Cat's Life Is a Country Song

 |  Dec 2nd 2011  |   10 Contributions


Singer-songwriter Jimmy White and his beloved cat, Smoke

The stereotypical male country singer is a macho dude with a macho dog. But every once in a while, a strange thing happens: That dog-loving macho dude's heart is captured by a tiny, purring fuzzball.

That's just what happened to singer Jimmy White.

I'd never even heard of this guy before I got a press release about his advocacy on behalf of pets in shelters. Lots of musicians and actors speak publicly about the importance of adopting your next pet from a shelter — think of that tear-jerking ASPCA ad featuring singer Sarah McLachlan or the numerous public service announcements by famed animal advocate and former game show host Bob Barker — so my first thought was, "That's nice, but so what?"

I kept reading anyway, because you never know what gems you'll find buried in a press release. And wouldn't you know, I found one. White recorded a song called "Good Friends Are Hard to Find," which appears on Bands4Bella, a 17-song musical compilation fund-raiser for the Bella Moss Foundation. And that song was about, of all things completely unexpected, a cat! I mean, I expect goths and other musicians of the mopey persuasion to sing about cats — but not country singers.

Smoke, a gray tabby Maine Coon look-alike, found his way into White's life in October of 1983, when his wife brought the tiny 6-week-old fuzzball home. Being a dog person at the time, White confesses that he was annoyed by the kitten and pretty much dismissed him out of hand. But later that evening, he fell asleep in front of the TV — and when he woke up, there was Smoke, nestled in his beard.

I ask you, who couldn't fall in love after that?

As the years went by, Smoke's antics brought the pair ever closer. "He barked and played baseball, climbed the Christmas tree, sat next to me on the couch on his rear end, like a little child, his head leaned against me, fast asleep," White wrote in his bio.

Then, per the standard country-music storyline, White's wife left him. She couldn't take Smoke with her because no cats were allowed at her new home — not even for visits.Smoke became White's closest friend and ally, sharing every waking hour with him as he worked at his home-based business.

In 1991, Smoke developed diabetes. White vigilantly cared for him, administering two insulin shots each day and monitoring his beloved feline friend for any signs of illness. He also started writing a song about the deep and loving bond he and Smoke shared. "I knew I could never do it once I lost him. And I didnt want the song to be about loss. I wanted the song to be about love," White wrote.

That song was "Good Friends Are Hard to Find."

On Sept. 24, 1995, Smoke succumbed to his illness. He died in White's arms, covered in the beautiful veil of the love he'd known all his life.

"Today is September 24, 2010. I am crying as I write this, on the 15th anniversary of his death," White wrote in the final paragraph of his bio. "Sometimes I forget how much it hurts. But I don't mind the pain, he was so worth it. I'll always love you, my Smokerboy."

We all know that feeling. We've all been there.

And now, many years after his death, Smoke's legacy is helping the Bella Moss Foundation raise funds to educate veterinary practitioners and pet owners about the early detection of MRSA and other drug-resistant infections in animals.

What a wonderful way to pay tribute to a cat that meant so much. Thank you, Jimmy White — and thank you to all the other artists who contributed to the Bands4Bella compilation.

Here's the video of "Good Friends Are Hard to Find":

(In a reader? Watch the video here.)

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