A Cat Tale

October 5, 2015

She was there the day we moved into our house in Bicester, England. Sitting on the front porch like she owned the place. When we opened the door to our new house, she just walked in. She was cute, but she wasn’t ours. She was black with a white bib, and a white dot on her belly. The white dot led to her name–Domino.

We soon learned that she belonged to our neighbor. Domino was no kitten when we met her; she was three years old.  The previous owner had allowed her to use the house as a refuge from her brother, Oscar. The two cats did not get along, and Oscar was the dominant feline. Our home had a cat flap on the back door, and Domino was accustomed to coming and going as she pleased. Initially we resisted. We kept the cat flap closed. We didn’t feed her. We didn’t want our new neighbors to think we were trying to “steal” a cat. Even so, she spent a great deal of time at our home.

Domino at Christmas in Colorado

Domino at Christmas in Colorado

The first crack in the wall was when we opened the cat flap. She was at our home so much that we just felt it would be easier to let her come and go on her own terms. Domino roamed the plains of Bicester freely–sometimes too freely. Often, if things got too bad at home with Oscar, she would sojourn to the British Army base a couple of miles away. The vet at the army base knew her well, and would call her owner to come retrieve her.

After an extended excursion to the Army base for several weeks, her owner told us, “why don’t you just keep her; she spends more time at your house anyway.” The deal was done.  We started feeding her regularly, and she just settled in. She didn’t make any more trips to the Army base; she always returned to our home. Domino chose us; we didn’t choose her.

Ready for a tea party

Ready for a tea party

She was certainly an outdoor cat–an accomplished hunter. She often brought us gifts, birds, mice, etc. Domino’s nocturnal hunting sometimes made for unwelcome gifts. Like the time she presented Melissa and me with a live mouse in our bed in the middle of the night. The mouse seemed as startled as we were when Domino dropped it and it ran into our closet. We turned on the lights and tried to find the mouse, without success. Finally, in exasperation, I put Domino in the closet with the mouse and closed the door. We don’t know with certainty what happened, but when we opened the door in the morning, Domino came out and we never saw a trace of that mouse.

When we left the UK for Colorado, Domino came with us. She became an indoor cat in Colorado. As our neighbors there pointed out, she was no longer at the top of the food chain. There were many threats–coyotes, fox, bears, mountain lions. She made the adjustment well, and became a constant presence in our lives. She moved to Florida and Texas with us. Domino was always there, birthdays, holidays, tea parties, and all of the other ups and downs of life. She was even the subject for Caroline’s award winning photo contest entry in middle school.

Caroline's High School Graduation

Caroline’s High School Graduation

Domino seemed to become even more affectionate as an indoor cat. She often greeted guests at the door and sometimes jumped into their laps. She liked car rides. Melissa often said Domino was the “doggiest” cat she had ever seen.

We lost Domino last week at the age of 17. It certainly leaves a void in our home. We’ll miss her, but she is now comfortable and at peace. I have one friend with a PhD in theology that believes that animals will be with us in heaven. I hope he’s right. I have the theological opinion I want and I don’t care to hear any others. Animals are certainly a gift from God. They teach our children to manage love and loss. I’m sure we’ll have other pets in the future, but Domino and our dog, Daisy, were integral parts of our family. I hope we’ll see them again one day.

Some of my favorite books are from the James Herriot series about his life as a veterinarian. He takes the titles of his books from an Anglican hymn by Cecil Frances Alexander. An Anglican hymn seems especially appropriate at the passing of our British cat. Here is the refrain and last verse.

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell,
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Amen.