One of my heroes died today. She wasn’t anyone you would know. Her name was Sarah, and she was my cat for 18 years.
One day in the busy parking lot of the Saalfield Building in lower Akron, a tiny grey and white kitten emerged from under the bed of a pickup truck. She opened her mouth wide and gave me the loudest cat yowl I had ever heard from such a small kitten. I looked down and saw that there was another tiny kitten with faint tiger stripes quietly sitting behind her. I couldn’t leave them in the busy parking lot to meet almost certain death, so I picked both up and put them on a small grassy knoll that sat behind the lot, hoping their mother was nearby.
But as I walked toward the building, in which I had a small office on the fourth floor, a man holding the door for me as I entered said, “Looks like you’ve got a posse.” I looked behind me, and there was my posse consisting of two confidently walking grey and white kittens. I did the only thing I could do: I held the door open for them as they struggled to climb over the 4-inch door sill. Then, I held the elevator door, and they gamboled in for a ride with me up to the fourth floor. They lived there for the next week as I wrestled with what to do with my new charges.
I realized that I’ve never sought to own any animal, great or small; they’ve somehow come to me, needing a home or some help. I reflected on the bravery of this little kitten to approach me — of all the people who had walked by her that day — to yowl for help for her and her sister. I took them home and bathed them in flea soap; they were infested. Although I had several offers of adoption of one or the other, within six weeks I realized these animals were my new wards.
At the time, our household consisted of two human adults, an adult black female cat named Shadow, and two 2-year-old Keeshond mix puppies, Indy and Keesha. Sarah and Alice, as I named the new additions, fit right in. They took orders from Shadow, played with the puppies and slept on their soft fur at night.
As they got older, they began to sleep with me. I regretted teasing Sarah by wiggling my toes under the covers so she would pounce and bite. It was a fun game to play until one night during a period of Restless Leg Syndrome, I unconsciously wiggled my toes outside of the duvet. She attacked my toes with such ferocity that I limped for days afterward.
After Shadow died and Sarah became queen of the household, she started hissing and batting at Alice who, being so shy, backed away and hid. Alice was always the sickly one in the family, like Beth in “Little Women.” Sarah then took up with the dogs, and when they passed away, she took up with the new pup, Juneau, and eventually the big dog, Buster, whom we adopted last spring.
Over the winter, Alice succumbed to her many ailments. Sarah seemed like she may go on for many more years. However, this spring she began to lose weight. I altered her diet and gave her all the foods she loved – the stinkier the better. Finally she stopped eating altogether.
On her final night, she climbed weakly onto the bed and laid on me, as she had done hundreds of times, but this time she was too weak to climb down. I helped her into her favorite chair and left her, knowing that cats prefer to die alone. When I came back to check on her, she had climbed down from the chair and was stretched out on the living room rug. The dogs checked on her from time to time, but there she lay until her death.
I buried her under the walnut tree in the backyard and placed a small white picket fence around the grave. She has always been one of my heroes, and the memory of her bravery will live with me for the rest of my days. Godspeed Sarah.
Don Baker, Jr., Founder and Editor-in-Chief