I was a rescue, an emergency, a shelter from the storm. I had [in Brooklyn] as many as seven dogs at one time, and nearly 100 cats. When I moved to Virginia I had 26 cats, hidden from the landlady, and after three years there were six going across country [to California].
Barbara loved animals.
When she was having a heart attack in 2014 and before she sought out medical help, she quickly wrote a message to her two closest friends, which began: “Dear ones . . . I love you both so much. I’m afraid I’m dying.”
In agonizing chest pain for at least 24 hours – (Barbara feared loss of independence so rabidly she would often dangerously postpone medical intervention in the belief she could heal herself) – she nevertheless was concerned enough to mention her cat Tommy twice in her ‘dying letter.’
“Don’t let Tommy die please, with help he can make it, he’s trying to live.”
“Tommy had food around 6 pm but he’s not eating on his own. Tommy’s sleeping in the back of the closet on a pillow.”
Tommy had been sick, was in fact approaching the end, and Barbara was worried. Friends were kind enough to take him to the Vet and watch over him but unfortunately Tommy died while Barbara was still in the hospital.
Oh do I miss Tommy. I’ve called to him repeatedly, and finally cried a lot. He was very well cared for at the end, he did not have a rough departure, and he surely knew how much I loved him and would have been there if not prevented. Oh, John!
The Cat Who Loved Flowers
Oil on Canvas
Thomas Jefferson II (“Tommy”) Sparhawk is herein posed for his long overdue portrait, and I painted him to reflect his constancy of love for plants. When in the garden on cooler days he gravitates toward sun-warmed tile. On adventuresome days he sits sphinx-posture in front of the lawn’s gopher holes, patience of saint. Well, actually, of a feline
But first out he will walk through groves of lily, iris, nasturtium, lavender and geranium so that the blossoms brush him cheek to tail. I have watched him, head tilted back, rub his considerable whiskers alongside plants and slowly, deeply inhale their richness.
Quite some cat. Thomas is a very large and very agile tree climber, 20 lbs plus, which I say to brag. We’re both pleased with the enormity he has acquired staying fit and beautiful.
On another occasion, when Barbara was undergoing radiation and chemo for a brain tumor, the same devotional concern surfaced regarding the care of her new cat, Elspeth.
[The typo irregularities mimic the decline of Barbara’s mind & eyesight.]
vALERIE IS HAVING A SPECIAL CAGEHOUSE BUILT FOR ELSPETHER. aND SHE IS PROSPERIING.
Elspeth IS PROSPERING!
Barbara was ecstatic and immensely grateful that her friend Valerie was caring for Elspeth.
Elspeth on Patrol, Meadow
Oil on Canvas
One year ago Elspeth was a cautious DON’T TOUCH ME visitor, totally feral but smart enough to figure the plate and pillow and shelter was laid out on her behalf, should she design to stop over.
And then some.
She still does patrol, delivers horrific presents to the doormat, spends her days in the garden and meadow organizing and terrifying rodents, loves a cuddle (not too intrusive), a proper pet, and has her own imposed 9 PM bedtime, inside, on a pillow at the top of the bed above my head.