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A Personal Blog Today….

Oct 15

In Friends at 8:13am

No speed light stuff today. Apologies….

About a dozen years ago my wife Annie made a pretty courageous leap of life and changed everything, all at once. What does one do when you shuck off all that is familiar, and move to a new and strange set of walls, have no money and a couple of sticks of furniture?

Well, when you take a chance like that, and rescue yourself, sometimes, you reach out at the same time and rescue others. So Annie the animal lover packed herself off to the shelter, and thought she had decided to take home a little black ball of fur when, out of the same tiny fur ball, another head popped out. Brothers. She took ‘em both.

Formula One fan that she is, one became Nigel, after Nigel Mansell, and the other Arie, after Arie Luyendyk, both legendary drivers. The three of them made a home, and a life together.

And then I showed up on the doorstep, courting Annie. Trying desperately to impress, I did all the usual guy stuff. Calls, dinners, movies, walks and talks. Flowers. First time I sent roses, I called the local shop, and made the order, and when I gave the address, the smart guy who took the call said, “Oh yeah, yeah, I know that place. We’ve delivered out there before! Lots!”

I was left of course to, uh, clear my throat, and say something diplomatic, like, “Yes, well, of course. I’m sure the lady in question is not without her admirers.” I think the shop is called Wise Ass Florist.

In the midst of all my desperate attempts to be noticed by this lovely lady, I wasn’t completely aware that my activities were being measured and judged by another. A sage and protective guardian–Nigel.


See, Annie trusted Nigel’s instincts so thoroughly that if he didn’t like you, you were toast. She placed a lot of faith in Nigel’s ability to size up a guy’s intentions and character, and in fact, if Nigel squinted hard at you, and slunk upstairs, you might be in for some tough sledding.

Thankfully, Nigel and I had it going on right from the first, probably ‘cause we’re pretty similar. Couple of goofball lugs, very motivated by the phrase, “What’s for dinner?” He did look at me hard, though, at first. Looked at me, looked over at Annie, and then back at me. And then let me know the deal, in his way. It was like, okay pal, you have my permission, but if you ever don’t treat her right, it’s between you and me, understand? And it’s been our understanding ever since.

We’ve watched a lot of TV together-he likes NCIS. There’ve been mornings when he would help me out by walking over my keyboard and sending email. Other mornings when Annie’s on the road and I’m sacked out, tapping my forehead gently with his paw to remind me it was past breakfast. Keeping me company on one of his favorite perches–our flatbed scanner. (Drives folks in the office a bit nuts, having a scanner full of cat hair.)

He was pretty good with small flash, too. He really got into the Strobist series.


I’m struggling writing this, mostly with the sense of tense. I’m trying to describe this stuff in lighthearted fashion, as if it’s still going on. It’s not. It’s going to be hard thinking about Nigel in the past tense.

A little while back, seeing Nigel not be his usual, gregarious self, Annie took him to the vet. The diagnosis was Hemangiosarcoma, among the most aggressive and deadliest of cancers. He had been dealt a tough hand of cards. It mostly strikes dogs, rarely cats, which confirms my suspicion he was, indeed, part pooch. (How does that happen? How does a few bastard rogue cells completely snuff an ebullient little life force like Nigel in 3 short weeks?) He retreated into dark places, under beds and into cabinets. We did our best to make him feel comfortable. He knew what was up. The wisdom in those eyes of his spoke volumes, right to the last.

Now he’s gone. He’s in the ground, with a small marker. I put roses on his grave. I have to figure they were his favorite ‘cause whenever I gave them to Annie, he would try to eat them.

I’m writing this, knowing I can’t read it to him, the way I would occasionally read to him about the Yankees or the Knicks from the morning news feed. But I think we had a good last conversation. Told him I was sorry about trying to teach him to be a VAL. I thought that little speed light harness thing was gonna work:-) Of course, he quickly let me know he was more suited to the director’s chair than to grip work.

Thanks, bud. Thanks for watching over Annie. Thanks for letting me in the house. Thanks for occasionally letting me use my pillow.


Just, you know, thanks…..and Godspeed…I’ll see you on the other side. More tk….

337 Responses to “A Personal Blog Today….”

Chris says:

on October 16, 2010 at 3:32 pm

My “Nigel” was Omar..also a black Persian ball of sweetness. And I had him to comfort me after I lost my “Annie” to cancer. He’s now gone too; but I feel both their loves in my heart. Joe, it is beautiful to be sensitive and feel the highs and lows of life as you do…sure beats the tough opposite.



Tom O'Connor says:

on October 16, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Joe, what a great story.
So many similarities in our lives.
I grew up in New York and went to high school in the Bronx.
Wonder how many pictures of yours I saw in the Daily News while riding the D-Train to 164th street way back when.
I have 2 great shots of my beloved cat Kaisee next to her “cat in the box” remains. I hope to see her and Nigel on the other side too.

Jason L. says:

on October 16, 2010 at 4:23 pm

I am glad you shared with us how Nigel lived it is better to keep those we love alive in our hearts than to think of them as being gone. Those moments you share have a way of teaching you decisions yet to com. Sorry for your loss!be joyous of what you shared!

Chell says:

on October 16, 2010 at 4:34 pm

So sorry for your loss of your sweet fur baby. Some pets really leave their mark in our lives. Thanks for sharing your tribute to him with us.

thom says:

on October 16, 2010 at 4:37 pm

sorry for your loss.

Tim Buckner says:

on October 16, 2010 at 5:38 pm

I am so sorry for you loss.

Mike Neale says:

on October 16, 2010 at 6:18 pm

All the words have been said, Joe,…(227 compassionate hugs before ours),…what a great family.


stewart says:

on October 16, 2010 at 6:50 pm

my condolences on your loss – it is always tough to take losing a pet. hopefully he’s sitting up there in kitty heaven having a nice bowl of catnip, watching NCIS and having a good time!

Deb P says:

on October 16, 2010 at 7:13 pm

Oh my gosh Joe, thank you for sharing this. I am so sorry about Nigel. I loved when he made his way into your videos! I can relate to your hurt and I’ll keep you and your family in my thoughts!

Dan Appel says:

on October 16, 2010 at 7:38 pm

It has always been fun to read of Nigel’s antics and many of the tube videos in your series. He will be missed by many, but no more so than you. I am so sorry for your loss.

David says:

on October 16, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Joe and Annie, I am so sad to hear that Nigel has moved to another place that is watching both of you from. I am sure that his motor is running at quick pace.

Jeanne says:

on October 16, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Your Nigel tales always brought smiles to my face. They own us, you know and dig deeply into our hearts, never letting go, really. I am so sorry for your loss. As the human to three geriatric cats and a kitten with three legs, I can appreciate the sense of loss and loyalty. No doubt, Nigel will be waiting for you on the other side, expecting more chatter from the sports’ pages.


Alexis says:

on October 16, 2010 at 9:28 pm

No need for apologies — I think many of us know what it’s like to lose a beloved pet. This was a lovely tribute.

Oliver RR says:

on October 16, 2010 at 9:50 pm

This hits home. Our little scarred portly black ball of rescued fur seems to live on love alone, but she gives more than she takes and my back will probably never recover fronm the position I have to sit in to work at the computer while she sleeps on my lap. Why don’t I just make her sleep somewhere else? Well, reading this post you know why, that’s how they end up sleeping on scanners. How do you say no to a cat? (you don’t). I am sorry for your and Annie’s loss.

Doug Evans says:

on October 16, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Joe & Annie -

I’m very sorry to read of your loss! I’ve enjoyed and laughed at the stories and images you’ve shared of Nigel over the years. It’s a very difficult pain to get through and I truly sympathize.

My childhood buddy, “Waldo” was a goofy character stuck in a labs unconditionally loving body. From my late teens to mid 20s saw me through many happy and some heavy times with the usual and uncanny love and apparent understanding that he always did.

I rescued him from a Hippie Commune in Wilton, CT in 1979 (not kidding) where he was loved, but unintentionally neglected. When visiting my Mother’s friends, Waldo and I immediately had some connection – and everyone saw it. Waldo expressed it when I was away and really made it known when we’d go back to visit.

The “owner” was going back to school in Bridgeport that fall and had no place for a big, energetic 1 year old lab – I grabbed the opportunity and after a million promises and pleas, he came back with me.

Everyone fell in love with that amazing pooch!

After a thousand stories and 11 years of unconditional companionship ended abruptly one night – I came home to find my buddy was gone – hour by hour, then a day – a few more, a week – eventually the hurt did lessen – yet still so easily brings tears to my eyes all these years later.

I, as most here do, understand a bit of what you feel and hope that as silly and trite as it may sound, we share in your sadness while hoping the pain recedes quickly giving way to the happy memories – You two gave Nigel a great, love filled life!

Joe, your entry was stirring and beautifully written. You two are in my thoughts…


James F says:

on October 16, 2010 at 10:58 pm

I’m so sorry.

We almost lost Edgar, our Siamese-shaped great Dane, to cancer, and still count each day with him as a blessing because we know it’s only in remission. You and Annie have our sympathy, and I’m sure he appreciates the roses – all cats are ruled by their stomachs, I swear it.

Michelle says:

on October 16, 2010 at 11:34 pm

My condolences to you, Annie & Joe. Our fuzzy friends give us more than we know, treasure Nigel’s memory in your hearts and he will be with you forever.

JerseyStyle Photography says:

on October 16, 2010 at 11:35 pm

A perfect post for your friend, your family. Us here in NJ are sending our best to you and Annie. Our pup, Bella, was knockin’ on heaven’s door last year but luckily pulled through. These little beings…they touch us. This is a great remembrance.

Godspeed, Nigel.

Juli says:

on October 16, 2010 at 11:56 pm

sorry for your loss. feel for you deeply. my Cuddles is responsible for my husband being with me today. she’s the one he had to be able to past muster with. we lived with one of my brothers from the time she was a kitten, and after we moved she would hide from him when he came to visit. this is a person she knew, so when she let Mark pet her, he was it. she left me a few years ago, but went off to die on her own so I don’t really have closer even now. I was crying as I got to the end of your blog as it reminded me of several of my feline friends. Thomas, long departed, used to wake me if I over slept for he had to have that one tbsp of wet food each morning. Cuddles for the reasons above, and Tigger who passed just this summer. She started acting old and Mark, knowing how I felt about Cuddles not giving me closer, told her “whatever happens, you can’t go die on your own cause mom can’t take it again.” she didn’t. we were both there and told her goodbye and it was okay to go. I’m counting on seeing all my furry friends again on the other side.

AdamJRed says:

on October 16, 2010 at 11:57 pm

We are sorry for your loss, but are glad he left such a wonderful legacy of memories, some now shared with us.

While they may not like it, our cats will get an extra hug today

David says:

on October 17, 2010 at 12:24 am

So sorry for your loss, Joe. My own furry little ones have been my constant companions (and, I admit, more than occasional photographic subjects).

Victor says:

on October 17, 2010 at 1:03 am

Thank you for sharing this personal story. Like you, I met our dog Bonbon when I met my wife. She also lost her battle against hemangiosarcoma earlier this year. She may not be here with us now, but she will always be in our hearts, as I’m sure Nigel will be in yours. My condolences to you and Annie. May Nigel rest in peace.

Bonbon’s story: http://bonbon.pets-memories.com

Une Herzer says:

on October 17, 2010 at 3:57 am

Sorry for your loss, but also thank you for sharing that recount of a lovely friendship.
We too lost, or said goodbye to a few dear pets along life’s road. It’s the memories we hold that keep the bonds strong.

Gloria M says:

on October 17, 2010 at 5:21 am

Joe- You had me in tears. I hear it gets easier with time. I’m not sure yet as my furry child of 18 went to Kitty Heaven in August. Thinking of you, Annie and Nigel……

Gloria M Maine 2010 DLWS

Deanna says:

on October 17, 2010 at 5:26 am

Hey Joe, our thoughts are with you all. We lost our beautiful dog to cancer this past Christmas, and I blogged about her too (http://deannawhyte.com.au/?p=172, if you’re interested). She was my husband’s dog before I showed up, but luckily she decided she liked me, too. Her end was, like Nigel’s, sudden and super FAST. I still hear her around the house occasionally, and feel like her protective spirit is keeping an eye on us. xox

Mary says:

on October 17, 2010 at 6:10 am

I am sorry. I know how hard losing a friend in a cat suit is. Time will help.

Ruth Knox says:

on October 17, 2010 at 7:47 am

Thanks, Joe, for sharing with us the magic you and Nigel shared. I’m honored to have met him through your blog.

Nigel Walker says:

on October 17, 2010 at 9:19 am

Hey Joe,

My sincerest apologies on your old mate. You may recall me from Dubai and your initial absence when Chase had to take your class for the first day back in 2008 at GPP & possibly my return visit the following year. Alas I go by the same name & hope my days are as happy if not longer than your old pal.

Go well and I trust that a living Nigel makes a little hope grow stronger, albeit not feline!

We all love your work Joe – and as for you passion in life, we sincerely trust you will grace the shores of the photo world forever and a day.

Nigel (the Photog!)

KatrinaZ says:

on October 17, 2010 at 10:36 am

Thanks for sharing your loss with us. It helps others of us like me to deal with the lost of a pet also. I lost my dog Prancer in July 2010 after his having been my shadow for 10 years. We miss them but are thankful for the time we had with them.

Steve Ashton says:

on October 17, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Bloody hell Joe, you have me in tears…… so sorry for your loss bud, I know how it feels to loose a close animal friend.

The words you wrote say so much about you as a person, anybody who feels that way about any animal is a very good person. We lost a cat 5 years ago now. The night he died in the vets we went for a walk a walk we have done many times before. That night a black cat just like ours crossed our path not once but 4 times.

We stopped he came to us we stroked him and he he rolled on his back. Then he got up and just walked off….. stopped and looked back at us… we never saw him again. I have done that walk hundreds of times since. Not one more black cat.

It will get easier in time but why would you forget him…. he will for ever be part of your life.

Ban_D says:

on October 17, 2010 at 12:45 pm

I’m sorry for your loss too – sorry to hear these news.
Pets can really become like would be sons and daughters, so i know too by experience how hard to loose them. :-(

Kirk Norbury says:

on October 17, 2010 at 2:48 pm

We just our cat a couple weeks ago due to old age, sad time :( Nigel looked just like Mitsy :) first time I saw him I thought he was her long lost brother, or boyfriend :)

I’m sorry for your loss

Best wishes

Kirk Norbury

David Apeji says:

on October 17, 2010 at 3:02 pm

So sorry for your loss Joe and Annie.

Charlie Horvath says:

on October 17, 2010 at 5:54 pm

My wife’s gatekeeper was named Nerd – a black himalayan that had to give his okay for one to have a chance. he left us a few years ago much like Nigel so your story had a special meaning to me and Su. At least Nerd and your Nigel will be waiting for us when we cross the Rainbow Bridge — what a day that will be!

Daniel Solorio says:

on October 17, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Almost cry, sorry for your loss.

Best from Mexico.


J W Nienstedt says:

on October 17, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Ugh, losing a pet is rough. It’s amazing when you realize how much they give to you. There’s nothing like the loyalty of a good pet. I’m sure Nigel will be well remembered.

Randy Frost says:

on October 17, 2010 at 8:05 pm

Joe and Annie, I am so sorry for your loss.

Alan says:

on October 17, 2010 at 10:49 pm

I am so sorry for your loss.
There is something very special about the animals that share their lives with us.

My wife found Kaila as part of a litter of cats that had ben thrown into a trash can.
Raised as a dog, her cat was the most protective animal I have ever come across.
She slept on her own pillow at the head of the bed and every morning would look at me… deciding if I was allowed to stay one more day.

She lost her battle with kidney disease recently and I swear I still see her darting into a room out of the corner of my eye.

Thank you for sharing this.
Always nice to be reminded that we are not alone.


Sotiris_s says:

on October 17, 2010 at 11:39 pm

I so sorry for your loss. I have experience a similar one some years ago.

Jay Rodriguez says:

on October 17, 2010 at 11:46 pm

I am so sorry for your loss Joe & Annie.
My Wife Judy and I experienced a loss too last year. I had a pure bread Siamese show-cat named Lynx that was part of our family for several years. He was known as the welcoming committee over at my home.
I know how you guys are feeling right now.
My condolences!


Linda Shapiro says:

on October 18, 2010 at 12:26 am

Some say when we get to heaven our pets come running out to meet us. I so hope that’s true! I’ll have one wonderful pound puppy named Zeke who gave us 17 happy years up there wagging his tail and ready to take us for a walk. I’m so sorry for your and Annie’s loss of Nigel. Thanks for sharing the story and the hurt.

Jason says:

on October 18, 2010 at 1:15 am

Mine is “Maggie”…stereotypical in stature, the Black Lab that has ruled my life for the last 10 years. Her gray and hiding periodically warns me of things to come, and if I have the grace to deliver a eulogy like yours, and not bawl like a baby, well…let’s just say that’s not gonna happen.

My heart truly goes out to you – non-pet owners just never understand how much a part of our lives these children become. Yours must be aching now, and while the ache fades with time, the memories linger forever. It may not help now, but know that other hearts are with you…

Louis van Zyl says:

on October 18, 2010 at 1:26 am

Sorry for you loss. I still miss “Alex” even though she has been gone more that a year. She is still around every corner. The fond memories last forever.

Valerie Evans says:

on October 18, 2010 at 4:23 am

Joe, and Annie

I’m so sorry. It’s one of the most humane things I’ve ever seen to watch a grown adult mourn the loss of a pet. And I know they aren’t really pets. They’re family members. Best wishes

Julie says:

on October 18, 2010 at 8:34 am

What a beautiful tribute to Nigel. You may not be able to read it to him but I think he can hear and see you. I think their spirit lives on with us until we meet again. You know what is said, love never dies. Bravo to Annie for adopting and giving a second chance to her furbabies. My sympathy to both of you.

Tanya Rist says:

on October 18, 2010 at 8:35 am

Joe and Annie,

So sorry for your loss. Our 17 year old Yorkie has numerous medical issues, and I swear she’s surviving on love alone at this point. She is the light of our lives, along with Ruby cat, our little black kitty that I rescued from the streets back in June. Its so difficult losing a loved one, and our thoughts are with you at this difficult time. All the best from Switzerland……

IPBrian says:

on October 18, 2010 at 8:36 am

I am truly sorry to hear this Joe. Best wishes.

Rui Cruz says:

on October 18, 2010 at 9:09 am

Dear Joe,

so sorry to hear about Nigel. I really liked the video you made of him. I really love cats, have four at my house (well, you know it’s actually ‘their’ house).

There’s one less reason to come to your website now. It’s a good thing you can take a picture! :)

They really grow into your heart, a little like a weed. It’s very difficult to let them go. At least you have pictures.

They do kinda’ prove you existed, don’t they?

Maybe now you and Annie can save another one, maybe an “Ayrton”?

God bless.


Corey Melton says:

on October 18, 2010 at 10:59 am

wonderfully put. sorry for your loss, Flash.

-Corey Melton

Chris Rowe says:

on October 18, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Don’t usually do cat stories (I’m not a cat fan and anyway I’m allergic to the little sweethearts!) but I really teared up reading your story Joe.

So sorry for your loss – my thoughts are with you.


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