BURLEY, 1995 - 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I found Burley today.

She had been missing since Saturday. But with 3 cats and a dog, it's not always obvious where everybody is. We started looking around yesterday, thinking she must be snoozing in a laundry basket. When the home inspection didn't turn up a contented cat, we started looking outside, we sent emails, and we even posted a notice on facebook. Then we got a voicemail from a neighbor who saw our email.

Our neighbor told me that, on Saturday afternoon, her children saw a dog attack and kill a cat on the property behind our townhouse in Hawthorne Court. The boys said it was a "bigger," brownish dog. When they chased the dog away, he ran back into Hawthorne Court by crawling under the fence behind the property (so he couldn't have been too big). For the rest of the afternoon, our neighbors tried to find the owners of the dog and cat. They even came knocking on doors at Hawthorne Court - to no avail.

After our neighbor told me what happened, I recovered Burley's body and cleaned her up to be buried. So, I'm very sad.

I got Burley in 1995 when I was a summer intern for North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Burley B. Mitchell, Jr. I couldn't decide what to name her, so the women at the Supreme Court Clerk's office suggested I name HER after the Chief (who was a HIM...and an avid hunter/outdoorsman). Sounded crazy to me, but they insisted that it was brilliant and that the Chief would love it. I nervously asked the Chief if it was okay to name a female kitten after him, and he asked - with dry humor and feigned derision - "so why would you want to go out and get a cat?" Then he consented in his stoic way.

The next day, the Chief's wife, Lou, called me. She wanted to see her husband's name sake. Lou and I quickly became friends. A couple of years later, the Mitchells invited me to escort their daughter to the state inaugural festivities. We dated occasionally when she was in town. And I went on to clerk for the Chief after finishing law school and became good friends with the family. It was one of the most important experiences and friendships of my life. All the while, "Little Burley" was a catalyst in a great story.

Burley was a cool cat. She followed me around as if she were a dog, and she came when I whistled. She'd sit on my shoulder like a parrot while I walked around the house. Sometimes, she'd sit on the back of a chair or sofa and lick my hair as if she were grooming me. She'd lay in my lap and purr while I clipped her claws. She didn't like baths, but she never fought it. When she got older and had hyperthyroidism, she'd come running to me when I shook her pill bottle and always swallowed the pills without any drama.

Burley never met a stranger. Whether we had a single guest or a house full of people, she'd come around to introduce herself and make friends. But unlike virtually every other cat in the world, she didn't like to be scratched on her hind quarters - which her new friends usually realized the hard way.

When I went to the animal shelter in Chapel Hill looking for a kitten, I had it in my mind that I wanted a Siamese. They had a couple, but for some reason, it just didn't work out. But on my two or three trips to the animal shelter, there was this one mischievous little grey kitten who would reach out of her cage each time I walked by and gently grab my sleeve with her claws. When I took her out of her cage, she clearly loved to play, but she also loved to nestle and purr. It didn't take long for me to decide. 

Burley was a great companion for 14 years. I guess what I understand now is that Burley found me, not the other way 'round.

"A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel."

- Proverbs 12:10

Copyright    2011 Ashe Lockhart. All rights reserved.