This week I fly to Scotland to lead my annual tour – usually a fairly carefree occasion. But there is an additional purpose this time. I am carrying the ashes of our beloved Valkyttie to spread along her favorite walk–around the perimeter of our tiny village of New Gilston, where she spent her happiest years. Like many of you, I’ve shed a great number of tears for departed pets – both dogs and cats. They teach us so much about how to really live! And Valkyttie did that for Wendy and me – our marriage cat.
We first saw Valkyttie in the cat and dog shelter in Leith near Edinburgh. The first few months of her life were spent near my home town of Dunfermline, where she quickly developed from a frightened little black powerpuff of a kitten into a confident territorial ‘Wha Daur Meddle Wi’ Me” cat. When we moved to New Gilston, near St. Andrews in Fife, she took over the village and the surrounding farmland and would often accompany us on our evening walks. She brought a live mouse into the house once and when I didn’t immediately dispatch it, realized she needed to lower her expectations. The next day, she brought me a moth to practice on.
The stories about her are legion and legend, not just in Scotland, but with her two years in Lancashire in England, and a further two years in Florida (where she preferred to be indoors because of the heat) and finally her halcyon days here at the bookstore. As long as there are copies of The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap around she will live on; she’s on the cover of the large print edition here in the US from Center Point, and hiding on the front of the main US edition from St Martin’s Press–as well as the Korean, Polish and Portuguese language editions. Many’s the school author program we’ve done with “spot the kitty” featuring our own Vals.
I must finish (with a lump in my throat) by paying respect to the Sainted Beth (of Powell Valley Animal Hospital) who understood how much Valkyttie meant to us and went to extraordinary lengths to ease her final journey over the Rainbow Bridge. I’m very honored to have known Valkyttie and to be chosen to take her to her final resting place along her favorite ramble. And I’ll be crying my eyes out when I do.
Editor’s note: Jack scattered Valkyttie’s ashes yesterday. We waited to run the blog until then but left it in future tense because we cry every time we get near it. Thanks all!