My Feline Garden Sprites

photo of two cats in a garden

Namir and Cookie inspect my gardening.

I first posted this article in April 2009 as Namir and Cookie and I finished cleaning up the garden for another gardening year and republished it again in 2010 in honor of Peaches 100th birthday, and now in 2011 in honor of Senior Pet Awareness Month. A number of cats have grown to their senior years here, and one of the treats they get is to carouse in the backyard with me as I garden; the sunshine and fresh air is so invigorating for them and we can enjoy that little bit of extra time and special memories.

My two seniors join me outdoors to supervise my gardening.

My two seniors join me outdoors to supervise my gardening.

It’s a joy to share the time and the experience with them, but with a flicker of sadness, to watch Namir sprint across the yard just for the joy of running and Cookie patrol the garden paths, even in the late winter when strewn with weeds and debris. It means they are old enough to want to stick with me while I’m out in the garden, old enough that our time is limited and these will be our golden memories. It’s a tradition when the old ones get to be this old that they also get to enjoy time outdoors with me.

Because animals live shorter lives than we do, chances are we will outlive them. And if we adopt and foster a number of animals, we’ll live through that many losses. It never gets easy, but with the awareness gained from each loss, watching the oldest grow into their senior years is less shocking and painful. Animals are so graceful about aging, not like us fretting about gray hair and memory loss. The brevity of their lives may seem unfair to us, but that span is normal for them. The lesson is to enjoy them in this moment while preparing for the unavoidable, but not to dwell on either.

Read the rest of this entry »


It’s the Month to Celebrate Our Senior Pets

desk with six cats

Desk with Six Cats; sometimes my office is not so beautiful!

The photo above shows my household in the summer of 2006, and the youngest kitty in the photo is Kelly, in the center, who was 12 at the time.

tabby cat napping

Stanley napping in the sun.

From the left, Stanley, 25, is hard to see curled up behind Sophie, 17; on the desk turning around to bathe is Kelly at 12, then Namir at 13; Cookie,15, is curled up on the other side of the papers from him, then there’s Peaches having a good scratch at 16. Recently with us were Moses, 19, and Cream, 16, and joining us months later was Lucy as a young kitten.

A few things to be observed here, first that senior cats have no problem getting up on the desk, even at the advanced age of 25, as Stanley was.

Second, Peaches had come in the previous year at age 15 and fit in as if she’d always been there, so the idea that pets must be adopted young in order to fit into the household and be sufficiently bonded with its people is a myth, at least as far as I’m concerned.

Third, it’s been a while since my desk was neat, and one of the reasons has always been the habit of cats sleeping all over it! But for anyone who only knows my current household of the two senior torties, then the big jump in age to the family of black cats, Mimi and her children, here is the group that came immediately before them.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunny Autumn Mornings

two cats on the deck in the sun

Moses and Stanley, on the deck in the morning.

Moses, 19, and Stanley, 23, enjoy the gentle September morning sun on the deck in the summer of 2006.

Beautiful autumn mornings always bring memories of earlier days for me, and as Cookie and I have enjoyed our mornings outdoors I’ve been remembering when she had to stay inside so that Stanley and Moses could join me outdoors. My yard is not fenced, and Stanley had a habit of darting off unexpectedly, while Cookie, a youthful 14 at this time, would sometimes wander off in the opposite direction, but Moses, deaf by that time and fairly hobbled with arthritis, happily slept in the sun on the deck. The two geriatric cats had natural seniority and always had their time outdoors. If they came in while I was still in the garden or working on the deck, Cookie could join me, and she did have the opportunity fairly frequently.

Moses always had problems with her knee joints especially, which had never fully formed and always kept her at a slow walk, and pretty much on one level; I set up a series of footstool and chair next to my bed, and she could slowly walk up steps, preferring the second floor. No medications seemed to make a difference and I couldn’t find an alternative practitioner near enough to get her acupuncture, which I sensed would work for her. Instead, she only asked for her daily thermonuclear treatment, simply lying in the sun for at least 15 minutes, even in winter. Only the outdoors would do for this; she preferred the sun-warmed bricks outside the basement door, but the weathered wood of the deck worked for her as well, and her silver tabby fur seemed to hold the heat after she’d come back inside.

Stanley was with me for 21 years when he passed two years after this photo, and we estimated his age between 3 and 5 when he showed up my porch. After seeing many more cats in that age range over the years, I would guess Stanley was closer to the high end of that span in part because of details his eyes and body structure that I recognize now. Three years seems kind of juvenile for him at that time, though his swirly stripes and white paws and chest always made him seem youthful. He had slipped into chronic renal failure at age 21 and I dosed him with sub-cutaneous fluids anywhere from daily to twice monthly from then on, but he thrived even with that, enjoying every moment of ranging about the yard, downloading is “pee-mail” from the foliage and uploading responses.

And my deck hasn’t changed much in these years. I still have the pot of basil on one side and parsley on the other every summer, a cherry tomato plant that grows all over everything and flowers in pots wherever they get enough sun, although the wonderful red-apple hummingbird feeder finally cracked and couldn’t be repaired. I’ve had that since I moved in, and it’s in photos of my deck, yard and house for all those years, like a permanent accent, and whenever I see it in a photo I truly miss it.

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All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Stripes on Stripe

striped cat and striped shadows

Stripes on Stripes

Something about the light today reminds me of being out on my deck with Stanley, so I’ve posted one of my favorite photos of him.

This photo doesn’t show you much about Stanley, but for me it is a reminder of how my cats have inspired me at every moment since I’ve lived with them, training me to keep my eyes open and always be ready for that unique image, keeping my creative spirit alive and my creative intellect in top condition, in a way living two lives at once, to live the moment, and to record the moment.

I often called Stanley “Stripe” because he was a tabby, and in this photo the confluence of all those stripes was just breathtaking. Straight geometric stripes in the shadows from my deck rail coming in at an obtuse and unsettled angle, the deck boards themselves and the gaps between at a normal and comforting angle, and striped Stanley breaking all the straight lines as he curled in a perfect circle; I could never have posed this or composed this, but what a moment to remember. And if Stanley had not been there I probably would have noticed the shadows but not taken the photo, so I have him to thank for this moment.

Sunshine and fresh air is a perfect tonic for an old cat. This was from Stanley’s last summer with me, when he was “somewhere in his twenties” and we were keeping the chronic renal failure at bay with doses of subcutaneous fluids, enticing foods, and a morning visit to the back yard and a nap on the deck every day the weather permitted. Stanley forgot all about feeling a little queasy and tired as he pranced around the back yard from bush to tree to post, smelling the messages—downloading his “pee-mail” and uploading his reply, as I always called it. Back up on the deck, a little bath and quick nap in the sun, then inside to eat ravenously as if nothing was the matter.

I have decades of memories of Stanley; he came to me several years into adulthood and lived with me for 21 years, suffering from chronic urinary issues for which he had obviously been violently punished. A sweet, silly, friendly kitty underneath it all, it took years to wear down the aftereffects of Stanley’s early abuse. But he appears in many, many images, including my painting, “After Dinner Nap”, which inspired many commissioned portraits, but before that it inspired me to find a way to share my feline inspirations with the world. Thank you, Stanley.


Featured in My Etsy Shop, Sepia Miniatures Feline Photos Set

Speckle Sally Walking

Cats love to hang out in the sun, and sometimes the combination of their markings and the light and shadow can create an abstract effect, especially in black and white. I love miniatures too, especially in sets, just little accents that make a statement all their own.

See all three images and read about them on my Portraits of Animals Marketplace blog or visit my Etsy shop.


My Feline Garden Sprites

As part of celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday, this is an article I first posted a little over a year ago as Namir and Cookie and I cleaned up the garden for another gardening year. A number of cats have grown to their senior years here, and one of the treats they get is to carouse in the backyard with me as I garden. I keep a close eye on them because once or twice they’ve been known to disappear when my back is turned, but the sunshine and fresh air is so refreshing for them and I can enjoy that little bit of extra time and extra memories. Ironically, Peaches doesn’t even recognize that the outdoors exists!

My two seniors join me outdoors to supervise my gardening.

My two seniors join me outdoors to supervise my gardening.

It’s a joy to share the time and the experience with them, but with a flicker of sadness, to watch Namir sprint across the yard just for the joy of running and Cookie patrol the garden paths, even in the late winter when strewn with weeds and debris. It means they are old enough to want to stick with me while I’m out in the garden, old enough that our time is limited and these will be our golden memories. It’s a tradition when the old ones get to be this old that they also get to enjoy time outdoors with me.

Because animals live shorter lives than we do, chances are we will outlive them. And if we adopt and foster a number of animals, we’ll live through that many losses. It never gets easy, but with the awareness gained from each loss, watching the oldest grow into their senior years is less shocking and painful. Animals are so graceful about aging, not like us fretting about gray hair and memory loss. The brevity of their lives may seem unfair to us, but that span is normal for them. The lesson is to enjoy them in this moment while preparing for the unavoidable, but not to dwell on either.

Namir and Cookie are not happy about having to go inside.

Namir and Cookie are not happy about having to go inside.

Out of the mixed bag of the eight or nine rescues I always seem to share my space with emerges a “couple”, a male cat and a female cat, spayed and neutered and totally unrelated except for having spent the better part of their lives together and with me. They become as the prince and the princess of the household and grow old together, growing wiser and closer to me as they age.

I am in my third “couple” now. Cookie is 17, Namir is 15 with congestive heart failure and other complicating conditions. Cookie is apparently fine though not as flexible as before, but Namir has had some close calls and spends a night or two in the oxygen cage in the emergency hospital for a “tune-up” at least once yearly since he was diagnosed four years ago. I’ve had cats live to their late teens and early twenties; even the best of care and love can’t bring back that seeming infinity of youth.

But I’ve always noticed that a trip to the great outdoors of the back yard is an antidote to a lot of ills for them and me, even just a few minutes will do. My yard is a Backyard Wildlife Habitat so it’s full of smells and noises and movement and the noses get to work and ears swivel around and eyes focus on tiny movements, and soon discomfort and infirmities are forgotten in the important business of being a cat.

Cookie pauses to let me see how well the daffodil greens match her eyes.

Cookie pauses to let me see how well the daffodil greens match her eyes.

Cookie (see “The Goddess” for another look at Cookie) has been my lady-in-waiting since she grew from a roly-poly tortoiseshell ball of an abandoned kitten to a generously-figured and poised tortoiseshell adult. She entered my household unresponsive to affection and “nursing” on one of her own toes for comfort, but quickly and wholeheartedly accepted that she was loved and welcome. She spends time on my lap, but more importantly she is always near, always vigilant, I’m not sure what for, but I’ve always been comforted by Cookie’s presence and perhaps that’s all there is to it. We give each other the gift of ourselves, and it doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.

Namir stays carefully on the brick edge after inspecting the new lettuce sprouts.

Namir stays carefully on the brick edge after inspecting the new lettuce sprouts.

Namir (he is in the header image on this blog, and see also “Darling Clementines”) entered my household as a foster from a friend who was returning to graduate school and just couldn’t take her two cats, and though we tried for months for find them homes they ended up here. Now one of the sweetest and most popular cats in my household—he’s even popular at the emergency hospital where, even with tubes and bandages he’s desperate for affection and takes a long goodbye when he leaves—was hardly even social when he arrived here. He’s very loyal and loved his mom, and every time I entered the room he’d stand up hopefully, then crouch and growl at me because I’d apparently taken away his mom. He arrived here in October; it was April before he accepted the situation.

Just recently Namir was back in the hospital and wasn’t responding as usual; after bringing him home I had to take him back. On his second return home he just wasn’t coming around. From his initial diagnosis I’ve been anticipating the final decisions for him, knowing that one day this little tune-up won’t work. This time he seems to have pulled through and is feeling well enough to swat the young men (Mimi’s Children) when they get out of line.

For Moses, the sun-warmed bricks were her treatment of choice for her arthritis.

For Moses, the sun-warmed bricks were her treatment of choice for her arthritis.

Cookie and Namir acceded to their thrones a few years ago with the passing of Moses and Stanley. While Cookie and Namir displayed leadership potential from a young age, Stanley had been abused and was a real problem child into his teens, and Moses was a timid feral rescue, physically challenged by the after-effects of near starvation, but was the sweetest, most gentle soul I’ve ever known. These two entered my household a year apart and discovered each other’s gentle spirits when they were still healing from their time on the streets, and through it all were a refuge each for the other.

Moses (see “A Rosy Glow”) had malformed hips and legs from the beginning, and no matter what treatment I found for her, the best thing was simply a sunbath. She was terrified of the outdoors and of other people and things, but when it came to the line of the sun creeping out of the kitchen or basement into the outside, she decided she wanted to follow it, and as often as I could she and I went out into the yard, she to lie on the sun-warmed wood or bricks, me to work my garden. It’s no wonder she was unsuccessful at feeding herself when little velvety voles ran over her paws and birds hopped all around her as she lay there and watched. She adopted one clump of grass at the corner of one of the garden beds to graze on, and it’s still there in her memory. She surprised even me by living to be 19 years old, not showing any serious health problems until just a few months before she died.

Stanley dozes in the early spring garden while supervising my work.

Stanley dozes in the early spring garden while supervising my work.

Stanley’s misbehavior inside came in handy outside, and trips to the outdoors helped stop him from errant watering in the house. He was very territorial, and whenever he saw another cat in his yard, he’d pee on the next nearest thing, inside. When we began visiting the yard he would run around sniffing everything, especially the forsythia which was like a big feline chat room, and after downloading his pee-mail he’d upload a few replies. Apparently this was more direct than giving a reply indoors, and it had the added benefit of keeping most cats out of my yard, and discouraging all but the bravest (or least intelligent) rabbits and little critters from inhabiting my garden.

Stanley (see “After Dinner Nap”) was well into adulthood when he showed up on my porch in 1986, and he was with me for a little over 20 years. He was in kidney failure for his last four years, but I treated him with fluid therapy and vitamins, and he was vigorous until his last few weeks.

And Stanley and Moses took over from Kublai and Sally, the original prince and princess, so noted in one piece of artwork I created simply to commemorate their place in my household, “Awakening”, where you can read their stories. As opposite as you could get, but they were the leaders for years, and in their day the other cats would answer to them before me. Their photos are on regular film, and I’ll have to scan them one day and get them up here, but in the meantime they are the subjects of several pieces of artwork.

Namir and Cookie assist with some outdoor photography.

Namir and Cookie assist with some outdoor photography.

So as I watch Namir chase leaves and harass Cookie for fun, and Cookie cruise around and nap in the leaf litter, and have them both supervise my gardening progress while enjoying their time outdoors, I thoroughly enjoy their presence and remember their predecessors…with smiles more than sadness. Each loss prepared me for the next, and that was their final gift to me, and to the household in which they had lived. While I still miss all of them, even the ones who didn’t rise to royalty, I know that someday, perhaps soon, I’ll be missing Cookie and Namir, too. Loving them in the happiness of just this moment alone builds these smiling memories, and these will be an important element in dealing with the final decisions, and with their loss.

I just wonder who they are planning to pass the scepters on to. For now I tell the young ones who want to join us that someday they’ll be that old, too, and then they’ll be able to come outside.

For other writings on my cats in the garden and gardening in general, please read “My Cat Has Become a Serial Killer” and “On Planting Peas” on my website in the writing section.

Other articles celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday

Bid on this Print and Start Celebration Peaches’ 100th Birthday

How Peaches Stole My Heart

Old is Awesome!

Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, Part 1

Beyond Food and Water, Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, part 2

Other articles about Peaches

Peaches Applies for a Job

Get Well Wishes for Peaches

Peaches Says, “Thanks for All the Get Well Wishes, They Worked”

This is a short list—Peaches appears in many articles I’ve written on my household, on pet loss, and even some silly things I’ve written on my website before I had a blog! Search “peaches” in the search box for more articles.


From the Lost Sketchbook, Sketches I Actually Used

pencil drawing of striped cat

Stanley's Stripes, pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

Here is one of my favorites, “Stripes”, because those are his “racing stripes” down the back of his head; it’s my Stanley sleeping on a little bolster filled with buckwheat intended for me to use as a neck pillow. I think he liked the sound it made when he curled up on it and he practically glowed with contentment as he settled for his post-breakfast nap. I sketched this in one of his last three years of life when he slept long and deep, sometimes relaxing so much that he’d slide off the furniture. He was always vital, though, and a real character who I’ll never forget. I knew I’d frame this image for display at least and sell it as a print, and I also had it printed as a notecard, notepaper and memo pad in the “Feline Sketches” set. He’s a favorite as both a general purpose greeting cat and as a sympathy cat as some people have chosen this card to use for an animal sympathy card.

pencil sketch of a cat in a box

In the Box, pencil sketch © B.E.Kazmarski

And my other favorite from around the same time, “In the Box”, my Sophie, having stuffed herself into a box too small for her size, uses it as an observation point to watch out the door. Sophie was a little larger than average and had lots of fur, but she thought she was just a small cat. If I’m trying to accomplish something on my desk that I don’t necessarily want kitties walking across or through or knocking over or sitting on, I grab a handy box or two or more and set them near me. As if a magnet had pulled them there, each box I’ve set out will immediately have a cat in it. They tire of them, though and I’ll usually put them away. I don’t know how many months Sophie used this box, but it was falling apart by the time she finally tired of it and I recycled it. I knew I’d frame this image also and sell it as a print, and I also had it printed as a notecard, notepaper and memo pad in the “Feline Sketches” set.

pencil and watercolor sketch of a cat sleeping

Peaches Nap Spot, pencil and watercolor © B.E. Kazmarski

And this pencil sketch of Peaches with watercolor washes, “Peaches’ Nap Spot”, is the other that’s been framed, sold as a print and made into notecards. Dear little old Peaches in her pastel beauty, I just love how she sleeps in a circle. I’ll never know what is so inspiring about her, but I’m so glad she entered my life, even at the grand old age of 15. She’s still going strong four years later, and is the subject of many a sketch, painting and photo.

This is probably why the sketchbook was “lost”—I scanned or photographed several works in it and framed them, so it ended up in a cubbyhole in my upstairs workroom/studio instead of returning to my downstairs office/studio. Until I recently cleaned out and reorganized things upstairs, this was in a “safe” place. Don’t get the idea that my house is really big with all these upstairs and downstairs studios—it’s 15 ft. x 22 ft., and every room is involved in all I do! That includes the kitchen and bathroom, since that’s where I print items sometimes, dye fabrics, wash my brushes and even hang artwork for inspection sometimes. That’s why the sketchbook accidentally got “lost”, space is so tight that when I tucked it away I literally had to take apart a shelf for books and art supplies to see it in the stack.


Found Artwork, a Sketch of Stanley

pencil sketch of striped cat sleeping curled

Stanley Sleeping Curled, pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

I’ve been working my way through my desk and studio, cleaning up and organizing, and in my studio I found a sketchbook I’d used years ago.

These are examples of the quick sketches I do to awaken my creative senses during the day. This was the sketchbook I kept at my desk in order to have it handy for quick sketches. All the sketches are of my cats except for the bird’s nest at the end, and all are pencil, my favorite medium.

I have no idea when I did this first sketch—it’s of my Stanley curled  and sleeping. He must have moved his paw while I was sketching or he had his paws together; he would do that sometimes with those white mittens of his. I lost Stanley in January 2007, so this was prior to that. How good to see him again and remember a morning when he was still with me, as were several others, and he was relaxed and sleeping comfortably. I could never resist his stripes and sketched him repeatedly to capture those!

This is the same sketchbook where I drew Stanley in “Stripes” and Sophie in  “In the Box“. Other sketches I’ll be featuring include Cookie, Nikka and Namir.

Pencil is very difficult to scan or photograph. I photographed the sketch for this, and you can see the dark area to the top and right where the light is uneven. When I scanned it I lost all the small details. I may have more luck photographing on a day that’s got more light.

When all is done here, I will offer these sketches for sale; on rare occasions I offer them, framed, for art auctions to benefit animal shelters. I have plain black frames for them, and either use plain mat board or a color.


My Feline Garden Sprites

My two seniors join me outdoors to supervise my gardening.

My two seniors join me outdoors to supervise my gardening.

It’s a joy to share the time and the experience with them, but with a flicker of sadness, to watch Namir sprint across the yard just for the joy of running and Cookie patrol the garden paths, even in the late winter when strewn with weeds and debris. It means they are old enough to want to stick with me while I’m out in the garden, old enough that our time is limited and these will be our golden memories. It’s a tradition when the old ones get to be this old that they also get to enjoy time outdoors with me.

Because animals live shorter lives than we do, chances are we will outlive them. And if we adopt and foster a number of animals, we’ll live through that many losses. It never gets easy, but with the awareness gained from each loss, watching the oldest grow into their senior years is less shocking and painful. Animals are so graceful about aging, not like us fretting about gray hair and memory loss. The brevity of their lives may seem unfair to us, but that span is normal for them. The lesson is to enjoy them in this moment while preparing for the unavoidable, but not to dwell on either.

Namir and Cookie are not happy about having to go inside.

Namir and Cookie are not happy about having to go inside.

Out of the mixed bag of the eight or nine rescues I always seem to share my space with emerges a “couple”, a male cat and a female cat, spayed and neutered and totally unrelated except for having spent the better part of their lives together and with me. They become as the prince and the princess of the household and grow old together, growing wiser and closer to me as they age.

I am in my third “couple” now. Cookie is 17, Namir is 15 with congestive heart failure and other complicating conditions. Cookie is apparently fine though not as flexible as before, but Namir has had some close calls and spends a night or two in the oxygen cage in the emergency hospital for a “tune-up” at least once yearly since he was diagnosed four years ago. I’ve had cats live to their late teens and early twenties; even the best of care and love can’t bring back that seeming infinity of youth.

But I’ve always noticed that a trip to the great outdoors of the back yard is an antidote to a lot of ills for them and me, even just a few minutes will do. My yard is a Backyard Wildlife Habitat so it’s full of smells and noises and movement and the noses get to work and ears swivel around and eyes focus on tiny movements, and soon discomfort and infirmities are forgotten in the important business of being a cat.

Cookie pauses to let me see how well the daffodil greens match her eyes.

Cookie pauses to let me see how well the daffodil greens match her eyes.

Cookie (see “The Goddess” for another look at Cookie) has been my lady-in-waiting since she grew from a roly-poly tortoiseshell ball of an abandoned kitten to a generously-figured and poised tortoiseshell adult. She entered my household unresponsive to affection and “nursing” on one of her own toes for comfort, but quickly and wholeheartedly accepted that she was loved and welcome. She spends time on my lap, but more importantly she is always near, always vigilant, I’m not sure what for, but I’ve always been comforted by Cookie’s presence and perhaps that’s all there is to it. We give each other the gift of ourselves, and it doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.

Namir stays carefully on the brick edge after inspecting the new lettuce sprouts.

Namir stays carefully on the brick edge after inspecting the new lettuce sprouts.

Namir (he is in the header image on this blog, and see also “Darling Clementines”) entered my household as a foster from a friend who was returning to graduate school and just couldn’t take her two cats, and though we tried for months for find them homes they ended up here. Now one of the sweetest and most popular cats in my household—he’s even popular at the emergency hospital where, even with tubes and bandages he’s desperate for affection and takes a long goodbye when he leaves—was hardly even social when he arrived here. He’s very loyal and loved his mom, and every time I entered the room he’d stand up hopefully, then crouch and growl at me because I’d apparently taken away his mom. He arrived here in October; it was April before he accepted the situation.

Just recently Namir was back in the hospital and wasn’t responding as usual; after bringing him home I had to take him back. On his second return home he just wasn’t coming around. From his initial diagnosis I’ve been anticipating the final decisions for him, knowing that one day this little tune-up won’t work. This time he seems to have pulled through and is feeling well enough to swat the young men (Mimi’s Children) when they get out of line.

For Moses, the sun-warmed bricks were her treatment of choice for her arthritis.

For Moses, the sun-warmed bricks were her treatment of choice for her arthritis.

Cookie and Namir acceded to their thrones a few years ago with the passing of Moses and Stanley. While Cookie and Namir displayed leadership potential from a young age, Stanley had been abused and was a real problem child into his teens, and Moses was a timid feral rescue, physically challenged by the after-effects of near starvation, but was the sweetest, most gentle soul I’ve ever known. These two entered my household a year apart and discovered each other’s gentle spirits when they were still healing from their time on the streets, and through it all were a refuge each for the other.

Moses (see “A Rosy Glow”) had malformed hips and legs from the beginning, and no matter what treatment I found for her, the best thing was simply a sunbath. She was terrified of the outdoors and of other people and things, but when it came to the line of the sun creeping out of the kitchen or basement into the outside, she decided she wanted to follow it, and as often as I could she and I went out into the yard, she to lie on the sun-warmed wood or bricks, me to work my garden. It’s no wonder she was unsuccessful at feeding herself when little velvety voles ran over her paws and birds hopped all around her as she lay there and watched. She adopted one clump of grass at the corner of one of the garden beds to graze on, and it’s still there in her memory. She surprised even me by living to be 19 years old, not showing any serious health problems until just a few months before she died.

Stanley dozes in the early spring garden while supervising my work.

Stanley dozes in the early spring garden while supervising my work.

Stanley’s misbehavior inside came in handy outside, and trips to the outdoors helped stop him from errant watering in the house. He was very territorial, and whenever he saw another cat in his yard, he’d pee on the next nearest thing, inside. When we began visiting the yard he would run around sniffing everything, especially the forsythia which was like a big feline chat room, and after downloading his pee-mail he’d upload a few replies. Apparently this was more direct than giving a reply indoors, and it had the added benefit of keeping most cats out of my yard, and discouraging all but the bravest (or least intelligent) rabbits and little critters from inhabiting my garden.

Stanley (see “After Dinner Nap”) was well into adulthood when he showed up on my porch in 1986, and he was with me for a little over 20 years. He was in kidney failure for his last four years, but I treated him with fluid therapy and vitamins, and he was vigorous until his last few weeks.

And Stanley and Moses took over from Kublai and Sally, the original prince and princess, so noted in one piece of artwork I created simply to commemorate their place in my household, “Awakening”, where you can read their stories. As opposite as you could get, but they were the leaders for years, and in their day the other cats would answer to them before me. Their photos are on regular film, and I’ll have to scan them one day and get them up here, but in the meantime they are the subjects of several pieces of artwork.

Namir and Cookie assist with some outdoor photography.

Namir and Cookie assist with some outdoor photography.

So as I watch Namir chase leaves and harass Cookie for fun, and Cookie cruise around and nap in the leaf litter, and have them both supervise my gardening progress while enjoying their time outdoors, I thoroughly enjoy their presence and remember their predecessors…with smiles more than sadness. Each loss prepared me for the next, and that was their final gift to me, and to the household in which they had lived. While I still miss all of them, even the ones who didn’t rise to royalty, I know that someday, perhaps soon, I’ll be missing Cookie and Namir, too. Loving them in the happiness of just this moment alone builds these smiling memories, and these will be an important element in dealing with the final decisions, and with their loss.

I just wonder who they are planning to pass the scepters on to. For now I tell the young ones who want to join us that someday they’ll be that old, too, and then they’ll be able to come outside.

For other writings on my cats in the garden and gardening in general, please read “My Cat Has Become a Serial Killer” and “On Planting Peas” on my website in the writing section.