A cat like no other.
That's what The Senator was.
Age and ailments brought his Earthly trip to an end on Monday afternoon, March 14, 2022.
This is being written on March 15. The Ides of March, a significant day in literary history, as fans of William Shakespeare’s drama Julius Caesar may recall.
To borrow from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and twist it to fit the situation, “His life was gentle…Nature might stand up and say to all the world, ‘THIS WAS ONE WONDERFUL CAT!’.” The Senator was, however, beyond Shakespeare, beyond Earth. He was — and is again — one Heavenly Cat.
We'd been working with The Senator's vet to try to get the little guy to rebound, but it just wasn't to be. The decline began a couple of months ago. Lost weight, was not quite so active, became disoriented — appeared to be a kidney problem. Though his “numbers” were good, his fate was sealed by whatever we could not discover inside. He lost weight, lost his ability to smoothly navigate the climb to his dinner table. But he never lost his ability to respond with a loving gesture. [That's the photo I posted when I wrote that he was working on a dance routine for the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes' holiday show after the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.]
We made adjustments. He made adjustments. He never complained (not even years ago when I put a watch on his head and shot a photograph to illustrate a time change story!).
Of all the beings in the house — animal and human — he was the one who never complained. That was his style from the day we met him in 2008. He was already an adult cat. Five, maybe six years old. When he left, he was around 20.
MEETING THE SENATOR
We had a feral cat colony living around our southern Oak Cliff neighborhood in Dallas. It took us 20 years to trap, neuter, release or adopt the adults and get as many kittens as possible into no-kill shelters.
One morning, among the crowd of diners, there was a cat sitting alone, waiting his turn at a dish of cat food. Polite fellow. Sort of black and gray patches of assorted sizes on white and with a hairline that looked as if he’d had hairplugs inserted. I opened the door onto the front porch. The “regulars” scattered, leaping through the protective bars the previous owner had installed to make a large “cage.” But this lone cat didn’t run. He looked up at me with his big dark eyes. [LARRY NOTE: From behind, he looked like he was wearing the face of another cat!]
This was no street cat whose destiny should be scrabbling for meals the rest of his life.
So, I asked, “Want to come in?” and he answered by rising slowly and taking very deliberate steps through the door and into the front hall. I bent down and petted his head and said, “Welcome.”
We already had a few indoor cats -- all our cats are indoor cats. At mealtime, those rescued cats sometimes had the manners of hungry teenagers around a hot pizza after soccer practice. The Senator waited until I showed him where he could eat and drink. Then, with the casual, steady, slow movements he used his entire life, this cat made his way to the food dish and slowly, quietly ate.
Because of his “hair plug hairline” — and because he didn’t carry any ID papers — I began calling him “The Senator.” Lots of guys in the Upper House had he same hairline way back then. The photo with Martha, taken last week, shows his magnificent hairline.
Back to his style of moving. Martha explains his way of moving this way: “The Senator had a unique way of moving. Slow moving. If you have ever seen an animatronic creature at a museum or Six Flags – that kind of moving. No whipping around of the head to follow squirrel or a fly or a toy. Just sitting, stolid and dignified, and slowly moving his head until the object he wanted to see was in view.
" When he’d walk across a room, conversations would stop so speakers and listeners could marvel at the scene. "
WHERE DID THE SENATOR COME FROM?
Clearly he’d been someone’s cat at some point. Our old Dallas Zip Code is famous or the lack of attention paid to spaying and neutering and the results.
We called The Senator “The Miracle Cat of Tarryall Drive” — he was the rare “Dallas rescue” who’d already been “fixed.”
The Senator loved sitting in a lap and being petted. My theory has always been that someone moved away and left him behind. People do that. I figured, perhaps, he’d been some nice old lady’s cat and been cherished by her. But the surviving relatives were dumb enough to think “He’s only a damned cat. Who cares? Besides, he’ll love to be outdoors.”
Their idiocy paid off at our house. [LARRY NOTE: I snapped that photo several years ago when I caught Earl, aka Texas Earl the Cheeseman, my rescued Rottie, trying to relax in the recliner while Porche Noel flopped on top of him as The Senator held on for the ride while the rockin' recliner coped with the movements of about 80 pounds of dog! The Senator did not protest!]
When he showed up at our house, The Senator was probably about five or six, our vet said during The Senator’s first visit on our watch. Beloved Dr. Vladi de Jong (rest his soul!) could not resist picking up The Senator and cuddling him — The Senator cuddled back.
The Senator quickly accepted the routines in our house -- it wasn't the Senate but it was where he could be comfortable and meditate on the nation's future, I guess. And he loved to be picked up by Martha for an exchange of pets and purrs. Martha recalls, “When guests came to our house, he would wait for them to settle down, then slowly make his way, one by one, to their laps. He would allow them to pet him, gently head-butt his ‘thanks for coming’ and move on to the next person.”
She also remembers one more very interesting “style” of The Senator:
"He didn’t meow. He had a unique, piercing, baritone cross between a yowl and a moo. It meant, ‘Hey, where is everyone?’ or ‘Alert! The dog is in my spot on the sofa’.”
And Martha wrote, “This unique sound was familiar to us but hard to explain, for instance, to startled Zoom participants who heard it in the background as I worked at home the past couple of years.”
WORK HABITS OF THE SENATOR
The Senator and I shared many quiet moments together. We also experienced hours and hours of working together. He’d wait until I was at my computer and ready to start tapping the keys. Then, he’d get into my lap, turn to face me and purr.
And, in his first day as trusted advisor and office cat, he head-bonked me, shoving his face and forehead into my beard as a way to say, “I’m on your side. Now, let’s get busy typin’ for money.” [LARRY NOTE: I managed to snap that selfie one morming a couple of years ago as he head-bonked my big nose to the side -- I was watching the news and he was interested in setting an affectionate tone for the day.]
Now and then something would inspire him to suddenly move onto the desk and walk across my keyboard. Sometimes he’d flop onto my desk and sleep next to the mousepad — or on my mouse.
But what he really liked was “The Office Cat Platform” I created for him. It was a wooden TV tray with magazines or maybe a comfy blanket folded onto it like a thin mattress. Whatever was on it, he could find comfort. He loved to sit on that thing and watch me type. As I typed, sometimes he’d slide down into a curl-up-and-sleep position and nod off, waking now and then to get a bit of cuddling and head-bonking. He especially loved being held. My rescuespouse Martha, a veteran at bringing dogs and cats home from the streets, adored this cat. He adored her.
AND, AT THE END…
We were both with him Monday when he left us., petting him, telling him how much we loved him. Yeah, if you’d been there, you might have seen some discreet tears from two people who love our cat The Senator.
And today, March 15, is the first time since 2008 that we have awakened without getting and opportunity to say the words, “Where is The Senator?” and having him look up at us as if we were worthy of his glance, his headbonks, his purrs ... If only humanity could follow, his example of living with other beings without spats and conflict.
The Senator was such a peaceful cat. When we had visitors, the dogs would bark madly and the other cats would vanish. The Senator was a gentleman. He enjoyed meeting new people. He enjoyed being with the grandkids, Hannah Rose, Emily Grace and Connor. He particularly loved being held by our animal-fan granddaughter Hannah Rose. That's them at Christmas. Hannah Rose, "the family artist," was intrigued by his slow-moving, peaceful deliberate nature and gentle soul. Our daughter-in-law, animal fan Erinn, loved him. Her husband (our baby boy Bart) and Bart’s twin Bret (older by 2 minutes) — both animal lovers — found The Senator to be a fascinating fellow.
I probably spent more time with The Senator than anyone else in the family. After all, he was my advisor, my editor, my inspiration for some sentences and some deletions — i.e., my calming influence.
What if I happened to be out of sorts? I’d pick him up and pet him, hold him, let him shove his face into my beard and purr.
He appeared to know there wasn’t anything going on with me that couldn’t be squelched by a big ol’ calm cat purring peace throughout the soul!
In his service as “Office Cat,” The Senator oversaw writing of many, many dog and cat and “other” animal stories. He endured the typing and recitation of unpublishable poetry. [He was reading one of my short stories and solemnly (left) explained (right) that my opening paragraphs were making him drowsy. i rewrote the story.
The Senator came along after my quarter-century career as a columnist with The Big Paper Downtown, but he did help shape columns I wrote for a decade for the great Bob Walton’s Urban Animal Magazine. And he’s been beside me and helping with inspiration in tales and yarns for readlarrypowell.com which began before he joined the staff.
In addition, he helped me write a couple of books and many short stories and writing many other projects still waiting for completion. He also helped me edit my friend and former Dallas Morning News colleague Bob St. John’s final book, House No. 5 (Paradise on Paros), a delightful story of Bob and his artist wife Sandy (an animal fan, too) and romance and history on the delightful Greek Island. [LARRY ASIDE: I’m not sure The Senator never visited Paros. He had the demeanor of someone who’d traveled with the Diplomatic Corps. I did help with one of his successful political campaigns years ago.]
Here’s a reality: Spend such a load of time at a typewritin’ keyboard and you going to need a friend you can turn to and receive affection and an understanding of the simple joy of existence without trying to advise you. The Senator is that joy.
While waiting at home for the clock to move on Monday, I spent a lot of time cuddling The Senator. I managed to take this photo of him as he lay on my arm and gently, sweetly purred. To the right of my bearded chin, you see the face of the next generation -- Stevie Ray Treeboy, the cat I pulled out of a mimosa tree about 10 feet from the porch where I first met The Senator. Perhaps Stevie Ray will have learned something from his elder advisor. My relationshp with The Senator raised my appreciation of life's events.
As a person of faith — a flawed person of faith — I know that The Senator hasn’t gone to Heaven, I know for a fact that he has GONE BACK TO HEAVEN. He’s one of the many guardian angels sent to try to keep me from taking the bad steps I’ve had a tendency to take. I’m sure some of you know this sensation of feeling as if you have an unexpected protector. I refer to it as "the theology of following the examples of peaceful beings."
And here, as I reach the end of this written tribute to a cat who made a difference in my life, I simply, tearfully, sincerely type this:
To my friend, The Senator: Thank you from my heart. You are a cat like no other.
A cat like no other.
I was driving along in my car on a freeway when I looked over and saw our vet’s office and thought “That’s the last place we saw Earl.”
Then, tears suddenly appeared in my eyes. I must have been holding them back since March, I think.
“Maybe I’d better pull over for a minute,” I said to myself.
Traffic didn’t allow for that; I blinked my eyes clear. And I drove on home.
That photo is one of the first I took of my friend Texas Earl The Cheeseman back in September, 2009.
But that freeway “teardrop spell” was just one more moment when I realized how much I miss our big ol’ Rottweiler friend Earl. Usually it hits me in the house when I realize there’s a dog dish I don’t have to prepare, there’s a place to sit on the couch, there’s an open path across the living room rug. No big ol’ Rottie snuggling with small dogs or cats!
Honestly, it has taken me a real while to get this tribute together.
My dearspouse Martha and I, with Earl’s best interests at heart, held him as he went on — I think he was ready. That was on March 10.
He’d had a chance to play in the snow.
You remember that snow? Earl enjoyed it more than anyone — well, anyone who hadn’t lost power or had their roof cave in. He romped! Here’s the deal on my delay: I simply did not have a way to say in a couple of sentences just how much he meant to me. I encountered the emotions while driving past the last place I petted his big ol’ velvet head, hugged his neck and told him I loved him. He means a lot to me. To Martha, too. And, yeah, to his ol’ friends in the House of Formerly Unwanted Animals.
Here’s some more about Earl, a dog I gave the “show name” Texas Earl The Cheeseman for no particular reason other than it seemed to fit him.
Each time I come home from an errand — half-hour or half-a-day — I am met at the door by our wonderful dogs.
For about a week in March they were not looking at me when the door opened. No, they were looking at an area around my knees where their friend Earl used to stand politely and wait for them to clear the way when he’d come back from the vet’s.
That is about the grandest tribute I have seen for a big ol’ dog who was a fixture in our home. His friends kept hoping he’s coming through the door when it opens. Didn’t we all. And, yeah, I’m tearing up right now. [HERE'S A LINK TO THE VIDEO THAT UPSIDE-DOWN PHOTO CAME FROM -- IT'S EARL ROLLING AROUND LIKE A GENUINE DOG.]
Porche, Wendy and Dudley all appear to live with faith that their friend Earl is going to be coming back through that door some day and lead them on another bark-filled, nose-sniffin’ romp in the yard.
I wish that such a thing could happen as much as all three dogs added together and a few of the cats, too. Earl charmed the cats. The younger ones, born into a feral situation, somehow loved rubbing their heads on Big Earl’s chin and chest. He took it as a compliment. His assorted ailments finally made life too rough for him to go on and Martha and I, our dear vet and one of Earl’s loving techs sat on a rug on the floor of the vet’s office with Earl. We all petted him, talked to him and, ultimately, helped him avoid some hellish suffering. Don’t think for a second that we didn’t need to dab our eyes and hate the ache in our hearts.
Earl was already having big problems with his “insides” and we knew this was coming. But it still hurts to look at his usual spot on the living room floor, one ear listening for snacks in the kitchen, and see a giant vacancy.
What kind of dog was Earl? The best. [LARRY NOTE: That's Earl lounging on our back deck while having a conversation with our two outdoor fowl residents, Chicken and Duck. The next photo? That's Earl and the Yard Pals relaxing with Dudley The Angel, a wander-up dog dumped in our old neighborhood in Dallas.]
Dear Readers may recall the circumstances that led to Earl joining our household in the long-ago year of 2009. I have, sometimes, introduced him as “our free Rottweiler.” That’s what he was. [LARRY NOTE: He was also thought by our vet to be "5 to 7 years old" in 2009. So, yeah, he was ancient for a dog when we lost him in March. Every year since 2009 was a great year for us and Earl.]
One afternoon, I drove into Oak Cliff’s Kiest Park to do my walking exercise” and as I pulled into the parking area, I saw a grown Rottie rise from the shade of a tree. His head held high in happy anticipation, he walked over to a car that had just arrived, paused to look into the driver’s window, then, head now drooping, walked slowly back to the shade and lay down. I watched him for about 15 minutes as other cars arrived and he repeated this routine.
Finally, I’d had all I could stand. I got out of my pickup and walked toward him. He got up and walked toward me. I had some treats and offered them. He took them happily. It was clear this slightly slim, fully adult black and tan classic Rottie with a docked tail was homeless.
Nobody was coming back to get him.
He wasn’t the first dog I’d invited home after he was dumped in Kiest Park. I had Inky the Cocker Spaniel (a mange-stricken puppy with no hair on his body except on one long ear); Rosie, a mange-tortured Chihuahua who smelled so bad kids were throwing rocks at her to keep her away from them; and Hambone Jack (“Hammy), “The Canine King of the Blues,” a Great Dane/Lab mix who had a metal collar growing into his neck, a belly that needed a steady diet and a nature so happy that a circus clown would be envious.
And, so, here was one more: the great Earl, “Texas Earl the Cheeseman.” I loved hugging him. Look at those bright eyes in that couch photo!
He would sometimes rise from his spot on the floor, walk over to the couch and insist that I grab his big ol’ face in both hands and kiss his muzzle like it was my funspouse Martha’s cheek.
We love Earl. Love him. He had become ill in January and he’d gotten one of those “could be soon” diagnoses. But he was so happy when he was feeling good. He was just so darned happy.
We set a date for helping him, but then, as the day approached, he was like the healthy Earl — good appetite, no problem with his bodily functions, loved to be petted, liked being with us. We gambled that we could enjoy him another week or so.
Then came the winter storm.
Our yard — like the roads — was covered with snow. Nobody was going anywhere. Offices were closed, Highways were largely empty. On one of those sunless mornings when the snow reflects what little light is getting through the clouds, Martha opened the door for the dogs to go out and the first one out the door was Earl. After weeks of slow and certain movements in the yard, Earl was suddenly inspired and he led the other dogs on a merry chase through the snow. He romped. He jumped. He shoved his muzzle into the snow. He was happy. His “inner puppy” was at work.
Happy! He frolicked in the snow for as long as it was in the yard. [He was happy riding in the car, too, before it got to hard for him to get into it. Martha took that shot of me and Earl riding around for fun back in 2016.]
One morning he went out with the other dogs and he spotted a squirrel on the ground about 20 yards away from him. Suddenly, he was like a rocket across the snow and the grass. That squirrel was stunned that a dog he’d come to ignore might now be in the mood to give chase! The squirrel ran up a tree and for a moment, I thought Earl might, too.
But, he decided to walk through the snow at the back fence. Every now and then, he’d stop and look up at the fence and I could swear you could almost see this guy contemplating trying to get one more good leap out of his arthritic legs and run off into the nature preserve next to us.
A few days later, he had a bad night and a bad morning and we made the call.
Now, Earl is romping with his young legs, he’s probably leading other once-homeless pups on a joyous jog through Heaven. Now and then a cat will walk up and say, “I’ve heard it’s enjoyable to headbutt your chin and rub my forehead on your cheek. That right?” And our boy Early will give off one of his big ol’ Rottie smiles and lean down just a bit to be accommodating to the much shorter kitty. “He’ll think back to Stevie Ray the kitten and maybe even the humans who loved feeling the top of his velvet head and marveling at the sweetness of this formerly unwanted dog. He was so gentle on Earth — evidence that, as I’ve frequently noted, all dogs don’t go to Heaven, those angels are all going BACK to Heaven. [That may explain why he liked to sleep next to one of Martha's harps, the big ol' angel. That lower photo is of Earl and Porche Noel snoozing on Porche's Retro-Hippie Trancendental Carpet of Meditation. They were pals for more than a decade...]
You know what I could never teach Earl to do? I could never teach him to catch a treat in mid-air. I’d toss one toward the other dogs and they’d snare it out of the air like a Hall of Fame shortstop handling a line drive.
When I’d gently toss a treat toward Earl, he’d let it hit his face, his chin, his chest — and he’d pick it up and eat it just the same. I finally stopped trying, except every now and then, because I stubbornly believed that I’d eventually teach him to catch a treat with his big, sweet ol’ mouth. If I play my cards right, some day I’ll get to see the new trick my great family member Earl has learned since I last saw him. I’m sure there are treats in Heaven and Earl is enjoying them.
But, for now, here is the genuine thought I have every morning, every evening and now and then during the daytime and nighttime. “I want my dog back.” Maybe some day….Not too soon, of course, but some day. “I want my dog back.”
— Offer a thought by clicking on comment below or by emailing email@example.com. —-
This tribute honoring the great loveable Pittie boy Lac comes from the heart of is “mom” Tomi Ortiz.
We featured Lac several years ago at readlarrypowell.com — it was clear that he was adored and, in turn, adored his humans.
Thanks to Tomi, we were able to tell the story of how she and her husband found the right name for this puppy. She told us that when they got the puppy, Frank owned a silver Cadillac and “the dog got the ‘Lac’ part of the name rather than the ‘Cad’ part.”
When they lost their Lac more than a month ago, the family felt it.
Tomi explains in this tribute: “I finally got my emotions in check long enough to write a small tribute to Lac. It’s been a month since our Lac crossed the Rainbow Bridge. A day hasn’t gone by that we don’t miss our ‘Old Man.’
“He was the first dog in our home after my husband and I got together. He was with us for 14 years, since he was 3 weeks old and was rejected by his mother.
“We bottle-fed him and cared for him through some tough times as a puppy and a few as an adult.
“He was the most wonderful Pitbull I had ever met! Before he came into my life I had been terrified of Pitbulls. I would believe all the bad things said on the news about that breed. Those people couldn’t have been more wrong!
“We would often joke that Lac was not a Pitbull but a cat reincarnated. All he ever wanted to do was lay around the house and lay outside in the sun. If someone would’ve broken into our home they could’ve walked right over him and he’d be fine with that.
“People would look at him and back-up because he was a Pitbull, he’d look up at us like ‘Mom and Dad, what’s wrong with them?’
“We’d just say, ‘Come on boy, they don’t deserve to meet you anyway.’
“I remember when we would take him to PetSmart for training as a puppy there was a mixed breed puppy who was a little bigger named Keeper. He would grab Lac by one leg and drag him from one side of the pen to the other. I would look at my husband and laugh, ‘Yep! That’s our dangerous Pitbull alright!’
“All I can say is Our Boy is missed dearly, not only by us, but by our kids and his brother Boss and sister Angel. They have not been the same since he left us.
“Lac made us all better people and 100% Pitbull advocates. We will always feel blessed we had him his whole life. I know he’s in a better place now and I know we will see him again one day.”
The photographs show Lac through the years, from his puppy picture to, as Tomi writes, ”the very last one of him the day he left us.”
—- In honor of Lac —-
On the morning of Tuesday, June 8, this news of a loss arrived in our inbox. It came from our longtime pals Deana Hanson, hubby Jim and their son Lee out in Weatherford.
The focus was on “Esther (Kylie) Ann Hanson,” known in home and hearts as “Ky.”
Deana wrote, “We took Ky to the vet last week and they said her kidneys were failing. She was about 15 years old.
“This morning (Tuesday) at 5 a.m. I checked on her. She was quiet from the meds they gave her. At 6:15 a.m. I woke up and checked on her and she had gone back to Heaven.
“I think she was a dog you wrote about on your site (readlarrypowell.com) years ago in Irving’s shelter. Her name was Esther there.
“She had been surrendered with a broken leg and they needed someone to take her. She was so sweet. Jim drove to Irving and picked her up. He worked two days over time to get the extra money and Dr. Turner fixed her leg.
“She chased tennis balls out here in the country for years on that leg. So Dr. Turner did a really good thing. “Ky knew how to play peek-a-boo and she loved her stuffed monkey to play with. She was a loving little mix of a dog. … We've got that hollowed feeling again. The living room where she chose to lay is so empty.”
Deana sent one more note about the “family” aspect of Ky. It involves another family dog and the legendary rescuer and Fairy Dogmother of Dallas Angie Manriquez.
Deana wrote, “Whitney Cookie-girl has always stayed in our kitchen at night. Last night (the evening after Kylie left), she went straight into the living room and slept where Kylie had always slept. Angie Manriquez once told me the passed dog will tell the new dog what to do. When I got up last night, Whitney was still sleeping there. It helped us.”
After all, Deana wrote, “Really, Ky is out of all her pain and is her happy-go-lucky self.”
[LARRY NOTE: These photos are two Polaroid pictures that Lee scanned for his mom. There’s a thumb-drive “somewhere,” Deana says, with more photos of Kylie. We’ll proudly add them when they’re available. After all, Kylie is “family.”]
The beautiful Monet -- I thought we'd have her forever -- a sweet, living reminder at readlarrypowell.com that "feral kittens" aren't always so feral and they don't always hiss at humans.
We never heard her hiss at us. During her treatment, though, on days when she was doing well, she'd hiss at the vet who was about to take her temp. Who wouldn't? Right? But then sweet Monet would purr, accept some loving petting and cuddling from the vet and get on with her day of trying to recuperate. [On the right, that’s my first photo of Monet in December 2017. She came to visit me as I was working in the front yard flowerbox. She was among the kittens born in the feral colony we tended to for nearly 20 years — we finally got every tabby fixed. You know how they can keep showing up. [Her stripes, vivid in that March 2018 photo on the left, faded as she left kittenhood and were replaced by muted black and gray strips with yellow accents, like the flowers insinuated by Monet's brush in a scene of water lillies. Almost matched her eyes. It was just after that when Monet decided to come into the house -- I opened the front door and she walked in. No fear, no alarm. The dogs said, "Oh, ANOTHER cat?" The cats said, "Here's the food, let's take a nap."]
Bless those folks at Bridge Street Clinic for taking care of our girl as she faced what became a really challenging situation. And, you know, they nursed us along, too. Very comforting as we all endured this mystery illness.
I'd have written this tribute a lot sooner but it was the surprise ending that knocked me over. Never happened before like this. Fate is mean. Our cats always make it well into their teens and one -- Cyril, a tuxedo fellow Martha got before we married, was a documentable 26, having begun life in Lampasas in the 20th Century.
My rescuespouse Martha and I were with Monet at the end, both petting her gently as the relief from pain arrived via a silver needle. This time "euthanasia" lived up to its name, saving our girl from needless suffering. Monet had been at the vet's for several days this time -- her second extended visit.
She was only a little over 4 years old. We've never lost a cat that young. [Our cats always make it well into their teens and one -- Cyril, a tuxedo fellow Martha got before we married, was a documentable 26, having begun life in Lampasas in the 20th Century.]
Monet's challenge began this way: There was evidence that she'd been -- when no humans were around -- eating thread from Martha's sewing room. We took her to the vet. Tests were run, behavior monitored, medicines applied. She seemed to rebound with acceptable "movements" and a return of appetite. Her "labs" were good. And, after several days we brought her home where she gave us firm signs of the "ol' Monet" returning.
But suddenly she was not herself. Not interested in being with anyone. We immediately took her to the vet. This time, she underwent abdominal surgery to clear out the intestines and look for unexpected damages (none found) -- she'd continued eating things she shouldn't eat.
Post-surgery, there was evidence that she was perking up. She always had an uplifting personality. As you can see from her photos, she might have some Tabby tendencies. But her eyes, in the right light, are golden. And her coat is an accumulation of artistic brushwork -- as if the namesake artist had said from Above, "Hey, St. Pete 'n' Y'all,.." [I like to think Monet could have been a Texan] ... "Let me take the brush to the coat on this one -- people will admire her beauty." And we did admire it.
She shared Martha's office with another former feral, Esme, who has been in the family for maybe 10 years. They got along -- today, you'll catch Esme looking toward Monet's old sleeping spots as if she's trying to find her friend.
I know how she feels. I still see the shadow of my Cocker Spaniel Inky in dark rooms and I'll check before I sit in an easy chair to make sure the big spirit of my Great Dane/Lab mix Hammy hasn't claimed it first. But Monet, well, missing her is different. [That's her on the right, greeting the household insomniac at about 3 a.m. with a reminder that cat treats are served at all hours!]
She was steady. She had a special joy at being picked up and cuddled. She didn't complain when I turned her over and rubbed her tummy. She simply looked up with those fantastic eyes and knew she was going to get extra treats and a hug.
If a human was in the kitchen, Monet's place was on the "peninsula" dividing the cooking area from the breakfast nook.
We thought she was going to make it. But, suddenly, she was hiding under chairs and couches and in bathroom closets. She quit meowing for treats. She'd get her food, pull out some with a paw and nibble the bits off her toes. But that was it. She wouldn’t eat.
Surgery had cleared out obstructions and during post-op-recovery she seemed to head toward being the "Old Monet" but it was a brief illusion.
As it turned out, our beautiful little girl was the victim of an ugly ailment -- some kind of lymphoma. She'd been responding to pain and misery by eating things she should not eat.
[In that group shot, you see Monet at her station on the kitchen peninsula, in the upper left corner, the young boy Simon, then the big guy Texas Earl the Cheeseman (our Rottie), drinking water is Wendy and sitting below Monet on the floor is her roommate, Esme. I'm so glad we have this image of these pals in one photo.]
On June 5, Martha and I were with her, holding her and petting her and talking to her as the "medicine" did its business. Her magnificent purr was powered by despair and, we could see, appreciation that familiar hands were holding her. Maybe we gave her some comfort; maybe she trusted us to help her.
Yeah, you had two tearful people saying goodbye to a beautiful cat who was everything you'd expect from a feline companion -- purrs, happy greetings, comforting moments — a serene presence as you read a book or watched TV or marveled at nature’s miraculous souls. [That's Monet during an insomnia session in the 2019 Christmas season -- wide awake in caseI needed to rub the tummy of a kittycat.]
A week later, I went back to the clinic to get her ashes. The beautiful box -- one of many we have -- came in a white paper bag with handles. I put it on the car seat next to me and drove toward home. At the first red light I thought, "Better check and make sure the name is spelled right." I pulled the bag open and looked in to see the wooden box with the silver inscription "Monet" and I had to pull over until I could see well enough to drive. That little cat with the fabulous coat and the beautiful eyes and the gentle heart was still with me. We simply did not expect to lose that girl when she was so very young. And I wanted to post that beautiful kitten's photo one more time as we address the purpose of her life.
Maybe Monet's life -- from unwanted feral colony kitten to beloved housecat -- will remind people to give these little beings a place in their hearts. For the benefit of mankind, learning to be loving to all species is a good thing.
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Such a beautiful face, such a beautiful soul. And, Becky Dodge, the veteran animal advocate, in this tribute, tells us the wonderful story of Meli. Becky’s words, written this week:
Meli, the Honey Lady, left very suddenly a week ago today, on the morning of the 16th. The vet said it could have been either a sudden massive stroke or perhaps a brain tumor which grew extremely fast. In either case her temperature and respiration couldn’t be controlled and she was completely unresponsive even to pain and it was best to let her go on her last journey.
She was 14, a Shepherd mix, with perhaps a little Chow in there someplace. When I met her in 2014 she was about 9 or so and her kennel name was Reba. To me that just did not fit but I kept thinking that she looked like all the gold/amber shades of honey, everything from very pale to medium. So that is where her name came from - ‘Meli’ is a Hawaiian word meaning honey. And she was like honey in temperament as well, gentle and patient with other dogs in my home who were a bit more on the anxious side. She even allowed the annoying one, an 8-month-old Min Pin who was dumped at my door to cuddle with her.
She LOVED to run, she and a dog next door spent lots of time pacing each other up and down the fence line. She pranced she was so happy when running. It was a real treat watching them since neither ever tried to outrun the other. If one was leading he or she slowed down to keep pace with the other. They both took obvious delight in the ‘races’ until age caught up with them but even as they slowed and the run became a trot it didn’t stop until their legs couldn’t support it any longer I think that it was after her adoption that she discovered squeaky toys and she carried a yellow one with her often around the house. …
That picture is one of my favorites. Because of the big age difference Zoe could be a bit annoying to the older dogs in her energy level, etc. Meli was about 10 years old and Callie was 11 when Zoe came to live with us.
Zoe was only 8 months old then so you can see that a high energy little dog could occasionally become annoying when the older ones wanted to sleep.
However Meli, even though she did get annoyed some at Zoe's energy, she was also extremely patient as Zoe wanted to cuddle with someone at nap time.
I have a blurry photo which I didn't send of Zoe licking at Meli's mouth the way puppies do with older dogs. So in some ways their relationship was as if Zoe was a young puppy with her mother.
There was also this dignity about Meli that gave her a special air in her meetings with people and other dogs. Even age and increasing health problems couldn’t take that dignity away from her.
It was as if she saw it as her job to make sure strangers were comfortable before she approached to greet them. It was as if she were saying, "Hello, come in, be comfortable, I’ll formally greet you later." However she couldn’t tolerate the neighbor’s cat coming into HER yard and as long as she was able she gave chase. I miss her way of putting her head on my lap when she wanted affection and even her way of backing off after she had enough loving for one session. I also miss how she would come into the bedroom every night to say goodnight before going back into the living room to sleep (I never could convince her that sleeping in the bedroom was a good thing). I’m going to miss that gentleness and patience and her love of being here with me and the other dogs for a very long time.
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Deborah Lynn Verner, the veteran rescuer, has been pulling animals out of tough spots for many years.
This girl Gretchen was one of her triumphs — the sweet momma dog of years ago has now gone on, having fallen victim this week to constantly painful arthritis in her hips.
On Wednesday, Deborah wrote, “Gretchen, 10 yrs and 2 weeks ago I rescued you from that property in Seagoville. That was 1 week before you had 11 beautiful puppies.
“I felt so bad for you then, because you would see me leave with 1 or 2 puppies at a time as they got sick from distemper — only for you to never see them again.” [LARRY ASIDE: That mugshot is of one of her surviving pups, Chester, who turned 10 on August 12. Deborah continues…]
“Now, Chester pup has to go through that — being without you, his Mom. I know Cheyenne will be looking for you too. She knew you were in pain, always giving you kisses.
“It is estimated that you are 12-13 years old, given that Chester Pup came from your second litter of pups.
“You were the sweetest girl, and I'll miss you!! I love you!! Run free without pain now. You are reunited with those 9 puppies that died.”
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Those of us who never held or hugged Callie can relate to the loss Becky Dodge of Weatherford, Texas, reveals in this loving tribute she wrote for this very special friend.
Callie, the one who never wanted to leave has gone on her last unavoidable journey. She left on Monday.
This house and yard were her safe zone, where she was sure she was safe and loved and because of that she resisted going anywhere.
She knew what it meant when I got a leash out and called her. Instead of coming to me at those times Callie went the other direction -- out the back door and I had to go get her. She told me by her actions that NO, she DID NOT want to go.
The world had been a VERY scary place for Callie before she started living here. She was sleeping in a garage across the road from my place on a dirty piece of foam and getting fed there, but it was not her home. The man told me that when I approached him about Callie limping. She had cut the pad on one of her rear legs almost 1/2 - 3/4 of the way through and it was badly infected. I spoke to the man about it, saying that Callie needed to go the the vet. He said “she’s not my dog”.
I tempted her into my back yard with some cookies and took her to my vet. She was TERRIFIED but at no time did she ever make a threatening move. It took 10 days of antibiotics and bandage changes before the foot could be sewn up.
That was in Spring 2005 and Callie was about a year old. So for her the world was a very scary place.
Callie was a lover of running, chasing and jumping at the shadows of the hawks and vultures. She DID NOT want them landing in HER yard. She was protective of me and the other dogs in what she considered HER kingdom. It was her self-appointed mission.
As she got older she stopped trying to catch the shadows of birds passing over but even recently she still patrolled the fences to make sure everyone she loved was safe and protected. She was shy but friendly with visitors, always the last to approach but once that initial meeting was over friendly and inquisitive about what that person wanted and who they were.
She loved sleeping next to the bed, couch or chair and even at the end of her life was still following me from one room to another. If I was not where she expected when she woke from a nap she came looking until she found me. What she wanted most was to be where I was, the rest of the world came behind that. She was smart and stubborn like most heelers and, although she had arthritis and kidney disease, until last week seemed to be tolerating her health conditions well, even the pancreatitis she had earlier in the year. After that she slowed down even more but until last week still doing a little trotting around.
I think that in her stubborn way she decided last week that she was not going to do this any more. On Wednesday evening she stopped eating and it was obvious she was hurting. That got worse as the rest of the week progressed and on Monday I took her on that final trip.
Even with the other dogs here the house feels empty without her. I miss seeing her next to the bed, curled next to the couch, and in the cubby under the computer desk where she wanted to be when I am on the computer. I look at all her favorite places and see her there.”
[Dianne Cole Hall, longtime contributor to readarrypowell.com, is dedicated to the animals in the life she and Mike share. She's also a longtime rescuer of animals that get dumped near Mountain View Community College and Dallas National Golf Club in Southwest Dallas. This is her tribute to the dear dog Abby. Written from the heart.]
My sweet, precious Abby crossed the Rainbow Bridge Tuesday afternoon, May 14, 2019, and I know she was welcomed into Heaven by Cisco and Lady. You see, Cisco and Lady raised Abby…not me and Mike.
I purchased Abby for $50 in the parking lot of a Walmart in Mesquite, TX, Thanksgiving weekend 2004. A couple were selling puppies that had been born in October and I made the mistake of looking at them…not with the intentions of buying one, but $50 later she went home with me. Needless to say, Mike wasn’t too happy as we already had two perfect dogs…Lady and Cisco…so why did we need another? Lady and Cisco were a bit skeptical of this little black ball of fur in the beginning, but they rose to the challenge and raised this sweet baby and showed her the ropes. I was told at the time I bought her that she was part Irish setter and part lab. Well, she grew up to look just like Cisco, a big black lab, only Abby was a smaller version of her big brother.
Of all the dogs I’ve had, and I’ve had many over the years, Abby was the easiest of all to raise. She just followed Lady and Cisco’s lead and everything came easy to her. She was smart, funny and loved attention, but she hated the camera and never liked dog toys…she was an “old soul” in a puppy’s body. Whenever I pointed a camera at her you’d think I was going to beat her. LOL! She was NOT photogenic by any means and she loved her personal space.
She was crate-trained and learned early on that any time she went into the crate she’d get a treat. In the mornings as I was gathering up my things for work, she would hear my car keys jingle and run and get in the crate and wait for her treat. We kept her crate in the kitchen of our little house and one night as I was cleaning up, I noticed that she was in her crate…it took me a few minutes to realize that she was waiting on her treat! She just thought if she went in there and sat down one would magically appear in my hand for her. LOL! When she got to the age that we didn’t think she needed to be kept in a crate when we were gone, she didn’t know how to eat a treat since she wasn’t in the crate. However, it didn’t take her long to learn!
She NEVER liked to be outside…EVER. She would let us know when she needed out, but as soon as she finished her “business” she was ready to come back in. If we didn’t let her in right away, she’d walk around the patio table and come back to the door, and repeat the process until we let her in. She would stay out on the patio if I sat out there in the afternoons, but while the other dogs would be roaming around the yard, Abby would be standing on the patio panting and waiting to go inside. She would knock you down trying to get in if you opened the door for any reason. She never would lay down and relax on the patio like the others, but she’d stand there all day if I stayed outside with her.
In July of 2015, I had to help my sweet Cisco cross the Rainbow Bridge at the age of 14. Abby was his “mini me” and grieved his passing as much as I did. She had always been close to Cisco and Lady, but Cisco was the one closest to her heart. However, with Cisco’s passing she turned to Lady, but 8 months after Cisco crossed, we had to help sweet Lady cross just shy of her 15th birthday. Needless to say, Abby was lost. Before Cisco passed I had rescued Lil’ Bit from a golf course by my work. Shortly after Cisco passed we adopted Dice, a year old, black lab/Great Dane mix. Abby had accepted Lil’ Bit and she learned to tolerate Dice, but in all honesty she was never the same once Cisco and Lady left her.
Mealtime was her favorite time of day and I KNOW she could tell time. She always knew when it was breakfast time at 5:00 a.m. and dinner time at 5:45 p.m. Even on the weekends she would wake me up at 5:00 a.m. for breakfast and then would happily go back to bed once she ate and went outside…though by then I was wide awake. Mike and I would joke that she was probably saying a few choice words in her head in the afternoon if, God forbid, I was later than 5:45 p.m. getting dinner down for them.
Abby never liked riding in the car. In fact, she would have severe seizures as soon as I put the car in gear. The seizures got so bad as she grew older that I would have to pick up a sedative at the vets office the day before and give it to her an hour before we left the house…sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. We almost lost her at the vet’s office one afternoon when she had a seizure and because of that, the last few years I didn’t take her to the vet for her shots, etc. Our vet understood because Abby never left our house or backyard to be around other dogs and she very seldom would interact with anyone that came to the house for a visit.
She had developed many skin tags and bumps on her body over the last few years; a tumor by her tail, chronic ear infections and a terrible order that no amount of bathing would diminish. I spent a small fortune on her getting meds for her ears, trying different foods and shampoos, but nothing ever worked. The last couple of months she had started drinking water by what seemed like gallons and she would pee in the house (something she NEVER did) if we didn’t let her out frequently. Luckily, Mike works from home so he could see that she went out often, but there were times we just could not be there so I would have to mop when I got home (lucky that we had tile floors), but the tile floors were hard for her to get her footing and stand up on. Her appetite was diminishing…sometimes she ate, sometimes she didn’t, but she wasn’t as enthusiastic about eating as she had been. However, the was always up for a “treat”. If she wasn’t sleeping she was pacing and panting, or endlessly scratching. She wanted to be close to us, but didn’t want us to pet her at all. She would sleep on the floor by my side of the bed instead of on her doggy bed.
Over the weekend we made the hard decision to help her cross over. I cried all day Monday and picked up the sedative to help relax her for the final trip to the vet’s office and sat on the floor with her a long time that final night loving on her and telling her what a sweet baby she had been for so many years. She knew…she was tired and ready to go see Lady and Cisco again. I know in my heart it was in her best interest…to let her go while she still had some dignity, but it was a hard decision and one I hope we don’t have to make for another few years.
Betty Lou Combs
3/2005 – 01/28/2019
[LARRY NOTE: Our dear friend Diane Combs lost her little girl Betty Lou to the challenges of old age on Monday. This is the tribute Diane wrote. You’ll see that it took circumstances and a “village” to get Betty Lou into the right lifetime home.]
In 2007, on a Saturday, I had to have my 16-year-old Jackpot put down. The very next day, my 14-year-old Jingles died in the ER from congestive heart failure. I was so emotionally drained by Monday, I had to take a day off from work; however, being animal lovers, my bosses totally understood.
After that, I started being on the lookout for another dog. Having gone from five dogs down to three in such a short amount of time, the house felt empty.
Being an SPCA of Texas volunteer, I reported for volunteer duty on a Saturday in March. Gloria – volunteer manager – knew what had happened to Jackpot and Jingles and also knew the types of dogs I liked. My shift was at a PetSmart in a town about 30 minutes north of Dallas, but I didn’t see any of the dogs there that I had a “connection” with.
Gloria told me that on the previous day, James (SPCA President Bias) had taken a small terrier mix – approximately two years old – to one of the TV stations to be featured on the SPCA spot, and that she was scheduled to be at the PetSmart in another town (30 minutes west) on the day of my shift. Gloria released me from my shift duty so that I could go check out that terrier mix.
When I got there, I immediately saw her sitting all nice and quiet in her cage while all the other dogs were yapping away. She looked very cute, and one of the other volunteers who knew me let me take her out for a walk. That volunteer told me that four people had seen her on TV from the previous day and had come to meet her but for various reasons had not wanted to adopt her.
Her cage card said her name was Jinx. That name was so similar to Jingles, I felt it was a sign that Jingles had somehow guided her to me and me to her. I signed the papers and called Gloria who said, “Oh I’m so glad. It was meant to be.”
She lay on my lap all the way home except for the 2 or 3 times she sat up to lick my face. James told me later that he had stopped with her on the way back from the TV studio at a fast food drive-through. He said “I probably did something I shouldn’t have. I gave her a couple of my fries, but she was so good in the car, I thought she deserved them.”
I re-named her Betty Lou after my mother, Betty, who was at the time in the beginning to mid-stages of Alzheimer’s. Even though Betty Lou was estimated to be two years old, she never went through the terrible twos. From the day I got her, she was always a very sweet and good dog. She will be missed.
SO – To James…Thanks for choosing her to be on TV.
To Gloria…Thanks for letting me leave my shift to go look at that TV dog.
To those other four customers… Thanks for turning her down.
And thanks to you, Mom. I’m sure your memory problems are now gone and that you helped Betty Lou get over the bridge safely once she arrived up there.
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