Hello - this is the yarn lady. After my father-in-law died this summer, among his papers was found this document he'd written about the family's cats. He wrote this after a much-loved cat, Sabrina died in 1997, feeling that he could never again give his love to a cat. Time proved that to be untrue. Although he gave away his last cat, we know he loved her still, as when he died he had photos of her in every room of his condo in Florida.
- the yarn lady
Deborah was born in Vermont in 1952. She was a grey tiger striped cat with a lot of white. She came to Fort Monmouth with us during June 1952, accompanying us in our trusty 1941 Chevrolet. She romped and played and had a good time with us in our little apartment on Broad Street in Red Bank. In September we moved to North Long Branch. We lost her through an undetermined illness that fall. We took her to the Combs Animal Hospital, but they were unable to save her.
For the next eight years no other cat had the chance to live with us. That is, until the Army was planning to assign me to Greenland in August 1960. Dolores and the boys were to remain at Fort Huachuca. Andy, a black and white long-haired cat, was born in a neighbor’s house. He wanted to live with the Bartons, and that’s what I found when I arrived home prematurely at the end of the month. Andy stayed with the family and had many adventures in Vermont and Fort Monmouth until all of us went to Germany in October 1964. We lost Andy when he was only five years old. The Army veterinarian tried to save him, but was unable to.
We were back at Fort Monmouth again in 1968. By 1969, Dusty entered our family. She was all black with a long tail that she curled around her when she ate. In March of 1970 she delivered four kittens. George, one of them, stayed with us while his brothers and sisters found homes elsewhere. Dusty (known as Dusty Darling) and George accompanied us when we moved to Fair Haven. Dusty disappeared around Thanksgiving Day in 1970. We were always afraid to let her wear a collar and an ID tag for fear she’d get hung up on something and choke to death. Every cat after her carried a name tag with name, address and phone number.
George was a real love. He used to like to help me work around the house, especially when I painted our house on the top of a long ladder. I would look down to see George waiting at the bottom. One day George died at the Red Bank Animal Hospital from unknown causes. It was all over when I came home from work that night. Dolores and Bob had taken care of him. Again, he could not be saved. He hadn’t been sick at all until this sudden illness.
Toby was born on the 4th of July, 1971. Later that year we were visiting the SPCA and he reached out his paw and touched me, and said he wanted to live with us, please. He was a good big strapping strong fellow for nine years until he came down with diabetes. He got an insulin shot every day for ten years. Dolores nicknamed him “The Town Crier” after the way he carried on after waiting on the porch for me to get back after my morning walk. He lived until just after his 19th birthday.
Sylvester was a black and white cat, just like the cartoon character. A friend of ours found him abandoned in the woods. He had the cutest little black nose that I’ll never forget. Toby was only a year old when Sylvester came to live with us. They became good friends. Sylvester died after a short illness at the age of nine. The doctor thought it might be a brain tumor but we never knew. We were so broken up, I never wanted another cat.
That same year Bob showed up with Sabrina. I sure had mixed emotions when I first saw her – whether we should let another cat live with us, but it didn’t take Sabrina long to become part of the family.
Bill Sr. didn’t write any more about Sabrina’s life. I’m sure he meant to, but never got back to this particular project. Sabrina lived the life of a princess with the Bartons. Due to their fear that she would get lost, they trained her to go outside on a leash, and for her daily airing she was put on a lead so that she could sunbathe in the back yard. She was not fond of it, but she’d put up with anything for Bill. She had a shelf in the back bedroom so she could sit and watch the outside world, several lovely cat beds and more toys than could be counted. She loved to play, and Bill would happily play with her every day. Every week or so, a rescue effort would be mounted to fish the toys out from under the furniture where she had batted them. Sabrina died in 1997 after a protracted illness and many visits to the vet. Many extraordinary measures were taken to save her, but she was just too old and too ill to survive. Bill made the following comment at the end of his narrative on the Barton cats: “We’re glad Sabrina had a will because she had so much stuff. She provided for part to go to the cats at the SPCA and the rest to be held...” He stopped there because I don’t think he knew exactly why he was holding them. He and Dolores were quite clear that they thought they didn’t want any more cats. Both were getting older, and Dolores was in very poor health.
I thought that their lives were quite incomplete without a cat, and knew of one who really needed a home. One of the group homes with which I worked had a cat that had adopted it. She was a short, squat tiger cat with a very pronounced limp. The folks there fed the cat, who they had christened “Puddin’ Cat”, but couldn’t let her come live in the house. So, I brought the cat over to the Bartons – just to visit. They were taken by her soft fur and felt bad that she had to live outside, so they invited her to come live with them.
If Sabrina was treated like a princess, Puddin’ was the queen. She inherited Sabrina’s toys, and many more were provided for her. Her limp improved in time, but she was never an agile cat. She loved nothing more than to snuggle with Bill when he read. As Dolores’ health declined, Bill would pick her up and put her on the bed to keep Dolores company, and after Dolores died Puddin’ became for a time the love of his life. He carried on long, involved conversations with her, and related those conversations to me whenever I called or visited.
In time, Bill developed a close friendship with a woman who was severely allergic to cats. He decided that it might be best if Puddin’ were to find a new home. He asked us to take her, but at the time we had two cats and a small house, so we declined. A friend of mine agreed to take the cat, and Puddin’ went to live with Bernadette. Since Bernadette soon moved and began a new life, the rest of Puddin’s story is unknown.
Photo courtesy of G. Menon - http://www.flickr.com/photos/gmenon/3954432829/