Smokey CatIn 1985, when I was 10 and my brother was a baby, our neighbours took in a stray cat who promptly gave birth. We took home a grey tabby kitten with orange and cinnamon splotches and named her Smokey.
In most of my childhood memories, Smokey is there. She playfully pounced on my ankles when I came home from school. When I went for a walk in the woods, she was always behind me, pausing to climb up on each rock and fallen tree and survey the landscape. Once she tried to attack a timber rattlesnake, but I scooped her up and ran away. She kept up an indignant Mrrrroww! all the way up the hill.
She would climb into your lap when you spoke to her, and if you sat nearby while she was washing, she would pause now and then to give your hand a few rough licks. When she heard thunder, she strolled calmly to a certain spot in the back of my closet, as if she were in a fire drill. When we made popcorn, we could get her to go up and down the stairs by leaving a kernel on each step.
When I moved away from home, Smokey stayed with my parents and brother, but she always rushed out to meet me when I came for a visit. When I brought Chris to West Virginia for the first time, I wondered what she would think of him. We found out the next morning, when he awoke to find her purring on his chest.
This year Smokey turned 20, which is about as old as any cat gets. When I visited in July I saw that she had got a lot frailer. So I was sad but not surprised when my mother called today. The vet had found that Smokey had inoperable cancer, and rather than let her suffer, my parents decided to have her put to sleep. (I would have done the same thing.)
This is one of my favourite pictures of her. I took it about ten years ago. She's relaxing in my dad's arms. When she died he was holding her as he had so many times before.