When I think about “my” cat, I smile and get teary eyed. I love him intensely. He doesn’t belong to me, he belongs with me. He is more than just a pet, he is a friend. He makes me laugh out loud in true joy (which is more than I can say for just about any other male who has ever been part of my world). Some people might think I need to get a life. I think those people need to get a pet.

To say that Sméagol has more personality than most people I have met is not an exaggeration. He has a passionate and serious manner of living his silly little life and his sense of humor borders on the uproarious. His mood swings are legendary. His singing voice is questionable. He is Sméagol: He must be obeyed. (In re-reading that, I see it’s true: People do resemble their pets. However, I freely admit that the furry goblin sings better than me.)

Sméagol (yes, he was named after the bipolar imp from the Tolkien novels and for good reasons, too) is more than a pet, he is also a guide and a teacher. The Preciousss pulls me through my daily schedule, even when all I want to do is sit on the couch and vegetate. He gives me structure. I know his routine, he knows mine. We keep each other on track each day. He scolds me when I neglect my duties. He reminds me to randomly laugh out loud in sudden bursts of frenetic energy.

At five years old, he has taught me that you can be beyond your spring years and still be spring fresh. He rekindles my need to play and explore. Pets can do that magic: They remind us to be happy. They instruct us in exuberance. They practice unconditional love. When have you ever experienced as much unadulterated passion toward your unworthy self as when you come home from work and there’s a hairy face bouncing at the door or peering out the window?

My kitty is also a collaborator. He is very good at convincing the faeries to come listen to my nonsense when I have a request during a ritual. I’m really not sure the fey folk would bother coming when I intone the bells if it weren’t for Sméagol. I don’t blame them: Mister Monster is far more interesting than I am.

Sméagol is my familiar — he is more important to my spiritual life and religious practice than any candle, smudge of incense or theatrical prop. As an individual he adds to my power. As a totem he proudly exemplifies all that I admire most in my personality. In that way he teaches me to embrace myself a little better.

Dog lovers will know this proverb: I hope to one day be the man that my dog thinks I am. For my part, I hope to one day be the man Sméagol already is.