I was taught to love every living creature, so from aged three I had pets — white mice, cats, and dogs at first. Later, exotic strays made their way to our door too, and were welcomed. When we moved out to the country and had an acre of land, the animals multiplied. Hens, hamsters, and a tortoise started the menagerie, then some stray cats had kittens and we suddenly had nine.
Sadly, cat flu went through that year and we lost a lot. I had a beautiful black cat I called Septimus, who followed me everywhere and went for walks perched on my shoulder. He drowned trying to catch water rats I think, and I mourned for him for a whole year.
Special pets leave a hole in your heart when they go. I’ve been married for 59 years and throughout that time there have been quite a few pets that remain in the memory.
Grotty was a dog with a personality larger than life. He came as a tiny golden ball of fluff, he was a Labrador Retriever mixture and he had boundless energy. Our children were tiny and they loved him, they contrived games and he ended up dressed as a cowboy a few times, he guarded them with his life, made himself sick eating lollies and was forever escaping and seeking out mates on the local farms. We made the fences higher but he just learned how to jump higher. We eventually tamed his escaping traits and he settled down. When he had to be put to sleep the whole family became overwhelmed with grief, he had been with us all their childhood (15 years).
We still share the stories now, of his love of going on holiday with us. When he would leap into the mini bus and stay there as soon as we collected it. His face wreathed in smiles, a dog who knew he would soon be on long beaches running with the children and anticipating all the new smells and the walks he would have. His protective streak caused a few troubles though, he would sniff and let strangers in, but then he would stand over them guarding the children, growling ferociously if the stranger tried to move. I once came home and found a terrified friend pinned to a chair. Yes, Grotty was special.
Roger was a cat of character, he was not a lap cat, but a cat that walked alone and took his own path in life. His escapades were hair raising, as we lived near new houses being built. Roger liked to go and socialise with the builders, and then snooze on the bare floors in the sun. This was his undoing; he was twice bricked into the foundations of houses being built. He survived once for 10 days as we frantically searched a new housing estate for his corpse. He was released by a builder who heard his cries. When he came home we all cried again as we thought he was dead. He wolfed down every scrap we had left on our plates. He went on to live to 18 years, and I am eternally sad that I couldn’t bring him when we came to Australia, but his age and the stress I deemed too much. There was nobody who could care for him.
Missy is our latest cat. She came to us as a skinny little waif and made it obvious we were her new owners. She lived next door, but cats decide who they live with. Within a month of our accepting her she had kittens in the garage. Luckily we found homes for the adorable little fur balls. She kept moving the kittens and only allowed us to see them after she had decided we could be trusted. They moved so often we called them Gypsy, Romany and Tinker. We hope they were loved in their new homes. Missy now should be on a Weight Watcher’s diet as she is so big she looks like a square cat, but she has us wound around her little paw. She sleeps with her head on the pillow and has a spare day bed she uses. Yes she is ruined! Cats do have servants.
We’ve had two rescue dogs, many stray cats, a magpie with a broken wing, rabbits, hamsters, mice, and an Alexandrian parrot who was so loud he could be heard a mile away on good day. I have friends who foster animals and work for shelters and I admire them and the work they do. They have the right idea, caring for an animal and caring about animals is rewarding for both participants.