Poppa shmoldie

Poppa shmoldie

There have been many father figures at Tabby’s Place.

But there has only ever been one Poppa. Maybe two.

Jonathan with portrait of Tabby

It goes without saying that Jonathan, our Founder and Executive Director, is a sort of Dad to all 4,000 cats who have crossed our threshold.

(This puts Jon slightly behind Benjamin Franklin for largest recorded number of children.)

Jonathan is the living “yes” to cats who nearly died of “no.” He turned his grief into a revolution of mercy.

Tabby himself is also our founding father. Our namesake is more than a word in our logo. Tabby’s cinnamon stripes stretch on in lifelines and lovelines, warm as the hands that skritch cats and heckle “hopeless situations.”

Poppa Lay with two of his “children,” Horace and Cornbread

Still, we have never had a cat with a fatherly name.

There has been no Papa Smurf, no Daddy Warbucks.

The closest we’ve had to a paterfamilias was Brando, but we refused his offer to consume all the ricotta on the Eastern seaboard, so he’s out of the running.

Sadly, we have never had a cat named for a dad.

Until now.

Sometimes being Poppa means sitting like Homer Simpson

Meet Poppa Lay.

He is a sensitive soul, even childlike.

As fathers go, this is not the one who would grill your hoodlum boyfriend.

Poppa will not take away your PlayStation if you miss curfew.

He will give you his last slab of meat loaf.

His big green-olive eyes will fill with tears when you get your ears pierced.

He will be wounded if you say “parents just don’t understand!”

If you hang out with unsavory characters, he will invite them for dinner and ask about their feelings.

A good Poppa lives for unconditional love (and Horace is grateful)

He will learn the rad songs on the radio so he can sing with you in the kitchen.

He will not tell you that it’s hard being a Poppa, passed over by potential adopters for having feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).

He will not tell you that Poppas get scared, too, although his eyes may give him away when Olive screams “rad songs” in the Lobby.

He will not tell you how he got the name “Poppa,” a bashful forgotten cat named for a pillar of the family.

He will not tell you, but you will find out. Poppa was born to nurture everything that breathes.

From the moment he joined Suite D, he got to work comforting kids with and without whiskers. Cats orbit him like moonchildren. Humans entrust him with secrets. Life is prickly, but Poppa Lay’s heart is a big family room with a place for you.

And just as you and Poppa find each other, two hearts on the same tree of life, you may hear a strange command.

“Poppa shmoldie.”

Poppa (the cat) will be as perplexed as you are. What’s that?

It’s Jonathan, peeking into the suite with a wry grin. “Poppa shmoldie.”

If you have been at Tabby’s Place for more than six minutes, you have heard these words. It is a delightful Jonathan phrase, frequently spoken. I think only Jon and the cats really know what it means.

But if it means anything, it means, “join me.”

It means, “seize the moment.”

It means, “do what you need to do, even if you’re as scared as an FIV+ cat with eyes like olives.”

It means, “come aboard this spaceship, even if your legs wobble.”

It means “save some lives with me, and you just might save your own.”

It means Poppa the cat, and four thousand predecessors, get to forget “hopeless situations.”

It means we all — both species — get to be children together.

It means “shmoldie” is the grandest and most mysterious word in history. “Poppa” is a close second.

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