relationships based on a non-verbal language. It’s damn beautiful and we are better people because of it. I have so much love for each of you for loving animals the way you do… thanks for filling this world with love and endless cuddle time. J
[Tamar here – I hope you enjoyed Jessica’s touching piece. There were so many lovely photos of Dixon and Figaro I just had to share them here. Enjoy!]