Sunday, August 09, 2009

Write what you know

For the past fifteen years, I've been trying to think of how to write bout an interesting four month period in my life. One of my concerns was libel but if I only told my part of the story I might be able to avoid that. I've never be sure where to start. Chronological makes the most sense but isn't necessarily the most interesting. I tried fictionalizing it once but got frustrated when what really happened messed with my plot, or vice versa. So I turned it into a great ice-breaker conversation at parties or with people that intimidated me.

For reasons beyond my control, and against any sane rational arguments, I had lions and a tiger living in the garage where I lived. It was a very bad idea, and poorly managed but the cats and I did our best with what we had. I'm not sure if it was the sound of my voice, the companionship or the subject material but they would listen intently every night, gathering to the ends of the pen where I sat on the haystack reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

This week I lost my last tangible link to that time frame. Hera, the tiny little Tabby cat that taught me everything I know about felines, succumbed to kidney failure. That's her in the header when she was about a week away from giving birth to four kittens. Seriously. She was always tiny.

She was a stray living in my neighbour's barn when she first crawled beneath my garage door. Fortunately, I was in there tending to the lions. Unfortunately, I wasn't fast enough to scoop her up. One of the guys who was supposed to look after the big cats, grabbed the kitten and stuck her in front of the adolescent male lion's face. Zeus sniffed the kitten and she retaliated by popping him on the nose with her wee paw. He was horrified and jumped to the back of his pen.

Eventually I had to keep her in the house because she was fascinated by Zeus and his sister (that's his tail in the left of the picture) Sadly this is the only photograph that remains of the lions and Hera(who else had the temerity to face down the all mighty Zeus). When the lions moved on from their temporary hide-out, Hera remained with me.

She was a tough little spirit disguised in a tiny package. She had the heart of a lion, and more courage than Zeus. She reminded me every day that things are not always as they appear, that we're more resilient than we can imagine and that resilience comes from being flexible. Bend what you're given to make it work.

The other night I dreamt that she was curled beside Zeus's belly, the two of them sleeping, and I knew beyond a doubt that it was time to let her go. I'll miss her head butts.

Maybe some day I'll be able to tell the story of lions in the garage. Until then, I have some great memories about the kitten who punched the lion in the nose.


  1. Anonymous11:26 PM

    First I have to wipe away my tears. There that's better.

    Sheryl, you are such a wonderful writer!

    I'm slowly understanding how wonderful pets are ... this is something you've understood for many years and have been blessed with such beautiful pets as your Hera. God Bless Hera!

  2. So, so sorry to hear about the loss of your kitty.

    And I would love to hear why the lions were in the garage! ;)

  3. Thank you for your kind words about Hera.

    Alice - the lions's story is hard to tell as other people were responsible for the whole mess. They were in hiding from the media and authorities and my boss/roommate offered to hide them for a week. Then she went off to school and left me to take care of it all. One week turned into four months. Never a dull moment but it was not a good situation for the cats or me. We survived though and grew fond of each other.