How Alexander Bobcat Got His Name
When I met the Reverend Alexandra Montiel in 1994, she was 55 and I was 33. At the time I thought how hard this wealthy woman was working to preserve her youth and wondered if I would fight the signs of aging so fiercely. She had just undergone a chemical peel on her face to remove any traces of wrinkles and the skin looked so fragile that I feared the sun would just cause it to melt from her bones. I was soon to learn that “fragile” was not a term consistent with any part of this handsome woman’s makeup.
I wish I had written about her life’s story at the time, because that was more than 20 years ago, and the finer details escape me now. What I do recall is that she said she was born in a foreign country to the royal family that was in power just a few years before that empire was overthrown. In the mayhem that ensued, her entire family; mother, father and siblings were all executed in their home. Her nurse, although born into the opposing clan, could not bear to see the baby princess killed and spirited her away. If Alexandra were left alive, she would have rights to the throne, and be perceived a threat, so she was exiled and raised by strangers.
Fast forward to the 1980’s and Alexandra Montiel had several patents to her name, a cosmetic business, and a real estate investment firm in Brooklyn. Through utter force of will she had clawed and scraped her way back from the brink of anonymity to power in her own right. She had branched out to invest in Florida’s real estate market at a time when banks were failing, and real estate was selling for pennies on the dollar. She was fantastically wealthy, had a young stud at her side and a cougar as a pet. Yes, that is how we met; as part of the exotic pet trade.
I wish I remembered more about her, because she was a fascinating individual, but there was a lot going on in my life then, and writing wasn’t a luxury I could afford. We had just rescued 56 bobcats and lynx from a fur farm the year before, and were in the process of rescuing another 28 at the time that Alexandra visited Easy Street. At that time we had not incorporated yet, and were just exploring how we should manage our taxes. There was no money coming in, and a LOT going out, so we were thinking that it would be prudent to incorporate as a non profit organization. The Reverend Montiel suggested that we start the Church of Big Cats.
While the Church of Fat Cats is the pun that first played in my head; where all of the wickedly wealthy would come to absolve themselves of their guilt, I tried to bring myself back to the current situation. We did need to do something, because the IRS was saying this wasn’t a viable business enterprise, and we knew nothing of non profits. I never fully understood why Alexandra thought that a church was a better way to handle a sanctuary. I did learn later that she had founded the Sons of La Caridad Del Cobre in 1986.
In 1994 the Internet wasn’t available to us yet. We were finding it hard to learn the truth about the relevancy of keeping wild animals in cages and conservation. (turns out there was none) We had been told that hybrids were sterile so we were surprised when a Bobcat/ Lynx hybrid named Czar produced a kitten with his Bobcat mate, Nakita.
Alexandra had given me a beautiful gift; a heavy gold bracelet, with 9 coins from Spain, France and England. It was so heavy, and jingled so much, that I rarely wear it, but it was a treasure to me. When this fluffy little treasure was brought into being by Czar and Nakita, I named him Alexander in her honor.
Up until as recently as 2004, Alexandra has continued to donate to the sanctuary, despite the fact that our attitudes toward owning exotic cats as pets has departed from what originally drew us together. I would think about her from time to time, but never tried to make contact again. It would just be awkward, I thought, since she may still harbor the notion that exotic cats should be kept as pets. It wasn’t until Alexander the bobcat’s death, at nearly 21 years of age, that I thought deeply about the source of his name and wondered if Alexandra was still alive.
Our sweet Alexander had begun breathing heavily on the morning of March 11, 2015 and was rushed to the vet by his “sister” Jamie Veronica. Jamie was 14 when Alex was born and grew up with him. Dr. Wynn discovered he had a mass in his throat that was closing off his airways. It had grown so quickly, and his age was so advanced, that we felt euthanasia was the only kind thing to do. Now he could rejoin Windsong, the founding cat of Big Cat Rescue, who had been his cage mate for most of his life.
Tragically my Internet research into the Rev. Alexandra Montiel was just about as heart breaking. In October of 2014 she had accidentally backed over a 79 year old woman in a parking lot in Ft. Myers and killed her. Alexandra’s work truck, a 2008 Ford F-350, had a big box on the back, like you would see on a utility truck. (actual image)
Apparently the visibility was bad and she did not see Wilma Thomas leaving the World Market with her groceries. My heart goes out to both Alexandra and the family of the woman killed.
The undeniable message here is that everything can change in the blink of an eye. Thinking about every sad moment; from Alexandra losing her family and losing her country, to us losing Alexander the bobcat, and the losses suffered from everyone involved in the traffic accident; they all happened in a flicker of time, but leave deep and lasting scars.