and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
June #4

Longtime companion heads for final reward in cat heaven
by Barbara Anderson

NOTE:  Since writing this, Chip and I decided to treat Tandy with hydration injections from the veterinarian and she is doing much better.

The Salem News
Thursday, June 28, 2007

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 Massachusetts.

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 entire world.

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 my fingers.

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 napping.

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 my garden.

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 break.

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.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and Eagle Tribune, and often in the Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.