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In Loving Memory of

Donna Lee

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Durham, NC

Loving, loyal, playful

My beloved cat Donna Lee departed this life on her own accord on March 29th, 2021 as I was cradling her head and petting her, about half an hour before the vet arrived for her euthanasia appointment. She was 18.

I found Donna Lee on Martin Luther King, Jr weekend of 2004 on campus at NCCU because I went to practice piano after my mom called to tell me it was going to snow. I first saw her in front of BN Duke Auditorium, and she came right up to me and let me pet her before promptly running out into traffic on Lawson Street and almost getting run over. She had two collars on (red and green for Christmas) but no tags and no microchip. I scooped her up and put her in the car with the intention of finding her owners once the snow melted. She claimed me as her own that weekend, and those first few night started a year-long trend of her sleeping on my face. After unsuccessful attempts at putting up flyers near campus and running an ad in the Herald Sun, I dropped her off along with a small deposit at APS of Durham and officially adopted her on February 11th, 2004. I hope her original owners see this post one day and know that she lived a long and happy life full of love.

Music School turned out to be a lot more stressful than I had anticipated, and Donna Lee provided joy and solace during a time of extreme self-doubt and a time where my coping mechanisms were not the healthiest. In the early years she learned to use the toilet because I had read an article Charles Mingus had written on the subject (which is still on his website), although I used a slightly different method. Several years later she trained me to buy a litter box. The latter training session took considerably less time.

She spent a few years terrorizing the Parkwood neighborhood in spite of my agreement with APS years before to not let her outdoors (oops). One night I came home to ethereal reverberating meowing and discovered two pairs of eyes about thirty feet up a pine tree in our back yard. One pair was obviously hers, but I was unable to see the owner of the second pair of eyes. The next morning she was in the tree by herself. One other afternoon I caught her cornering another cat in the neighbor’s driveway which meant play time was over for that day. Eventually her reign of terror was succeeded by a feral tom cat about twice her size, and after the second time I paid for stitches I decided she required a chaperone to go outdoors. She continued to enjoy outside time throughout her life, and spent a few minutes sitting under the azalea bush in my back yard two days before she passed.

She visited Carolina Beach with me in December 2009. Unbeknownst to me a beach is basically a giant litter box to a cat. Luckily there was a lady with a pug and an extra poop bag nearby. The pug liked Donna Lee but the feeling was not mutual.

As much as she was not fond of other animals, she was fond of people. She was a regular audience member at my students’ guitar lessons and at band practices. And she often stayed in the main living room during parties, sitting in what I know refer to as “her chair”. She was wary of young children but apart from that seemed to love every person she met.

One of the bright spots of the pandemic was that my job transitioned to remote work, meaning I was able to stay home with her during her last year. She once again provided solace and joy during a difficult time for me, this time amid the anxiety and isolation of a once-a-century pandemic. I am especially grateful both for that extra time with her and that she held on until two weeks past the date I received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine, allowing me to now safely get together with friends. All she seemed to want in her last days was to cuddle up with me on the couch. About fifteen minutes before she passed, she woke up one last time to nudge my hand with her nose for a few minutes before falling back asleep. I will cherish the memory of those few minutes forever.

I would like to extend a special debt of gratitude to Dr. Sabin and the rest of the staff at Bull City Veterinary Hospital in Durham for caring for Donna Lee over the past five years. Their care is a big part of the reason she had such a long and fulfilling life. I would also like to thank my friends and family for all the kind messages, phone calls, and visits, and especially to thank Jil and Robyn for waiting upstairs on her final day to make sure I ate something afterwards and had some company.

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Donna Lee



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