Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fare Thee Well

We lost an old friend today. I walked out the door this morning to go for a sunrise jog. Tucker Dog and I noticed at the same time a black spot laying just across the drive. With a sinking feeling, I realized that it was a cat and turned back inside to let Danish Cowboy know that it was his duty to deal with it. We both went back and decided that yes, it was a cat, and yes, it was no longer of this world. Our hearts broke a little when we discovered that it was not just any cat, but Big Black Kitty, our neighbor's elderly feline. It's funny how death makes the body appear smaller and we didn't recognize him right away -- perhaps the absence of a spirit that is released to another life?
And what a spirit this big kitty had. You might recall that I'm not a very big fan of cats in general, but Big Black Kitty was special. He helped our neighbor's kids appreciate animals and helped our kids appreciate them, too. The first animal (other than Tucker Dog) that the kids could relate to on their terms, he was a welcome sight when he made his presence known on his almost daily rounds from his home, to the barn, to our house, and back again. You could let the children squeeze him a little just to test the waters without fear that he would retaliate. And he returned the favor by rubbing his mouth and teeth against you as cats tend to do, purring all the while.
I didn't cry when I found Big Black Kitty this morning which surprises me a bit. Ten years ago I would have probably called off from work and worn black, mourning throughout the day. It makes me wonder whether life has hardened me or whether I just don't really like cats that much.

However, when I consider those options, I think that neither is true. The reality of farming and ranching is that life comes and life goes, sometimes more often than we like when considering farm animals. And oftentimes, there's not a whole heck of a lot you can do about the going part except respect and cherish and love the living creatures that call our place their home.

I am sorrowful whenever an animal passes on, whether it was a devoted member of our family or a random cow with a number. I hate the obvious void that is left when a cow loses its calf or vice versa. Sometimes there are tears, sometimes there are not. Tears or no, all of the lives matter around here and we are one shorter tonight. His space has been quickly filled in at the chow line, but (as much as it pains me to say this about a cat)there's a little spot reserved permanently in my heart for that creature that taught my kids their first lessons about respecting our animal friends.

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