RIP Kitty Jesse James


He was his daddy’s right hand guy

Hello and welcome to the blog on this sad day.  Today my little camping buddy and companion, Jesse James, had to be euthanized due to cancer.  He was diagnosed months ago and we spent many wonderful days together until the very end when he was too weak to move.  As time grew short, he was still gentle and loving.  It was beautiful to see with how much dignity Jesse lived his life, even when terminally ill.  Our last meal was breakfast this morning and we enjoyed popcorn shrimp (I got the coating and he ate the shrimp)

Jesse James Tiberius Harris was born in December of 2006 near Marion, Iowa.  He and his sister were the last of a litter of kittens- two tiny felines who were on a one-way trip to the animal shelter.  I took the kitten home on Christmas eve of ’06.  The cat’s name became “Jessica” and “she” was very timid.  A short time later I noticed Jessica was not female at all as a pair of testicles started to grow! I had him neutered and he was then known as “Jesse”.   After it became apparent that this little guy would steal the food right off a person’s plate, I told him he was as bad as “Jesse James” … and the name stuck.


Always a food thief!

Jesse loved to eat as much as I, especially fish.  Trout was right up there at the top of the list.  But other favorites included shrimp, scallops, crab, lobster, ribeye steak, venison, turkey, rotisserie chicken, ham, bacon, pork steak and the list goes on.  For all of his life, Jesse had digestive issues and was not able to tolerate most kinds of cat food.  I remember telling him one day as he was throwing up some canned Friskies pâté, “I wouldn’t eat that shit either.”  He sure lived in the right house for being a carnivore!  Just calling, “Jesse!  Shrimpies!” would cause him to run across the trailer and eagerly wait for a treat.


Jesse on a park bench in Postville, Iowa

Jesse James traveled with me to a number of locations in northeast Iowa to camp and fish.  He was fond of the campground and trout streams in Decorah, particular the shallow stream called Twin Springs and the Dunning Springs waterfall.  Never wandering too far, Jesse would check out the sights while I cooked us dinner.  Though he loved exploring, Jesse had a strong instinct for avoiding danger and knew to return.


Even in the last stages of cancer, he was a trooper!

This fall, the little guy was diagnosed with a large tumor which was presumed to be cancer.  The vet advised against operating due to the tumor’s size and the fact it had already likely spread.  Though it seemed the kitty knew he was going to die, it didn’t slow him down too much.  The picture above was taken as he sat on top of the deck railing watching me mow the yard.

Over the weekend Jesse started to weaken and on Sunday eating and breathing started to become difficult.  The end was near.  I spent a lot of time with him and Jesse knew me until the very end.  But today I had to release him to the “Rainbow Bridge.”  I will miss this little guy and his intense expression!  We were very close.  It’s like losing a child.


“I have been… and ever shall be … your friend.”

Jesse is survived by my other intrepid cat, Jennifer Stefanie.  The two were very close and she’s fussed over him for weeks.  Jenny’s going to accompany me on future warm weather camping trips in the future.

Just as I did when Serena passed, I’m ordering a mounted photo of Jesse for the wall of the van.  This memory will be with us on future journeys.


For a single person, losing an animal is tough.  We bond with them much like children, I guess because we both need love.  Thankfully, I still have Jennifer.  She’s a good little girl and will fill the void for years to come.  But Jesse will be missed… and remembered fondly.

Rest in peace, little buddy.

Brad and Jennifer
Jones County, Iowa

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About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

20 Responses to RIP Kitty Jesse James

  1. Bethers says:

    So sad to hear about Jesse’s passing… and such a beautiful tribute to his life. He definitely dropped into the right home which provided lots of love AND good eats! I always looked forward to the posts and pictures featuring Mr. Jess and will miss him too.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Thank you for the kind words! Jesse was a character and you could see he was greatly loved as much as he loved living. He was as close to human as I could see a cat ever being. I’m lucky to have had him and given him a good home. Jenny is a remarkable girl and is on my lap now. She’s going to be feisty and I think will be a fun companion as we keep venturing out. Thanks again and take care! — VT

  2. Lucy. says:

    So sorry for your lose, hang in there !

    • VanTrekker says:

      Thank you Lucy. It was very sad but beautiful at the same time. He passed peacefully and I knew that he had the best life possible and was loved as much as any cat could ever be loved. There are no regrets. Jenny is all worked up tonight and we’re helping each other. 🙂

  3. Pleinguy says:

    Sorry to hear you’ve lost such a good companion in Jesse James. At least you’ll have many fond memories. Take care.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Thanks Pleinguy. Yes, there are many photographs and blog posts and, of course, the memories. As much as that little guy had a piece of my heart, I feel better letting him go when he needed to. Jenny is still there and there are other cats I’m sure to come across who need some affection, too.

  4. Deborah Hoots says:

    I’m so sorry. Prayers for you and Jennifer kitty

  5. my_vantasy says:

    He was such a handsome cat. I am so sorry for your loss. Know that you and Jennifer are in my thoughts and prayers. Take care.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Thank you. I miss the little guy but he started to suffer at the end. He was as dedicated as a cat could be. Jenny is all worked up but we’re matched up really well. She’s a feisty little thing. Take care! 🙂

  6. Veronica Durling says:

    Brad, I am so sorry for your loss….I cried with you this morning as I read your post….I too have two feral cats that I have adopted after they were dumped and could really relate to your statement about them being our “kids”…

    You were Jesse’s angel ….you were so kind to him and gave him an extraordinary life….and I know he gave back so much love to you as well.

    You are a great guy and now you have to continue giving your love to Jennifer….I hope to start traveling this spring in my 1982 Winnebago Brave with my two male Main coon cats, Stinky and Buddy. I hope to get to check out Decorah and some of the spots you have shown us….if I get in the area I will give you a shout out and maybe we can have a coffee and compare cat stories….

    I love your blog and look forward to reading about your future adventures. Take care and keep on being the kind and good person you seem to be and don’t spoil Jennifer too much…take care.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Thank you Veronica. I’d enjoy meeting you and having a coffee. We’re both cat lovers and they know who they can trust. Stinky and Buddy are blessed! Jennifer is already spoiled and loved a ton. She returns it too. When I got to work she sits on the cabinet by the door and gives me a kiss on the nose. I just got home after a 12 hour day and she kissed me on the way in! They really do love us and watch over us. Take care! — VT

  7. Laurie Stewart says:

    So sorry, Brad…Rest in Paradise, Jesse James. – Laurie

  8. Jo says:

    So very sorry Brad, I know that Jesse will always be with you in spirit and thought. I’m sure this will take time for you to heal but yes Jenny will be there to help you along the way. Again so sorry for your loss

    • VanTrekker says:

      Thanks Jo. It’s surprising but I feel really good knowing that I ended the little guy’s suffering. It was the final act of love I could perform. Jenny is filling in the gaps and has been needing some consoling. Thanks for the kind words. The little guy will never be forgotten.

  9. Maggie says:

    I am so very, very sorry for your loss. You are so right, it is like loosing a family member because you did loose a family member. I had to put down my beloved dog exactly 2 months ago due to kidney disease. I still cannot talk about her without crying. She was my constant companion for 9 years. It takes an animal lover to understand. God bless you!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Maggie and thank you for the kind thoughts. I am sorry about the loss of your companion. They mean so much to us. It’s still hard for me to talk about it, too. But it’s getting easier to tell people about what a loving little guy he was all his life and how at the end, there was no choice. Jenny is mourning big time, sniffing everything and meowing. My job has been to console her. We all have to stick together. Take care and thanks so much for your comment. 🙂

  10. One Vikinggirl says:

    Oh, Jesse James, you theif, you stole my heart too.
    Let the celebration of his life begin, we will always remember him.
    So sorry Brad, bad timing even with time to prepare.
    We are now past the solstice though, it will slowly get lighter.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Thanks Vikinggirl. It is true, things are going to get lighter. I got choked up today at the store. I saw some shrimp and thought, “Jesse would like those.” It’s going to happen. But he lived a wonderful life and returned the love as much as I loved him. Jennifer is really stepping up her game, jumping up on the shelf near the door to say goodbye and to greet me coming home. She got a new unicorn pillow and an automatic waterer. She likes both. Life goes on, I guess. Cats will always be loved and welcomed here. It’s worth the bit of pain for the many happy days.

      • One Vikinggirl says:

        As you should. We still talk about our last cat as if he is still here. We lost the big fat cat (DP) to age and tooth complications more than four years ago, and still we often ask when we go to bed at night, if the cat is inside. And automatically hide trout and bacon from the entrnally hungry one. Routine and missing the big monster. They only truly leave when we stop thinking about them. At least Jennifer is still the ever loving kitty!