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Kitten tracks across pet cemetery connects old friends

The kitten tracks are frozen in time in the broken chunks of old concrete.

They were made by a young tabby wandering across the concrete pad shortly after it was poured for our pump house on Sterling Creek south of Jacksonville on Aug. 6, 1948. The telltale tracks walked right past the date inscribed by the homeowner back in the day.

Using a sledge hammer, I busted up the old pad into large chunks when we replaced it after having our well deepened in the spring of 2008. Maureen wisely suggested using the concrete pieces for the pet cemetery growing on our Back 40.

Sadly, we now have six pets buried in the picturesque spot under a large oak tree. Collectively, the dogs and cats were with us for nearly 100 years, bringing a chorus of joyous barks and purrs to our lives.

Our old dog Ona joined her buddies on Monday.

A kindly veterinarian from Ashland made a home visit to put Ona to sleep. A golden lab mix with an easy-going disposition, the elderly pooch died the way she lived, peacefully and without stress.

Ona, short for Onomatopoeia because she sounded like what she was, was the third old pet to be interred this year. Although we realized they were all long of tooth, that knowledge didn't make the burials any easier.

In February, we buried Alyeska, the Akita-German shepherd mix we picked up as a pup at the Humane Society of Southern Oregon in Medford 151/2 years ago.

As a former Alaskan, I named her Alyeska, the native name for Alaska, meaning "great land." Nicknamed Ally, she became our hiking buddy and camping pal. She strode through life with a royal air befitting a queen.

In August, Spud, a big white cat we adopted as a cotton ball of a kitten 20 years ago, was put to rest. He was a lovable couch potato, hence his name. He was lazy, sleepy and would purr at the drop of his name.

Unfortunately, he developed cancer in the autumn of his years. Yet he was purring when he was put to sleep.

Our old cat Tommy died on Christmas eve of '07 with our family gathered around him. He spent his final hours of his 21 years curled up in the basket he loved near the Christmas tree. He died peacefully, never waking from his long winter's nap.

Then there lies Rajah, a fur ball of a chow laid to rest a few days before Thanksgiving of '04.

We started out dog-sitting him for a daughter in college when he was just a pup. She went on to earn her master's degree and become a teacher but the degreeless pooch stayed on.

Rajah was starting his second decade when he developed cancer and had to be put down. He may have been a bit short tempered at times but he had his moments.

A year after Rajah died, we buried Sweetie Pie, my father-in-law's old cat who had lived with us for a while. The good-natured feline was pushing two decades when she died in her sleep.

Now Ona rests beside her friends under the spreading oak tree.

She came to us after a daughter went to the store to pick up a gallon of milk. The daughter came back with the milk, along with a golden-haired puppy with big brown eyes that could melt ice-cold butter at 50 paces.

The puppy had apparently been peering up out of a box manned by a woebegone-looking little boy in front of the store.

I informed the daughter that we already had two dogs and couldn't take another one. The puppy must be returned immediately, I insisted.

I stomped out to the garden, sat down and crossed my arms to pout.

The daughter, who now does bone marrow transplants at the Oregon Health Science University in Portland, was no dummy. She put the puppy in the garden, quietly closed the gate and walked away.

The puppy trotted over to where I was sitting, plopped down, let out a deep sigh and fell asleep with her head resting on my feet.

A half hour later I sheepishly came out of the garden carrying the snoozing pup and gruffly allowed that perhaps we could keep the fur ball until a proper home was found.

That was 141/2 years ago.

Had Ona been human, she would have been one of those rare individuals who brings quiet joy to the world around her. She was a golden ray of sunlight breaking through the clouds.

Never a harsh bark or a snarl.

Now she is with her old friends forever in the pet cemetery.

It makes me smile to know they are all linked together by kitten tracks left 61 years ago.

Reach Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or pfattig@mailtribune.com.