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  • Writer's pictureAva Marie LaMonica

A Letter to Rifka

My Nebelung.

Nebelung: A long-haired Russian Blue. Also, the German term for “Creature of the mist”.


I was ten years old when we found you.

I was a lonely child growing up.

My older brother lives in Arizona, so I grew up practically as an only child.

I also wasn’t exactly the epitome of a social butterfly, so friends were scarce. I begged and pleaded for another sibling.

In return, I received a feline.

We found you on Petfinder.

Your name was B.G., which was short for Bomber Girl. (Named after the high school mascot of the parking lot you were found in).

Most of the time, children want an energetic, playful little kitten. One that they will love while they’re young but ignore as they get older.

But there was something about you that stuck with us. Something that was different from other cats. Looking at only a few photos of you, a gray, medium-haired, plumed tailed, frightened, and helpless eight-month-old kitten, you seemed as though you needed us… You captivated us when we met you.

You were timid.

You were mellow.

A reflection of my own self.

Although other cats stole our hearts, there was just something about you.

We signed the papers and you were ours.

B.G. became Rifka - A name I picked from a book I enjoyed at the time, titled Letters from Rifka.


For weeks, you were absent.

Skittish and frightened.

We weren’t sure if you would ever come around.

But you surprised us one day.

Suddenly you were affectionate and wouldn’t leave our side.

Vocal as ever with an irresistible purr.

From then on you earned the most important title:

Therapy cat.

From my bouts of anxiety and severe OCD, you were always there to comfort me.

Waking me up every morning, sitting on my head.

When the depression and heartache were at their worst.

There you’d be.

Rubbing your head against me and laying on my chest.

Lap cat was an understatement.

Those precious years went by so fast.

You watched me grow up.

Everyone who met you instantly adored you.

You changed their biased views on cats.

People called you a “kitten in a cat’s body” because that baby meow never changed.

Or a “dog in a cat’s body” because of your affectionate nature.


But time caught up with us.

As every being does, you started to age.

Everybody knows that cats are notoriously mysterious.


I wish we could have seen the signs.

You were trying to tell us something.

Your lush coat was dulling.

“Shedding season” was to blame.

Your appetite diminished.

“Maybe it was stress from cat-sitting. She’s done this before.” And, before we could act, it came back just like that. Then went away again.

When it was too late.

You were always an allergy-ridden feline (another thing we had in common), which masked the fact that it could be something else.

Something serious.

I sat in my room with my boyfriend one night watching TV. We both commented on how it was odd that you didn’t join us. Practically every night, you would be there snuggling up with us.

Why were you hiding?

However, we wrote it off. You’ve done this on certain occasions. It’s probably nothing.

If only I would have known, I would have checked on you.


The next day, things were different.

Suddenly, you were confused.

Bumping into walls, unaware of your surroundings.

Pacing in circles and looking for a place to hide, but too confused to even know where to go.

You were thin and limp.

Your lush gray coat had become the dullest it has ever been.

When we lifted you and you didn’t utter your iconic meow or quiet squeak…we knew something wasn’t right.

Seeing you like this was heartbreaking.

We always knew this day would come. We just didn’t think it would be so soon.

Each of us held you in our arms that entire night, spending every precious moment we could together.

It was then when I realized, the present anxieties that consumed me that day were suddenly trivial and meaningless.

It was now my turn to take on the role of your therapy human. And I did…every step of the way.

I hoped and prayed that the next morning the vet would be able to help you. My obsessive searching on Google revealed to me that many cats can live through strokes.

After all, you were still walking. You were still moving. Maybe this would pass? Or maybe the vet would have a cure for you?

I held onto that thin string of hope.

But I knew deep down that something was wrong.

Terribly wrong.


It was a sleepless night. How was it possible to put your head on a pillow knowing that you may not be there when I wake up?

My first prayer wasn’t answered.

You were more ill than the night before.

You were no longer able to move.

You were listless and your paws were cold.

We put you in a box and kept you warm with a blanket.

It was early morning, but your appointment was not until 10:00 A.M.

Afraid you would not make it in time, I found a different veterinarian who was able to get you in right away.

When our family mentioned that they thought you were dying, I shut them down.

I couldn’t bear to hear it.

In my mind, having hope was the last resort. God, how I wanted it to be true, but I knew. I just knew.

But I still prayed for a miracle. I never experienced any of my pets ill before. Maybe there was something, just something they would be able to do.

The veterinarian’s office was quaint and small. The staff and the vet blew me away with their compassion towards you. I knew from the moment we stepped in that if there was any place besides home where I’d want you to spend your final moments, this would be it.

My second prayer was rejected when the vet told us what no pet owner wants to hear:

"She's fading away."

Hearing this felt like a stab to the heart.

How we cried and cried for you in that office. The vet handing us tissues through our hysterics.

He told us that if we really wanted to, he could run tests, but strongly advised against it, saying you were too ill to even make it through.

We were left with some time to talk it over.

I ran to the bathroom in tears.

I didn’t want you to be put down. Although it was the best thing to do, I knew that in the back of my obsessive-compulsive mind that I would always think, “What if we could’ve done something to save you?”

I came back and the vet gave me the pure and honest truth in the most compassionate way possible. He told me that if he thought you could make it; he swore he would do something.

We made our decision. I hugged you in tears and then went outside.

I could not be there; it was far too painful.

My heart was shattered in two.


But suddenly…Daddy came outside.

He told me, that the vet decided to check your heartbeat one more time, just out of curiosity.

My third and final prayer had come true.

Your soul had left this Earth before the vet could even administer the needle.

Around 9:10 A.M.

I was heartbroken, but grateful as ever that you were able to leave this world naturally and peacefully.

“It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.” -Lemony Snicket

Leaving that office was one of the hardest things I ever had to do.

Your orange tabby sister, Ireland Odette meowed with concern at the empty crate we brought home.

How empty and quiet the house now was.

The days that followed were even more painful.

The guilt and heartache consumed me.

I should have done this; I should have done that.

I thought about all those precious times we took for granted.

Distracted by the frivolities of everyday life.

Not knowing when the last cuddle would be, the last purr I would hear, the last night I would spend with you curled up in my arms, the last morning I would wake up with you sitting on my head.

Those painful days taught me the most important thing we should value:


In moments of anxiety and distress, I’m reminded of my Nebelung.

Your ginger sister, who has never been that close to me, now seems to take on the traits of you.

Once solitary and independent, she is now clingy and affectionate, comforting me in times of need.

Surely, it’s a sign.

Our new black and white kitten, Stevie Nixx has come into our life like a light in the dark.

I know she would’ve loved you.

While other cats will come and fill a new and happy place in my heart, none will ever replace you.

Because you, Rifka B.G. LaMonica, were in a class of your own.


I intended this to be a poem, but after several aggravating attempts I reaffirmed the fact that poetry is one of my shortcomings.

However, I was able to muster up two lines, which redundantly ring in my head:

My Nebelung, my Nebelung, forever I will miss. But I promise we will meet again my creature of the mist.

R.I.P. Rifka B.G. LaMonica (A.K.A. “The Gray Ghost”, A.K.A. “The Brown Cloud”)
May 7th, 2009-February 21st, 2020

Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. -Anatole France

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