Sunday, June 08, 2008


Last Sunday morning I found my cat Cheesy on my back porch looking very bad. Karl and I rushed him to an emergency vet in Shelton where they told us his odds weren't good. I knew by the way he was looking at me in the car that this was it. It was the first time, in all the dozens upon dozens of horses, cats and dogs my family has had to put down, that I had the courage to be there. I held him during the injection and felt his last struggle (he always hated to be held), then felt his body finally let go.

Karl gave me Cheesy on the day I finished my first professional illustration assignment 11 years ago when we were living in a basement in Lyme. He was with us a long time. Anyone who has been to my house knows he was quite a character. I've still not adjusted to him not being here.

This poem was read in church today.

may have killed the cat; more likely
the cat was just unlucky, or else curious
to see what death was like, having no cause
to go on licking paws, or fathering
litter on litter of kittens, predictably.

Nevertheless, to be curious
is dangerous enough. To distrust
what is always said, what seems
to ask odd questions, interfere in dreams,
leave home, smell rats, have hunches
do not endear cats to those doggy circles
where well-smelt baskets, suitable wives, good lunches
are the order of things, and where prevails
much wagging of incurious heads and tails.

Face it. Curiosity
will not cause us to die–
only lack of it will.
Never to want to see
the other side of the hill
or that improbable country
where living is an idyll
(although a probable hell)
would kill us all.

Only the curious have, if they live, a tale
worth telling at all.

Dogs say cats love too much, are irresponsible,
are changeable, marry too many wives,
desert their children, chill all dinner tables
with tales of their nine lives.
Well, they are lucky. Let them be
nine-lived and contradictory,
curious enough to change, prepared to pay
the cat price, which is to die
and die again and again,
each time with no less pain.
A cat minority of one
is all that can be counted on
to tell the truth. And what cats have to tell
on each return from hell
is this: that dying is what the living do,
that dying is what the loving do,
and that dead dogs are those who do not know
that dying is what, to live, each has to do.

Alistair Reid