Dog Blog

Monday, August 01, 2011


Today the world seems to me less full of grace, kindness, and compassion without my beloved Aunt Lucy (Lucy "Iris" Owens Kendall) in it.  She preferred to be called by her middle name, Iris, which is a more beautiful name befitting this spiritual poet and artist, but she was always just Lucy to her blood kin.  I don't know if the love of animals is learned or is a gene that runs through families, but there's no question that a passion for our fellow creatures is one she and I shared to our cores.

Lucy was a cat lover, and while living on the acreage she shared with Uncle Charlie near American River College, she provided a safe haven for over 20 homeless cats.  Many of them were dropped at the end of her driveway, especially when word got out about the cat lady of Sycamore Avenue.  She had them all spayed or neutered and gave her adoptive cats the very best of care for the duration of their lives, including her favorite, Puccinelli--Pucci for short.  I once wrote a poem about him for her, which I'll post here if I can find it.

I well remember visiting Lucy's and Charlie's lovely secluded estate, cat heaven to the assortment of felines she doted on like the children she never had (something else we shared).  Each cat had its own special domain, jealously guarded from the others.  Some were indoor kitties, and others claimed a planter or other outpost of their own on the verdant property, which was also populated by a community of raccoons who helped themselves to the cat food.  Whenever we came to Aunt Lucy's home, we were always treated to an entertaining dinner show viewed through the panoramic picture window of her dining room.  At sunset, a bevy of bandits arrived to compete for the kitty chow.  It was always such a delight to observe this wildlife diorama while dining on Lucy's creative assortment of casseroles, sans cat hair, amazingly.

When she had to downsize to a smaller home after Uncle Charlie died, she also had to downsize her cat colony, but she took the greatest care to ensure that every cat went to a loving, forever home.  The happiness and well-being of her cats was always the most important thing to my aunt.  Living without any of them to love must have been unbearable for her after she had a stroke and was taken from her home much too soon by the relatives entrusted to manage her care and estate.  Her remaining cats were placed with friends, she was assured, so at least she was content believing her cats were happy in their surroundings, even if she was not.  "This is a strange life," she once told me when I visited her at her new "home." She seemed resigned to her fate, but is anyone ever really content living in a rest home?

Whenever I visited her, she didn't want to talk about her cats.  It was too upsetting for her.  The only remnant of her former life spent in the company of cats was a battery-operated fuzzy toy feline that purred loudly whenever you'd pet it.  I doubt if it was quite the same for her as the real thing.  She spent the last year of her life, like too many elders, in an unfamiliar place devoid of her beloved pets, and I'll always believe it hastened her demise, as the loss of the things we most love surely must.  I hope that this country will someday see fit to adopt the models of European countries and realize the importance of allowing our senior citizens to remain in their own homes until their last day on earth and provide the finances for quality, compassionate care needed for them to do so.  

Like my father, his favorite sister always liked to work and feel useful.  If there is a vacancy in Heaven for a special angel to care for all the kitties, then I know Aunt Lucy has found her perfect work there.   Your gentle presence here will be greatly missed, dear Auntie.



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