Our twenty-year-old kitty, George, died last evening. I held her on my lap, one of her favorite places to spend time, and stroked her until about 9:30. Then I settled her into “her” chair as I got ready for bed. By 9:45 she was gone.
Today we buried here. I dug a deep hole in a grassy area near the cabin. Linda has wrapped George in a linen shroud and decorated it with a feather from a Red-Shafted Flicker. We laid her in her grave and filled the hole about half way. Then on top we planted a tree that had been awaiting a residence. A three foot tall, “Blue Lightning Juniper.”
I sort of think George stuck with us through the pandemic. But now she could go. Twenty years is a long life for a cat. We got her on a Memorial Day 2001. We named her, in light of Memorial Day, for our family’s only living veteran, my Dad, George, who passed away the next year. She was female, a Calico Cat.
As with most of us, George had a life of chapters. When she joined our family, as a very tiny kitten, we were living at our longtime home in southeast Seattle. There George was an inside/ outside cat. And she was a hunter. A fair number of de-capitated rats showed up on the back porch in the morning, her little gift.
When we moved, six years ago, to our condo in Ballard, George became an inside cat. She was comfortable, but I think her life was less stimulating. As she aged, we decided leaving her in the care of generous neighbors while we were away at the cabin, wasn’t fair to her or her caretakers. So we introduced her to a carrier and trips in the car.
Initially, she protested. Much yowling. But she adjusted and became a champion traveler. So for a number of years now she has enjoyed coming to the cabin. Although she remained an inside kitty here (foxes, bears and coyotes outside) she got more visual stimulation, watching squirrels, chipmunks, deer and birds.
Her decline and death weren’t so different from those I’ve experienced with humans. Her world got smaller. She had trouble getting to her litter box in time. She couldn’t always keep her food down. During this last week she went down hill rapidly. None of her legs worked anymore. Her body just seemed to shut down.
This strikes me about our animal friends. They don’t do much, that is much that would be called “useful.” There are “working dogs,” but that’s not what most of us have. Our pets don’t help with chores or bring home a pay check. They don’t cook or clean up. They are, in one sense, “useless.” And yet they quietly, steadily, give us a lot. Companionship, being there, someone or something to care for. I could extract a moral from these observations, but I will resist that impulse. Only this, usefulness may be over-rated.
George was a beautiful cat and feline friend, exuding the usual mystery and elegance of her species. We will miss her. RIP George, beneath your blue lightning tree.