Why do we set ourselves up for heartache? If you are a loving human being with half a heart, then why do we embrace having four-legged family members when we know that when the inevitable comes, the grief is terrible?
We have always had animals, ‘pets’ seems the wrong word, too insignificant, too trivial somehow. Yes, you can tell I’m one of these soppy humans who deeply love my four-legged friends. For me and my family, they are not pets, they ARE family members and when the dreadful time comes, it is totally crushing. I know we are not the only people that feel this way, so why oh why do we put ourselves through the trauma of it all?
Well, we have been very lucky over the years that all of our four-legged friends have been long-lived and happy. 17 years seems to be the common denominator, as our last dog (Fluff) and our last cat (Kitty) both died at the age of 17. One by a reoccurrence of the cancer that had taken one of her legs three years prior, and the other was killed by idiot teenagers racing through our sleepy village at 80 miles an hour! If a child had been crossing the road at the time, they would have been killed too. One death we could prepare for, the other was shockingly quick with no-time to say goodbye, which does make it worse somehow. But nonetheless, when the end comes, it’s simply terrible.
Well, last Friday 15th November, our beloved cat, Mimi, who we had for 17 years, died after a shockingly quick illness. We weren’t prepared, any of us.
17 years ago, only a day or so after a particularly horrific episode with my violent alcoholic father who had yet again attacked my poor mum, we were shopping at the local Tesco’s supermarket. It was a late Friday evening in early November, pitch black, full of smoke from the bonfires and fireworks going on around us. Everyone having fun, getting on with their lives, as we were trying to pick up the pieces of ours. A difficult time to say the least. We came out of the store to the mostly empty carpark. I was vaguely aware of some kids on bikes with firecrackers, shouting and hollering at each other, they seemed to be chasing something. Then, out of the darkness I heard what I thought was a baby crying. I couldn’t work out where it was coming from. The kids came closer, still chasing something. Then suddenly I saw this tiny black thing run across the carpark towards me. I bent down. It was a little cat, a poor half-starved thing, all bones and long black fur. She looked like a new-born, she was so miniscule.
I picked her up, and she immediately snuggled into me and started purring. It was then that I realised that this tiny little kitten was the thing that those awful kids had been chasing and throwing firecrackers at. She didn’t have any collar or tags, and clearly whoever owned her, had neglected her terribly. We took her into Tesco’s, really not knowing what to do. The security guard, a huge bear of a man, just melted when he saw her, but said that she wouldn’t belong to anyone there and that the best thing was to take her to the vets.
She was so emaciated, no bigger than the size of a grapefruit and as light as cotton wool, that we really didn’t think she’d survive the night. But, right from the beginning, she was a little fighter. We took her to the vets the next day and was shocked to be told that was at least six months old and could be nearly a year old, she’d been so starved that she was half the size she should be and if she survived, she would always, as a result, be a small cat. We decided then and there, that we had to look after her.
We took her home and this tiny thing immediately showed how much gutsy fight she had in her. Despite her size she boldly waltzed up to our soft-hearted Border Collie, Fluff, and showing no fear, hissed in her face! But, despite the bumpy beginnings, Fluff and Mimi soon became the very best of friends, an inseparable duo.
Two weeks passed and Mimi steadily gained weight and health and was fighting fit, albeit still tiny, and then the poor little thing went into season. Warned by the vets, that due to her initial starvation, she would never be big enough to carry kittens, we regrettably did the responsible thing and had her neutered. But my, what gorgeous kittens she would have had, a feisty half Persian, half Siamese constantly talking, long-haired beauty!
The strange reality of all this, is that, that little cat needed us and we needed her just as much.
After all the horrific things that had happened, Mimi may have been a rescue cat, but she had actually rescued us too. She gave my Mum a much-needed distraction and something to love and look after when college called. She healed many of the wounds that had been inflicted on us by my monster of an ex-father. For me personally, after the death of my beloved cat, Kitty, I had sworn to never have a cat again, it was just too painful and Kitty was irreplaceable. But here, suddenly, was this little thing. She found us.
Years passed, things change, sadly our dog Fluff died and so Mimi was the only family pet for a while. More bad times, more upset, more drama, but still she was there. Then two boisterous huge white wolves came along and we moved house and Mimi, now an old but lively lady, took it all in her stride. In fact, her last twelve months were her best. Suddenly she had a new lease on life, instead of spending her days eating and sleeping, she was a kitten again – climbing trees, running across the garden at full speed, jumping ever higher heights, playing games with the boys including lying in wait for them to poke their heads through the dog flap so she could pounce on them. She even put up with one of my dogs, Tolly, and his obsessive love for her, following her around like a love-sick stalker, only inches from her face, smiling and sighing at she passed, hoping she would reciprocate his affection.
Yes, she had the perfect life. Log fires, roasting radiators, 2 acres to roam in, and a plethora of places to play, sunbathe, hunt and sleep in. Life was good. We were all convinced that we had at least another 5yrs with her. Even three months ago, the vets described her as amazing for her age, with brilliant health results.
So when she suddenly seemed off her food, we weren’t too alarmed. Nonetheless, we took her to the vets promptly. They seemed worried, she wasn’t eating and showed no sign of wanting to. Anything she did eat she sicked up again. She lost weight dramatically over just two days. She stayed in the veterinary hospital for three days. It was sudden liver failure, nothing we could have foreseen or prevented, but the sudden nature of it was shocking given how fit and healthy she had been only days before. By last Thursday we were told the worst, nothing they had done had worked, all the meds, all the procedures, nothing. She was dreadfully weak and jaundiced. The liver had failed completely and couldn’t be repaired. We took her home in a daze of tears. We stayed with her all night in the living room, in front of the open fire, just stroking her and trying to give her water.
Even at the end, she was such a fighter. She didn’t die peacefully in her sleep as we had hoped, she still kept fighting despite her body failing her. By Friday afternoon, there was nothing more we could do…she died in our arms in front of the fire she loved so much.
We placed her on her favourite pillow. The boys, who knew she was very ill and had been so gentle and calm with her, came in to say goodbye. Korrun immediately started whimpering when he saw her and backed away, but Tolly kept nudging her with his nose and pawing her, trying to wake her up. He misses her terribly.
In tears amongst the rain and the dimming light, we dug a hole in the garden, said a prayer and buried her beneath the flowering cherry tree, with her favourite toys and cushion.
A couple of days later, when we felt strong enough, we took the boys with us in the car and drove to a very special place, Teckels Animal Sanctuaries http://www.teckelsanimalsanctuaries.co.uk/ that take in and look after rescue animals. In Mimi’s memory we wanted to help other rescue cats like her, so we donated the remaining toys, food, litter and other items to them. They were very grateful for the donation and so very kind. But for us, it was also a way of recognising that we’ll never have another cat. Mimi is and was truly irreplaceable.
I’m sure for those of you who don’t have animals and perhaps even for some of you that do, this must all seem very silly and over-the-top. All this fuss over an old cat? But she has been such a central part of our family for so long, and though she only occupied a small space, the hole she has left is enormous.
The household is quieter now. No constant cat chattering, no infatuated love-struck doggy. Tolly in particular has taken it very badly and whimpers, which he never did before. He still looks for her, convinced she is merely hiding from him, and cried when he saw her cat basket. It will take time and lots of hugs for us to all feel better and heal our sad hearts. But it certainly makes you realise how short all our lives are and how important it is to love and care for those dear to us, whether they have two legs or four!
So, in memory of a beautiful, small, determined, sassy, demanding, uniquely special little cat who ruled the roost and kept us all in line, I say thank you and I love you.
I should take this opportunity to thank our amazing veterinary hospital, Vale Vets http://www.valevets.co.uk/ and our wonderful vet, Ella Robotham, who has always taken such great care of the boys and Mimi, and who worked tirelessly to try to save her. Thank you for all your care, kindness and sensitivity, we owe you a debt of gratitude. xxx
Please support your local animal charities, particularly those who look after rescued and abused animals and take such wonderful care of them. For people wishing to help Teckels Animal Sanctuaries: http://www.teckelsanimalsanctuaries.co.uk/ Please donate as little as £1 by sending a text from your mobile phone. Simply text ‘PETS10′ followed by the amount you wish to donate (up to £10) to 70070 i.e. text ‘PETS10 £5′ to 70070 would donate £5 to Teckels Animal Sanctuaries.
Rest in peace sweet girl. xxxxx