Darwin and three retrieved sandals. Photo: Darwin the Retriever Cat Facebook Page

In September 2016, Berkeleyside introduced its readers to Darwin, a North Berkeley cat whose habit of bringing things home through a second-story window at night was chronicled in his own Facebook page.

In the year since that introduction, thousands of people around the country have come to know Darwin through Facebook. They have seen compilation videos of Darwin’s nightly entrances into his home with retrieved sandals, gloves, advertisements, leaves, sponges and junk mail captured on a motion-activated video camera.

They have seen photographic collages of the objects he brought home. And they had seen glimpses into Darwin’s life — his performance-detracting dalliance with catnip, his chin-quivering chattering at birds, and, most of all, his absolute, unending adoration of Sid Bubby, the elegant white cat of his dreams.

There is scholarly work done on cats on the internet, but Darwin was not your run-of-the-mill internet cat — he transcends that profile. He is not another Grumpy Cat or Lil Bub. His Facebook posts regularly reach thousands of people, and he is loved not just for his beauty or his retrieving, but for his personality. He emerges on his Facebook page as an innocent, trusting, loving, and at times slightly clumsy, be-here-now cat whose grace was front and center.

At some point  this fall he stopped bringing things home.

Darwin the kitten. Photo: Darwin the Retriever Cat Facebook Page

On Oct. 19, his Facebook page reported that he was “still on sabbatical.” That post included an old photo of newly orphaned feral kitten Darwin.

On the night of Oct. 24, a speeding car on Delaware Street near the North Berkeley BART station struck and killed Darwin. A neighbor had screamed at a car to slow down.

The reaction to Darwin’s death on his Facebook page has been stunning. The comments all speak to a love of Darwin that passes understanding. One person wrote of binge-watching Darwin videos on a big screen. Many have commented on the joy and happiness that Darwin brought them, and they thanked his spokesperson for sharing him with the world.

The sadness of Darwin’s death is felt by many who were touched by his soul. His death is also  a reminder too that we sometimes drive too fast and don’t pay attention. Darwin didn’t have to die. We don’t need to drive that fast.

His spokesperson suggests that any readers who would like to pay tribute to Darwin do so by donating to a the For the Love of Darwin gofundme page to benefit Fix our Ferals, a Richmond feral spay/neuter clinic. Even a small donation by many of us would provide services for many feral cats and support the organization’s efforts to humanely end overpopulation of cats in the East Bay though a Trap-Neuter-Return program for feral cats.

Darwin brought joy. Joe Ramos did a touching story on Darwin on KPIX, which you can see here.

May we keep our hearts open to that joy.

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Freelancer Tom Dalzell has lived in Berkeley since 1984. After working for Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers for 10 years as a legal worker and then lawyer, he went to work for another labor union...