The Cat Whisperer's Funeral Service

Today I learned one of the most kind and compassionate humans passed away on Sunday, and I couldn’t be more heart broken. His name was Octaviano Hernandez, or as I nick-named him, “The (Pilsen) Cat Whisper.”

 Octaviano religiously fed the feral cats in my alley for the past 17 plus years. He never missed a single day of feeding them-- rain, shine or blizzard snow. Every evening between 7:45pm and 8:15pm, these sweet cats would line up in my alley, all looking west in the direction Octaviano would routinely walk from. You would think these cats wore watches on their tiny wrists because of their ability to know exactly when Octaviano was coming with their bag of food every evening. And there he came, whistling his distinct cat tune they all recognized, as they all flocked to him, (simiilar to the Pied Piper—minus the deceptive intention). Octaviano would spend almost an hour with these happy cats, talking to them and petting them each visit.

 At least twice a year, every year, I insisted Octaviano take money from me for all the cat food he bought. Each time he would proudly reject my money, saying these cats are exactly what he saves his money for. Since he wouldn’t accept my money, last winter I had my cousin build me/him/the feral cats a cat motel in my driveway so they would have safe and warm shelter. (Most of these feral cats died during previous winter seasons-- in particular, the two brutal, vortex winters a few years back. I’m happy to report none of them froze to death this past winter.)

 Of the 16 cats Octaviano looked after/fed/had neutered for almost the past two decades, only 4 survive today. I am just as protective of these gentle cats, as Octaviano was. So much it breaks my heart to see them hopelessly continue to wait in the alley for the one human they trust and depend on.

 This past Wednesday Octaviano left me a message from the hospital to tell me he wouldn’t be able to feed “los gatitos” that day, nor for the next three days. He asked me to do so, and of course I complied. I tried calling Octaviano all week to assure him his gatitos, despite anxiously missing him, were okay and fed. No one answered his phone. Today I finally received a call from his daughter telling me her father passed on Sunday. He had a heart attack on Wednesday. Though he was released from the hospital after his surgery, he had another (fatal) heart attack the following day/Sunday.

 I’m sharing this story for two reasons. First, regardless if you’re a cat/animal lover, I hope you can appreciate learning of another person’s profoundly kind and generous spirit. I never knew much about his personal life, including his last name, yet I feel such deep sorrow from his passing. Second, I hope you will consider helping his daughter, Alma Hernandez, pay for his funeral services this week.  In addition to the stress of losing her father suddenly, she is overwhelmed by the finances of his burial services. My hope is Octaviano’s pay-it-forward compassion will be met with other people’s generosity for his family.

 In the meantime, I hope Octaviano is graced by God’s warm light, and is met by all his cat’s who passed before him. I also hope Octaviano’s feral cats learn to trust me as much as they did him, as I have apparently inherited their responsibility.  

I'm convinced people like Octaviano are godsend, and all the more reason I am grateful to have been inspired by his kindness. Thank you for taking the time to read his story.

-Sol Solis
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Sol Solis 
Chicago, IL

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