Many of us will know the phenomenon of a tune that gets stuck in the head – I call it “an earworm”. My earworm that keeps recurring is a Broadway song from about 90 years ago, by Kurt Weill. It’s about how when you’re young, you can let things go, or just wait, but as you grow older, you cling to the precious things.
And it’s stuck in my head right now, because it’s called “September Song” and reminds me of some of our Sanctuary seniors, and just how precious they are to us. When I first came to volunteer here, I wasn’t collecting photos in the way I do now, so I don’t have pictures of all the young versions of these loves, but you will see something of how they have changed with the years, and you can follow some of the back in the cat sanctuary blog entries, using the Search box.
Our oldest girl is smoky Sara Lee. Pictures of a much younger version of her can be found in Claire’s blog of more than ten years ago, and Sara Lee herself came to the Sanctuary as a very young feral mama twenty years ago.
She was always anxious to “help” with quality control at feeding time; now it’s just too hard to make the jump up to the table, and she prefers to spend her days nestled in blankets. But jumping is not an impossibility, when there’s someone she likes at coffee time; she will happily scramble up into a lap, and beg for attention and tidbits. A bit bandy-legged, with fur that no amount of (unwelcome) grooming will smooth out, she is nevertheless the diminutive queen of the back courtyard.
Miller came to us as one of a trio – with his sisters Fiona and Schatze, now both gone. Initially shy, Miller could often be found perched high up on a cupboard that required some athleticism to reach. These days it’s definitely too much for him, and the place has been ceded to Freya.
Miller prefers something warmer and within reach – sometimes the papasan chair at the top of the steps, sometimes hidden in the gazebo. But if he hears his name called, he will appear for treats and for a little snuggly “Miller time” with his special friends.
Hope is another girl who’s been with us a long time. Her whole family arrived together: Mom Joanie, Dad Hudson, brothers Domino and GusGus, and our pretty grey girl Hope – all feral and wary, though they calmed down in time and became much loved members of the Sanctuary family. Hope is the last of them left. She bases in the Connor House corner of the front courtyard.
Hope is noted as having the softest, plushiest fur – she is a pleasure to have in a lap for petting. As she has aged, lap-sitting has become an increasing pleasure for her too – even when she has to compete with Cher and Roe for lap-space.
Cinnamon Bun Lincoln – so named for his curly tail – has been with us since he arrived in our care in 2007 with a shattered pelvis, possibly a victim of a car. 15 years later, his appearance hasn’t changed much, and he’s still hanging in; however, as we human oldies know, old injuries have a way of coming back at you with age, and he moves more slowly these days.
He’s also one of those cats who has become a little senile with age – occasionally we will hear him wailing, and someone will go to reassure him that’s he’s OK and there are friends around. He may be an old man, but Dusty still loves him and follows him around!
Onyx is one of the last of a group of cats who came to us from a hoarding situation. Deeply bonded with Topaz, the two of them claimed the water-heater room off the laundry as their turf. Having lost her sister last year, Onyx continues to be mostly a loner. She spends her summer days in the back of Pen 5 and as the weather gets cooler, she will probably return to the laundry-room shelves – she may be old, but she likes to climb.
She’s pretty deaf, and she’s not keen on being touched, but she ranks high with the chickaholics, and no matter where she is, she senses when treats are being handed out, and pushes to the front of the line to eat all she can; she’s a skinny girl, but she has a big appetite for chicken!
Tugboat is probably not as old as Onyx, but like humans, some cats appear to age earlier, and some are still fit and healthy into old age. The sleek and handsome boy who came to us in 2010 is now a pretty ragged-looking 19-year-old guy with aching joints who needs medication to be comfortable.
Like most old cats, he needs warmth, and he can usually be found snuggling on the doublewide couch with Plum or Colin, or right next to the heater in the tea-room – that is, if he isn’t getting his cuddles from one of the staff or volunteers. Tuggy is much loved.
There are many other older cats that we are watching carefully as they age – their fragility tugs at the heart, and we want them to be as comfortable as possible in their autumn days.
Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few –
And these few precious days I’ll spend with you,
These precious days I’ll spend with you
– Kurt Weill “September Song”
Featured image: Tugboat (back) snuggling with Colin (BC)