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Friday, December 30, 2005


Gloria, a grey patched tabby cat who lived with us since she was a few months old, left this world today. She was almost 10 years old. She had been ill for about six months, but not in visible discomfort until just before Christmas.

We brought Gloria home from a farm down Estacada or Molalla way in the spring of 1996, when she was just a baby. We needed a couple of mousers for our house in the Buckman neighborhood, and we were especially looking for an orange boy kitty. Gloria was part of a litter of six or so, who were living in the woods and being fed by a small family in an old farmhouse. They had put up an ad in the window of the Cat's Meow store on Hawthorne Boulevard, and we responded. As we drove down the road toward the cutoff for the house, several kittens ran across the road, all part of the new family.

Gloria had a biological orange brother, whom a young member of the host farm family was calling "Awnjie," but he was so wild that he drew blood from the Mrs. when she got too close. Awnjie dashed away. But Gloria, then unnamed, was the most people-friendly member of the litter, and we boxed her up and took her home (stopping at Bower's Bakery for sandwiches on the way -- we were hungry).

When we opened the box in our kitchen, she ran straight for the back door, and finding it closed, she climbed up to the top of the screen, screaming her bloody head off and holding on for dear life. The only way I could get her off the screen was to get outside and whack it with a broom. That eventually got her down, but she quickly ran to the basement, where she hid herself so capably that we couldn't find her for the better part of a couple of days. Meanwhile, a neighbor came over to see whether animal torture was being practiced. I must admit, it certainly sounded like it.

When Gloria finally came up the stairs, it was only for the very shortest interludes -- long enough to look around, and maybe get some food and water, before heading back to wherever she was hiding (among the empty suitcases, we later learned). It took a couple of weeks of brief "kitty love sessions" up in the people quarters to get her to spend more than a few minutes with us. She was especially spooked by anything that was happening above her, such as on the stairs, and she didn't particularly like any movement of human legs. Not surprising -- she was borderline feral. But she soon proved to be quite the climber -- she could do a fine tightrope walk on top of banister leading to our second floor.

What really changed the dynamics was when her brother showed up -- Ralph, an orange boy from the Humane Society whom we adopted a few weeks after Gloria's arrival. Ralphie, apparently born indoors, was very much a people kitty, and he took to us right away, especially after we cleared up a couple of infections he had. Gloria sensed that she was missing out on lots of fun interaction, and her retreats to her basement hideaway pretty much ceased shortly after her brother's appearance. Ralph, a real handful but a wonderful character, is still with us.

Gloria hissed at Ralph for a couple of weeks. She was quite indignant that another feline had intruded on her good thing with the doting humans. But a truce gradually worked itself out, and in a month or two they had become brother and sister.

Gloria's name was the product of a pre-emptive strike. I loved that name, and had mentioned to the Mrs. that it would be a great one for a daughter, if ever we had one. She loathed that prospect, and it was her idea to give the name to the cat, thus ensuring that it would never be attached to a human child of ours.

Decades ago, I learned that every cat should have at least three names. Gloria soon became "Mama Kittou" (a moniker I picked up from a previous set of in-laws) and "Brownie," while her brother assumed the alternate monikers of "the Man" and "Pinkie." Oh, how we quickly grew to love Brownie and Pinkie. There were so many wonderful moments.

Perhaps the most vivid memory we have of Brownie's early days was her reaction to the first Christmas tree we brought home to what we called our "Hawthorne house." She hadn't been outside at all at that point, as we were following religiously the advice given by the wise cat ladies at the Animal Care and Rescue Fund here in town. "If you let her go outside," they warned, "you will probably never see her again." But when Gloria saw that fir tree, it obviously reminded her of her days "on the farm" with her mom and her brother Awnjie, and she lay down under the branches for hours, purring as loudly as we had ever heard. She was so glad to relive her days with her birth family in her birthplace.

Pinkie and Brownie were our outrageously spoiled children for more than four years, whereupon our first human daughter joined us. As expectant parents, you hear all sorts of things about the dangers of older cats interacting with newborns, and of course the old wives' tales swirled around us. But Gloria was such a gracious old gal. Her only visible reaction was that she became agitated when the baby cried. On hearing the infant wails, Gloria would come to us parents and look at us with obvious concern. As if to say, "Take care of that baby!"

The arrival of our daughter (and a younger sibling a few years later) actually deepened our feelings for Brownie. Once she realized that the kids meant more hands to pet her, Gloria fell in love with them. And the feeling was mutual. Among the older child's first words was "Gwally," her best attempt at the cat's name. We soon decided that Gwally thought she was the mama cat, and that we were her kittens. A lot of her behavior over the years certainly indicated that that was her outlook.

Recently, we pronounced Gloria the world's first "self-petting kitty," because if she got in the mood to be petted, she would lunge for the nearest exposed human hand. She'd even settle for insinuating herself under a foot if that was all that was available. We also determined that she had radar, because she would appear at her food bowl if you were even just starting to think about feeding her. It never failed.

Letting go of Gloria has been hard. There have been many tears shed, and lots of earnest conversations among parents and daughters about death and what happens thereafter, both for the dying and the survivors. More than anything, we thank our Creator for our time with Gloria, and we hope that when it all makes sense some day, there will be time for some tears of joy together again.

Comments (24)

Sorry, Jack.

Thanks, Jim.

Aw, that's such a hard lesson to learn when they're little like that.

Sorry your family lost a loved one.

Sorry to hear about your kitty. I know it's a cliche, but they do become one of the family.

Sorrry to hear about your loss Jack. The stories about Gloria are great.

Your Ralph definately has some Maine Coon Cat in him with that tail and ear tufts. Cats hava a special place in our lives as well, our old tortoise shell tabby girl we jokingly called sacrifice kitty when our kids came, like my old yellow tabby growing up, put up with daughter dressing her up in doll clothes. I am sorry for your and your family's loss, hug Ralph my current boy is a mackeral coon cat, coon cats are special and I am sure Ralph knows and needs extra pets, especially from your girls

Jack, sorry about your kitty. I loved your story about how Gloria became a part of your family. Our dear Keuzo (named after a Japanese girl we met in Japan, which we later found that naming animals after a human isn't culturally favored) died after 21 years with us. She was a feral cat from Junction City, a mouser. But she was the friendliest cat you would ever meet. It might have started when we immediately bathed her in our tub to rid her of fleas, from then on she loved baths and would lay on her back as my wife would scrub her down with warm water and shampoo.

Then we took her out on our small sailboat on the Willamette, and she loved sailing; and of course fell in and she swam fine. Then when we got a bigger boat and boated around the San Juans; she always went with us. It was her vacation too. She loved playing with the crabs from the crab pot. She loved water so much that when I fished the cold rivers around Yellowstone Park, she would wade right up to her tummy right behind me. She went on all our road trip vacations

When she was tiny she slept on my shoulder. She was a lap cat. She could be picked up in any manner, and she liked everyone.

She loved us so much that whenever she heard our car come up the driveway she would come running out to follow along side the car as we would greet her. But once that proved a bad habit. She came too close to the back tire in the late evening and we ran right over her. She immediately ran off into the woods next door. We frantically searched for her. Finally our neighbor's dog "Blue" ( an Australian Bluehealer-sp) who dearly loved Kuezi (nickname) came over in the middle of the nite and we told him to find Kuezi. He perked his ears up, understood, and found her where she had gone to die. $2000 dollars later we had our Kuezi back.
She lived another twelve years and died in our arms. She is now buried under her favorite tree with a river rock headstone:
Our Lovin'

She died in 1998 right before Christmas. We think of her all the time and especially at Christmas. And it seems your family will do the same. We now have two feral gray tabby cats that are also special, but in different ways. Many stories there and to come.

I'm sorry for the loss of your furry family member.

I have an old kitty who, I'm afraid, won't be with us much longer either. :(

It's hard saying goodbye but I hope you're comforted by the years of memories and love that Gloria brought your family.

Condolences. Such a sweet face.

She was a sweet, sweet one.

My sympathies. I completely understand.

You sound like model cat owners; maybe one of Gloria's legacies can be that people reading your tribute will realize how much adopting stray cats can enrich human lives. I lost Torty (the tortishell tortfeasor)adopted from OHS in 1986 Dec. 6. She lived almost 20 years and earned her title because, among other things, she climbed Christmas trees. It is easier to let go when they are really old like that.

My experience is that loved cats usually accept children. And I am optimistic that we are moving beyond old wives' tales and callousness toward animals as a society: I just started reading "Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals and the Call for Mercy; it is turning out to yield something fresh,provocative or beautiful on every page (Scully is a GWB speechwriter-to make that guy sound at all articulate, you he's gotta be able to write). This passage in the first chapter struck me:
"My earliest recollection is of coming upon some rabbit tracks in the backyard snow. I must have been three or so, but had never seen a rabbit and can still recall the feeeling of being completely captivated by the tracks: Someone(emph.) had been here. And he left these prints. And he was alive. And he lived somewhere nearby, maybe even watching me at this very moment.

Four decades later, I do not need to be reminded that rabbits are often a nuisance to farmers and gardeners. My point is that when you look at a rabbit and see only a pest, or vermin, or a meal, or a commodity, or a laboratory subject, you aren't seeing the rabbit anymore. You are seeing only yourself and the schemes and appetites we bring to this world-seeing-come to think of it-like an animal instead of a moral being with moral vision. Just one little varmit among billions.... In the grand scheme of things, not much. And yet, we are told, each one is counted and known by Him, and I believe it."

Sorry, Jack

We've gor four - from 3 months (our daughter's Christmas gift) to 20 years (in Feb., if he's spared).

We invest in lot in them (emotionally) and they never fail to provide a return with incalculable interest.

I figure if there is a heaven, we may not be eligible unless we've loved a cat.

and if we're good enough to get there

they'll be waiting

I'm sorry about the loss of your kitty. It sounds like she was a sweet baby...

I'm sorry to hear of your loss. I have a small horse farm in Mulino and we have several cats, one of which is probably around 18. He's old and beat up, he got hit by a car before we got him, so he walks funny but he's special just the same. It's always hard to loose the special ones.

I didn't realize how bad I would feel.

So sorry for the loss of your furry family member. We've had several of the "self pet" variety, and they are special. Our current hand and leg rubber, a black and tan manx tortie with golden eyes, was a humane society rescue 10 years ago during the 1996 flood (same as it ever was). She likes to climb under my sweater and purr.

Our longstanding recipe for the loss of an old feline friend is . . . a new kitten. Nothing like a youngster's antics to put things in perspective. I'll bet Gwally would approve.

Our scary old feral cat, Norma Jean, loved to hide up in the branches of the weeping vine maple - Queen of all she surveyed. She was so goofy, though, that she would sit in there after the leaves had dropped. You had to laugh.

So sorry to hear of your loss. In the past two years I lost both of my "girls", sister cats who lived to be 16 1/2 and 17. They were my family. Luckily, I still have my amazing Sammy, age 6 1/2, an orange boy-cat!

Dear Jack,
My deepest condolences. The loss of a beloved pet cuts very deep indeed... as I well know. My best friend Max, a medium grey tabby, is thirteen pushing fourteen and I rue the inevitable. Every time I lose one, I say "no more"... but then a new one shows up at the door and the cycle begins again. I can't imagine life without a cat.

Hugs for you and your family, Jack. When we lose a loved one, it doesn't matter how long their whiskers were. I'm convinced that the real medicine for grief is love, but it takes time ... and it's okay to take the time.


Just read your post on the loss of your Gloria. Our pets are such an enormous part of our lives and give us so much unconditional love. I'm so sorry that there is an empty place in your home.

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