A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Thursday, March 06, 2008


Two summers ago, I noticed a white cat hanging around the neighborhood. He had the prettiest coloring. All white except for his black ears and tail. A few months later, I glanced out a window and saw him in my backyard leaping into the air trying to catch a bird. He was a changed cat. His beautiful white fur was filthy and matted. And he was so thin. I thought perhaps someone had moved and left him behind.

I started putting food out for him. He quickly learned my routine and would show up twice a day looking for a meal. The winter was unusually warm that year so I wasn’t concerned about him being outside. Every morning I would look out the window and he would be there waiting for his breakfast. We had a bad cold spell towards the end of the season. Everything was encased in ice so I started adding a bowl of water for him.

My vet suggested I try trapping him. I borrowed a trap from a friend who runs a rescue, but Hobo, as I had begun to call him, would have none of it. He would rather go without food than set foot in the trap. I hated to see him hungry and returned the trap.

I was never sure where he went when the weather was bad but when the door came off of my shed, he took up occasional residence there. Softy that I am, I removed the lid from an old litterbox, inverted it, folded old baby blankets into it and placed it in the shed for him to use as a bed. He took to it quickly.

I’ve grown accustomed to seeing him in my backyard. Waiting for a meal or sunning himself. I love walking into my shed and seeing his head pop out of the little bed near the wheelbarrow. Always wary, he would quickly run out and around to the back of the shed and wait for me to leave. Outside of the shed, he got better about sharing his “territory” with me. As long as I didn’t try to get too close, he would tolerate my presence while I worked in my gardens.

I had a bad scare last spring when he developed what looked like mange. There were clumps of white fur all over my backyard. He had visible bald spots on his body. But he seemed to recover and his coat filled in nicely. I’ve stopped worrying when he disappears for days. He always shows up again, none the worse for wear, looking for a meal and a drink.

So I wasn’t too concerned when he disappeared again last week. The weather had been bad. I’ve always thought that he had somewhere else to shelter in when it rained or snowed. Perhaps someone was taking him in. I was shocked when he showed up this weekend and his eyes were badly infected. I don’t know how he could see through all the goop. I made plans to try trapping him again to get him to a vet. He seemed willing, allowing me to get within just a few feet of him. I could almost reach out and touch him.

I saw him for the last time on Tuesday afternoon before I left for work. He had eaten and was sunning himself near the door to the shed. He was painfully thin but I was encouraged by the fact that he was eating. Then I didn’t see him again and his food went untouched.

It was with a heavy heart that I opened my shed today, knowing what I would find. He had been too weak to climb into his bed and was laying next to it, one paw resting on it. I got out my shovel and dug a grave in his favorite hiding place behind the shed. Wrapped in one of “his” blankets, I gently laid him to rest.

Rest in peace, Hobo. Your memory lives on in my garden and my heart.


At 3:23 AM, Blogger Matron said...

So sorry to hear your sad news. All cat and dog lovers out here in blogland share your sadness. Remember the happy times!

At 3:46 AM, Blogger Yolanda Elizabet said...

How sad, how terribly, terribly sad. But you have made life over these past 2 years well worth living for Hobo by taking such excellent care of him, so well done you!!!!!

And in the end he trusted you enough to go into your shed to die. He knew that that was a good and safe place to do it. So you've done good my dear!

And now it is time to grieve but don't forget all the happy memories you have of him! How you took care of him when nobody else would.

Lots of hugs from all the members of the Bliss team and me!

At 6:20 AM, Blogger Colleen said...


Bless you for taking care of him, and loving him for his last two years of life. Many people would not have bothered, or worse, tried to chase him away. Hobo had a better life because of you.

I'm so sorry for your loss. Take care, and, I'm with YE: remember the good stuff. He sounds like he was a real character, and he's lucky he found you.

At 8:56 AM, Blogger Robin's Nesting Place said...

It is very sad indeed, and made me tear up. I'm so glad he had a "proper burial" and can rest in peace. I think I'd rather know than always wonder what happened or still expect him to show up sometime. I'm sure it was difficult for you.

At 2:17 PM, Blogger Tammy said...

What a touching story!

At 2:32 PM, Blogger OldRoses said...

Thank you everyone. I've been shedding a lot of tears. And I keep looking out the window expecting him to show up. On my daily visit to my composter now, I stop by his grave and talk to him. I'll probably put up some kind of marker in the spring.

At 10:09 PM, Blogger Kevin & Michele said...

Very touching story. Thanks for sharing.

At 10:24 PM, Blogger Xris (Flatbush Gardener) said...

Sorry to hear of your loss. I'm sure he appreciated your kindness.

At 10:44 PM, Blogger Blackswamp_Girl said...

I'm a bit misty here, myself... but Hobo was a lucky guy. YE said it best: He trusted you enough that your shed was the place he went to when he was feeling poorly, and you made the last few years of his life much better than they probably would have been otherwise. A marker in the spring sounds very appropriate...

At 12:33 PM, Blogger Phillip said...

I love cats and found your post very touching. I have a cat who turns 16 this year and I worry about her all the time. We get lots of strays and, like you, I find myself feeding them and adopting them.

At 10:20 AM, Blogger Ki said...

We had a similar experience with a wild cat - Old Pa. He was an orange marmalade. Came by for a couple of years because we leave food out for the strays. Would never let us pet him but our daughter could go right up to him and pet him. He progressively got worse in health and would appear with numerous bloody wounds and ratty fur. Once there was a huge bloody gash on the side of his face as if someone had hit him with a shovel. He finally contracted the same disease Hobo must have had. His eyes and nose were runny with yellow discharge and he would go into a hacking cough. But he remained valiant and unbowed. We hoped he would recover but I saw the animal control officer chasing him with a large net one day. I went out to see what the commotion was and she told me this other person who was also feeding him thought he should be treated or euthanized. I reluctantly decided to help catch him since I was familiar to him and would let me approach closer. I netted him and he fought for a second then he stopped as if he knew it was futile or maybe that's all the energy he had left in his frail body. I still remember the look he gave me. I betrayed his trust. He was too far gone to be treated so he was euthanized. Still brings tears to my eyes.

At 10:16 PM, Blogger Kerri said...

I'm so sad for you, but you gave poor Hobo as good a life as you could. He had food and kindness and love from you, and you had a companion in the garden.
He was a lucky kitty to have found you :)
Do your other furry friends go outside?

At 2:04 AM, Blogger OldRoses said...

Kerri, none of my cats go outside. I make sure that they have lots of toys, a cat tree to climb (and fight over!) and even installed a small bench under one of my windows so that they can keep an eye on the birds and squirrels on my feeders.


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