I’m not really a cat person.
I’m a dog guy, all the way.
But, over the weekend, when we lost Li’l Cowgirl, it left a real loss in the family.
For starters, she was 18 years old. I don’t know about you, but I never had a cat that lived that long. She moved with us not once – but twice. And we’ve lived in the same house for 15 years.
One of my five daughters picked her up from a pet store in California. She was not the prettiest cat. She was smaller than most all her life. But she was fearless, which is amazing because we’ve always lived in places with plenty of predators – coyotes, foxes, bobcats, sometimes mountain lions and, of course, dogs.
And that’s the weirdest thing about Li’l Cowgirl. She never liked other cats. She always hung out with our dogs. The dogs seemed amazed by her because she was not afraid. She never backed off when they charged her, just for fun. They would open their mouths and pick her up, and she didn’t freak out. At one point, when we lived in the wilds of southern Oregon, we had four dogs – a chocolate Lab named Bosco, whom I eulogized at his death, an Australian shepherd mix named Baxter, whom I eulogized at his death, some kind of weird mutt named Snickers and a wolf-Malamute with six toes named Sophie.
Guess who Cowgirl slept with outside every night – those four, often curled up with one or more of them.
We lived in the middle of the Redwood Forest – Bigfoot country. At one point, if I remember correctly, we had nine cats. Two survived southern Oregon, one of the most rural territories in the continental U.S. One was Cowgirl and the other was Tanya, nicknamed Pitbull, but she only lived 10 years. And she wasn’t nearly as friendly or quirky as Cowgirl.
When Cowgirl was younger, she liked to go on walks with the dogs. One day, the family went on a longer than usual walk in the woods – the same woods populated by lots of foxes, coyotes, bobcats and other predators. At one point, I noticed she went off in another direction from the group. I wasn’t worried because she was more of a follower, and I assumed she would find her way home – maybe even beat us back.
When we got home and she was not there, we were more than a little concerned. She was so small for an adult cat that you would have thought she was a kitten. She weighed nothing – less than half of what some of our other cats do.
Guess who ventured off and returned with her the next day – Baxter, her buddy. He must have missed and feared for her as much as the rest of the family.
A couple years ago, we started wondering just how long this skinny little cat would live. She never changed. She never needed vet care. She just went on like the Energizer bunny. Dogs came and went. Other cats came and went. Cowgirl lived on.
We didn’t let her stay outside anymore, though she loved to let herself out and let herself in – several times a day. She shed like nobody’s business. Every time I touched her I sneezed.
She didn’t eat much. She liked to drink out of our glasses instead of her bowl. She really liked climbing up on the sink and drinking the running water. She would drink for 20 minutes at a time if you let her. But not out of a bowl except for survival purposes. She liked the dog’s bowl better. She even played in it and tried to bathe in it. She had an uncanny ability to communicate her desires, and she really did like to be with her humans.
So, maybe you’re asking yourself the point of this column.
I don’t know. I just wanted to pay tribute to a little friend of 18 years.
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