Goodbye, Zeus

By Lisa Maria Boyles

One of the pains of having fur-babies is that their lifespan is so much shorter than ours. But when we’re lucky, they can still be part of our lives for a really long time.

After my first cat, Spock, died in 1999, me and my boyfriend at the time (later to be my husband and Katie’s dad) went to the old animal shelter on Villa in Clovis to find a new kitty to add to our family. Somehow we came home with two tiny gray striped kittens, a brother and sister. We couldn’t break up their family!

We named them Zeus and Hera — brother and sister in Greek Mythology — thus beginning our tradition of naming our pets after literary figures. Zeus and Hera were followed in the years to come by Apollo, Dante, Wilbur and Hedwig.

Zeus used to drape himself across Denny’s shoulders, surveying his world from the highest perch in the house. I’ve never seen another cat do that.

All of our pets were cats until Dante, a purebred redbone coonhound from Texas joined our family in 2004. By then, our three cats — Zeus, Hera and Apollo — had become outside cats. And Dante, who loved bounding after the cats when they ventured into his backyard territory, drove Zeus away. We looked for him for weeks, checking at the animal shelter, but the weeks dragged into months and we didn’t find him.

Outdoor cats generally have much shorter life expectancies than indoor cats, and (some of) ours were no exception. A few months after Zeus ran away, we lost Apollo and Hera just a couple of weeks apart, both to cars in the neighborhood. Again, Denny went back to the animal shelter, in hopes of bringing back a new cat for our family.

Six months after Dante chased Zeus off, Denny found him at the animal shelter!

Against their better judgment, the shelter people let us adopt our own cat back. Zeus and Dante maintained an uneasy truce, and Zeus mostly avoided the backyard until Dante passed away in 2013.

By then, the only one left in the house was Mom. The rest of us had gone our separate ways. Zeus and Mom — who has “never really been a cat person” — became companions. Zeus talked to her first thing in the morning when she goes out on the patio for her morning meditation.

Twenty-one years later — almost 40 percent of my life — Zeus has come to the end of his days. Katie and I stay with Mom once a week, and last night it startled me and made me sad to see his recent deterioration.

But he had a good life with us. Except for his six months on the street and in the kitty slammer back in 2005, he had a home with us where he was loved and cared for. Talked to every morning, hanging out with Mom. How many outdoor cats live to a ripe old age of 21?

Now Zeus is free to run again with his sister Hera, the great bug huntress.

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