I live out in the country. Where there are predators that eat cats. But, loving the outdoors myself, I couldn’t bear to not let them outside. So all the cats I’ve ever had go out between 9am and 5pm-ish. They really come in and out all day (we don’t have a cat door, I am their door woman). 5pm is when they get their canned cat food. That would always entice them in and then I said no after that to going outside, but in the summer we would leave the slider to the screen porch open. Max really hung out there more than Gracie did, on those hot summer nights. He really wanted to be outside more than Gracie, too, and would try to sneak out in the summer after 5pm, to do night hunting. But Gracie occasionally would venture out and this rock in our shade garden was one of her favorite spots. And if she ever snuck out when I didn’t want her to, if I called her she would stop and let me pick her up and bring her back in. She was a good girl that way.
So, as I was processing my grief yesterday, the day after she left us, I went outside to work in the gardens – really, clear them and the yard from accumulated leaves and sticks that Columbus and the trees scattered on the ground over the winter. When I went around the side of the house to the shade garden, I thought about this picture I had found and realized that I wanted to now call this garden “Gracie’s Garden.” I’d like to get a cat statue to sit on this rock she loved. And a plaque. And to spread her ashes, here. She’s been such a great companion and the hole in my heart feels so big, that I want to create a space around me that is hers.
It got me thinking about my other pets. We still have their ashes (except for Cosby, who we buried). I haven’t decided yet where to spread them. Blackie loved it under the forsythia bushes, so that may be what I do for him. But Pepper roamed the yard and neighborhood. I may just lay her to rest with Cosby, since they really were our only two pets for a long time, beginning over on Sharon Drive.
Anyhow, I digress.
I started looking for cat statues that look kind of like her. I want the one I pick to be close to life size. And preferably lounging or crouching. I found a couple, including a sitting up one with a butterfly on its nose. There are a lot of sleeping ones, but Gracie never slept when she was outside. Remember those predators I mentioned? When she was just 7 months old, I started letting her out for short bits of time. I had never even known coyotes came out during the day to hunt, but apparently they do. It was March, and my windows were closed. I don’t even know how I became aware of the attack, but turns out they had gone after my free-range birds. I didn’t even know at that point that it was coyotes, I thought it might have been a hawk. But we eventually figured it out, and even the path they took on their killing spree.
Max was crying at the top of a really tall tree in the back corner of the yard. I had to coax him down. He jumped from too high up (but was okay) and raced to the house. I called Gracie’s name over and over again and couldn’t find her. And couldn’t hear her crying. I thought I had lost her. She was little and young. Easy prey. Our neighbors were out at this point, helping us. I remember going over the stone wall into their yard and saying, “I guess she’s gone.” But when I walked back over the stone wall, for some reason I looked up into the small tree that I walked by. And there she was, on a branch, mute.
Luckily she wasn’t as high up as Max had been. We were able to get her down. I brought her into the house and she darted under the couch and stayed there for quite awhile. And I learned that my normally chatty kitty didn’t talk when she was scared.
So, Gracie never really relaxed outside. (I don’t think Max did, either. That ordeal made them both more alert.) But she would lounge on this rock in the picture, watching the world around her. The woods are a short ways away, and there are always chipmunks or squirrels or birds to spot. She also had a view of this garden from the basement windows and would watch the critters from inside when the weather was colder. They both were fair-weather outdoor cats. Sometimes on colder days they would want to go outside, but when I opened the door, Gracie would shake her paw which was the sign that she found it too cold. She just did that a few days before she died, but we also had one warmer day that she went outside for a bit. Max had been out earlier but was back inside. All of a sudden I heard him yowl. I came to see what was going on, because that was unusual. There was Gracie, sitting at the door, wanting to come in (we have a window on the side of the door that they come to, to be seen). I realized at that point Max must have known that Gracie wasn’t well, and was taking care of her, wanting her to be back inside, where it was safe.
I wish she could have had one more summer outside in her garden. But, alas, it wasn’t to be.
That’s all for today. Writing about her is helping me heal. Today the ache in my heart has turned to mostly dull. Yesterday, and the day I took her to the vet, it felt like it was ripping apart. I miss her more than words – these words, any words – can say.