She used all nine lives and went into extra innings

Posted: June 26, 2016 in Miscellaneous

You wouldn’t think that a man who fought U-boats and savage storms at sea would name his cats Kitty and Kat, but he did. About 15 years ago, when a stray cat showed up, a female who resembled Kitty (or maybe Kat), the man adopted the stray and named her Junior. That was my father-in-law, who died in March 2011. When Dad wasn’t piloting cruise ships into port or saving stranded freighters in a hurricane, he moved in a cloud of animals.

Junior made herself right at home, taking long naps with this retired sea captain and patroling the property, which overlooked a Florida beach. Every evening for years, Dad put dog food out for the raccoons who lived in the dunes. Once through binoculars, from the safety of the second floor of the house, I watched as the raccoons tucked into their dinner while Junior sat just off to the side. I guess she was there to remind them who their daddy was.

Junior, Dad’s last pet, died a few days ago. He’d been living with my sister-in-law Terry and her husband, Jim, since 2011. Here’s what Terry wrote to the family:

Junior turned either 20 or 21 this past December. Most of the time since we got her she stayed in a separate bedroom and we put a baby gate up in the hall so she could watch the comings and goings of the household. About 3 months ago she lost so much weight that she was able to get through the gate bars. Then about a month ago she started gaining weight, interacted with the dogs and other cats and we thought she had bounced back. Then two days ago she became listless and stopped using the litter box altogether.

You could really tell Junior was Dad’s cat. She did what she damn well wanted to. In the last few days she took up sleeping by the water bowl that Gibbs [one of their dogs] uses, and even though he is 80 pounds she scared the hell out of him, kinda like Dad, little guy who scared the hell out of people.

We were discussing last night that we were going to have to confine Junior either out on the porch or in her room since she no longer used the litter box. Apparently she didn’t think that was a good idea so she decided to check out on her terms.

Thinking tonight about my father-in-law and other people I’ve lost, I’m reminded that we die in pieces rather than all at once. You don’t go for good until the last person who remembers your voice, your laugh, and all the dumb things you did together goes too. Technology has further scrambled the end of life. You can be bereft of life, resting in peace, and still be active on Facebook. On LinkedIn, I’m connected to three people who I know have fallen off the perch.

And then there are the pets we leave behind. I’m sorry to hear that Dad’s last pet has rung down the curtain. But if there’s an afterlife, Dad must be happy about how well Terry and Jim took care of her. I know I am. And I don’t even like cats.

RIP, dear Junior. You were sleeping beside Dad when he died. Thank you for standing that last watch.


  1. Ofelia says:

    I’m crying. Many reasons but of course you know them all. A very sweet family tribute.

  2. Accused of Lurking says:

    I’m touched; I’m teary; and I’m thinking deep thoughts. And it’s not even 7 am. Damn your writing prowess and sentimental heart, Run-DMSteve

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