This week I should be off, taking a break from work for a week to enjoy the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Sadly things have been going from tight to simply untenable on the financial front, several years of a bad situation without any relief, and among the many things I have had to give up on is my annual film fest sojourn. It’s on right now, I haven’t even looked at the programme since I know I can’t afford to go to it. Since I almost never get to go away on a proper break a week off going round the film fest is about as much holiday as I normally get, and now even that’s gone. Depressing. Along with ongoing other stresses and strains in recent years a break would be bloody nice, and I have been going to this since the 1990s, really upsetting to have to give up on it, something I look forward to all year. And after a lot of not very good stuff a nice break and enjoying myself would be rather nice, instead of which the usual break is lost and now becomes another one of those depressing things to add to the list of why life is often grinding and depressing and stressful. I don’t just mean losing that one break, I mean that it represents yet another thing I am forced to give up and cut out because of years of severe pressures; right now it has been so increasingly tight that even though with dad better I can start thinking about taking in another cat, I find I can’t afford it, which is pretty pathetic, not to mention disheartening, a year and a half after losing the last of my old furry girls. Meeting the basics is hard enough, nothing else can be added. On a short term we all get times like that, but this has been grinding on for a long time, getting slowly harder and worse. Does make you wonder why you bloody bother sometimes.
Today marks a full year since I lost the last of my furry girls, my darling old puss Cassie, after sixteen and a bit years, and a very sudden decline. She had given me a health scare earlier last year, ominously on the first anniversary of the date we lost her wonderful sister Pandora on, but we got lucky and she recovered to become even bouncier than before, until last autumn, when I noticed she was a little slower a couple of evenings, then when curled up next to me at night, I noticed her purring sounded wrong, a bit too nasal, which worried me, especially as this was a precursor to her previous health scare. I booked an appointment at the vet, but on the day I was to take her in she was okay if sounding a little bronchial in the morning but a little later the same day she suddenly declined, breathing hard to try and get air. The vet took her in right away and tried various approaches, but they weren’t working, and at her age the breathing problems were having knock-on effects on the rest of her body, and I had to make the decision to let her go so she wouldn’t suffer. I went from being a little concerned that morning but thinking another shot of the treatment she had six months previously would sort her out again, to realising she was dying and I was losing her.
Having lost Pandora then darling Dizzy the year before it was shattering to consider being without her. The vet let me stay with her until she was gone, then my friend brought me home, a home, for the first time empty except for me. The girls were only a couple of years old when I bought this place, so I’ve never lived here without them. The sight of their food bowls and toys had me in tears and the horrible emptiness of the flat was terribly upsetting; lying in bed that night I kept waiting for the quiet pad-pad-pad of cat paws on the wooden floorboards sneaking through, then that little pause of silence as she readied herself to leap up in the dark onto the bed, then over, nose in my face, a mieow, then settle down, curling up against me to go to snooze while getting her tummy tickled, purring us both to sleep. Of course it didn’t happen, and of course she wasn’t snuggled up contentedly with me next morning when I woke up, and the thought that this would never happen again was heart-breaking. Coming home from work that day was awful, because I knew I was going to come in to an empty home. In fact it simply stopped feeling like home without the girls.
That this happened during dad’s illness, while we were awaiting his serious operation, just made it all worse. When we lost mum so shockingly suddenly the kitties were wonderful for keeping my morale up, especially on those nights where it all became too overwhelming. And then just weeks later dad’s operation, and it not going well, those weeks and weeks in intensive care, weeks before I could even hear my dad speak again even if faintly, constantly travelling for hours back and forth to hospital, the bleak December, what would have been mum’s birthday came and went as dad was desperately ill in hospital, Christmas day after visiting him in hospital I sat at the family home, utterly empty for the first time I can remember on that day, alone and more depressed and strained and stressed than I have ever been until my lift back to Edinburgh came, and then it was back to an equally empty flat, not even my furry girl to demand attention and cheer me up; it just made it all so much harder to bear. Amazing the effect on our mental state and morale our furry friends can have. I couldn’t even consider visiting the rescue shelter to see about another kitty while I was worried about dad and then having to move back home to look after him when he finally got out after a long, long, dark couple of months. Christmas, New Year and my birthday all went past without registering or happening for me.
Now dad is much better and I find myself starting to think about it again, but after years of being on tight income coupled with too many bills for travelling back and forth last year and the unexpected vet bills of the previous couple of years I simply can’t at the moment, if I took in a cat just now and she needed treatment I would be too stretched. One more impulsive friend tells me to stop hesitating and just do it, but I think that’s very irresponsible, no matter how much I may want to, I take looking after an animal seriously. Part of me is still emotionally unsure about new cats though – what I really want are my girls, but of course I can’t have that ever again. But I know that when I am at the animal shelter it will be just like all those years ago when I first went there before they gave me the girls – two tiny, ten week old kittens – and of course I melted at all the cats there, lots of them in the open play area were coming up to me for attention and I wished I could take them all away and give them a home. So I know although emotionally I’m still a bit unsure I also know that if and when I take in other cats it will help me move on. And it’s no bad thing to give some animals a home. Although as I once said on here before, when you take in a rescue animal from the shelter you don’t exactly give them a home – they make a home with you. They give it warmth and life and make a place you live in into an actual home. I’m not sure when I will be able to take new cats in, but just days before Cassie fell ill I had picked up a spare bag of cat litter. I still have it, unopened. The nice lady in my local pet store kindly offered to take it back as it hadn’t been used before I suddenly lost Cassie, but I decided to keep it tucked away to remind myself that no matter when it is, I will have other kitties at some point.
Hard to believe that’s a whole year since Cassie left though, a whole year, the first year I haven’t had cats to look after in a long number of years, and it still feels wrong. Funny how such a small creature can have such a huge impact on your life. Goodnight you demanding furry queen of my heart, with your ever present demands for attention offset with warm cuddles and purrs and oh, that astonishingly soft fur. And that strange taste you developed for cookies and cakes. I had some cake just last week and found myself turning around still half expecting Cassie to be sitting in the kitchen doorway observing me, licking her lips and doing the big-eyes thing, waiting to claim a piece for herself. She could be asleep on the bed two rooms away and yet magically if I made a cuppa and grabbed a cookie I would turn around and she would be right behind me looking at the plate, licking her lips, and if I came in with a bag from the wee patisserie nearby she went crazy. I don’t know how she developed this taste for cookies, cakes, croissants and all things baked, but she loved a little bit of it and it became a little ritual with the pair of us, one of those little habits that makes life run a little more nicely. I miss that too.
I absolutely loved Deanne Smith’s nerdy love – and in some places delightfully dirty – song (the lyrics really are designed for we geeks) and her adorable kitten lends a helping paw throughout (via BoingBoing):
Yesterday since it was so unusually nice – bright sunlight, actually warm too (no biting, Arctic winds for once!) – instead of heading off to the cinema I decided to go for a long walk with the camera. Just a few minutes from my flat is an old train line which is now a cycle and walkway, which then connects to the Water of Leith. Once a busy river used heavily for industry it is now cleaned up, wildlife returned to it, very desirable homes along the banks and offering a lovely countryside walk right in the middle of the capital city, trees offering green-filtered shade, the sound of the water, singing of birds, squirrels playing around (sadly I didn’t see the heron who is usually around, was hoping to get a pic but denied). I was heading to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, but rather than go through the streets took this route – rather nicely as you walk along the leafy river there is a bridge over to a steep set of stairs cut into one side which take you right up from this pleasant walk and into the grounds of the gallery. Nice way to combine ‘country’ walk with visit to the gallery, all without leaving the city centre.
I came up the top of the high steps (yes, panting a little, I do a lot of walking but not as fit as I was in my cycling days, and these are very steep stairs up quite an incline) and out into the back of the gallery. Walked under some cherry blossom trees, finally after the unseasonably bad weather now groaning heavily with flowers and petals. And as I turn around the corner of the building to the front, walking past some of the open air sculptures, I see a very small, very young kitty walking over to sit in the shade right in front of the gallery by a Henry Moore sculpture. Not what I expected to see in the grounds of a major gallery in the city.
Then this rather gorgeous, beautifully tiger-striped little cat sees me and lets out a loud couple of mieows before running right over to me. As I kneel down she comes right up to me, head out for a scratch between the ears then tilts up so I can scratch her wee furry chin. Then obviously deciding I was suitably cat-trained she lies down, rolls over and assumes the ‘tickle my soft, furry tummy, you know you want to’ position that all clever cats (and dogs too for that matter) know to use to help train humans to do their bidding.
This was the first time in months that I stroked a kitty, and the first time I heard contented purrs as I tickled that tummy – even better, I could feel them, purrs vibrating right through my fingertips. I miss that so much without my own furry girls to give constant attention to, and I suddenly felt so much better about the world, for a few precious moments just lost in that simple happy feeling that comes from interacting with a trusting, friendly animal who wants to play with you and get attention and love. The simple things that can make us feel so much better…
She was a very young, small kitty, guessing no more than a couple of years old. I was slightly worried she might be lost, perhaps walked away from her garden and somehow got to the gallery but not sure how to get home. She did have a collar on so obviously part of a family (or I might have been so tempted to take her home with me to take care of!), but when I checked with gallery staff they said it was okay, she came around most days and was very friendly, often sitting with some of them for their lunch and going up to visitors with a loud mieow and happily getting attention from them, so I was relieved to know she obviously just comes from a nearby home to this spot on her rounds and wasn’t lost and looking for help.
While she was curled up she noticed the end of her own tail and promptly tried to grab it. Of course as she reached forward to grab it her back end moved and so did the tail so she couldn’t quite get it, but was having fun trying (reminded me of my darling Dizzy when she was very young, doing much the same when she saw her own tail and tried to grab it). Since my usual ball of wool cat toy (best fun for a cat, the old ball of wool) was at home I improvised, managed to pluck a very long blade of grass to use as a toy, dangling it over her head as she clearly wanted to play, and she went mad for it, up on hind legs reaching for it, trying to grab and bite at it and having fun. Eventually satisfied she went off for a prowl then eventually spotting some new visitors sitting down on a bench by the path she ran over to them, standing up on hind legs to reach their arms with her paws as if to say mieow, here I am, pay attention to me…
In the gallery I saw a modern exhibit and also some of the older works such as the gallery’s Picasso, Duchamp and Dali works, all very enjoyable, but nothing made me as happy as ten minutes stroking and playing with this friendly little cat and hearing her purr. I do miss having my furry girls badly, amazing how much they helped me cope with life and all its slings and arrows. I have been looking at a couple of the websites for animal rescue shelters near me, but they all want any potential owners to have a garden for the cats. Since I live three stories up in a Victorian tenement this is a problem – it wasn’t a problem with Cassie and Pandora though. When they were kittens we were renting my friend’s place while he worked down south, and it had a nice garden for them – but they wouldn’t go out into it. Once they had been neutered and had all their shots the vet said right, safe to start letting them out now. But they refused to go outside. They would watch me from the window out in the garden, but wouldn’t join me. I tried carrying them out one day, they ran around in little circles in panic, yeowling, then leapt onto me, digging claws in and holding on to me, shivering. Okay, you really don’t want to go out, I won’t make you. So when I bought a place a little after that I thought well I don’t have to restrict myself to a ground floor flat with garden for the cats… And this was fine for oh so many years as my furrykins enjoyed being queens of their own little indoor domain, quite content. But it may be a problem now when I finally get myself ready emotionally to go down to the shelter and talk to them about rehoming one or two of their kitties. Which is a shame as there are so many animals badly needing a new home and love and attention, and I really need some animals in my life again.
I’ve just lost my darling old girl, my furry queen of all she surveys, her royal furryness Queen Cassandra, better known simply as Cassie. It’s just over a year and a half since we lost her dear sister, the huge cuddlepuss Pandora, then a month later my precious petite puss Dizzy was taken away from us. And now with Cassie goes the last of my wonderful girls and I’m sitting here alone in a dreadfully, miserably empty, lifeless feeling flat. I’ve had the girls since they were tiny kittens from the rescue shelter, small enough to fit on the palm of your hand, mieowing in that high pitched kitten squeak for someone to give them a home, love, adoration and lots of tummy tickles.
Actually the first part of that statement isn’t really true; I didn’t exactly give those little kittens a home – they came with me and made my flat into a home. They brought life and warmth and purrs and fun and furring up my clothes and chasing balls of wool and attacking my shoelaces and jumping on my head in the morning when it was time for breakfast. They made it a warm, inviting, alive place that we shared. You never give an animal a home, an animal makes a home with you and enriches it so beautifully, simply and wonderfully. Giving an animal from a shelter a home isn’t just giving them a home, it isn’t just taking responsibility for looking after them, they look after you too and they enrich your soul as they do.
And the girls made me so very happy, even though sometimes they drove me mad and delighted in doing that deliberately contrary cat behaviour thing. And these last four years… These last horrible, devastatingly hard four years since mum was ripped away suddenly from us… I’ve struggled, struggled a lot. You try to go on but there are times when you just wanted to curl up in a corner and not be part of the world anymore. And there were my girls, through all of those bloody awful, hard years. Warmth and the softest, softest fur against me, gentle purrs that you didn’t just hear but felt, vibrating right through you. The worst times suddenly felt that little bit more bearable. Hard as coping these last few years, losing mum, worrying about dad’s health, I had my girls helping me, soothing me. They didn’t make the bad things go away, but being curled up with purring kitties always helped a bit.
A few months ago, back in February, by horrible coincidence right on the first anniversary of the day I lost Pandora, Cassie gave me a big health scare, some horrid breathing sounds developed. We went to the vet, she was worried it might be a growth that some older cats get in their nasal passages and which can’t be treated save with very expensive surgery only available in the vet hospital, and it wasn’t recommended for a cat her age as she was unlikely to survive it. Only other chance was it some anti inflammatory drugs and steroids, but they might not work depending exactly what the problem was; fortunately within two days she was bouncing around happily again, fine.
Over this weekend I noticed she started to make those bronchial breathing noises again, just a little bit, not all the time. When having her tummy tickled she purred and it was lower and more nasal than it should be; I also noticed she seemed to be breathing a little harder and faster than usual, so I made an appointment for this afternoon. She seemed not too bad this morning when I went to work, but when I came home early to pick her up for the vet she was nowhere to be seen. Found her eventually hiding under the bed, very lethargic, picked her up, cuddled her, her breathing was much harsher now, lay her down on the sofa and her wee tongue was sticking out as she gasped in air, the colour not the healthy pink it should be, struggling to get in air and I realised with a shock how much she had deteriorated just since the morning, her situation had gone from something to be a little concerned about and needing a look from the vet to being seriously distressed; I started to think I was losing her. Mel drove us to the vet and despite a good long period of trying there really wasn’t much that could be done, X-rays showed that old age and the condition had taken their toll and even if we could help her through one bit something else was going to go wrong and she would be in distress all the time we tried. I had to let my little darling companion of sixteen years go gently to sleep.
I’m devastated. The girls got me through the worst parts of my life. Now the flat is so damned empty. I came home, put away the empty pet travel box, saw her food and kitty milk bowls sitting, almost untouched since morning, she hadn’t really used them, and I didn’t want to clean them and put them away. In the end I emptied them, cleaned them then sat them back down on the kitchen floor; I’ll put them away and sort the litter tray and cat toys later, but not just now. I sat down and looked around and the flat felt wrong, just a place, not a proper home without the girls. And I looked at the cushion Cassie would always pull down to use as a pillow for her nap, expecting to see her looking back at me with that stop typing on the computer and come here and pay attention to me , the centre of the world look on her face. Except she wasn’t there. And she won’t be ever again, and that breaks my heart. As I type I keep expecting to see her watching me, or rubbing her head against my leg, or deciding to curl up and snooze on my foot. But she won’t, she’s not here anymore, just an echo now.
I sat there thinking only two hours ago you were here in our home and now you’re gone from me and how can that possibly be? And who will demand a share of biscuit or cake now my beloved Cookie Cat is gone? Where did you develop that taste for cake, biscuits, even croissants, you crazy cat? Your sister never did, just you. Oh how you went crazy if you saw me coming home with a bag from the patisserie! And how you could be sound asleep on the bed yet as I made a cuppa in the kitchen I would turn around to find you had appeared in utter silence, sitting in the doorway, regarding me as if to say oh, making a coffee, eh, going to be getting out some shortbread to dunk in there, I daresay – know who else likes shortbread? And as she watched she would actually licked her lips in anticipation. Quite how she knew what I was doing as she slept two rooms away I never knew, obviously just those superbly sharp feline senses, but I couldn’t get it past her.
Goodnight, my darling, soft-furred girl, you and your sister made me very, very happy and I will miss you terribly and I really don’t know how I now face more stress, more depressing times, more hard times, without your wonderful presences to keep me going. I’m heart broken without my girls, but for all the pain this causes me I will never regret having them in my life, because they were simply wonderful. Goodnight, queen of my heart, be with your dear, dear sister now.
Edinburgh Film Fest: Rent-a-Cat (Rentaneko)
Dir: Naoko Ogigami
Well, as you may infer from the title, this is not a film for anyone who dislikes felines. That said you don’t have to be a cat lover to take enjoyment from this film (although it helps, those of us who are were sitting in the audience going aww at particularly cute kitty antics) as Naoko Ogigami’s film is a rather lovely, slow-paced, gentle look at life and urban loneliness in modern day Japan, how one can be living in a busy city with a huge population and yet remain isolated, alone despite being surrounded by people. And the wonderful power of our animals to enrich our lives; we know sometimes we may be projecting our own human emotions and motivations on them, but as anyone who has ever lived with animals knows they do seem to set up a familiar domestic habit with their humans, both ‘owner’ (not a title that really can apply to a cat, as anyone who lives with them knows) and pet settle into their rhythms around each other, making their own household, an ersatz extended family.
Sayoko lives alone in her small house, overlooked in her garden by her odd neighbour (who has a remarkable resemblance to a sort of Japanese Ronnie Corbett in drag). Since she was a child she’s never found it easy to make friends, let alone find romance, but while other humans don’t seem to warm to her for some reason cats do. Each day she pulls a small cart along near the river, crying out through a bull horn that if you are lonely she can rent you a cat. It’s not as bizarre a business idea as you might think (although some of the local schoolkids have already branded her as the crazy cat lady archetype) – I’ve read of professionally run cafés in Japan where cats live and the customers come not just for tea and cake but to stroke the cats, people who love animals but for whatever reason (not enough space, not allowed pets in their rented home, only staying a few months) they can’t have animals at home, so they come for the undeniable comfort that stroking a purring kitty can give.
One of Sayoko’s first customers we see is a very old lady, looking through the cats napping contentedly in her cart. She is taken straightaway not with the youngest or cutest but with a mature ‘grand old lady’ of a ginger cat, who reminds her very much of her own cat who has passed on. Her cat had helped her fill that awful hole after losing her husband, her son, we get the impression, is pretty distant from his elderly mum, and now with her beloved pet gone she is alone, the apartment empty, lifeless to her. When Sayoko checks her home to make sure it is suitable for cats she can see right away the old woman is perfect for this – she desperately wants another cat to bring some warmth and companionship into her life, but being so old she has decided pragmatically she can’t have one as who would look after it when she dies (a genuine worry for many elderly who value their animal companions even more than the rest of us)? But here she can have the cat from Sayoko and know she will come to take her home when the old lady is gone, that the kitty will still be looked after and loved – hearing this she knows the old woman has a good heart and that the cat will make her remaining weeks better. It’s incredibly touching and, animal lover or not, you’d have to be a brick not to feel empathy for the old woman’s situation and the pleasure she gets from the cat’s company.
The film moves through some more encounters with people in the city – a businessman who has to work away from his family and home and is lonely in his isolated city home, a young girl working dedicatedly away reciting her company mantra but realising she spends all day at work then at home mostly alone. Through her encounters Sayoko’s own faults and problems are as on show as much as those lonely souls she helps with her cats – on her own since her gran’s death (rather sweetly she talks to the departed old lady every day at her household shrine), she writes goals up for herself, such as find a husband, but has no idea how to attain them, tells her clients when she charges them only a pittance to rent the cats that she doesn’t need the money because she makes lots as a stockbroker playing the markets, or as a famous psychic. We can never really tell how much of this may be genuine and just how much is a Walter Mitty fantasy of Sayoko’s to make herself feel better.
Rent-a-Cat moves at a very slow pace and, like the pets who help to fill the holes in people’s lives, it doesn’t render a judgement on the poor, lonely humans who move through its scenes; they and their lives and flaws are simply presented as is and while you may not identify totally with any one character there are elements of each that pretty much all of us will recognise and empathise with. Sweet, gentle, moving and touching, a lovely little flower of a film that you should stop to inhale the scent from. Then go tickle a cat’s soft tummy afterwards.
My friend Deirdre put me on to these, somehow she knew they would appeal to me Introducing Henri the existentialist kitty cat…
After that frightening health scare with my darling old kitty Cassandra (normally known just as Cassie), I’m delighted to say she seems much improved. The vet thought it was one of two things, as I said in my previous post – one is a growth inside the nasal cavity which can’t even be checked properly much less dealt with without a specialist procedure available only at the vetinary hospital in town, very expensive and advised against by the vet on grounds of her age meaning even the anaesthetic could be too much for her. The other was an inflammation – vet was leaning towards it being a growth and gently letting me know if it was I might be better thinking of what was best for her, a gentle way of saying I might have to consider letting her be put to sleep. As this was almost a year to the day since we lost Cassie’s wonderful sister, my huge cuddlepuss Pandora, I was horrified at the thought I was about to lose her too. Since we couldn’t tell which condition it was we decided to try the meds first, see if she did any better in a few days and if so good, if not then back to considering the awful decision…
Wednesday night and Thursday morning not much difference, by Thursday night breathing sounded much better, less of the disturbing noises, by Friday even better, back into vet yesterday morning and they were pleased with her progress too, so we’ve been lucky and home we came. Spent evening simply being happy having my gorgeous wee old girl snuggled up next to me, purring away, having her furry tummy tickled, eating well (apparently the meds have a side effect of boosting appetite for a few days), then she jumped up onto the bed at night and curled up on top of me and purred me to sleep and I simply felt relieved and happy to have her there. She is getting on and I’m not fooling myself that some day I won’t have her there just as I no longer have Pandora, and that will be awful – I bought this place when the girls were very young and so I’ve had them for as long (longer) than I have lived in my own place, they are part of what makes a flat into a home and it already feels unbalanced without Pandora, without Cass it would feel so empty and lifeless. But not thinking about that now, right now I have my girl feeling better and demanding I give Her Royal Furryness lots of attention, tummy tickles, chin scratches and adoration (and kitty milk and some sliced ham too, please). And right now that’s enough to make me feel happy.
Almost exactly a year after I lost my adorable big, old cuddlepuss Pandora so suddenly (see here) I’ve had quite a scare with her sister, my gorgeous wee Cassandra (usually shortened to Cassie). I had the sad duty of going home to Glasgow this morning for a family funeral after my elderly uncle, who has been ill for some time, passed away just before the weekend. He was married to my wonderful aunt, big sister to my mum and of course I had to be through there for her as she means worlds to me. I’ve also been worried about Cassie – the last couple of days she has been making funny wee noises, quite nasal grunts and odd breathing sounds from time to time. I got home from the funeral today having arranged to take her to the vet on Saturday morning for a check, only to find that her breathing and noises were much louder and more frequent than they had been even just this morning before I had to get the train. Bending down to listen closely to her hearing I didn’t like it and got very, very worried, called the vet and she was kind enough to let me bring her right along then and there.
Cassie, of course, does not like the travel box and it was a struggle to get her into it. She yowled loudly all the way there then at the vet she freaked out and ran yowling again around the examination room in a panic. The vet let her settle down until she would let me pick her up to be examined. No runny nose, no discharge so not a virus – pretty unusual for a cat her age (especially a home cat) to get a virus anyway (she’s now around 16, old for a kitty). So she suspects either an inflammation or a growth or polyp. She’s getting enough air okay but it is worrying. The rest of her behaviour is normal which is good, but if it is a growth then there’s a problem – it requires special techniques available only at the vet school, which is not only costly but is simply not recommended for a cat her age by the vet. Even the very specialised endoscope they use to determine if they are there is expensive and requires her to be put out for the procedure, which the vet thinks is not a good idea at her age.
She’s been given some meds and antibiotics meantime to see if it is an inflammation that they can reduce and I take her back in a couple of days to see how they are doing. Hoping they do the trick, because if it is the growth then from what the vet said, as gently as she could, there would be no point at her age attempting anything involved as she might not be able to take it and then I’d face the same bloody awful decision I had to make this time last year for her wonderful sister, about what was best for her, not for me. Hoping very much that I am not in that situation again very soon.
Right now she is in the huff and also stressed so since we got home she’s been in her favourite hidey hole when annoyed, on a soft, old suitcase lying under the bed and won’t even come out for dinner. Hoping she comes back out soon and joins me again, doesn’t feel right not having my warm kitty snuggled up against me while I type. And I wouldn’t feel right without her leaping onto the bed at night and settling down on top of the duvet next to me at night and purring me to sleep. We leave ourselves wide open to this kind of emotional upset when we decide to bring animals into our homes and lives; we know it right from the start, but we still do it because they bring so much richness and happiness into our lives. I can’t imagine how much harder these last years since we lost mum would have been without my beautiful furry girls keeping up my morale. Losing Pandora last year was awful, losing my gorgeous Dizzy just a few weeks later broke my heart again, but at least I still have my Cassie. Please don’t take my girl from me, world.
Mel just called me to tell me that we lost our gorgeous wee Dizzy, the precious, petite puss, with her huge, shining eyes, tiny, almost kitten like build and lovely, soft grey and white fur. I know she was 17, a good age for a kitty, but she was so petite and still so lively and perky that many people first seeing her assumed she was just a year or two old and not full grown. She’s been a part of our life since she was just a few weeks old, a tiny little kitten, back in our student flat days; afterwards she lived with Melanie near my flat so I was round regularly and looked after her all the time. Unlike my big cuddlepuss Pandora she didn’t really care for being picked up, although she always let me do so, picking her tiny, light body up so she could then drape herself over my shoulder and around my neck, like me wee furry, warm scarf, and she would then purr that hugely loud outboard motor purr right into my ear, utterly content because she knew she was loved and adored. Maybe she wasn’t mad on most people picking her up, but she always let me, she was my special wee girl.
We lost her big brother Zag several years ago to an evil motorist who never even stopped and of course it’s even harder for me to accept losing her just a few short weeks since I lost my wonderful Pandora. The fact that it comes on the same week that sees the third anniversary of losing my mum so suddenly (this Thursday marks that evil day) doesn’t help my frame of mind much either, as you can imagine. Not that I am equating them, but emotional loss is an emotional loss and they all hurt. Pandora, Dizzy and Cassie have all been so important in keeping up my morale since losing mum – no matter how much you are hurting it is always a bit better with a warm, purring kitty snuggled up against you. It’s horrible to realise I’ll never have her draping her tiny body over my shoulder again or using my legs as her personal pillow. You made us so very happy, little darling, I hope you’re curled up now against your cuddly cousin Pandora wherever you went to. You were so tiny but you leave such a huge hole in our lives.
(I shot so many photographs of Dizzy over the years, she was so beautiful and so photogenic, her pictures have been admired so often on my Flickr, but I think this one is one of my all-time favourites, her with the flowers and the look on her face that clearly says she knows she is more beautiful than the flowers or anything else)
(I took a picture of Dizzy dozing on a blanket in the garden and had it printed onto a cushion as a present for Mel; for months I waited for her to lie down on the sofa next to it so I could get her in the same shot as the cushion with her own pic on it and finally I got it)
It’s been a very rough couple of days for me and my Cassie cat. Towards the end of last week I thought her sister, my gorgeous big Pandora puss, was acting a bit out of sorts. At the start of the week she was acting as normal, jumping up on the bed for a nap, happily munching some sliced chicken. Towards the end of the week I thought she was seeming a bit off her game, a bit lethargic maybe, still eating, not being sick or anything, wasn’t sure if she was just having a couple of off days or if it might be something more and I was thinking okay, next week we better get a vet’s appointment for you to be on the safe side. On Saturday she seemed a bit more off, atlhough still eating, still ambling around the flat and even jumping up into my recently vacated seat to steal it. Well, actually not to steal it, when Pandora grabs your seat when you move she isn’t actually stealing it, what she really wants is for you to sit next to her and snuggle with her.
But then came Sunday morning. Cassie woke me with alarmed mieows and as soon as I sat up in bed I thought she was trying to alert me to something and right away thought Pandora. Then I heard a terrible whimper from under the bed and Pandora was there, had come through at some point during the night and curled up underneath the bed as I slept – not unusual for her, the girls long ago claimed an old suede suitcase under the bed as a kind of kitty hammock for their Secret Dark Hidey Hole Spot. But she was barely moving, I had to pull the case out to get her, she couldn’t move out herself. I picked her up and she was limp in my arms, head lolling and panicking carried her through to the living room and gently lay her down on the sofa. She couldn’t even move her head or paws enough to make herself comfortable and I had to arrange them for her. I couldn’t believe how much she had faded since bedtime last night and was terrified she was dying on me right there. Phoned the vet and got the emergency weekend number which turned out to be in a surgery on the far side of town, but luckily my friend Gordon came right round with his car and drove us up. Poor Pandora was so limp it was hard to get her in the travel box and at the vet we had to tilt it and gently slide her out, she just lay there not moving.
After a lot of checks the vet told me her temperature was dreadfully low, barely above the bare minumum for a living cat, her blood circulation was poor although her heart was beating strongly and she was dehydrated even though I had seen her drinking water and kitty milk. They put her on drips to get her hydration and blood sugar back to normal and put her into an incubator to warm her and told me to phone in a few hours. I went home worried sick but when I called later they said she was responding to treatment, but it was as well we came when we did, she had been only an hour or so from slipping into a coma then death. Thank goodness for Cassie waking me to help her sister, or else I might have found her later in the morning already gone and that would have been even harder. She said we’ll keep her going on this and keep her overnight, get her tomorrow all being well and take her to your normal vet. Call back in the evening she said. I did and she was now keeping her temperature herself without the incubator and fluid and sugar levels returning to normal, but her eyesight was gone, but the vet said this was because of the sudden low sugar and hydration levels and should return in a day or two as she stabilised. But they still didn’t know what caused it, although she noticed a lump under her ribs in front of her heart, but she thought that was something to check later. So I called Gordon to say we’d get her back in the morning as he has already kindly said he’d give me a lift again. And I had gone from thinking I was losing her in the morning to thinking great, get her home tomorrow, more to check out but she’s doing okay and coming home.
Then the vet called again. A complication, that lumps was full of fluid and the drip she was on was making it worse, they would have to stop or she’d suffocate from it, but if they stopped she would slowly slip back in her weakened state to the coma like state she was in when I found her. Either way she was going to decline slowly during the night and she would begin to suffer as she did. We have to think what’s best for Pandora, the vet told me, which was a gentle way of telling me I had to let her be put to sleep to spare her suffering. Thank god Gordon didn’t mind being dragged back out late on a wet, dark Sunday night and drove me back there so I could be with my gorgeous girl for a little while. Her sight was still wonky but she knew it was me holding her, talking to her, stroking her and I could hear her purr so very quietly. Then it was time and they made her sleep so she wouldn’t feel the final injection. I held her and stroked her lovely, autumn coloured fur until her heart stopped and my adorable Pandora was gone. The vet was very nice and left me with her for a little while. She looked like she was sleeping on her little rug and I felt so guilty having to leave her there, even though I knew it wasn’t her any longer. And I felt so guilty at signing the form to let them put her to sleep, even though I knew it was the only mercy I could give to her and was the right thing to do. God knows how anyone ever makes a decision like switching off life support for their human family members, it’s agonising enough with your beloved cat.
Been off the last couple of days and feel shattered, all happened so fast and I can’t quite process that my gorgeous, lovely, warm kitty of over 13 years has been taken away and I never get to see her again. When I don’t see her here I keep thinking she must be sleeping on the bed in the other room and expect to see her come trotting through to the living room at any moment. Then I remember and realise that will never happen again and it’s awful. Pandora is such a huge, huggy puss – she loves being picked up, lies back in your arms like a big furry baby purring against your arms. Sometimes when I held her like that she would raise one of her enormous creamy white paws and gently pat my face. Adorable. Every night when I came home she would wait patiently for me to pick her up like that and cuddle her. I never met a cat so damned cuddly, I am sure she must have been a teddy bear in a former life. No matter how bad a day I had I came home to a big Pandora hug and I felt better. Even in the dark days after we lost mum so suddenly both my girls made me feel better. And now I’ll never come home to my little darling ever again and that’s awful.
(those big, shiny eyes, those gorgeous colours like an autumn forest. And those huge white paws. As soon as I brought her home as a kitten I saw those paws and knew she would grow into a huge puss. And she did. A huge and cuddly puss)
Not slept much last couple of night, Cassie normally curls up with me at night, but she is curling up for a while then she goes off round the flat mieowing and looking for Pandora, then comes back to me in bed, then goes looking again. During the day she’s been snuggling up to me all the time except when she goes looking for her sister again. She doesn’t understand what happened, but she knows Pandora is gone and that something bad happened and she’s clearly distressed. I worry about Cassie, she’s never been alone in her life, never been parted from her sister. I brought them home as 10 week old kittens from the cat shelter years ago, they were so small they could fit in your hand and I loved them right away. The cats made the flat into a real home, not just a place to live, but a warm, living, welcoming place;’ they’re not pets, they’re companions, friends, family, your girls. And believe me, when you live by yourself they are such a hugely important part of your emotional life support. The girls and dad have been what kept me going since we lost mum and I’ve been dreadfully afraid of this kind of thing happening as they got older. You know when you have pets one day this will happen, you trade the many good days and years off against the bad days when you lose them. And painful as that is, a pain that goes into your heart and soul, it is still worth it for the brightness they bring into our lives.
(Pandora with her sister Cassie lying behind her,she liked lying on the end of the bed, big paws out in front like a Sphinx. Some nights she would lie there while I slept, as if she was keeping guard so no bad dreams could get to me)
Goodnight my adorable Pandora, you made me happy, you made me smile even when I was miserable and in pain like I had never known before, you snuggled up to me and purred against me, you made me laugh as you played with the ball of wool. You brought life and love and warmth into my life and made the flat a home along with your dear sister. It’s only been two days and already I miss you dreadfully and so does your little sister. I don’t know where we go when it ends and I don’t believe the fairy tales of any religion, but it’s also hard to believe we just stop. If we go somewhere afterwards then mum, please look out for my wee girl, she’ll be lost and wondering where I am. She loves to be held and stroked, please look after her and love her for me. Goodnight, my gorgeous girl, I love you and life is so much darker without your light beside me.