Our cat Shadowfax died at 7:51 a.m. this morning. He would have been eighteen years old in September.
Shadow was an affectionate cat and very tolerant of human folly. However, in his own world, the savage lands beyond the screen door, he was the fiercest of warriors. Marianne will never forget the summer morning, some years ago, when she opened the door and discovered a freshly-eviscerated juvenile opossum on the back porch. Nor the next day, when she found another. Nor the next three days, one possum after another.
In old age, Shadow slowed down a bit, but he never lost his spirit. Last winter, seeing him curled up happily before the wood stove and knowing this day would come, I wrote the following lines:
The aged warrior is fast asleep
Coiled by the wood-stove fire.
All you who mortal glory seek
Stop here and look no higher.
Bold slaughterer of mice and snakes,
God's punisher of birds,
Nemesis of young opossums --
Oblivious to my words.
In his prime, no foreign cat
Dared set foot in his yard.
From battle he returned untouched,
Silken, sure, and hard.
In decline he brought home scars
On his pink nose; an ear was pierced.
But not one scratch upon his butt.
His softest moment still was fierce.
Mere youth today can best his strength
Yet still he pleads each night
For someone to unlock to door
To one more challenge, one last fight.
Sleep well, small warrior. The mice may be rejoicing now. But your ghost will feast upon them tonight.
Above: Kyle Cassidy took this picture on his cell phone at a party in our backyard two weeks ago. Ordinarily, Shadow was a dignified creature. But he was a sucker for a beautiful woman's lap.