Leonard Cohen, Cat Whisperer
This account of Leonard Cohen’s unconventional diagnosis, treatment, and cure of a pet cat was originally published Jan 19, 2010 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com (a Cohencentric predecessor) and has long been one of that site’s most popular posts.1 The photos you see here are from a 2010 reenactment of the episode Sean arranged. (No animals or singer-songwriter icons were harmed in this reenactment.)
Sean narrates the tale, which also stars Stuffed Animal Lion in the role of the now deceased Hank, aka Pet Kitty, and Leonard Cohen as Leonard Cohen.2
There Ain’t No Cure For Love –
Hairballs Are A Different Story
[A participant at alt.music.leonard-cohen:] But I never had him [Leonard Cohen] figured as an animal person.
[Sleep66:] Oy vey! Is he ever! I guess now is the time for me to share my little cat story. Leonard gave me permission to share it eons ago, and I think I did tell Judith and Marie about it a while back, but not being much of a writer, I never got it together to send to Jarkko for his site.
I had a beautiful orange cat called Hank (after Hank Williams). Leonard liked him, but couldn’t pet him too much because he’s quite allergic to cats. Anyway, years ago when I was living in very tight circumstances in Hollywood, Hank got sick. He retreated under the bed, grew very warm, wouldn’t eat and looked all glassy eyed. I’d never had a sick pet in my grown up life, and was totally distraught. Leonard followed all this over the phone. My trips to the vet, the tests being done, etc. It seems he had something large impacted in his stomach or intestine. They gave the poor thing enemas and poured a Vaseline-like substance down his throat over and over again. He wouldn’t eat at all.
A few days went by and he was no better, so off to the vets again. I packed him up in his box and shlumped out to my old Dodge Dart, which was gone. Little pile of glass, big empty space. This was the third time in two years it had been stolen. I turned on my heels, went back inside to call a taxi, then left a most pathetic message on Leonard’s machine.
“M-m-my c-c-c-car’s gone again, a-a-a-nd i’m g-g-goin’ back to the v-v-v-ets. Sniffle. Whimper. Sigh.”
The vet looked at me very seriously, proclaiming that if Hank did not improve soon, we were looking at invasive surgery, which was way beyond my means. Took the taxi home, called Leonard. Sniffle whimper, sniffle whimper.
“Take a taxi over, darling” he says, “and we’ll go to dinner”. At dinner, reduced in every way, I quietly plea, “when you take me home, will you come in and just *look* at him? I mean, just to see what you think?
“Allright sweetheart”, he says, and off we go to my place.
I gingerly retrieved Hank from under the bed. By this time, he hasn’t groomed in days, and his chest is covered with medicine that he has politely spit out. He smells. I plop him on the bed in front of Leonard. Immediately he proclaims, “Oh this is not a dying animal. No, darling. He’s definitely not dying”.
I listen to him, wide-eyed and hopeful. I manage a weak smile. “Really? Really? He doesn’t look that bad?”
“Oh no”, he says, “I think he could really use a little chanting!” ??!! “You see, it vibrates all the internal organs, it’s extremely healthy”.
“Oh really?”, I say. I’m crestfallen. Leonard is a fucking weirdo, this I know already, but does he truly have faith in this? Do I have to buy this idea, too? “Sure man”, I say, “do it!”
So Leonard puts his hands around Hank’s face, and rests his lips just above his forehead, and begins to chant in his lowest and most resonant style:
and he went on and on! Really, like ten minutes or so! And the funny thing is, Hank sat right there, never moving. Soon Leonard’s allergies were making tears run from his eyes. They were really burning. And then he started to sneeze, but he kept right on going. And then he was done.
“So that’s it darling. That’ll do him some good”. Then he gave me a thousand dollars and told me to go get another car. (My Dart had only cost me $600).
Well, late that night, around 2:00 Am, I heard Hank come out from under the bed and scurry over to his cat box. Lots of sound effects followed. I did not get up to look at the evidence. In the morning, I heard him munching on his kibble in the kitchen, and knew he was cured.
They found my car down by MacArthur Park (yes, *that* MacArthurPark!) A couple of days later, and Leonard wouldn’t take the money back. I used it to get it out of the impound yard, get a new battery, and have the ignition rekeyed, then pay the vet bills. Oh, and I think I got a thing or two for myself! 😉
Hank died last December at the age of thirteen. I try not to feel bad about it, because he was a very loved and spoiled kitty, and he had an excellent life.
Credit Due Department: Special thanks are herewith extended to Dick Straub, who was responsible for Sean bringing her story to Cohencentric.
- The first print iteration was a text-only August 1999 entry at alt.music.leonard-cohen. The story has also since appeared in I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons. [↩]
- This critic’s assessment is that Mr Cohen is, in fact, altogether convincing in his current role of Leonard Cohen. [↩]