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My Gabrielle

25 September 2023

On 25 September 2023, Gabrielle, the Snowshoe Cat, quietly passed away in her sleep. The Home Cat has journeyed to her Celestial Home. She is re-united with her “sister,” Annabella.

Brave and beautiful, soft and sweet, graceful, strong, and lithe, Gabby soldiered on after her sister-cat, Annabella, unexpectedly left her side on the first day of summer in 2018. My Annabelle, ever the black cat, vanished late that afternoon. The next day, from my kitchen window, I saw Gabrielle go in search of her kitty-pally. She was cautiously stepping down the grassy slope from which Annabella vanished.

Gabby then confidently assumed the role of Queen Cat, residing in the garage of a ramshackle rental house. She performed her duties quite admirably. Being naturally regal always helped her to rise to any challenge.

At the end of July 2020, Gabrielle rode with me as I drove to our newly constructed dream house, Larkhaven. She was tranquil and joyous in her new garage, filled with mazes of boxes and boxes and boxes, furniture, and a foam mattress, just for her!

Our Snowshoe Cat was a born adventuress. She was the guiding spirit behind what became the duo of GB and AB in the Milligan household. During the summer of 2007, this little kitten made a command decision to escape a completely unacceptable and ghastly life in the hovel behind my house. She lit out one day and found shelter, sleeping on the branch of a nectarine tree outside my kitchen window. I’d watch her dozing on that precarious branch whilst doing dishes.

For almost a year, she was either in that tree; or burrowed away, under the tarp of the short-bed of a vintage F-100 truck; or tucked away, somewhere, in my garage. She liked to be around the washer and dryer located in there, especially whenever Dear Daughter was doing her laundry. It didn’t take long before this tiny Snowshoe cat was dubbed “The Laundry Cat.”

By St. Patrick's Day of 2008, that momentous year of 2008, she — and a week or two later, Annabella — became my cats through a rescue mission of mercy toward these emaciated abandoned animals. They turned out to be a most fortuitous gift, a godsend, or, as the French call it, une aubaine.

She helped me to turn many many pages in my life. She was a delightful, affectionate, vocal, often goofy cat. She had many nicknames: Queen Frostine, the Goofette, and, most of all, due to vocal expressions of self: Gabby. I designated her Sgt. Tibbs, after the barn cat in the vintage Disney animated flick, 101 Dalmatians, because her attitude toward duty was so similar.

The Gabrielle ran a tight ship in her kitty castle, and she never gave up that ship!

During the past few years, I hung my hand-washed laundry in the garage so that she, and I, would feel more at home amidst what was essentially a barren, though never bleak, landscape. Gabby helped me to fill in that blank canvas, inspiring me to draw a uniquely original and striking design of Larkhaven and its forested acreage.

She routinely patrolled the perimeter of this abode, occasionally taking it upon herself to explore undiscovered ground, particularly higher ground. Climbing to the top of the hillside toward the rear of Larkhaven was but one of her more pleasurable triumphs. We informed her that location formed her outer boundary, but I think she ventured a wee bit further when we weren’t looking.

Gabrielle most definitely liked heights, and she almost comically enjoyed options. With a sense of surprise, and appreciation for the surprise, she created opportunities. One of her favorite displays of her creative resourcefulness involved vintage but pristine linens for her bed. My swapping out the dusty, flattened towel with an old handmade cotton placemat brought out the grateful wonderment in her blue-blue eyes. I shall always feel grateful for the comfort, peace of mind and pure contentment that she found, during the past few country autumns and winters, in the warmth of her Magic Towel, a heating pad wrapped in a towel in her bed.

Gabby never failed to let me know what my duty was toward her. For that endearingly ethical but strong sense of conscience — in a cat — I am forever indebted to her.

She had most certainly come a long way from her first summer at the Peach House, with the Milligans. In the afternoon, at the rear of that house, she dozed in her “bedroom”, a cool, damp expanse of soil beneath the leafy branches of the dwarf mock orange bush (a humongous shrub that mocks the concept of “dwarf”).

She was a bit of a pack-rat, or pack-cat. When she found, on the ground, some small sections of gray foam insulation from the faucet for the garden hose, she carted them off for safekeeping in her kitty-bedroom. On blazing hot afternoons, she’d rest beneath the dwarf mock orange branches, beside those pieces of round gray foam, after having played with them.

I don’t think she ever got over the theft by Annabella of the long, thin snake that she, Gabrielle, had killed. At dinnertime one evening, my family and I watched Gabby, outside the window. She was running swiftly after Annabella who was carrying the limp linear reptile in her mouth to who-knows-where. The look on her sweet, lovely face said:

“She stole my snake!”

Gabrielle was the talkative, expressive disciplinarian sergeant whereas Annabella was a whimsical, comical, cuddly, adorable sprite. GB loved heights; AB firmly stuck to terra firma. I nicknamed them Ping and Pong because they functioned as two halves of a marvelous whole, two opposites that comprised a very wondrous yin and yang.

They created a fun feline team that was larger than life. Each pet thereby became a fictional character for me, effortlessly, spontaneously, and with bountiful pleasure. Gabby is immortalized in the character of Penelope in NOCTURNE. Annabella is Gisèle, the black cat, in THE DAWN.

The year of 2008, when I adopted those forsaken little felines, that time feels oh so long ago. Indeed, it was oh so long ago.

Any duration of time is most accurately estimated, not in minutes, or weeks, or months, or years, but through its intensity. The intensity of the year 2008, and of the experiences therein, could, and did, fill volumes, at least they did for me, namely, the two volumes known as THE DAWN.

I do my best to keep my eyes focused upon the prize — the private sphere — which is the only world that really counts. My Snowshoe cat played an enormous part in encouraging me to steadfastly keep my eyes on that prize. I’ve oft looked to my Gabrielle for perspective, to help me regain a sense of balance and proportion within the craziness that others so willingly, even eagerly inhabit. Her loyalty to me and her expectations of me to care for her vouchsafed a feeling of placid reliability in my routines of life, the everyday customs that form the warp and woof of stability.

The simple joys of tending to this tender treasure offered solace to my heart. I could thankfully ignore the barking dogs, the inhumane humans, blaming, yet again, others for the plights they’ve brought to themselves.

Gabrielle possessed an elegance and a dignity all her own. No matter what manner of upset or alarm befell her, she refused to panic. During the summer of 2021, when the constant noise from the landscaping crew at Larkhaven sufficiently annoyed her one afternoon, she left her wonderful garage-home. I found her down the lane, holed up in a hollowed-out burrow. A large hole had been made by a fallen pine tree. Most likely, that covert space had been used by various predators.

She was quietly bold, with a steely, magnificent determination that was well hidden beneath her delicate, lovely beauty and those exquisite blue eyes. She could be silently provocative one minute, wide-eye demure the next. Steady, elegant, and serene, she lived a very long, healthy and fascinating life of more than 16 years. Those years were filled with millions of the magical moments and phenomenal memories that she bestowed upon me and my family.

Always on the job of being Queen Cat, regardless of the vexing, perplexing, or threatening situation, Gabrielle diligently did her duty. She carried on nobly, with tranquility, a delightful sense of amusement, and a splendid dedication to her precious and playful practices, and to the customs of her daily and nightly activities. True to the articulate taskmaster within her soft feline loveliness, she quite vocally let me know whenever I’d not met the cherished but exacting demands of her routine. She then bestowed upon me all of her affectionate love for having successfully met those infinitely rewarding needs of loving her.

With the abundant grace of God, this courageous cat displayed her marvelous self to the end of her time with us. I was thus able to gain supreme solace during this past month from my Beloved Snowshoe:

the beauty of her calm valor as she reclined, in the evening warmth, by the azalea bush in front of the kitchen window, location of the marking stone of Annabella; the gentle friskiness of her little nose, carefully sniffing the ground; her long, limber strides as she patrolled her domain in front of the house; her serene face as she proudly rested on the chaise-lounge cushion atop the curtain boxes in the garage, and majestically groomed herself.

She was called “Angel” before she was abandoned by her heartless “owner”. I adopted her and re-named her Gabrielle. She assuredly lived up to — and surpassed — that initial appellation as she became My Gabrielle.


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