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Monday, 11 February 2013

Abby Tabby

By Joanne Zimmermann

One would not think that a mere cat could be so special. I first met Abby in the back room of cages at the Humane Society. I had suffered a bad experience and could not seem to right myself. I was 66 years old.

I had volunteered there and not finding a cat in the adoption room, I ventured in the back to see who was coming up for adoption. My son was with me and a graceful, multi-hued, slender paw with a white glove reached out to touch us.

We noticed how unusual she was, her coat looking like a short orange mackerel with black and grey tabby bulls-eyes on her sides. All four paws had white gloves, as well as her underside. We were smitten and adopted her that day. She was a young adult.

We named her Abby after Abigail Van Buren, as I got her for therapy. And indeed, she seemed to listen and jumped on my lap when she knew I needed her.

Over the years she demonstrated a great skill for opening doors, grabbing the handle which released the latch, then reaching under the door to open it. She also learned to open the sliding door screen by pushing it sideways. She only made it wide enough for herself and Dusty, a fat Maine Coon cat, could not get through.

She did not learn to close it but I guess that is expecting a bit much.

She modeled for a cat sculpture I did as a fund raiser for a new building at the Humane Society, her long graceful limbs and question mark tail being reproduced 41 times. Artists from all over painted the sculptures and we raised $80,000.


She preferred to drink outside from a watering can, standing up and dipping her paw into the water, then licking it. She loved melon and could smell it from outside the moment I cut into one. She ate dry food all her life but when she had enough, she would open the screen door and go out for lunch catching an unsuspecting chameleon.

I could hardly tell she was aging, the vet said going on 14. He checked her blood and said it was like a teenager. He was amazed she loved melon, and “cha-melon,” so take that you cat food experts!

But she was upset by the addition of my associate’s two cats to our household. Even Dusty began to pick on her. I got some Feliway, a pheromone product that calms cats and it worked somewhat.

They all settled down but played a game called, “Ha ha, I’ve got your favorite spot.” Dusty stole Abby's green velvet chair overlooking our garden and lake. I stopped him many times but Abby gave up and found another location.

Two days ago she returned to the chair. I stopped to pet her and tell her that was her velvet throne and she would always have it. For some reason, I spent a lot of time with her. I am so glad, for later that day I saw her slip through a hole in the fence as she has done many times. But she did not return.

Darkness fell and she always came in, but she did not. In the morning I looked everywhere, even putting a sign up in the neighborhood.

I walked to the other side of the fence to see where she might have gone. Down the hill, I found a large hole under a huge oak tree root where the ground sloped away. I did not know it was there and called her.

I looked into it but could not see back far enough. I did see signs of small paws in the sand. It was like a basement veranda overlooking the lake.

I like to think that is where Abby went to die. She was so independent, never really needing much. But what an impression she made on my life. She saved me from myself with her gentle ways.

Do you know, the problem I was upset about did not go away but my feelings about it have changed. I am at peace now but only recently. I feel Abby stayed until she knew I could handle it.

My 80th birthday was last week and because of finding, Abby I know my remaining years will be more serene. And today I noticed Dusty dipping his paw in the watering can. Even he benefited from meeting her.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:52 AM | Permalink | Email this post


It makes me sad to know you've lost her. My two black babies (age 14) died in 2010 and I will always miss them.

I'm so glad you had her when you needed her. I just adopted my forever friend 12 days ago, to comfort me after the death of my best buddy and am in the process of writing about it for Elderstorytelling.

Forgot to say how beautiful she was!

Your descriptions were quite vivid. Your story made me sad for your loss but, then again, happy that you don't need Abby anymore for comfort. I was told that when cats and dogs are ready to die, they dig a hole and bury themselves. ( I always had dogs and I still feel sad when I think of my lost Lancelot. )

The picture of Abby shows a twin of a cat that was introduced to our house and lives. Your story is similar to ours except for a couple of details Her name was Callie She came with our 17 year old granddaughter along with her jet black litter mate. We have enjoyed having young animals and our now 19 year old granddaughter who is practicing/learning how to live like an adult.
Both cats and granddaughter make our lives brighter.
Michigan Grandma

I would love to have one of those sculptures. And thank you for a wonderful story.

Isn't amazing how animals can comfort us in time of need. We can't have pets in our co-op so I admire those from afar, and I will think about Abbey and the wonderful statue of her for quite awhile. Thanks.

What a lovely story to share with us! Thank you.

Thanks Joanne, for a lovely story about your sweet Abby.
Each of our pets has a special
place in our hearts, long after
they are gone.

Anyone who has lost a cat to death or wandering away knows how you felt - my sympathy - the sculpture is so fabulous you should have copies of it made - I would buy one and I am sure many others would too. Thanks for a great story.

Your story brought me to tears - how lucky we are when we find a creature that we can relate to and who returns that feeling - her disappearance must have been devastating for you - yet so in character obviously - how lovely that you can now just be grateful for the gifts she brought you - thank you for your story Joanne.

Beautiful story, beautiful cat...cats are the best company ever, they know to snuggle when you need them to..no coaxing necessary..they know to just sit and be quiet when you are needy and upset..I, too, had a giant cat like yours, Smokey, Christmas Eve, l967, went to pet shop to get leash for dog we adopted and saw this beatiful kitten in a bird cage...not fretting, just looking out..my husband was a cat person too and said, what's this and the owner said, well we are closing for holidays and don't know what to do about HIM..I said, what's he cost and she said, oh, just give me $5, you will ease my conscience to take HIM home..so we did..and Smokey was a big hit..about 5 years later, Hubby brought home a wounded brown tiger, hit by car we suspected, ready to die..we wrapped him in a towel and put him in a little room by kitchen, Smokey stood by and off we went to bed..in the morning, my husband reported brown cat was eating out of Smokey's dish but didn't look strong enough to survive..days passed, cat got little better and finally just came to life..Vet, a woman, came by for sick dog and said, oh, your cat is having kittens and pointed to Smokey, we laughed and said, oh doc, Smokey is a male...umm she said, picking up the cat and turning HIM over, really,said she, feel this tummy, those are kittens and this is a very lovely female..by then brown cat, Beau was part of family too...we had them both fixed after the blessed event..and those cats lived thru yet another dog..both of them had nearly 20 years of life with me and the family...they outlasted the husband by l0 years actually...that's another story...thanks for the reminder of loyal kitties...

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