Tomorrow marks 7 weeks since Nellie was put to sleep. Still, this morning as the wind picked up and rain began to spatter against the kitchen window, I glanced out, for a half second expecting to see him hovering at the edge of the barn or woodshed, waiting to be called in.
Nellie would have run--he always ran, a long-bodied scamper, his rope of a tail floating behind him.
Nellie was a love of a cat--mellow, amiable, companionable.
He was impartial in his affections, inclined to gravitate from one bedroom to another, one lap to another--cheerful, inquisitive and amusing.
Nellie loved to sprawl, legs in the air, often sleeping that way for hours.
Helping me weed on the south wall.
That cunning moggie face, beloved even when he was in the way!
This was a habit not appreciated by the master of the house.
The roof of any vehicle in the dooryard provided a lookout post. The easiest way back to the ground was a slide down the windshield leaving a trail of paw prints.
Nellie's only other 'bad' habit was waking us in the wee hours by beating on the inside of a bedroom window. If that didn't rouse someone from slumber he could resort to pounding on a closet door with those fat white paws.
He might have wanted to be let out to explore the mysteries of the night; he could merely have wanted someone awake to appreciate his company.
Enjoying a bit of fresh air on the front porch.
By late winter Nellie was noticeably thinner, though not diminished in energy or appetite.
He was a 'mighty hunter,' prowling the meadow with his brother Robert or trolling the edge of the ravine intent on the movement of chipmunks or squirrels.
Late in November Nellie supervised my pruning efforts, burrowing into the load of trimmings heaped in the wheelbarrow.
Only weeks before his decline accelerated, popping in and out of a cardboard box.
The wide-eyed 'owlish' expression below his large tufty ears is unforgettable.
A kitchen shelf provided a frequent indoor vantage point. This wasn't a maneuver I encouraged, particularly after Nellie strolled across the adjoining corner shelf and sent a favorite jug smashing onto the counter below.
I could never stay annoyed with Nellie for long.
The last weeks became increasingly difficult. His symptoms were those of his brother Edward who wasted away in September, most likely a shared genetic fault.
Nellie continued asking to go outside, though he didn't go along the lane or into the meadow. His place of choice was under the Jane magnolia, drowsing in a clump of daylilies.
Several times in his last days he tottered toward the north ravine, perhaps with the animal instinct of going off to die alone.
We couldn't bear that for him, so scooped him up, made him a nest of thick rugs and fleecy blankets on the living room sofa.
I began to hope that I would find him there in his final sleep, wishing to avoid the trauma of the 20 minute ride to the vet's office, the always uncomfortable wait in an area smelling of disinfectant and other animals.
This is always the most difficult part. I wish there was a way to painlessly end the life of an ailing or aged pet at home. I talked quietly to Nellie on the drive, poking the fingers of my right hand through the bars of the carrier to stroke his nose, his paws.
I held his frail body on the vet's examining table, cupped my hand gently under his chin as the needle slipped into the shaved area on his front leg, felt life sigh out of him.
We buried Nellie in the tree-shade a little way down the slope of the north ravine, in company with the 4 other cats who were with us when we came to this homeplace in 2019.
Seven weeks--and it still hurts to write this.
I have to believe that we gave Nellie a good life--and that he knew he was loved.