Sunday, June 13, 2010


Elizabeth Smither’s character Lola wonders if animals possess nobility. “Their tolerance of their owners for one thing.’ What would Dorothy our cat say about us? As my illness has progressed she has switched loyalty from me to Anne. Cats are not pack animals but she knows who feeds her. Besides, I push her off my lap now, something I used not to do.

In the old days she spent the night sleeping at the end of my bed near my feet. Though once when Anne was away I was surprised to wake up and find her a few inches from my face. Vacant space! During the present cold days Dorothy has taken to sleeping in front of my study heater. That is, until Anne goes upstairs to turn on her electric blanket. Dorothy is off like a shot to enjoy the warmth arising from that action. When Anne goes to bed Dorothy knows to shift from the centre down to the bottom.

She is nearly 17 years old – a good age for a cat. So I don’t blame her for feeling the cold. She’s always been a ritualistic animal. In our last place during sunny days she often slept on the doormat in front of the dining room doors. The rattle when I took the compost bucket from its bin woke her at this post. It was her duty to escort her master on patrol. She went first, chattering in cat talk, stopping to give an affectionate rub of my leg before bounding ahead, stopping frequently to make sure that I was following.

Unlike her brother, William, Dorothy was not a good hunter, though in the summer she catches the odd cicada to present noisily and clumsily to us. In her younger days, letting it go and chasing it around the house was part of her attempts at being mini-human. Once she caught a mouse – I suspect William had damaged it. The fuss she made; Achilles could not created more clamour when he slaughtered Hector.

Every now and then in those old days she engaged in a game of wheelies. Why and wherefore I do not know. But it was amusing to observe. Eccentric English poet, Stevie Smith knew about such cat behaviour.
'Oh I am a cat that likes to
Gallop about doing good…
Galloping about doing good
Is a full-time job
That needs
An experienced eye of earthly
Sharpness, worth I dare say
(If you’ll forgive a personal note)
A good deal more
Than all that skyey stuff
Of angels that make so bold as
To pity a cat like me that
Gallops about doing good.'

I don’t know what judgements Dorothy would pass over our voices. But her many engaging characteristics do not include her meow. Her cry is not pleasant. The last show I saw before admitting defeat because of my illness was ‘Cats’. The day after I wrote this poem.

The Day After Seeing 'Cats'

Stroked by a purring hand
our cat meditates about its
requested name, Lion’s
Gigantic Roar. Fate gave
her a pip-squeak sound
half yelp, half squawk
which sends blackbirds
chuckling to safe boughs
and holiday feeders to
ask how anyone could love
such an unmelodious creature.

Harvey McQueen

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