Goodbye Spunky

My wife and I take care of a few feral cats that live in our neighborhood.  They move quietly and gracefully into and out of our backyard and remind me of lithe shadows.  We feed and water them, and when it got summertime hot back in early June, we constructed a crude but effective cat “shelter” which gave the felines a chance to get out of the sun.

We know all these animals very well.  We’ve named them, smiled and laughed at them, discussed their various personalities, and even fallen head over heels for a few, but have only managed to touch two or three.  Most are wild as lynxes.

About three months ago, two young females, sisters to one another, simultaneously gave birth to their first litter of kittens.  Out of both litters, only one survived, and he was raised in our backyard, both sisters sharing mothering duties.  We were honored that they trusted us so much that they moved him out of whatever hiding spot he was born in and under a flowering crepe myrtle right next to our backdoor.  This gave us the opportunity to watch the little ginger-haired boy grow from days-old kitten to rowdy youngster. 

We started holding him early on, and he became our inside-outside kitty cat pet.  We brought him into our home for hours at a time, and when he wanted out—clever rascal that he was—he’d go to the door and give his little high-pitched meow which was his way of politely asking to go outside.  It took us a couple of weeks of trial and error, but we finally decided to call him Spunky because the name was so true to his nature.

A few days ago, on a Friday, Spunky disappeared.  We went and looked for him as did his two mothers.  Late Friday evening, way after dark, we noticed both moms sort of crouched down by our back fence.  We carried a small ladder outside, climbed it, peered over our neighbor’s privacy fence and into their backyard, but there wasn’t enough illumination to make out anything.    

The next morning, my wife got up very early and dragged the ladder back outside while I lounged in bed.  She then came back inside and said, in a voice that frightened me, “I think I found Spunky.  I hope not though.”

Sure enough, we found our little kitty, dead, in the neighbor’s yard.  He had been killed by their large, white, brutish dog.

I made arrangements with our neighbor to retrieve his body.  I then carried him home, dug a hole in the perfect spot, and buried him.  It was a very hard chore to complete.  I had picked him up many times when he was alive; it was quite a different experience to carry his lifeless body.  All the way home, I spoke to him even though I knew he couldn’t hear me—and that he’d never hear me again.

My wife was away during the burial, but when she got home, I was just finishing this important duty.  She then began to cry, and I fought back the tears as my heart felt so very heavy.  We both stood next to his grave and told him how sorry we were and how much we missed him.  Azza, my wife, went to our garden, cut a few beautiful blossoms, and decorated his grave.

Spunky was a little thing.  He was beginning to wander around even though his experience in the world was very limited, too limited for his own good.  His trip into our neighbor’s yard was a horrible mistake that cost him his life.    

Our little boy had a short but happy time on this earth.  He scarfed down food, played, ran wild, climbed trees, and seemed to be incredibly alive.  He lived like all kitty cats should—as if each day might be his last.  Then, quite abruptly, he was gone.

It seems to me that people and cats have a lot in common.  Those that make it to old age can thank both luck and the fact that they learned, early on, an important lesson:  That taking risks, though exciting, can be terribly costly if things don’t go perfectly well.  Life boils down to finding how to strike that perfect balance between pushing the envelope and being foolish or fatally naive. 

Now, when I look at the older cats in our “cat family,” I know that they all have one thing in common—they learned, when they were just little things themselves, which backyards to go into and which ones to avoid.

Though the work involved in burying Spunky was hard—sweat poured down my face and its salt stung my eyes as I dug—this duty (and “duty” is the right word) gave me one last chance to demonstrate how much he meant to me.  There is no greater way to show love than to be there to and through THE VERY END.


Please love each other and those small creatures who need us and make our lives joyful.  Thanks for reading my story.    

45 thoughts on “Goodbye Spunky

  1. Sometimes I think it might be harder to lose a beloved pet than it is a family member. That might sound harsh, but the truth is, there is no love greater than the unconditional love of a dearly beloved pet. My heart hurts for you. 🥲

      1. Young or old, it is still one of the most painful moments that a loving, compassionate human can have. Ah, but the joy of experiencing the love of a sweet furry four-legged thing makes it all worthwhile, even through the tears! Hugs to all pet lovers!

      2. True, Julia. When a bit of time has passed, I hope we can get another little kitten. My wife is unsure that she wants another one because she’s taking this hard. There will always be only one Spunky though.

      3. Spunky’s story is especially tragic because he was just beginning to come into his own when his life ended. Plus, he was so innocent. He stood no chance against the canine that ended his life. You put your finger on the saddest part of the whole story. Thanks for commenting.

    1. Spunky gave us nothing but pure. I can’t say the same thing about all the interactions I have with some family members. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    1. Yes, the world needs more kindness, more empathy, more love. I can’t understand those who get off on being cruel and in dishing out pain to others. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. I grew up on a farm with lots of barn cats, which for me meant around 3 litters of kittens every summer, every little girl’s paradise! Unfortunately, I learned the phrase my dad passed down to me from his father, “If you’re going to have livestock you’re going to have dead stock.” Each kitten that didn’t make it broke my heart at that age, and still thinking about my family dog passing away brings tears to my eyes. It did make me appreciate every moment we get with animals, who are so much a reflection of ourselves. RIP Spunky <3

    1. Hi, Ellen. Like you, I grew up on a farm (mostly ranch). I have many fond memories of accompanying my grandfather on early mornings as we went out to feed the livestock. We also had a milk cow that he would call to the house. I would watch him milk the animal, filling up an entire pail of the warm white stuff in the process. We never left the milking stall without pouring some milk into an old hubcap that served as a bowl. Lo and behold, after delivering the liquid, the barn cats (they were always midnight black in color) would creep out of every secret spot and lap up the milk. Mostly, though, the cats fended for himself, and I can tell you, we never had a mouse or rat problem. I was very familiar with the cycle of life in those days. Livestock died and was sometimes slaughtered and so I was exposed to animal death. In recent years, though, I’ve gotten away from those roots and become more “urbanized.” Still, though sad, there was something familiar about picking up our dead kitten, carrying him home, and putting him in the ground. I’ve always had a very soft heart though. When my grandfather would kill chickens to eat, I could never be a part of that. And it was hard to see Spunky in the state he was in after that ugly canine had done his work. Thanks for sharing your story. It seems we have had similar upbringings.

  3. Spunky made a big impression in his short time here. I am sorry for your loss. Thank you for writing about your time with him.

    1. As my wife told me on the day we buried him, “We will never forget Spunky, no matter what.” She spoke the truth there. Thank you for your kind and supportive words.

  4. I have gotten so close to some of my little pets over the years that they were like family members and when one of them would die, I would mourn and grieve. I finally decided that I would never have a pet again because losing them is much too hard to bear.

    1. I told my wife the other day that I wanted another kitten. She says that Spunky’s loss was too painful for her and that she’s not sure she handle another loss like that. So, we shall see what happens. Thank you for sharing your story. I totally understand where you’re coming from.

  5. Dear Troy,

    What an immensely moving piece of writing. I could feel your wife’s and your heart all the way through it. Rich, so very rich. There are tears in my eyes now as I’m writing this.

    Thank you for sharing so personally.

    Warm regards,


    1. Thank you so much, Art. Yes, I wanted to see if I could capture some of that emotion in my writing. It’s amazing how attached we became to Spunky in the short time we had him. Maybe that’s the reason? The shortness of his stay increases the poignancy of his loss? Warm regards to you, Art. I hope things are going well in your life and with your creative endeavors.

      1. You’re very welcome, Troy. You definitely captured your feelings related to the short life of Spunky. Thank you for your kind wishes! Please know that I send warm wishes to you and your wife.

  6. For a cats lover as I am, I can see the sorrow and the sadness of this event. But, please, take another one, you can give much to them and they can give much to you, especially if you take them off the road. They are capable of pure and unconditional love, you know it. Thank you for sharing this personal and heartbreaking event.

    1. Thank you, Cristiana. I will need to convince my wife that we should have another kitten. She tells me her heart is broken. In time, she will feel better and we’ll become “parents” again. Thank you for your kind words and for your encouragement.

  7. Sorry for your loss, Troy. We often don’t realize how losing a pet affects us. You’ve articulated that well here.

    1. Hi, Cheryl. That’s an interesting take. You’re absolutely right. Freedom and risk are partners. I just wish he had taken risks associated with a little less cost. We still miss him. Thank you. Yes, cats are the greatest. I could watch/study them all day.

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