She was the fourth in a line of feral or stray cats that had found their way to our property. First, they find shelter in the barn. Then, over a period of days or weeks, they grow bolder. Eventually, they wind up on the porch staring in the kitchen window, hoping for a meal. They stay for a while, just enough time for me to grow fond of them, and then disappear- their fate not to be known.
Zinnia was different. I could tell she was in the early stages of pregnancy looking for a safe anchor. Poor dear- a teen pregnancy, barely not a kitten herself. She was petite, with a sleek body that sported a shiny black coat. Her topaz eyes that glowed like the high beams on a car, visible from across the yard. This cat could model on a perfume commercial
Last week was difficult. I had to put down my almost 14-year-old Golden Retriever, and the little stray cat, Lizzie that adopted us last year died due to complications due to feline leukemia. Dougie was a devoted companion for years, Lizzie a bright spot in our lives her sweet face peaking in our screen door requesting a meal.
It got me to thinking that these creatures we love are just borrowed souls- and I do believe animals have souls. Our pets connect us to our best selves. Their lives are far briefer than ours but add so much. Theirs is a language of the eyes, of touch actions and acceptance. Now the grief has subsided, I am filled with gratitude I had the privilege of borrowing their sweet souls on their short stays on planet earth.
The following poem speaks to all the dogs that have shared my life’s journey…..
IN MY GOOD DEATH
by Dalia Sheven
I will find myself waist deep in hight summer grass. The humming
shock of the golden light. And I will hear them before I see
them and know right away who is bounding across the field to meet
me. All my good dogs will come then, their wet noses
bumping against my palms, their hot panting, their rough faithful
tongues. Their eyes young and shiny again. The wiry scruff of
their fur, the unspeakable softness of their bellies, their velvet ears
against my cheeks. I will bend to them, my face covered with
their kisses, my hands full of them. In the grass I will let them knock
Every Friday I head over to the Newberg Animal Shelter for my standing date with cats from 4-6PM. This is not glamorous work by any means. Basically, I do the afternoon feeding and cleaning of all the kitties in the shelter except the ones in the quarantine room. I volunteered as I wanted to do something for the community and all things furry and four-legged who do not have a voice.
In the cacophony of barking, I say hello to the other shelter volunteers, then I greet the dogs in their kennels to see new arrivals and who has gotten adopted. In the storeroom, I don a grey Newberg Animal Shelter T-shirt and then proceed to the lobby and cat areas to get a count so I know how much food is needed. I grab a rolling cart and am off to the kitchen to prepare the cat food, get a pitcher of water and pick up cleaning supplies.
I’m still working away trying to hone monotype techniques on my gelatin plate. A monoptype is a one -of-a-kind print. I cheifly use stencils and then sometimes stamps to make my images. Then I go back in with colored pencil to highlight. The following two prints were inspired by my visit to the Oregon Coast Aquarium in May. I closed down the place gawking at all the beautiful seal life.
My nightly delight is Lizzy, our little feral cat who pokes her head up at the door begging for food with her pathetic meow. I can finally pet her and pick up her bony little body. Most likely she has feline leukemia. We feed her all she wants but she never gains any weight. I had to paint a picture of her.
After my dear cat Emmy Lou passed away about 12 years ago, I’ve had a huge kitty void in my life. Unfortunately, my dog combination including an Australian Cattle Dog has not been ideal for another cat. Cattle Dogs are known cat chasers/ killers. Other than that, he’s a peach. So imagine my surprise when the Siamese mix cat that appeared in the barn about a year ago showed up on the porch begging for food. We plied her with food; dry food with wet food and a little cream in a bowl. We knew she was the one who killed the destruct-o mole in the vegetable garden & was keeping the mice in check around the chicken pen. We named her “Luna” as she only showed up at night.
About 2 months later, a little brown tabby moved in under the house and could be seen along the perimeter of the yard. She was so elusive, I named her “Phantom.” Then one day after eating the leavings from Luna she too showed up on the porch begging. Now we make sure both cats get a meal. These animals were probably dumped by their owners an all too common occurrence in this rural area. We enjoy their nightly visits from our kitchen window and are considered part of the family. They have inspired both a poem and some artwork.