This is the story of how a spunky little cat brought together a Sebastopol neighborhood.
His name was Oreo, a young, lean, black and white tuxedo cat who was more dog than he was cat. Oreo was a member of our (the Little) family in Sebastopol. But really, he was everyone’s cat on Pleasant Hill Avenue. He would daily visit numerous houses on his route to his favorite place — the Willard Libby Park. There he was king. Oreo would run and frolic, hunt gophers, socialize with park-goers and even go for evening walks with us.
Unfortunately, on Saturday, Jan. 4, Oreo was killed by a car while crossing the street on his way to the park. While we grieved and mourned the loss of our family pet, we realized that we were not the only ones — our neighbors felt the emptiness as well.
Oreo had become a regular part of everyone’s lives. Oreo’s morning routine of visiting the neighbor’s garden and taunting their dog was now all too quiet.
Other neighbors started asking “Where’s Oreo?”
After Oreo’s death, I went door to door to tell the neighbors of his passing. And something special happened. Neighbors I had never met before were hugging me and crying with me.
People gave their condolences and shared favorite Oreo stories with me. Cards were slipped in our mailbox and roses were left on our doorstep.
I was amazed at how many people (some I had only ever seen in passing) were reaching out to us in our sadness and sharing in our grief.
Oreo had touched so many lives in his short life. He was that kind of cat.
Oreo came into our family quite by surprise. We were on a trip to Kentucky in March 2019. We were staying in a condo-hotel out in the country surrounded by fields.
It was a cold evening and snow was lightly falling outside. The hotel lobby was warm and cozy, and I happened to be in that lobby when a skinny, scrappy kitten wandered in. The hotel manager promptly tossed the kitten outside. I went out to check on him, and he came right up to me and rubbed against my leg, meowed and looked up at me with is big beautiful eyes.
Where had he come from? I picked him up and he started to purr. I think that’s when I fell in love. I drove him to a grocery store and bought cat food and litter box amenities. I fully planned on keeping him in our hotel room, but my husband suggested we call animal control in case the cat belonged to someone or was sick. Animal control came and took him away, but my daughter and I had bonded with him and named him Oreo.
On the last day of our trip, we begged my husband to go and check on Oreo at the shelter. He had been neutered and was going to be released back out to the streets.
When we arrived at the shelter my husband informed us that Oreo had been adopted by a family ... our family! Oreo got a plane ticket and a carrier, and he was on his way back home to Sebastopol, California.
When he came home, he ate and ate and ate and grew and grew and grew. He was healthy and so happy. Our other tabby cat grew to love him too, and they became best buddies.
Oreo would bring us lots of “presents” — snakes, moles, birds, lizards. He was so proud of himself. Every day, he would come home from wherever he was in the neighborhood around 3:15 p.m. When the kids came home from school, he was there to greet them. Oreo loved my husband most of all and would lay stretched across him on the couch.
Oreo brought joy, love and laughter into our family. Everything he did, he did 100%. He was fearless and also affectionate.
His life touched so many of us on Pleasant Hill Avenue, and in his death, he is still bringing people together. Our neighborhood feels emptier without him but our hearts are fuller having known him.
The Sebastopol Parks Department has given us permission to plant a rose bush at Willard Libby park in Oreo’s honor. I’d like to invite all the neighbors to come.
For other people who are suffering from the loss of their pet, there is a wonderful support group in Santa Rosa that meets every Tuesday night at Brookdale lodge, 2375 Range Ave. There are other support groups around such as Memorial Hospice, 439 College Avenue, Santa Rosa. I was blessed so much by going to the one at Brookdale lodge.