In honor, and in gratitude
Something is missing in our house today,
a prowling feline presence
who came to us fourteen years ago
and staked a claim to his territory,
which extended to only God knows where.
We never knew where he spent his nights,
only that every morning he was sure to turn up
for breakfast, tail raised in regal, golden splendor,
which is why I nicknamed him Sir B.
Our grandson and his father brought him to us
one Christmas on a long drive from Virginia,
he riding most of the way on the dashboard of their car.
On Thursday that same grandson rode with me
on the very short drive to the vets
where Sir B was very quiet, lying low on a padded table,
not at all the personage
who hunted at night and proudly offered his
latest catch to us in the morning.
The vet folk were very kind and gentle.
They left us with him for a while, to stroke
and whisper our care, and a prayer.
Then they did what they needed to do.
He became sleepy.
Wrangler our Blue Heeler doesn’t realize he’s gone.
The two of them declared a war
from the time Wrangler invaded Sir B’s sovereign turf,
and never came to a truce.
Butternut was smaller, but faster.
Wary of an attack he could streak
like a golden arrow across the street to safety.
He was also canny,
knowing exactly the line of the invisible fence
beyond which his foe would not pass,
and where he could lie in smug disdain.
Yet he had one dog-like trait.
The neighbors marveled, and so did we
that when we went for a walk in the schoolyard
Butternut would tag along.
Last Sunday we took a different path
through a neighbor’s yard, down their driveway
to the woods and by a stream.
We were surprised when he followed us there,
trotting behind, catching up
in spite of an open, bleeding wound
(a sign on his paw of other creeping ills
which could not be fixed).
He had never walked that route with us before
(although Wrangler had, many times).
I wonder, smart intuitive cat that he was, whether
he knew it was time to take a final jaunt,
perhaps to show us his nighttime haunts,
or, even better, to go where Wrangler had gone,
a preview of that coming age and space
where they and we and all God’s creatures
made new, will finally walk together.
October 26, 2013