It’s always sad when a friend’s cat dies. My heart hurts for what I know they’re about to go through as they mourn their loss. We’ve all been there, and even though everyone grieves in their own unique way, we all know how hard it is. This past Wednesday a tortie named Brooke lost her battle with cancer. Brooke has a special place in my heart. She belonged to very dear friends of mine, and if it wasn’t for Brooke, I never might have met them.

In August 2009, I wrote a post titled Tortitude – the Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats. It rapidly became one of the most popular posts on this blog, but it was so much more than just a blog post. Readers started leaving comments sharing stories about their torties. With more than 14,000 comments to date, it turned into a real community of tortie lovers. A core group posted almost daily for several years, and what started as an exchange of tortie stories turned into online friendships, and even sparked a romance. Brooke was one of the torties in that core group.

But rather than trying to describe Brooke myself, I’m going to share the beautiful passage her human Harry posted on Facebook on Wednesday (with some minor edits:)

“14 years ago this past July, Julie fell in love with a tiny, tortoiseshell kitten who fell asleep in her arms at an adoption event. Later that afternoon, we returned to the house with that calm, docile 16-week old tortie, who then woke up, realized she was forever home, and proceeded to race in a circle around, on and over the couch, and including the kitchen and hallway, at 90 miles an hour – for an hour. A human psychologist we once met at an adoption event described Brooke perfectly – she was passionate about life. She loved us with intensity, the same way she went about – well, everything, including bullying other resident cats she didn’t like.


We learned a great deal from Brooke, including the name of an excellent pet behaviorist, and that Prozac can be formulated into a transdermal gel applied to a cat’s ears…

We also learned about tortitude – an attitude that brought us to a group of wonderful people who are owned and managed by torties, people we’ve now called friends for 10 years. We’ve had the great fortune to meet some of these people in real life; with all of them we maintain an internet friendship, and there are some with whom we will eventually cross paths IRL.


Brooke had been slowing down the past year, and this past summer it became clear that something was not right. She was diagnosed with mast cell cancer of her digestive tract – diffuse, not operable. We fought the cancer with the same passion that we knew Brooke would have asked of us, going to specialists and trying any and all possible treatments. Indeed, Brooke fought cancer the way she took on life, allowing steroids and chemotherapy and acupuncture to help with the side effects. Can you imagine doing acupuncture on a tortie? Well, our vet can.

It became clear this week that she was losing the battle, and losing it fast. The last gift we can give our companion animals is to not let them suffer – though we certainly suffer because it is not an easy decision.

Our friend Jay says that when a tortie goes to heaven, she is welcomed with a thunderstorm that is caused by the roaring of the great torties that came before her. Monday night there was an unexpected thunderstorm, and Brooke – who used to be afraid of such a storm – sat on the rail of the screened porch, looking up. I knew she heard them calling her. Now she is with them.

We could all use a little tortitude in life, I think. Or maybe just a little tortie. I’m glad we had ours.”

Rest easy, sweet Brooke. I will forever be grateful to you for bringing your humans into my life and to our tortie community.

Harry Shubin is a patent attorney in Northern Virginia who has been active in cat rescue for most of his life. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Feline Foundation of Greater Washington. He shares his home with seven cats. His wife Julie, daughter Rachel, and son Michael are also involved in cat rescue.

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21 Comments on A Tribute to Brooke

  1. I am so very sorry for your friend’s loss of sweet Brooke. Such a gorgeous girl and what a life she had full of love…Brooke will always be watching over her family from the Railing at the Bridge. I know my Clark will be showing her around..xoxox

  2. I’m so sorry for their loss of Brooke. Ironically my tabby Gooseberry was just diagnosed with a mast cell tumor but hopefully his was isolated and completely excised. Brooke was such a beautiful girl. I hope they feel all the support they need from all friends here.


  4. I am sorry for your friend. This is the 5th cat that I have heard of passed this week of my friends. Been a sad week.

  5. I’m so sorry your beautiful tortie, Brooke, crossed the rainbow bridge..I feel very sad for you, and hope when you’re ready, you’ll move on to rescue another kitty that needs the loving home, you provided for sweet Brooke..That’s the only thing that helps me move on; to help the next deserving fur person..

  6. So Sorry for the loss of Brooke. Beautiful baby. She will always be with you in memory and in your heart. May She RIP.

  7. Brooke will be missed by all. But especially by those that had Torties that matched Brooke’s Tortitude. Bernie that had Steeler, Glen that had Kasey and me with my Stirfry. We knew what extreme Tortitude was like. And so did the other cats in the household. These cats ruled with an iron Paw and when they were slightly pissed off all others avoided them. When fully mad everyone stayed clear. A hair trigger was what my Stirfry had. I can imagine the others were close. But they loved even more fiercely than their temper and they became our Soul Cats. Never could they have been together when alive but now that they crossed the Bridge they will bond together and wait for us. The sky’s will rumble with thunder as they greet each other and let us know they watch over us. Farewell Brooke , you will never be forgotten.

  8. My sympathies and condolences. Loosing anyone close is horrible, but the fur people are those that know us better than almost anyone, because they can see and sense everything. O swear that after time, like after we lost our Schrödinger, that she led a kitty straight to our home and led us to another. A home is not truly a home without a fur person. They bring so much to our lives. I’m truly sorry for your loss.

  9. I am so sorry for your friends’ loss. Two weeks ago from today, on 8/23, we lost Banzai, our beautiful melanistic tabby Manx, to the exact same diffuse visceral mast cell cancer that had metastasized to his bone marrow and essentially destroyed his immune system. Because of this, he didn’t have the option of chemo or other interventions. He declined quickly and we made the heartbreaking decision to let him go. I hope that time will soften the pain and grief my husband and I as well as your friends are going through. Today I will be picking up his ashes from the vet so he will be back home with us. Again, deepest sympathies on Brooke’s passing. This is the hardest part of loving a cat—saying goodbye for a time, until the day we are reunited again.

  10. my deepest sympathy to them, its always hard to lose a pet; she’ll be forever in their hearts. we lost our tortie, missy, 2 yrs ago 9/21 and its still hard, I still see her and feel her. she also died of cancer, in her jaw, when it was diagnosed, the odds of treatment werent good, being 12 yrs old didnt want to put her thru that (we had just moved from wv to fl, and stress was very high), knowing it wouldnt change anything. so we left her live her life as she wanted til the end, we waited as long as we could, when her quality of life changed, we let her go, it was heartbreaking to my husband the most I think, he bawled like a baby….me, I still feel her around, so do my other cats, especially her brother, he misses her still. but life goes on….would like to have another tortie….we’ll see, just not ready I guess….God bless all of them… least we had them for a little while…..

  11. I am so sorry for your friends’ loss, and for your loss as well Ingrid, since you new Brooke.
    Pretty sure my Kajsa was part of that welcoming thunder storm…

  12. I’m sure all the beautiful, fearless, endearing
    Torties were there waiting for Brooke to leave this world and move onto the next. Brooke seemed like a very special friend and companion and my heart cries with your family and friends. Brooke look down upon all of us when you’re not running 90 miles per hour. We’ll always love you, Brooke!

  13. The best advice I got when I lost my Casey Jones, was from right here … “Be gentle with yourself.”
    Everyone grieves in their own way, in their own time, and sometimes it’s quiet and other times it rages. It comes in waves.
    Ingrid gave me the best advice and I pass it along each time I hear someone has lost their furever baby. My heart breaks for you …
    Casey passed around Thanksgiving and it still feels like days ago. I don’t apologize for my grief anymore.
    I’m glad your girl showed you such wonder at the thunderstorm, it’s like her epiphany. “Oh, that’s what that is, and I’m not afraid. I’ll miss you but know I’m not afraid..”

    Kind of a wonderful thank you for her wonderful life.

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