When we lose our animals, it's so comforting to write about them as a way of remembering and honoring them!





This is not a traditional ode, but I am raising a glass, figuratively, as a toast to our beloved cat Melanie who passed away six weeks ago after a long and fruitful life. We think she lived eighteen years. May she live with ease, wherever she is.


One early Santa Monica morning, Irene, our enterprising housekeeper and nanny arrived with a tiny ball of gray fur, covered in gum and dirt. Yuk! My son Alex and I said no, but Irene, in her infinite wisdom, insisted we spend a day with Melanie. No other choice in any case because Irene would be with us all day. By 4 o’clock, when she was meant to leave, Alex had decided to keep the cat. And we agreed to call her Melanie II, Melanie the first having passed away several years back. And I agreed to take her to vet and get her cleaned up. Mellie had a mind of her own – what cat does not? She soon began to walk out the door and down the steps of our condo. We would spy her in the sun on top of a nearby shed, in the garden across the alley, creeping on her belly chasing a butterfly or a mouse. She’d leap in the air and bat it down, and, if she were successful, she would, of course, bring home her trophy to us, dropping it at our feet, like an offering to a prince (for, of course, she’d bring it to Alex, not me).

Good thing though – when we called her at the end of the day, she would come home to eat and stay inside, often sitting on the wall of our terrace watching the world go by, whipping her tail into a frenzy if she saw another cat. Dogs did not seem to bother her. When we adopted a seven-year-old white and taffy colored Cumberland Collie, Mellie trained him. Charlie allowed Mellie to sleep within the curve of his belly when he slept on our coach. Whatever was amiss in our world, was immediately put aright when Alex and I walked into the house and saw Mellie
molded into Cody’s belly. I’d put my arm around Alex and grin. As I write this a line from Robert Frost’s poem comes floating back to me “Earth is the right place for love.”
   
When Charlie was very sick, I rented an oxygen tank and brought him home form the vet for a final night so Mellie (and we) could say goodbye.  We explained to Mellie what was happening. I swear she understood, moving closer to Charlie and licking him and then curling up around the oxygen tank for one more nap with him.

We assumed that we would wait a long time before getting another dog, but fate would have it that a little one who looked just like Charlie was up for adoption. It took 30 seconds to decide – Alex and I reading each other’s expression across the cage where Cody paced—shook our heads yes and brought Cody home. Mellie was not so kind to Cody. Maybe she missed Charlie and didn’t want a replacement. Maybe it was his behavior, which became so disruptive that I chose to take him to a renowned dog expert/psychic in Manhattan Beach. At her request, I went off for an hour and when I returned, Cody was calmed down. The psychic told me many things about my life that she learned from putting herself in Cody’s body. We lived one floor up, I drove in under out apartment, my son was about ten and had kind eyes. I was bowled over and relieved. So was Millie. Cody settled in, lost his hostile edge. Many an evening Alex and I walked Cody as Mellie followed us, leaping from yard to yard as we walked by, appearing every so often on the sidewalk to check in and then disappearing again. When the Northridge Earthquake struck in 1994, Melanie disappeared for days. We never found out where she went, but we were overjoyed to see her return.
   
Melanie has had so many lives and lived in many places. When I moved back to the East Coast after Alex went off to prep school in Boston, Melanie flew in to Providence with my friend Monica and stayed with me and Cody at my dad’s until my house was ready. First one house and then another in Newport. The second house was where we lived when my father was in the stages of dying at the ripe age of 97 ½. Sometimes I would break down and start to sob, sitting in my comfortable chair on the top floor of the house.  Almost immediately, I would hear a commotion on the stairs. Melanie and Cody would come whipping around the corner and come to me, Mellie leaping to my lap and Cody nudging me.  They knew I was hurting and were there to comfort me. When my father passed away, Mellie crawled under the covers with me and Cody slept in the curve of my legs. Animals are sentient beings.

And then we moved to the wilds of Morrill, Maine. Mellie traveling with Alex in his car, Cody with me in mine. The animals were thrilled. There were acres at their disposal, horses, deer, chipmunks, squirrels (Cody’s favorite). Mellie watched the birds from inside the house and from the edge of the forest. We figured it was her television. Even though she spent hours outside, she was clever enough to avoid coyotes, eagles and fishers. Winter – Cody loved it if we cleaned his paws and built him tunnels in the snow. Melanie would travel the tunnels after us. My bedroom was  freezing cold. I slept with a hat on my head, dog on my feet, Melanie under the covers wrapped in my arms.

The house was good sized. I lived alone, worked downstairs in my office which Mellie guarded from all intruders, like Cody. She would sit on the stairs to my office, and wouldn’t let Cody pass.  If he tried to go by her, she hissed.

When I had to move to Belfast, my animals came with me, but not for long. Cody became deaf and then blind. We had to put him down. And, a wonderful woman, Mallery Dalto, adopted Mellie who was very happy in her new Belfast home. When she passed away peacefully, I called Irene and Alex to tell them Melanie had gone. We laughed and told stories about Mellie and Cody.

This is my thank you note to our animals. They amused us, comforted us, taught us about love and gave us great joy. May they live with ease wherever they are.

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