Saturday, February 4, 2012

Here lies Mali. She was a good cat.

Mali and Vi, 2/3/12
In an episode of The Berenstain Bears, a pet dies and the cubs make a sign for its grave. Augie and ViMae decided that when our aging cat died, they would make a similar sign for her.

Today is that day.

We got Mali in August 1994, the weekend we delivered Abby to college. We named her for her birthplace, a farm in Malcom, Iowa. Our other three cats were getting old and slow. Mali was feisty and fearless. She managed to get Macaroon to join in some of her games, and she learned that Lucy and Chatsy had no sense of humor. She was an awesome tree climber, back when we let her out, and she chased off neighbor cats twice her size. When we stopped letting her roam, she loved just sitting nearby while I worked in the garden.

For the last few years, Mali was our only cat, and she grew into the role nicely. She stayed under the bed when the children were babies, but in the last couple of years, as they became more like the adults she'd always known, she had made friends with them, too.

Mali in 2005
A year ago, Peter woke me early one morning to say she'd had a stroke and seemed to be on her way out. A couple of hours later she was back to normal, but she began to lose weight and to take on some nasty old-cat habits like ignoring the litter box.

Cats, when they are dying, will often try to get away to die alone. Instead, Mali followed us around all week, crawling into our arms at every opportunity. We knew her time had come, and we had been discussing it with the children.

This morning Peter found her dead. He cleaned her up a bit and uncovered the hole he and Augie had dug in the garden. The kids came over after swimming lessons for the "funeral."

Augie, ViMae, Mali 2/3/12
They didn't want to touch her, but they looked at her lifeless body for a long while and talked about what a good cat she'd been. Then we tucked her into an old pillow case and laid her in the hole. I thanked her for giving us such good memories. Vi got sad and went to her mom's arms. Augie was proud and very serious as he and Pa filled the hole with the dirt Pa had stored in the garage. Then Augie picked up the sign he'd made this morning and laid it atop the dirt. Augie hates practicing letters, but today he wrote his first two full sentences: "Here lies Mali. She was a good cat."

The sign in place, we all came inside and had juice and snacks. That, after all, is what you do at a funeral. We also made plans for getting a couple of kittens this coming summer, after we've replaced the upstairs carpet and gotten rid of as much old cat scent as possible.

As Augie pointed out, it's okay. We will have lots of fun with our new kittens.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A new kind of retirement program

ViMae and Augie love zoos...the kind they visit and the kind they build with Legos. This afternoon she was telling us about some ways that zookeepers care for the animals.

Pa: Are you going to be a zookeeper?

Vi: No, ballerina.

Pa: Is Augie going to be a zookeeper?

Vi: No.

Pa: Who will take care of the zoo animals, then?

Vi: Just the ones who are already zookeepers.

Grandma: What will happen when all those people get too old to work?

Vi: They will go to work at different zoos where the animals are too old. 


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