Cat Wisdom 101’s Former Feral, Domino Dead at Age 16 by Layla Morgan Wilde
It feels like a dream as I write these words about Domino’s death. We expected Clyde, who is older and more ill to go first. Domino, the former feral who survived seven brutal winters outdoors and so much more was a superhero we expected to live much longer. For those readers who have followed us for years, know what an active and beloved member of the cat blogging world he was. To create this tribute, I skimmed through 14,000 photos and endless posts and somehow none of it does this larger-than-life cat justice.
Domino was the consummate survivor. He endured endless tick bites, numerous respiratory issues, cat fight wounds and abscesses including one that almost resulted in amputation and a move to a new home five months ago. He kept going season after season in any kind of weather with a thick coat and a ballsy attitude to protect him.
Domino arrived on our covered porch one cold spring day in 2004 deciding this was his home but he refused to come inside for seven years. Goodness knows we tried and it took that long to trap and neuter him (surely a record of some kind!)
If you haven’t read his rescue story, Operation Domino it’s a doozy. The “before and after” photos speak volumes.
When we moved five months ago, he hid under the bed for weeks and expressed no interest to explore the lovely and wild grounds. I thought for sure he’d find a favorite tree with thick roots to scratch and sunbathe on. He gradually poked his head outside and developed a routine of racing across the lawn to a jumble of impenetrable bushes where he’d stay for hours and then race back inside. Domino marched to the beat of a different drummer and the change of location proved deadly.
In July, a new mobile vet examined him and there were no surprises. A diagnosis of early kidney disease. No biggie. Bad teeth. So what else is new? The blood work rang no warning bells.
When we live with cats, it’s easy to flow from one day to the next missing tiny, subtle changes. With geriatric cats, major shifts can occur in one season or less. One day in late summer, I did a double take. Holy cat gods! When did he shrink to half his size? Always a particular eater, he grew fussier. A few weeks ago, he decided to make an ottoman in the living room near Clyde’s lair, his nest. Fine. He didn’t want to sleep with my husband. Bingo! It was time for a vet visit. See that post about Domino
Domino was one of the original Cat Wisdom 101 team that including Merlin, Gris Gris and Odin who is the last surviving member. Sigh, this dates from the early days of this blog,
The thought of curating through thousands of photo and 2000 posts since 2011 stopped me in my tracks. Not to mention the last photos taken this week, random bits of video dredged up by my husband, there was enough content for a mini-series. Let’s face it. Domino was no Grumpy Cat but my photo of him drinking out of our pond won the CWA Muse Medallion in 2011 for Best Color Photography.
I couldn’t find a digital copy of the photo but I snapped this (bad pic) from a bulletin board in my kitchen.
Domino didn’t have a vain bone in his Snowshoe/Ragdoll body and zero interest in being a model but indulged me on a semi-regular basis for photos silly or educational. Merlin was our primary purveyor of cat wisdom but Domino was no slouch.
He was the poster boy for adopting FIV+ cats. Boy, he squashed that myth paws down.
Okay, I might be a little bit handsome. And I do have a beauty spot on my nose. Love really made him blossom.
He was a one person cat and my husband was it. So much so that he lolled on his lap every evening watching TV and slept with him in the prime spot once held by Merlin my soul cat.
Who knew this lap cat would take his final final lap a few days ago. Instead of his usual leap up to the lounge, he needed a little help to reach his happy place.
As his feral days waned, his confidence grew and he made eye contact with his soulful blue eyes.
Make no mistake, he belonged to daddy and never sat on my lap. He allowed me the honor of grooming and photographing him but that’s about it. If I happened to moved too forcefully into a room, he’d duck for cover. God forbid I was carrying a broom. Domino’s tail was broken in two places from his life before arriving on our porch. I always suspected a violent woman inflicted harm. It’s all the more remarkable that he opened his heart wide. He often gazed adoringly at my husband and loved to play and snuggle in a brotherly way with his feline siblings.
His love for me was guarded until near the end making it all the more bittersweet.
Indoors or outdoors, he found the most comfortable place possible to snooze but at heart he remained a nature lover and wild boy.
Domino was no diva but he gradually accepted his beefy good looks and embodied the attributes of a Taurus. I guestimated his birthday to early May and we celebrated it on May Day.
Too down-to-earth for serious frivolity, he could care less for birthdays or any holiday for that matter. The only costume I could wrestle him into would be virtual like this Halloween pic.
He put a spell on us and bound to sprinkle some fairy dust in kitty heaven.
He had limited star power but he brightened our Universe on a daily basis with his quiet and earthy presence long before he decided to move indoors 8 years ago. He first established outdoor relationships with Merlin and his sister Coco. Merlin took to him right away but Coco shied away. When Coco died in 2013, Domino deepened his friendship with the grieving Merlin. He’d join us on daily walks and often sat on a porch table window looking wistfully at life indoors.
Once he embraced indoor life, he luxuriated in its comforts like heated window ledges and comfy beds galore.
This was Domino’s first real cat bed before realizing the pleasures of human beds and laps.
When Odin and Gris Gris arrived on the same day, he had two new pals. Odin was still a kitten and leash trained which for some reason frightened him initially. Before long they reveled in roughhousing and wrestling. Gris Gris was an unsocialized older boy of 12 and they hit it off instantly as they both did with Merlin. All remained good friends until Gris Gris died suddenly from a stroke at age 15 in 2013 Merlin died at age 21 in 2015.
As Domino aged, they drifted apart but this is what I’ll always remember. I found a never seen video of them wrestling.
Always stoic, Domino mourned Merlin but found it in his heart to love again when Nou Nou arrived and then finally Clyde three years ago.
I snapped this with my phone last week. Domino and Nou Nou slept together until 2 weeks ago. When I brought him to her after he died, to say her good-byes she didn’t want to go near him. I sensed that she wanted privacy so I left the room. After a minute, I peeked in and she was all over him, sniffing him and saying good-bye in her way.
Odin sensed the change before any of us. He deals with grief by acting out and was wildly restless for days. He knew he was ill but curious why he wore a harness for the first time ever. Domino enjoyed the fresh air but tried making a beeline for the impenetrable bushes so we felt a leash and harness was the safer option.
He didn’t say goodbye to Domino in front of us but flew out of nowhere during the burial and stomped on the grave. Clyde seemed weirdly happier and has a favorite new spot in the kitchen. It’s too soon to share funeral pics since we only buried him today but we gave all the cats two days to say their good-byes. Down to earth Domino was treated with respect but not the lavish “Lying in state” send-off Merlin was given.
We’re still in a state of disbelief and rapid cycling of emotions. He looked so good lying in a basket expecting him to meow for treats. On Tuesday, he was having trouble getting to the litter box and we moved it near his bed. The Gabapentin acts well for pain but made him sleepy.
While hubby was gone all afternoon, I sat with Domino sending Reiki, playing Tibetan Buddhist prayers for the dying. I felt the end was nearing and if he worsened, we’d call in a vet for euthanasia. Meanwhile, I kept him cozy on a heating pad with soft lights.
When hubby returned home, I prepped dinner and ate by our outdoor bonfire. During dinner we stopped to check in on Domino and he’d died. We’d only left him alone for a few minutes but he took the opportunity for a quick exit. That was so Domino right to the end. Independent. His way or the highway.
We wish him safe passage and so grateful for the kind condolences arriving like this one from our friends at Furball Fables.
Much love always,
Layla, Clyde, Odin and Nou Nou