This page celebrates the life and tells the story of the tragic death of my cat, Sting (8/1/96 - 3/8/00). I am placing this story on the web so that others can learn some of what it is like to lose a beloved pet to violence. Pets are like children, and a mother should never have to bury her child. I doubt that I shall ever be the same. Please share in Sting's journey with me.
|Where to Go|
|Stingie's Story||A Night of Terror and its aftermath.||Words of Solace|
|Other Lives Touched by this loss.||Back to the Unfettered Soul|
My friend, Lou, and I were sitting in the Dolce Vita Cafe in El Paso, Texas when we learned for certain that we were about to become "parents" of a very young kitten. Lou's brother, Mario, had discovered a mother cat with kittens in the basement of his home on Bleecker Street in Utica , New York. Instead of putting down food and litter to make the new family more comfortable, he caught the kittens. He took the first kitten to the Humane Society where it was probably euthanized. I did not want the second kitten to meet the same fate, so I asked Lou to ask Mario to take it to Burrstone Animal Hospital. There we would find out if it was healthy enough to raise, its sex, and age. The kitten of course would need a name. The sound system in the Dolce Vita Coffee Shop was playing a pleasant soft tune with a male vocalist. I told Lou that whomever was singing would be the person after whom we would name the little kitten. I asked the man behind the counter who was singing. He said that it was Sting and the song was called "The Shape of My Heart." From then on, the kitten became Sting.
Lou and I left El Paso a day early to take over our parental responsibilities. I hoped I would have time to clean up the house and prepare a space for the newcomer. Mario arrived at the bus station with Sting in a box lined with a towel. She screamed and hung on with tiny white claws stuck out. She was jet black, and could pull herself up her hind legs but still waddled when she walked. The vet said she was three weeks old, an infant. Mario gave me the same seat pads he used for his invalid mother and KMR (Kitten Milk Replacer) and a pet nurser. I knew the pads were all wrong. I took an old blanket and cut a hole in it to make a poncho. I knew I would have to nurse the baby kitten on my lap. I also knew I had to stimulate her after each feeding and then let her walk around the kitchen waiting for her to excrete. I was afraid that what went in one end would not go out the other. Kittens are designed not to foul their nest and to go only after the mother lickes them. The mother then eats the excrement. My stimulating was always a bit rough and Stingie would cry through the whole routine. She also became filthy so that I finally cut out mats and bathed her at five weeks of age. Stingie had to be weaned at four weeks because she was not getting enough nutrition from the bottle. She was hard to wean because she had neither feline mother nor litter mates.
Stingie developed a classic "difficult cat" personality. She liked to growl and hiss when petted. She stole food and then defended it with growls. I learned the full vocabulary of feline expletives from Stingie. Sting also feared sunlight, strangers, and absolutely hated to be picked up. It was not until the last few months of her life that she became at times almost posessively affectionate, with purrs and head butts and even an occasional sweet social mew.
I blamed Sting's personality on my awful mothering technique. Lou blamed it on her genes. Sting's mother was a white cat with black spots whom someone had dumped. Sting's father was a small black tom who had fathered many progeny in East Utica. He was a skulking creature who just reaked bad attitude. Stingie simply took after her dad. Still, I loved Sting very much. When she visited me in the bath tub, drank water from the toilet bowl using her paw like a hand, or gave me purrs and head butts, I knew there was a sweet kitty beneath a difficult exterior. Anyway, I had raised Stingie from a baby, so I was especially and deeply attached to her.
Note: This is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to several mailing lists, concerning my cat, Sting's, death.
On the night of March 7, 2000, Sting was outside. My cats were (maybe still are) indoor outdoor. Sting fears sunlight but often spent the night out. When I went to bed, at 12:30am, she did not come in. Georgia did. Evander also stayed out.
At about 1am or maybe 1:15am I heard a dog barking loudly and a cat screaming or maybe a dog screaming. I thought "psycho animals." I also heard a sliding door opening. I went outside to look for Stingie. I thought at the time, she had taken a fright and run into the woods. I thought she might be out all night and was better off inside since she was a bit off the deep end. Georgia went out with me but came in on her own. I remember her standing on the kitchen counter, tail puffed up, eyes wide and muscles tense. She too was very afraid, and for Georgia to be afraid, she has to have a very good reason. I knew something terrible or at least very frightening had happened
There were no more noises, and I was so tense I had a very hard time falling asleep. Georgia stayed in with me, but was too restless to share my bed. I wish she could have talked. I know now what she would have told me.
At 5:15am I awoke from nightmares. I went outside to call Stingie. Georgia followed me as did Evander. We found no Sting. I could not go back to sleep. I could not meditate. I listened to Morning Edition on the radio and at 6:15am I went outside again.
This time I found Stingie lying motionless on the narrow strip of grass between the back of the complex and the woods. I knew just looking at her that she was badly off. When I touched her body she was cold and stiff. I did not find her earlier because it was dark. I felt no injuries on the back of her neck or her head or her chest or her back feet. I stroked her a bit. I think I cried "oh my God." I told her I was sorry. I sat with her for what felt like a long time before I could pick her up.
When I did pick her up, I said to her "I know you always hated to be picked up," then I scooped her up into my arms and brought her intto the house. Georgia had sniffed Stingie's body and Evander watched us from the top of an air conditioning unit. Both cats followed me indoors. I closed the door and looked for a place to put Stingie. In the dining room light, I could see she was badly mauled.
I felt very angry. When I had gone looking for her at 1am I had heard collar tags jingling and seen two dogs, one a shepherd cross and the other a setter or golden retriever. One of the dogs sniffed me. I told him to "scram." He was a distraction. I think I met the animals that killed Sting.
I was not sure I wanted to place Sting on my dining room table. I put her on a wooden chair instead and covered her with a towel that had my scent on it. Then it was time for the phone calls, first to Lou in Utica. He is my exboyfriend who helped me hand rear Sting from a three week old kitten. Then I called a colleague because I don't drive and would need help getting Stingie to a pet cemetery for burial.
The man from the pet cemetery, came for Stingie at 8am. His name was Mr. Gregory. He took Stingie to his work shop to clean her up and compose her limbs and fix her up. As Mr. Gregory was walking in the door, my colleague from work, Pam, arrived. We got the cemetery directions from Mr. Gregory and I paid for Stingie's burial. Stingie's funeral was scheduled for noon.
I went looking for a Jewish prayer book or siddur so I could say the mourner's kaddish. I did not have one so I had to call the schul (synagogue) and it took some red tape to get one, but we managed. Pam supplied the Bible so we could read Psalms. I sat at Pam's house and bookmarked the pages we would need. The prayer book turned out to be a makzor or High Holy Days prayer book, but it did have a mourners' kaddish in it, as well as pieces of the yizkor or memorial service that would work.
We got to the cemetery at noon, bringing fresh flowers, a disposible camera, and the Bible and prayer book. Stingie was on a bench in a cream colored unlined plastic coffin. She was wrapped in the towel I had covered her with. Her legs were tucked beneath her in what I sometimes call a side hunch or kidney bean curl. She had been washed with isopropyl alchohol. I know because her head was dry but her back was wet. When I brought her inside, her head was wet from the dew on the grass. I felt under the towel and down her back. For some reason I had to find her tail. I petted her, sang a rhyming song to her. Then we put the cover on the casket and had the funeral with the readings. We said kaddish and then I petted Stingie again.
Then we gold Mr. Gregory, we wanted to bury her. He sealed the casket, and I carried it to the grave. The dirt pile was uncovered but this was a Jewish funeral. We put Stingie in. Then we read the kaddish one more time, and I shoveled in the first earth. I did several shovels, then Pam did several and we alternated with Mr. Gregory tamping down the earth.
This wasn't really as bad as it sounds. I actually felt better coming back from the funeral than when I was riding out to the cemetary which is on the edge of Phenix City, Alabama. I think reading the psalms and prayers helped. I also know Stingie had a decent burial.
We got back into Columbus and got the film developed. I picked up my meds, and we went for a late lunch at the Denny's. Then Pam took me home. Mr. Gregory who prepared Stingie for burial said she had probably encountered two dogs and that her neck had been broken. Both my remaining cats are on lockdown. I have pictures of the funeral. I wanted to photograph it because my exboyfriend could not be there. I may also set up a memorial web site for Stingie.
O Lord, hear my prayer,
For my days are consumed like smoke.
But Thou, O Lord sittest enthroned forever.
This shall be written for the generation to come;
He weakened my strength in the way;
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Who didst establish the earth upon its foundations,
Who sendest forth springs into the valleys;
Who cuaseth the grass to spring up for the cattle;
Who appointedst the moon for seasons;
How manifold are Thy works, O Lord!
May the glory of the Lord endure for ever;
Hallwed and enhanced me He be throughout the world of His own creation. May He cause His sovereignty soon to be accepted, during our life andn the life of all Israel.. And let us say: Amen
May he be praised throughout all tim.
Glorified and celbrated, lauded and worshipped, acclaimed and honored, extolled and exalted, may the Holy One be, praised beyond all song and psalm, beyond all tributes which mortals can utter. And let us say Amen
Let there be abundant peace from Heaven with life's goodness for us and for all the people, Israwel. And let us say: Amen
May He who brings peace to the high heavens bring peace to us and to the people, Israel. And let us say: Amen.
If it were only me and Stingie had been my only cat, I would have the luxury of grieving loud and long, but it was not only me. Perhaps no one ever endures a loss alone. Here are the others' whom Stingie's death effected:
Georgia: My thirteen year old "alpha female" cat. She may have witnessed Stingie being killed by dogs, and she certainly found the body before I did. At 1:15am 3/8/00 she stood on the kitchen counter puffed up and stiff with fear. Even when she goes out now, it is carefully, sniffing everything. By the way, none of my cats are allowed out after sundown.
Evander: My neutered boy kitty. He probably witnessed Stingie's killing. He dislikes being confined in the apartment most of the time, and is also more fearful. He has been hiding under my desk. He also urinated on the floor in protest at being on "lock down.."
Lou Poccia: My exboyfriend helped me raise Sting from a kitty infant. He was the first person I called with the news of Sting's death. He has offered to pay part of the cost of her burial. Up in Utica, he feels helpless.
Mario Poccia: Mario is Lou's twin brother. He found Sting and brought her to a vet so that I could raise her. Sting's death is his loss too.