When I was growing up, we had a pet cat.   We got her when I was a baby, and she lived to the ripe old age of 23.  She was truly a part of our family, and a part of my life from my earliest memories.  When she passed, I took the loss hard.  It was the first time I had ever felt the pain of losing a loved one… those of you who are pet owners will understand, I loved her with the same passion I would love a sibling.

Having grown up with her and developing a love for animals, I always knew I would have pets in my life again.  But it would take time for the loss to heal to the point where I was ready for that.  A couple years later I moved into a 1 bedroom apartment, and my neighbor across the hall had a very nice cat.  I hung out with her sometimes, and when she traveled I house sat her cat for her.  She knew about my history with cats, love for animals in general, and could see her cat liked me… still, I was honored when she trusted me to take care of her “baby” while she was away.  She asked me if I planned to have another cat, and I told her I’m sure I would eventually, but I just didn’t feel ready yet to make that commitment of time, expense, and emotion.

Eventually, that day came.  I don’t remember now what triggered the desire in me, but I remember distinctly driving home from work and thinking, no, feeling strongly the time had come that I was ready to get another pet.  I made the decision that I would look into it the upcoming weekend. 

Life had a different plan.  As I ate dinner that night there was a knock at my door, and I found my neighbor standing on the other side.

“I know the answer is probably no, but I just thought I’d ask… one of my co-workers has a litter of kittens she is trying to get rid of, and has a few left.  She doesn’t want any money, just a good home for them all.”

“I’ll take 2” I said.

“What?” She was surprised.  I explained to her my thoughts from earlier in the day and the strong feeling I was ready to do this again, and the timing of her visit seemed like one of life’s magical coincidences.  It felt right, like it was meant to be.  She said there were 3 left and asked if I wanted all of them.  No… I wanted more than 1 because I lived alone and I didn’t want to leave a pet alone in the house all day while I was gone at work, but 3 felt like too much.  My inner voice said to take 2, and that’s what I did, sight unseen. 

The next night my neighbor came over with a kennel and Tigger and Joli entered my life.  They were an amazing brother and sister duo, Tigger being very “outspoken” and forward, curious, fearless… he immediately sprung forth from the kennel and shot up and down the apartment, bouncing from spot to spot checking out his new home.  That’s where he got his name, from the Disney character (Tiggers like to bounce!).  Joli was quite the opposite personality.  She was cautious, nervous, skittish.  While Tigger was out of the kennel and through the apartment in 10 seconds flat, it took her over 2 hours just to venture out.  And that was to make a trip to hide under the couch.  It took her many days of watching from a distance as her brother climbed all over me to get comfortable that the love and attention was safe to come get.  She did warm up to me, but all her life never really fully trusted anyone else.  I was the only one who could pick her up and hold her for more than 20 seconds.

Tigger was struck with kidney failure several years ago and we had to put him down.  Another very sad time.  I promised him I would take good care of his sister… after I married and my wife and I merged families (she had 2 cats herself as well as dogs), he always looked out for and protected his sister.

A couple weeks ago, she took ill.  Father time finally caught up to her, as he does all living things, and she passed of old age in the early hours of Tuesday morning.  We knew it was coming, and I stayed up Monday night holding her.  Knowing, preparing, never makes loss any easier. 

She was with me through many large scale life changes.  My move to Las Vegas (3 day drive with kittens in the car, fun), my entire poker career, a marriage, 5 children, and losses of other loved ones along the way (most notably, my wife’s mother and my father).  And the furry members of our family… when my wife and I married we combined to have 8 animals, 4 cats and 4 dogs (good thing we are both animal lovers lol).  That era has come to an end, as Joli was the last of our initial family.

Why am I telling you all this, and what’s it got to do with poker?  Nothing, and that’s sort of the point and lesson of this blog.  Many avid students of the game develop a passion for poker that can become all consuming.  It’s important to remember that there is a world and a life out there that is much richer with love and connection. Even though that love and connection inevitably comes with the pain of it’s loss, never experiencing the richness and fulfillment of it is, in this one humble man’s opinion, an even greater loss.  Don’t let poker, or any single thing, consume you entirely.  Just like a balanced line on the felts leads to greater profits and proficiency, so does a balanced line in life.  And having that balance will improve the enjoyment and longevity of your poker career as well.

Many of the regular live training attendees of my classes know Joli’s voice.  She was the one that would meow during the occasional class.  People would joke that I forgot to feed the cat, and I would joke that she was just jealous that I was giving my attentions to the class and not her (which was true lol).  I’m sorry to say she will be interrupting our classes no more.  Rest in peace my special friend… you will be missed.