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Hershey is Gone

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Hershey, the last feral cat at my building, has died. I wanted to believe that I was overreacting to her symptoms, especially when I saw her meandering around the property for a couple of weeks after she’d first seemed sick, but I was right to be worried. I started to count days, since the weekend, that I had not seen her around, hoping that I just wasn’t looking closely enough. But then I saw her outdoor house, a box covered in a blue tarp, removed from the alcove next to my neighbor’s apartment, and wrapped up to be taken away.

I asked the maintenance man, sitting on the steps at the last building, if he knew why Hershey’s house was wrapped up, and he said that Hershey had died, and my neighbor had asked him to pack up the cat house because she wouldn’t need it anymore, and maybe because she didn’t want the reminder.

I started sobbing as soon as I got into my apartment. But I was also very, very angry, at my neighbor for not seeking medical help for Hershey when her symptoms began, and at myself, for not confronting her or trying to trap Hershey myself to get her to the doctor.

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I’ve been told that there used to be fifteen feral cats on the property, and the lawns were dotted with dead mice (and these are the same people who are worried about my dogs peeing on the grass?). One of my neighbors was proactive about trapping the cats, to get them spayed and neutered, and intervening with new litters as soon as possible to get the kittens adopted out if at all possible. He supports a group called Alley Cat Allies based in Washington, DC that advocates for trapping and neutering programs, and helps fund one nearby. He also personally rescued cats that could not survive the feral life, and sought medical care for them whenever possible. Maybe it was all of his work, or just a change in the neighborhood, but by the time Mom and I had moved in, there were only two or three feral cats left. It was hard to tell, actually, because a bunch of my neighbors had indoor/outdoor cats as well, and left front doors or window open for the cats to go wandering on their own schedules, but eventually there were just two, Gimpy and Hershey.

And now there are none.

I’m supposed to be grateful that Hershey lived as long as she did, and as well as she did, as a feral cat. I’m supposed to be philosophical about her death. “That’s nature,” the maintenance man told me, with a shrug. “She wouldn’t have been able to tolerate a visit to the vet, or the medical care required,” another said.

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I worry that Hershey caught whatever illness killed Gimpy (the second to last feral cat, who died a month ago, at age thirteen), or that, even worse, someone put out poison that killed both cats, and my dogs might be vulnerable as well.

Before the blue tarp-wrapped cat house was removed from the lawn behind the building, the girls had a chance to sniff their goodbyes to Hershey. They took a long time, checking each crevice, seeming to recognize her smell, and her story, in each corner.

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“Hershey has to be here somewhere.”

There are still squirrels, and raccoons, and birds and, of course the dogs, around the place. But there is no more Hershey. I’d gotten used to having her around, and spying her through the greenery of the retaining wall. I’m not used to her being gone. I keep looking for her, everywhere.

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

189 responses »

  1. Geez, I didn’t even know Gimpy or Hershey and here I am crying- just too dang soft hearted I guess 😦 Most feral cats don’t last long out here- too many predators. 😦 They live such a hard life, and all too often it’s simply because people don’t bother to get their cats spayed or neutered and don’t want to take responsibility for the litters of kittens they produce. Each of these creatures deserves a happy life filled with love and the basic necessities- food, water, shelter, and companionship. They are NOT throw aways, like some people seem to think. Every animal I take into my home and heart (right on down to the chickens) is loved and treasured and cared for to the absolute best of my abilities. They deserve no less. I pray that both Hershey and Gimpy are up in Heaven now, rolling in fields of catnip, knowing no fear, or hunger, or pain, only joy. And thank you, Rachel, for being one those people who cares.

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    • I volunteered (years ago) at an animal shelter. It was a very sleepy place, until kitten season, then it was crowded! If only we could find these feral cats when they are little ones, we could really change their lives.

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  2. May a new creature enter your life when you are ready. Some new animal will need your love.

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  3. another great post – both for giving of yourself – & for raising something that has no answer for us animal lovers, which is how to deal with neighbors who mistreat their pets…

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  4. I’m so sorry for this loss. Irrespective of Hershey being feral or not, it’s always sad when a living creature passes on to the next life. My condolences. Kudos to your neighbor for his advocacy for these wild babies.

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  5. There’s a feral that lives in this condo where I live too. It bugs me as I’ve mentioned. People feed it. Someone actually caught it to have it neutered. Well then, bring it somewhere to get adopted? I don’t get it? It doesn’t make sense to me at all. I have two indoor cats. Every cat I have ever let outdoors has been killed in one way or another. Cats are domestic, just like dogs. End of story in my humble opinion. At least you have some nice pictures……xo

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  6. I am very sorry for your loss.

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  7. I’m in tears too! That’s very sad! I’m so sorry. Even though Hershey was a cat that belonged to many, I’m sure you’re sad. Alley Cat Allies is a great organization. I donate to them frequently.

    I agree with you that the neighbor should have done what she could to get Hershey help. But I also understand that you feel some guilt. Please don’t feel any guilt! You loved Hershey too. Feral cats are hard to trap for sure.

    Yes, be thankful that Hershey had the length of life she did. Always be thankful no matter what. These cats need love even if only a short amount of time.

    I hope that it’s. It because someone poisoned them. I worry for your beautiful dogs.

    Rest In Peace Hershey.

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  8. We’ve had outside animals that have died or flown south or just plain disappeared. It’s amazing how lonely it feels when they no longer sit where they used to or call out to you. I always feel bad when some of these creatures had just become background music in my life only to find after they were gone that they’d been more important than I thought. Sorry for your loss, Rachel.

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  9. ahhh so sorry to hear that.

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  10. I am so sorry to hear that. It is sad. But I am sure she was happy while being around there, and knowing she was cared for, in a uniquely different way. xx

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  11. Oh, poor Hershey. Such a sad face on that poor little kitty. 😦

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  12. We are so sorry about Hershey. Sending you lots of hugs and nose kisses

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  13. harrowhoundsblog

    🙏🏻

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  14. So sad to hear about Hershey. But although she was a feral cat she was loved and that is more what so many animals receive. RIP Hershey!

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  15. It is indeed sad news. :-/ Cats need a warm home and someone to look after them. Dear Hershey had none of this, but she stayed around you and seemed quite happy to have your attention.

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  16. So sorry to hear :(. They are special creatures and it is always sad, especially if you suspect foul play. A cat of mine died of poison and it is heartbreaking to see them sick :((
    And I do firmly agree that their presence lingers, it’s amazing and ask anyone who’s had a cat die, they do seem to stick around for some time!

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  17. Oh I am so sorry every tiny creature has a place. Hershey will always be in your heart .

    Hugs

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  18. VERY sorry Ms Rachel! By the way. I have a book to recommend to you. Breakfast at Sally’s. I promise you will love it.

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  19. Sorry to hear. I really like the last photo of Hershey and her tear drop markings. Take care. Bob

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  20. I’m so sorry to hear this. I held out some hope myself after you wrote about Gimpy. Feral cats are definitely their own breed. Alley Cat Allies is a fabulous organization.

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  21. Sad post. Yes feral cats keep the mouse population at bay. We have had mice because we have no feral cat. Pet cats are fed and feral cats depend on their own kill. My gripe about feral cats is the damage they do to the bird population.

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  22. So sorry for your loss, Rachel. I know the feelings of guilt about not confronting people about their behavior all too well. Don’t beat yourself up too much about it.

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  23. I’ve nominated you for the Mystery Blogger Award. Link is: https://sparksfromacombustiblemind.wordpress.com/2016/11/05/award-time/

    I really think you embody the requirements for the Mystery Blogger! 😀

    Reply
  24. Hershey was a lovely cat by your writings Rachel. Hershey is now free to wander in meadows over the Rainbow Bridge. We rescued a very similar cat here in England one whose owner had passed on. She was an old cat and we only had her for a year, the local youths in her old neighbourhood were being unkind to her so she moved to us. The photos of Hershey reminded me of our rescued cat ‘Chelsea’. Posts like yours can open folk’s hearts to be kinder to our four legged brothers and sisters. You did all you could do, Hershey looked contented in your photos, especially in the flower pot usually a place which is warm and cosy outdoors.

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  25. Rachel, I am sorry for your loss, but also grateful for your attention to the sweet lost ones of our world.

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  26. I just love you, and your story…um..Cricket…

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  27. What a lovely tribute to Hershey, I’m sorry for your loss, I know how animals weave themsel es into our lives and heaets even wild ones. Thanks for liking my posts

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  28. Pingback: For Rachel – marushka's place

  29. That was a lovely piece. As I have a propensity to humanise the dogs an other animals in my book,, I felt Hershey was like a homeless person. But at least she wasn’t truly alone, with you looking out for her.

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    • Thank you! Such an potent image! I think she was like a homeless person who looks so put together and self possessed that no one would believe she was homeless. There are a surprisingly large number of people who fit into that category.

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  30. Honest Abe Lincoln

    I may have already said this: In our area,coyotes come into town at night and kill and eat cats and dogs left outside.Or, they used to.I have no idea if that is still a problem but my neighbor lady lost a small fox terrier not long after she brought it home.

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  31. I am so sad to hear this news. Beautiful cat loved by beautiful people.

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  32. Sorry Hershey, sleep tight x

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  33. You have such a deep kindness in you. That’s a beautiful girl Rachel. Thank you for sharing that with those little kitties and with me when I read your words. You wrote this long ago but it still warmed my heart to read it.

    Reply

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