My garden lost a great friend yesterday. I am sorry to be so morose. Many of you come here looking for laughs and this past week I have posted little of that. But this blog is about my life and my garden, and I write about what happens therein. Â But while this topic is sad, I hope that I make you smile at least once or twice. My Sicily Kitty deserved that much.
Sicily Kitty is… was my cat of 14 years. How old she really is, I do not know, because she came to me as an adult cat.
I knew she was the cat for me because I found her at a plant nursery. My roommate and I had gone to a plant nursery near my parents’ house to find plants. That was when I was a new, new gardener (who thought vegetables would grow in shade if I just willed them too hard enough). I was buying plants for my very first garden, one that was mine and mine only.
My parents live in the country, which has its own odd set of rules. My roommate was from the city, and they know nothing of the country. The two sides met when my roommate, who was moving a planter to look at it, came face to face with what she (urbanite that she was) thought was a bobcat. She screamed. The 12 year old girl at the counter cheerfully commented that the flat faced, round eyed, short tailed stray cat would be shot by her father later that afternoon. A geranium, a planter and a flat faced, round eyed, short tailed stray cat went into the box we put in the car to go home. The cat promptly knocked itself silly on the rear window of my hatchback when she attempted to jump through the glass in an effort to escape. Thus, Sicily Kitty became my pet.
Sicily only had 1/3 of a tail. How she lost the other 2/3s is a mystery. Frost bite as a kitten was one theory, slamming doors was another, human cruelty was yet a third (though I hope not). Regardless, her short tail represented the quality of her life before I adopted her. It was not an easy one and I imagine that, once she shook off the effects of concussion gained through attempted escape, she must have felt she had fallen into paradise. She never failed to show that she appreciated that. In fact, many people commented that she seemed more dog than cat in her devotion to me.
In my garden, she was an ever present fixture. She often lounged in sunny and shady spots, depending on her mood. But she was not a good for nothing slouch either. She was a keen vole hunter (and never a bird hunter). So skilled she was at vole hunting that it was not uncommon to see her snacking on 2-3 a day in the summer. We then began to worry where all these rodents were hiding and what kind of rodent problem we had because, as far as we could tell, she never left the yard. But as long as she was on the job, we figured she took care of decreasing the surplus vole population.
So talented and skilled a vole hunter she was, that I kid you not, she would occasionally try to entertain us with “vole jugglingâ€. You can imagine the shock (and horror) of dinner guests one summer evening when Sicily started to juggle for us at the outdoor dinner table for a full 15 minutes. She tossed the small, black rodent up into the air and then would catch it in her mouth again and again. They say that cats will play with their food, but Sicily took it to a whole new level.
Sicily took ill a year and 1 month ago. I know that because my husband left for 7 months of training a year and 3 weeks ago. Â The vet had told me there was not much that could be done for her and the end would be soon. I held her and cried and told her she could not leave me now. Not when I needed her the most. She pulled a 10th life out of the deck just for me and made a miraculous recovery.
But when you live on borrowed time, you still have to pay the interest. Sicily was not the same cat. Her heart was there, but her body was failing her. She had slowed down and spent more time in sunny garden spots than hunting voles. She had difficulty jumping and even walking sometimes. But she was not in pain and she was there for me. She kept me company when I was most lonely.
So, when I found her lying listlessly on the steps yesterday, I knew the loan finally needed to be paid. I knew that it would be selfish and cruel to ask for another extension and besides, Death rarely makes that loan twice. She is, after all, an old cat and she deserved her final rest. She was still in no pain, but the strength was simply pouring out of her body.
She could still stumble forward a few steps at a time, and she wanted to go out. I love my garden too, I understood. So I let her out into the garden where she disappeared into the shadows and sun among the spring flowers for a few hours. She came back in when a late afternoon thundercloud broke into pieces over the garden. She no sooner made it into the house when she collapsed, unable to walk any further. A few hours later, she was gone.
She will be laid to rest in a sunny spot in the garden. It will be a place of vole legend, I am sure. One that vole parents will warn their vole children to avoid because a great vole hunter’s spirit still resides there, lying in the sun until an unwary vole happens by.