We called her Queen of the Shelter because when we went to adopt her, she sat on a high shelf in the cat room. We walked in the door. She stood up to greet us, two strange people.
Then with great dignity, she stepped down from the shelf, went over to the bowl of cat chow, took a nibble, turned, and gave a self-assured hiss to the cats in her returning path. No doubt, she ruled the cat room.
“We think she’s ten to twelve,” the woman told us as we signed the adoption papers. “In fact, since she’s an old girl, we’ll take $25 off the adoption costs.”
Lillian talked, with our help. She reminded Cliff many times that he owed her the $25. After all, she was the old girl. The money was really hers.
When we decided, with the vet’s confirmation, that it was time to let her go in early July, she’d been Queen of the Household and Queen of Our Hearts for eight years.
You’ve done it too, I suspect. Put a beloved pet to his or her end.
Our vet gave her a tranquilizer. I buried my head in her fur, which still smelled kitty clean and crisp.
“We love you, Lils. You’ve been a wonderful cat.”
At her funeral later that day, I read one of my poems, “At the Grave of a Fine Cat.”
May your whiskers be ruffled by only pleasant breezes,
May your bowls be filled with tuna and sweet cream,
May your dreams be filled with legions of mice,
May you forever purr in peace.
Cliff shoveled on the dirt as I tossed in garden zinnias.
Lillian taught me just what an old girl can do.
How to run on spindly legs.
How to greet each morning with short, upbeat meows.
How to make your opinions known with more dramatic ones.
How to appreciate family and welcome strangers.
How to cozy up and relax on a pile of quilts.
And how to grow old with Queen of the World spunk.
Photo: Lillian looks out from the kitchen of her new home. Photo courtesy Katherine Younger.
My Poem “At the Grave of Fine Cat” was published in June Cotner’s Animal Blessings: Prayers and Poems Celebrating Our Pets (Harper San Francisco, 2000).