Ode to Zoe



Zoe, I always thought your name was a little unusual

but that it was suitable for a cat who was not the usual kind.

I could not determine if you were strange to me because

of your breed or because of your life experience.

Long of leg, large of body, small in head – your were not

the cat we photographed often. Your stare was unsettling.



I knew you when you belonged to your previous owners,

a beast barely tolerated by some, and you busied yourself

staying out of the way of dogs and scratching leather furniture.

When your claws were removed, and you could not defend yourself

they were afraid to let you outdoors. You were famous for

filling the litter box all too quickly, and making loud noises in the night.



You came to us when others became allergic. We took you

in for love of them and not out of love for you. I don’t

think you loved us. I knew you when you were overweight,

and your hair came out in great clumps. I knew you when

you chewed yourself bloody where the fleas congregated.

You didn’t look at us very often, you didn’t look happy.



But for all your mess, things we had to wash up, scrape off

and deodorize, for all the times when you fought the other

cat and left fur all over the room (you both were gray and we

could not tell who had won), we began to love you. You stopped

eating desperately and became slim. Your fur became soft

and easy to pet. And you watched us differently.



You learned to go through the cat door, to love the outside

and to run to the sound of your automatic feeder. Your favorite

place was on the man where he was soft and warm and you purred.

The man gave you special food and doted on you. You made loud

noises looking for him, often in the night when you were lonely.

I loved that you went outside and no longer used the litter box.



You no longer needed to look out for the other cat (she died)

and you relaxed and all the space became yours. You only ran from

the vacuum cleaner and small children. You and the man became

very much alike, with your routines and the places you camped

out as you watched television and napped. You were all the animal

we had and I guardedly say that we enjoyed you most of the time.



Today, you are gone. I am sad, but especially the man is missing you.

Feeling that you may have had a terrible fright at the end and violence.

We would not have chosen that for you but neither would have had you

be ill and lingering and miserable. As I said, you were never impressive

for your looks and not much photographed. But you were loved and

part of our family, even though your stare was still a bit unsettling.


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