Posted by: howvoicebegan | 15/04/2011

Happy Birthday, Spunky

The Kittens Are Born

On April 15, 1990, our cat gave birth to kittens. It was Easter. Ken picked out a cat for himself, Milky, who lived with us for the next 11 years. I picked out my own cat, Spunky, and we took our cats and all of our belongings from Olympia to Everett. I remember moving in that night, asking Mom if I could hold Spunky. Mom and Dad warned I had to hold her tight because she might get scared by the move and run out of the house, maybe never to be seen again. I held her tight. And Spunky stayed– for a total of 19 years.

I never knew a life without Spunky; she had always been there in my life from my first memories. Somehow she must have known that I had picked her out, because she was always my cat. She was never the housecat. She slept with me every night and mostly stayed in my room. Sometimes she ventured out to sit with me when I played the piano, or sometimes when I was pulling weeds in the rose beds she would come by and stay with me. She was afraid of men, but my brother and I believe she must have had Alzheimer’s in her last years because she seemed to forget she was afraid of men. Ken and Dad were no longer threats, and in her last years, she and my retired dad (and the dog) were the lone roamers of the house during the day and quickly became friends.

When I left for some time, my parents reported that she would walk around the house, peering in corners, meowing, as if seeming to say, “Where is Leslie?” Cats have the reputation of being aloof about your whereabouts, but Spunky cared, and she wouldn’t leave me alone when I came home.

She LOVED being cuddled. Honestly.

She would bring me presents of rats and birds. She sat on my computer and my books and sulked when I pushed her off. She slept on my white clothes. She’d throw up hairballs in the night. She’d let George lick her head until her fur was plastered backward. She demanded I share my food with her. She liked to be vacuumed. She liked to eat shoelaces as a young cat. She ate one of my fish in my fish tank. She stayed out of trouble, unlike her brother. She was quite a homebody. If animals are also called to have a “ministry,” I think Spunky understood hers and fulfilled it well. Her purpose was to bring delight to my family and be my companion. Sure, there were many days of sleeping on the job, but she met her purpose.

We were all amazed that she just kept going. She outlived the neighborhood pets, as though she had decided that death just wasn’t for her. She kept living, breathing, and purring.

But, in July 2009 Dad and I took her to the vet. I knew in my heart it wasn’t good. The vet recommended that she be put down. She was going through kidney failure. We cried, prayed, and said goodbye. I came home catless.

Though I was shattered that I had lost my childhood friend, my “daughter,” and family member, I was also relieved. In just one week I was leaving for 3 months for South Africa and was agonizing over her: what if she dies while I am gone? What if she thinks I abandoned her? I was stressed but I knew I couldn’t hold back on South Africa for my cat. Instead, God allowed her to stay with me long enough to give me memories, and just long enough to allow me to feel free to go where I needed to go.

Animals give us a chance to see an entire lifecycle from birth to death in our own short span of life. The show us what it’s like to live simply, without wanting a lot, to love unconditionally, and what it really means to forgive and forget. They show us that we have only a few moments to make the most of the relationships around us. They show us that nothing escapes death.

Happy birthday, Spunky

I got her ashes after I returned from South Africa. When I went again to the orphanage in January, I took some of her ashes and scattered them at the orphanage. When I’m here, I’m never far from her.

Happy birthday to my beloved Spunky. We will never, ever forget you.



  1. *tears*

  2. You put tears in my eyes with this wonderful post. I love the point of view you have about seeing the cycle of life and I love that you brought her ashes back to south africa. This is such a wonderfull story. I like the way you view the world and all the creatures that live in it.

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