Farewell to best gardener ever, Spencer-cat

September 3rd, 2010 Posted in cats

This morning we bid goodbye to one of our best garden friends, Spencer-cat.

Spencer cat

I know that many gardeners go through this loss.  Actually, one time a gardener we taped was worried whether he qualified, since he didn’t have a cat. He noted that almost every CTG garden included one.  Hey, that wasn’t my idea! Gardeners just seem to attract cats (or dogs, too, of course). And more than once, years after a taping, I run into gardeners and find out that what they treasure most about the video is the beloved pet who is no longer with them. So, camera operator Ed Fuentes & I make a point to get every (willing) pet in!

But, until we rescued our first little group of ferals, I was so allergic to cats that I kept Benadryl with me on every shoot. Without it, I’d get so sick that I came close to catastrophe.

Then a feral mom brought us her starved kittens one very hot summer.  I was so determined to save this little family that my allergies disappeared!  We became cat parents (and learned a lot about how to turn ferals into pets).

In 2001, a mature cat showed up and refused to leave. The other cats tried to chase him off. He sat stoic.  We took a picture with our first cheapie digital camera and I made a flyer to take around the neighborhood. A neighbor said it looked like the cat that had been left when the people moved out.  Hiss.

At Windsor Park Vet, we learned that he was approximately 10. With our official “adoption papers” (the bill!), we named him Spencer, after Spencer Tracy, since he was so calm.

He was the first to adopt our initial rendition of the cat perch on a pear tree stump. My first experiment with free “baby” Photoshop software was to fix a scratch on his nose.

Spencer cat on cat perch

When we got Chester the cocker spaniel, Spencer was the first cat to accept him. Quickly they became cuddle buddies.

Spencer cat Christmas

If you’ve suffered pet losses of your own, I highly recommend Cleveland Amory’s The Best Cat Ever. It’s the last of a trilogy that started with the rescue of Polar Bear, the cat that inspired Amory to start the animal sanctuary, Black Beauty Ranch.

Even if you don’t have cats, it’s a great read for Amory’s crazy stories of his life as a professional writer. And his funny tales of life with Polar Bear help soften the hard blow we must all accept in the end, and how to deal with it.

Before bed, I tell everyone that they’re the best cat/dog/bunny/husband ever. Try it sometime.  Something in your voice with those simple words is very powerful.

Linda

  1. 47 Responses to “Farewell to best gardener ever, Spencer-cat”

  2. By Louise Laczko on Sep 3, 2010

    Hi Linda,
    I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I know Spencer was very much a part of your life. He was a beautiful cat. He came to you because he knew… he sensed that you would take care of him. I, too, have and have had many pets and it is so hard to say goodbye to them. Presently I have a Turkish Angora named Dusti and a Golden Retriever named Celia. We learn some of life’s greatest lessons from our animals…I shall take your advice and tell them again that they are the best cat/dog ever! May Spencer rest in peace. Louise

    Reply

    Linda reply on September 3rd, 2010 5:01 pm:

    Thank you! And my kisses to Dusti and Celia. They sound like a fun pair.

    Reply

  3. By Rob Breeze on Sep 3, 2010

    My sincerest condolences on Spencer’s death. Last year I had to deal with the deaths of my 13-year old cat AND dog and it’s tough to emotionally cope wit, especially if they’re your only companions. Eventually I adopted a shelter dog and “inherited” a stray cat, and that has helped. But I still have Sugar and Brandy’s ashes and lots of pictures to remember them by and I’ll bet you do, too. Just stay away from “The Rainbow Bridge” and “Marly and Me,” unless you want to cry for three days. Hang in there, Linda–a lot of us know what you’re going through.

    Reply

  4. By Iris/Society Garlic, Austin on Sep 3, 2010

    I’m so sorry to hear this, Linda. What a great second half of a long life he must have had with you, though!

    Reply

    Linda reply on September 3rd, 2010 5:58 pm:

    Thanks, Iris! Your painting came at a perfect time. We plan to add the date to the back of it since this painting will commemorate Spencer!

    Reply

  5. By Michele on Sep 3, 2010

    Oh no. Oh no, no, no. I am so sorry that Spencer has left your life. What a wonderful friend he must have been. Losing a pet is devastating. Every time it happens to me I just fall apart.
    I’ll send some white light his way. Good, good kitty.
    Love,
    Michele

    Reply

    Linda reply on September 3rd, 2010 7:52 pm:

    Honestly, I think your new kitty coming just now was the perfect signal that as one dear one leaves us, another one joins a super Wabi-Sabi family!

    Reply

  6. By Suzanne on Sep 3, 2010

    Linda, I am so sorry to hear of Spencer’s passing. However I am sure that the part of his life that was spent with you all was the best. Over the years I have had to bid goodbye to my beautiful rescued dog Jesse and our big old funny guy Jacob, and to two wonderful rescued kitties, Mick and Spooky. Now our remaining rescued feline child Tyler resides with my former partner, but I get to see him regularly. It is what we have to go through when we open our hearts to these wonderful animals. They certainly enrich our lives and our gardens. Love this blog (and Tom Spencer’s as well), and love watching CTG online (since I am in Fort Worth). It always makes me feel good to see it. So, my sincere thanks go out to you and Tom and all the great folks, in front of and behind the scenes, that make CTG such a wonderful show!

    Reply

    Linda reply on September 3rd, 2010 7:57 pm:

    Suzanne, thanks so much for writing! Your words are so right: it’s what we gave to go through when we open our hearts, and you’re reminding me to remember that fabulous years and not today (or the past hard year). And wow, I’m so thrilled that you’re watching online in Ft. Worth! Feel free to send me your questions. Thanks for the kudos! By the way, let KERA know you’d like to see CTG on TV too!

    Reply

    Suzanne reply on September 4th, 2010 1:54 am:

    Oh, yes, and my sister watches CTG in Austin. She and my brother-in-law live in Round Rock, and currently have two dogs (one rescued), one rescued formerly feral house cat (raised from a kitten and appropriately named Lucky), and several feral cats that they feed. They finally were able to get all of their ferals neutered, hurray! I will send KERA a note about CTG; they don’t have nearly enough gardening shows on up here :) . The Victory Garden was my very first gardening show to watch, here on Channel 13 many years ago. Happy gardening and wonderful kitty memories to you…

    Reply

    Linda reply on September 4th, 2010 3:32 pm:

    Maybe I’ll meet them sometime! Have them send me questions. Sounds like a good family too. We’ve rescued a bunch of strays/ferals, got them neutered, etc. and eventually found them homes. Yes, VG was my first show to watch. Russell Morash was my vicarious mentor for CTG!

  7. By Brent Henry on Sep 3, 2010

    Hey, that sounds like what I told you when you taped my yard! I am very sorry to hear of your loss. I know it is tough, but I always remember all of the wonderful things you received by having him in your life. Jenga is doing wonderful (if not my garden right now) and will start competing in Agility next month.

    Reply

    Linda reply on September 3rd, 2010 7:50 pm:

    Well, yeah, you were the one I was thinking of! Wow, yahoosers for that Jenga. Please send pictures of her in agility. Do you know: there is actually agility competition for rabbits?

    Reply

    Brent Henry reply on September 4th, 2010 6:30 am:

    No I didn’t! That must be fun. I have seen a video of a cat running on an agility course.

    Reply

  8. By Sarah on Sep 3, 2010

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Linda. My dog, Lena, means the world to me. Like Spencer, she has been an excellent model for my garden photos. Tonight I’ll her that she is the best dog ever. (I’ll tell the husband that he’s the best too.)

    Reply

    Linda reply on September 3rd, 2010 7:48 pm:

    Lena gets kisses from me for being a good photo model. Dogs are tough! Cats sit around a lot. Thank you so very much for writing!

    Reply

  9. By Linda on Sep 3, 2010

    I know you will miss him, and I will miss him in your blog, too. We lost an old (23 years old) cat a few years back–they are wonderful companions, even into old age.

    Reply

    Linda reply on September 4th, 2010 7:02 pm:

    Linda, thank you!

    Reply

  10. By katina on Sep 3, 2010

    So sorry to hear about Spencer cat. Since my cat went though an acute renal failure scare almost a year ago, I treasure every night that she decides to snuggle with me in my armpit when I go to bed.

    Reply

    Linda reply on September 4th, 2010 3:33 pm:

    Oh, I’m so sorry about the renal failure scare. We got a scare with Spencer a year ago that it was kidney failure, but instead it was an inoperable tumor. Indeed, we’ve treasured every day especially since then. Best wishes to your sweetie.

    Reply

  11. By Pam/Digging on Sep 3, 2010

    What a sweet kitty he must have been. I’m sorry you’ve lost a good buddy. But I’m glad you got to enjoy him for a while.

    Reply

    Linda reply on September 4th, 2010 3:32 pm:

    Thank you Pam.

    Reply

  12. By Bob Harper on Sep 4, 2010

    Well, dear Linda. I feel for your loss and hope your hurt will soon abate. When I lost my dog of 13 years long ago, I stayed home from work and cried for 3 days. So, I know you gotta hurt. The last line in your message was beautiful. And, you will survive. In time the hurt will be replaced by sweet memories of Spencer. Love you, Bob

    Reply

    Linda reply on September 4th, 2010 3:30 pm:

    Dear Bob, thank you. Bet your bulbs are about to go crazy!

    Reply

  13. By Tina Poe on Sep 4, 2010

    I’m so sorry for your loss. It sounds like Spencer had a great life with you, and he’ll be looking over you and your garden forever.

    Reply

    Linda reply on September 4th, 2010 3:27 pm:

    Thank you, Tina!

    Reply

  14. By Wizzie on Sep 4, 2010

    Linda,

    I am so sorry your your family’s loss. It is so tough when we lose a member of the family whether they are two or four legged.

    wizzie

    Reply

    Linda reply on September 4th, 2010 3:27 pm:

    Thanks Wizzie! I lost a good bad bug catcher too.

    Reply

  15. By Jo on Sep 4, 2010

    Farmer John and I are so sorry that you lost your sweet Spencer. I always particularly loved seeing his photos, as he looked almost exactly like my favorite cat of all time Man Ray. He died several years ago, and though I still miss him, there are so many great memories. It’s amazing how much we fall in love with our pets. I know from talking with you, and from your writings, how much you love yours. These wonderful animals so enrich our lives.

    Reply

    Linda reply on September 6th, 2010 12:37 pm:

    Thanks, Jo. I’m always sad when a malady befalls your sweet chickens. Not the the same as beloved Man Ray, but it’s hard to lose any of our sweeties.

    Reply

  16. By Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings on Sep 4, 2010

    Beautifully written Linda. As you can imagine, we have loads of feral cats out here in the country. Some I’ve made into better pets than others. Right now, we have a mom, Crazy Daisy, and her kittens. We also have Sophie and Audrey who are great cats.

    Crazy Daisy is a nut, but we still love her. Trying to catch her to get her spayed. Wish us luck.

    Your Spencer was a beautiful and much beloved cat. He and you were fortunate to find each other. Oh,and feral cats are the best mousers ever.

    Reply

    Linda reply on September 6th, 2010 12:37 pm:

    Thanks, Dee. I love that name Crazy Daisy!

    Reply

  17. By TexasDeb on Sep 5, 2010

    Oh Linda – sad times in Spencer’s garden for sure. We have all sorts of beloved departed family pets around our outdoor spaces buried by one of their favorite garden hangouts so they could continue to “supervise” our activities.

    I believe each of these furry companions opens up their own space in our hearts, one that never empties and helps keep our boundaries fluid so there is always room for one more, one more.

    Tears for your loss mingled with joy for the shared love.

    Reply

    Linda reply on September 6th, 2010 12:36 pm:

    Thank you so much!

    Reply

  18. By Darrel Mayers on Sep 5, 2010

    Sorry to read of your loss, Linda. If I remember correctly, when I visited your garden a few years back you seemed to have practically created a ‘heaven-on-earth’ for your cats – complete with cat-nip patch, and a type of ladder onto the roof for sunbathing. What a wonderful life you created for Spencer. He will certainly stay on spirit in your garden… and in your thoughts. Our sympathies to you.

    Reply

    Linda reply on September 6th, 2010 12:36 pm:

    Thanks, Darrel! It’s still a pet haven, that is for sure! Wish they’d help me prune, though. . .

    Reply

  19. By Cindy, MCOK on Sep 5, 2010

    Linda, when Kinky Friedman lost his beloved Cuddles, he wrote an epilogue to her and appended it to ELVIS, JESUS & COCA-COLA. I have a framed lithograph of it because it moved me so. Here’s a link. http://www.kinkajourecords.com/cudepil.htm

    Spencer was a lucky guy … he chose his people well.

    Reply

    Linda reply on September 6th, 2010 12:35 pm:

    Thanks, Cindy, I’ll check that out. I love the Kinkster and want to make a donation to his pet ranch in honor of Spencer.

    Reply

  20. By daphne richards on Sep 6, 2010

    I’m so sorry to hear about Spencer. The loss of pets is unimaginable. I know you will cherish your memories of him forever.

    Reply

    Linda reply on September 6th, 2010 12:35 pm:

    Thanks, Daphne.

    Reply

  21. By Jenny on Sep 6, 2010

    So sad. How lucky he was to find such a caring family. We once had a feral cat or rather kitten. She was only about 6 months old but gradually we realized she was pregnant. We had a devil of a job catching her and taking her to the vet for treatment! Could not imagine another litter of ferals in the neighborhood. With shots and double stitches it was pretty expensive. Anyway, we felt we had done our best for her. There was no way to domesticate that little wild thing. She hunted birds and lizards and at least didn’t have to worry about getting pregnant again. How we love those little furry things.

    Reply

    Linda reply on September 7th, 2010 11:08 am:

    Thanks, Jenny!

    Reply

  22. By renee (renee's roots) on Sep 9, 2010

    So sorry about your loss, Linda. I’m sure Spencer knew the day he arrived that he’d stepped into the animal loving home of his dreams. No wonder he didn’t budge. And now his memory will live on this loving tribute.

    Reply

  23. By Annie in Austin on Sep 10, 2010

    Here late but with tender thoughts for you, Linda- glad you saved Spencer and sorry you couldn’t have him forever.

    Annie

    Reply

    Linda reply on September 10th, 2010 4:26 pm:

    Thank you Annie. And what a wonderful philosophy, too! I adore you.

    Reply

  24. By Vertie on Sep 12, 2010

    So sorry, Linda. I just saw this. I too took in a mature cat, and he turned out to be the best cat friend I’d ever had. I hope Spencer and Cheerio have met now (they even look a bit alike), and that Harvey and Gaby are giving you a few extra kisses these days.

    Reply

    Linda reply on September 14th, 2010 1:51 pm:

    Thanks Vertie! I’m glad to know that Spencer has Cheerio to join him. I bet they’re having a good old time.

    Reply

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