As I write this, the Legislature is on the verge of debating Governor
Patrick's proposal to require communities with underperforming pension
funds to join the better-performing state pension system. This, along
with a stronger version of his local health insurance proposal, is
essential to the long-term fiscal viability of local government in
The United States Senate is on the verge of debating the Bush-Kennedy
amnesty bill that, if passed, will put into question the long-term
viability of our country as a successful, English-speaking melting pot.
And beyond that, the war on terror has exposed the Islamic jihad as a
serious threat to the viability of not only the United States, but the
But all these issues are put into perspective when one is making the
"final decision" on an elderly kitty. The world, country, and state
shrink to the size of one very small black cat with very big paws.
After 14 years of running around the house and yard, chasing either
rubber bands, mice or moles, Tandy is lying listlessly in her upstairs
window bed, looking out toward Salem, hopefully enjoying the breeze from
the harbor a block away.
Appropriately for an all-black cat, she came from Salem, from the
Northeast Animal Shelter that is located there. On the first anniversary
of my near-death experience in Virginia, where I had an emergency
hysterectomy, I decided to express my gratitude for still being alive by
adopting a homeless critter. The dog had been gone for four years; it
was time for a new pet.
I was looking for a calico or a yellow tabby; I like lots of color
around me, and generally dislike black. But I saw the name "Petunia" on
a cage that contained a tiny black furry thing that crawled over to lick
First I changed her name of course. I considered Hecate, but she was too
small to be the goddess of witchcraft. And I thought Minority might be
fun. In the end I decided on Tandy, a word coined for a character by
Sherwood Anderson in his novel "Winesburg, Ohio"; it means "the quality
of being strong to be loved."
Tandy needed to be strong because she hadn't been properly weaned before
being abandoned. I fed her formula with a baby bottle for awhile, and
went back to the shelter a week later to get her a companion for the
hours I spent working in Boston. Zoey was slightly older, a tiger cat
big sister; they curled up together to sleep and, later, hunted mice
that they found in the basement together, taking turns watching and
Zoey groomed Tandy and let her be "the dominant cat," fighting with her
only when necessary to protect a particular toy. This didn't happen
often since Zoey's favorite pastime was chasing the colored rainbows on
the wall from my window prism. Tandy loved large rubber bands, and would
collect them from around the house and leave them outside my bedroom
door during the night.
I kept the cats inside for a year, screening in half my front porch so
they could go in and out the cat door behind the sofa. Then I "trained"
them to stay in the yard, using a leash and halter and reward of fresh
tuna if they came when called. I have a small yard but it backs into the
larger neighboring property, which is rented by Citizens for Limited
Taxation and Chip Ford; he put a cat door in his kitchen slider and the
cats ran over for cream, and played in the thick wild bushes that
surround the land.
They were healthy cats, and visited the vet once a year; Tandy wasn't
bothered by the treatments, but Zoey would be zonked for two days. I
didn't know that there was growing controversy about the frequency of
some shots -- apparently at least one of them can cause a quick-growing
tumor in some cats. Zoey died shortly after her 10th annual physical
from a tumor; I was in Nevada visiting my grandchildren and Chip had to
take her to the vet. She returned in an urn and we buried her ashes in
It looks as if Tandy's will soon be joining them. I am a firm believer
in euthanasia when a pet is no longer enjoying its life; we know when we
get a pet that we will probably survive it, though our hearts will
I am pretty sure there is an afterlife for people; but I am absolutely
certain that there are dog and cat heavens for our pets. Since cats are
natural predators, cat heaven must also be mouse hell. One might wonder
what bad things a mouse can do to deserve this.
Here's my own satisfying theory of justice: People who abuse animals are
reborn into cat heaven as mice and moles, where Tandy and Zoey will be
happily teaching them their karmic lesson. It may be just a coping
strategy, but I anticipate enjoying all my departed pets' company again
when I go to my own heavenly reward.