I awoke this morning to the sobbing and screaming of Nebra. She had found the body of our favorite cat, Jezebel, strung out on a neighbor’s front lawn. Killed by dogs no doubt. Jezzie’s fur was matted in places like dried saliva, her collar torn loose and laying nearby. But she was unmarked otherwise. I assumed a dog had taken her in its mouth and shook her violently until her neck had broken.
This occurs all too often in our central Phoenix neighborhood. Dogs running wild at night, cats found dead and mutilated. I do not blame the dogs. They are what they are. Neither am I going to blame myself for leaving her outside some nights. That is what she wanted. I wanted her to be safe, yes. But I wanted her to be happy and free as well. And she has spent many a night out over the years without incident.
Jezzie’s death puts a big dent in our lives. Nebra loved her to pieces, and I loved her almost as much. She was my companion during the long days when Nebra was at work, often stretching out by my feet and dozing with a paw over her eyes as I wrote. I often talked to her as if she were human. So much so she may have thought she was not a feline after all.
The neighbors all knew Jezzie by name. She was small and tiger-striped gray and black. But everyone knew her for a stout tail that was sharply bent. Our vet believed the deformity genetic. But maybe it was injury-caused. The tail endeared her even more to me. I often referred to her as “my crooked-tail cat.” And she possessed strange soulful eyes and an aggressive temperament. We called her “Jealous Jezz” because she would wangle her way between us and our other indoor cat, Obie. Around humans she was an angel, though, and often climbed into our laps and fell asleep.
I remember the year she came to us. It was 1998, in winter. She was probably six months old. A neighbor girl brought her over. Dogs were chasing the cat, the girl said. The girl’s mother would not allow her to keep it. We took care of the cat for a while, feeding her in the garage, saying her stay was only temporary. At decision time, it was strangely Nebra who wanted to put the cat back out on the street. I talked her out of it. The cat stayed and was invited inside. And she soon had a name.
We christened her Jezebel for Jay Bell, the shortstop for the Diamondbacks who were about to start their inaugural baseball season.
She is buried now, only a few hours after discovery, in the backyard along the west wall. We put a marker of red bricks around the grave in the shape of what I called a “cat church” and filled in around it with gravel. I am very glad Jezebel came into our lives. She was with us 12 1/2 years. Because we were able to love her so much, I think, has made us somehow better human beings.