A Death At Arm's Length

For 16 years Sally the feral cat lived behind the Village Street shelter, a constant but distant companion for shelter volunteers and animal control officers.


It's been two months since the sick feral cat was put down but shelter regulars still cast a look to their right before opening the animal center's door.

Sally was a presence outside the Village Street shelter for 16 years.

She lived in a den in the rock and stone yard behind the Friends of Marblehead's Abandoned Animal center.

She was a feral cat who would come when called, said Betsy Cruger, a local .

You would maybe hear some leaves rustle then see her coat move along a path among the trees and undergrowth. She blended in with the gray bark and gray/brown weeds and grasses some months of the year.

For 16 years the center would put out breakfast, lunch and dinner, and water for the gray cat with the great ruff of fur.

She was the kind of cat that you would want to pick up and put on your shoulder.

But that was impossible, at least until the very end.

Still, the center's helpers appreciated her at a distance because she would only let them get so close before bouncing away. That was part of her attraction, that and her longevity and habit of meeting people halfway.

Even at a distance her presence was comforting in winter, spring, summer and fall.

Especially in winter on the cold days. Her name would come up in conversations. Had anyone seen Sally? 

Story goes that Sally was taken into the no-kill center back in 1996 and soon thereafter busted out.

Shelter workers started leaving food and water for the then young cat and she made the pit and rock piles by the busy Marblehead road her home.

She was the house cat that lived outdoors.

Leading up to the end of her life she was losing weight and weakening but still kept herself at a distance

But then it got to the point where she would let people pick her up — something that never would have happened if she was healthy.

She would go into the shelter's basement and lay on a blanket.

Then she had a stroke and was put to sleep on April 30, by a local veterinarian in the in her favorite spot outside the shelter in the sun.

Sympathy cards, a dozen or more, arrived to the shelter.

Even though it has been more than a month, Sally's absence is hard on those who cared for her, many of whom have been at the center for years.

When people arrive they look to the right and see the Sally memorial

It is a stand with her dish and picture and her ashes.

Nothing special, a rustic memorial for a frontier kitty.




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