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A man with whom I briefly stayed told me how he had watched his cats struggle to come to him as they died.

I thought, “Why couldn’t you go to them?”

I have gone to a lot of cats and dogs in the moment of their passing over the years. Always I come away grateful for the life I cradled in that moment.

When my cat Berlin died in 2017 I posted a notice on Kijii saying I had a vacancy.

Two mothers responded.

The first had a baby with a rash. The cat she had had all of its life had to go. Her name was Steven. With her came her son, Boss, a small tuxedo cat.

The second brought me Zorro who was deeply traumatized when he came here.

Steven, who died suddenly today, never took to me. I guess she saw me as the reason she had lost her home. Visitors often commented on the love she showered upon Boss. He was her one link to a  happier yesterday she thought I had deprived her of.

Boss, on the other hand, took whole heartedly to the adventure of this new place and the cats, Askhim and Irving, he found here.

Steven made friends with the others here. But me she let know she would never consider a friend.

That was fine. I’ve had my heart broken enough times to know a broken heart when I see one.

I loved her without demanding the love be returned. I knew it could not be. I could see she was asking herself what she had done wrong. She was asking the questions we all ask when our heart gets broken.

A young fellow asked, “Have you ever had your heart broken?” I said, “There’s nothing left but cement.”

At once I wished I had used the word “glue” as he might not know cement and glue are the same.

These last few days I found Steven sleeping by my head when I woke up. Perhaps she had decided I am not so bad after all.

I woke up thinking of the death of my mother.

She left us just before Christmas 2001.

Again, her death was unexpected. The 1959 Douglas Sirk movie IMITATION OF LIFE had driven home powerfully to me that we are mortal. I was 15. I lay in bed unable to sleep with the realization that my mother and my father would one day leave me forever. The thought came to me I might not be with my mother when she died. She was working downstairs in the kitchen cooking. I went down and gave her a hug. She thought I had been scared by a monster movie so she cut me off scary films. I had not been scared. I had been prompted to think life’s deepest thoughts. As it came to pass I was with neither my mother nor my father (who passed around Easter 2018) at that moment.

Strange thing is I never wanted cats or dogs in my life. They came into it anyway. I am the richer for it.  I am going to miss Steven big. She was a big lady with a wonderful way of moving her body when she was excited or happy which, despite her misgivings about myself, she was here.

To love without demanding love is I believe the greatest gift.

When I carefully moved her struggling body to my bed and then lay with her as her spirit prepared to leave I could tell that her eyes were unseeing. I could also tell that she had found the place where she wanted to breathe her last. She was comfortable. She stopped fighting.

Death was not long in coming.

Today is the birthday of my friend John Smialek (Oct 4 1967 – Nov 9 2019). I learned John had died this time last year when I sent him birthday greetings.

That as well I was not prepared for.

I had imagined I would enjoy the company of Steven a whole lot longer than I did.

Makes me value the time I had with her all the more.

My heart once again is broken.

Were it not I would not be a person I could love.

The day Berlin died my friend Petunia (Ron Fortugno) parked his car in the back. When he came in he said, “I saw your cat, Merlin. He ran towards me. There were no footprints in the snow.”

I said, “His name is Berlin not Merlin. You did not see him. His body is upstairs on my bed.”

Petunia said, “I told you there were no footprints in the snow when he ran towards me.”

In the end as her last breaths came I gave all the love I could summon to Steven.

In my heart I heard a thank you.

Yudhishthira, the hero of THE MAHABHARATA , id joined on his journey up the Holy Mountain towards Heaven by an old and mangy dog. “Dogs are not allowed in,” he’s told at Heaven’s Gate.

He says, “Then I’m not coming in if I have to turn my back on anything no matter how small which places its trust in me.”

I am with him.

I thought I would be sharing more time with Steven.

I was just getting to know her.

I loved her, of course, from the moment I saw her.

Steven is now part of the invisible soul of my home.

Epilogue; We laid her to rest Today, Monday. Afterward I sat on the front porch with a coffee enjoying the sunlight.

As I did the thought came she rarely came into my room except at night. She came yesterday. She had to struggle to do it as she could not stand up. I heard her meowing. Thought it was one of the other cats. Fortunately I responded in time to make her last struggles as gentle as I could. She died peacefully. She died where she knew she was safe.


–Reg Hartt

What Causes Sudden Death in Cats That Are Otherwise Healthy and Young?

The poem as inscribed on Boatswain’s monument

The sections above the poem form a memorial eulogy to Boatswain, and introduce the poem. They are often assumed to form part of the poem but were written not by Byron but by his friend John Hobhouse. A letter of 1830 by Hobhouse suggests that Byron had planned to use the last two lines of his poem by way of an introductory inscription, but found he preferred Hobhouse’s comparison of the attributes of dogs and people.

Epitaph To A Dog

Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferosity,
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.
This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
if inscribed over human Ashes,
is but a just tribute to the Memory of
Boatswain, a Dog
who was born in Newfoundland May 1803
and died at Newstead November 18th 1808.[4]

When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth,
Unknown to Glory but upheld by Birth,
The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And storied urns record who rests below.
When all is done, upon the Tomb is seen
Not what he was, but what he should have been.
But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his Masters own,
Who labors, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonour’d falls, unnotic’d all his worth,
Deny’d in heaven the Soul he held on earth.
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.
Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
Debas’d by slavery, or corrupt by power,
Who knows thee well, must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
Thy tongue hypocrisy, thy words deceit,
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye! who behold perchance this simple urn,
Pass on, it honours none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise,
I never knew but one — and here he lies.

–Lord Byron.


Our cats and dogs need time to mourn the passing of their comrades as much as we do. When Berlin died Irving (the small cat at the top of Steven’s body) and Askhim were deeply troubled. It is a mistake to think the beings we share the planet with do not have feelings. They do. Deep feelings. That is Zorro at Steven’s feet.


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