It is with great sadness I let you know that one of our big cats, Barley, passed-away suddenly on July 8, at the young age of twelve. He was, by all appearances, fine one day and two days later he was gone. He ATE everything (organic fertilizers, houseplants, staff lunches) so we assumed he got into cleaning supplies or the like but the doctors said it was most likely a long-term illness that he finally and very rapidly succumbed to.
Barley and Hops were brought into the nursery in a small cardboard box and set on the counter in April 2008. They were semi-feral barn-cat kittens from somewhere on the San Juan Ridge off HWY49 north of Nevada City. A man walked into the shop and said “here are your cats”, having heard us say, some months earlier, that we were considering getting cats, and he rushed out the door before I could utter a query. Then I looked in the box. Hops weighed eight ounces, a half of a pound, and Barley, a little larger than a hamster, weighed just four ounces. We assumed we’d need to feed the smallest of them with an eyedropper but when given kitten chow and milk he devoured it. Barley was never motivated by food but it was obvious by his eventual size that he very much liked it.
Both the kittens received endless daytime attention, pets, scratches, toys and play including rather rough ‘love” from small children carrying them around, often upside down. When they were still small, Druann would frequently take them home to stay and play with her Yorkies and for a long time they loved dogs… they were later aggressively chased a few times by dogs off leash and at that point, Hops anyway, lost all trust of them. Barley forgot and had a few dog friends that he was always happy to see.
Barley LOVED being petted and scratched, especially on his belly and he would regularly and immodestly lay spread-eagle on his back, on the counter, wanting his belly rubbed, When you stopped he would VERY gently reach out toward you and hook your hand or shirt to pull you back toward him. When he climbed in your lap, he’d tenderly reach-up and pat your face until he received the loving he was craving. He never once scratched or bit us, even when we were trimming his nails… he would just lay back and wait until it was over.
Some folks seem to think it heartless that we left them alone in the shop at night but we reckon that they get FAR more hours of love and attention than the average cat during a day, and at night, they can rest. They were supposed to patrol the nursery for mice, voles and rats (ground-squirrels) but neither has hunted for years. Barley actually never hunted. Barley would sit under a cart of recently watered plants and bat at the drops of water coming through. He also had the odd habit of climbing into any car that had an open door or hatch and he was returned to us many times after people drove away with him. Once he went home in the van of one of our landscape professional clients who had been picking up Christmas wreaths and garland for his customer. We always bring the cats inside before closing and we were distraught to not find Barley. In desperation we called our friend who had been the last customer of the day and he said he’d check the van… there was Barley sitting peacefully among the wreaths.
We were heartbroken to lose Barley but it is a comfort to know he did enjoy terrific life as a nursery cat and was loved by all of us who’ve worked here and by hundreds and hundreds of people who’ve visited. Poor Hops was confused and lost for several weeks and searched for Barley everywhere but he seems to have settled into life without his best friend. They were inseparable for twelve years. If you stop by, make a point to give Hops a scratch behind the ears. Thank you to everyone who very sweetly offered condolences.