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Archive for March, 2019

The cat who came to stay

Growing up, we always had cats and dogs. The first one I remember was Nina, a temperamental Siamese who hated everyone but my mother and never missed an opportunity to swipe me. Many more followed and at one point Mum had six, all strays fallen on their paws.

 

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Vizzy hiding his one white whisker 

When, in my thirties, I finally bought my own home, having a cat of my own was top of my list. I adopted Camden, a large black and white bundle of love three months after I got the keys. We spent nine wonderful years together. It was just the two of us at first, then along came Other Half whom she adored, but then to her intense irritation, came a puppy followed shortly after by a second dog. She ruled us all with an iron paw and we loved her for it. Losing her broke my heart and I swore that there would be no more cats.

 

Our one white-whiskered friend

When Mum passed away last year, she had just one cat left. Vizzy, a seventeen year old black cat with one white whisker. She used to say that the white whisker was to make sure a witch wouldn’t steal him. He too had turned up as a stray many years before, skittish and scared and in desperate need of medical care as his back foot was flayed open like raw meat.

It took days to catch him and his story might have been a short one had it not been for my mother’s strength of character. Taking him to a well-known charity, the vet offered to put him down there and then, telling her that he was obviously in agony and should be spared further suffering. All this while, as my mother recounted, Vizzy rolled on his back purring and playing with the stethoscope of the woman offering blithely to end his short life.

Mum took him to another vet and paid for the operation to remove the ruined pad and put his foot back together. Vizzy went home with her and there he stayed, a determined house cat for the next twelve years – until disaster struck and Mum passed.

Poorly boy

 

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Tuckered out after an evening’s play

When I told people about Vizzy, some acquaintances, (my friends would know better,) actually asked me if I would ‘keep the cat’. Just like that, as if he was a piece of furniture to be retained or disposed of at will. There was no question in either my mind of Other Half’s that he would come home with us, the real question though was whether he would live long enough to make the trip. With horrendous digestion issues, a thyroid condition and stage four kidney failure, things looked pretty bleak.

 

I stayed in Wales for two months to look after him while he underwent a barrage of tests and we ran up a truly hideous vet bill. He took it all in his stride and seemed content to be prodded and poked just so long as there was a cuddle at the end of it. He slept every night on my head and purred loudly on my lap during the day as I wrote, and for a while I thought that might be the best I could offer him. The vets were gloomy – but Viz had other ideas.

After a week on a new veterinary diet, our last-ditch attempt at settling his stomach, everything returned to normal. I never thought I’d be so excited that I’d photograph cat poo but hey, I am that person! After finding the right medication, his thyroid stabilised and he began gaining weight too. Through it all though, he remained an utter delight, lapping up love like a sponge and taking everything in his stride.

Homeward bound

I brought him home five months ago – a three-hour journey that felt like six thanks to the yowling. Our spare bedroom is now his, replete with a kitty en-suite, water fountain, three cat beds (although of course he prefers the double bed) plus enough toys to keep him entertained.

 

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Vizzy on his portable chair bed – he stays put as we carry him between offices 

As he and Bear have yet to really ‘bond’ (Little Bear, thanks to Camden’s training is scared witless of him,) Viz spends most his day on his chair bed in Other Half’s office. We swap office dog for office cat during the day just to mix it up for them and ensure we both get the requisite amount of cuddle time. Each night he howls the place down if one of us hasn’t played with him for at least fifteen minutes, so, being good human slaves, we wiggle shoelaces, throw toy mice and set up tunnels for him to wiggle through.

 

I have no idea how long we’ll have him. For now his health is stable and he certainly seems to be content. It’s a juggle keeping him and Little Bear supervised, but we’re getting there slowly. I know there will be further heartache ahead, but for now I’m just happy to have such a wonderful little soul in our lives.

  • While I’ve just discovered that there’s a book by Lesley Fotherby called ‘The Cat Who Came To Stay’, my inspiration for the title of this blog though was the truly wonderful ‘Cat Who’ series by Lillian Jackson Braun. If you love cats, they’re a magical read and thanks to the fabulous narration, the audible versions are even lovelier.

 

 

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Our darling Camden 

 

 

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Mini Schnauzer curled up on the writer's chest

Little Bear decided I needed a hug

When you have a reactive dog, let alone two, holidaying with your hounds isn’t the relaxing experience it might be. We have tried, but as my post, The Hay Scale details, sometimes with disastrous/hilarious results.

We’ve also tried holidaying without them, stealing ourselves to leave them at home with our wonderful house-sitter friend who they absolutely adore, but as they get older, it gets harder and harder to leave them.  The best scenery in the world can’t make up for the ‘what if?’ thoughts.

Taking the plunge 

Realising that never taking a break wasn’t a recipe for good health, in late 2017, high on the (misplaced) optimism and security of a new job and the opportunity to spend more time with my wonderful Mum, we took the plunge and bought a little house high in the Afan Forest, back home in Wales.

Having our own dog-friendly rental made complete sense.  We’d get more time in Wales with friends and family, the dogs would get to stay somewhere safe and familiar and I’d always have a base I could take the dogs to if my mum was ill.  In the meantime, we’d let it out so that other people could enjoy it.

We called it Ty Hiraeth. Ty is Welsh for house and Hiraeth means ‘a Welsh person’s longing for home’ although I prefer the more romantic interpretation of ‘a longing to be where your spirit lives.’  It felt apt as this was literally the house that ‘called me home to Wales.’

Home from home

The dogs love it there.  Little Bear turns billy-goat and just wants to climb every mountain, even when that means we have to follow on hands and knees (we keep telling him he’s 11 but he doesn’t listen), and Annie has made a new sport out of jumping in the waterfall pools whenever our back is turned.  There are so many walks that it’s easy to avoid other dogs if we want to, but they’ve also made new canine friends too. And of course, Bear being Bear, he quickly sussed out which of our lovely neighbours are always good for a biscuit!

There are times in life when it’s good to know what’s around the corner – and times when if you did, you’d probably never leave the house again. 2018 was certainly the latter.

Here come the lemons

We had barely started the renovation when my mum began to rapidly lose her sight and was told that she’d need mayor surgery.  Then I was made redundant. We stepped up the pace on the house while I also set about re-staring my consulting business, but like peeling an onion, we found more and more that needed to be done in the house before we could open the doors to paying guests.

A few months later my darling aunt passed away plunging us all into a black hole.  A few weeks later my mum had her first surgery, followed a few months later by the second.  Her sight was completely restored and we all breathed a huge sigh of relief.  But then just seven months after my aunt passed, my mum was gone too – following her beloved sister.  And the losses would just keep mounting up from there.

Constant companions

I’m sure in years to come I may look back on 2018 with a wisdom and maturity that are just beyond me at the moment.  What I do know is that by my side throughout it all I’ve had, not just my wonderful husband, (see hon, you do come first sometimes) but my incredible dogs.

They have sat in uncharacteristic patience with me in my numbed silences; licked tears gently and thoughtfully from my face; curled up one each side, when even moving was beyond me and forgiven me who knows how many times for delayed dinners or walks. When it felt like no one understood or cared, I looked into their eyes and knew that they saw it all – felt it all, and in that connection, they held me here.

Ty Hiraeth 

Against the odds, our little holiday let, ‘Ty Hiraeth‘ welcomed its first guest last summer. More followed and their lovely comments have been little rays of sunlight amongst the gloom. I love seeing pictures of our canine guests exploring the forest or romping on the beach, tongues lolling, happy holiday faces beaming.

‘Ty Hiraeth’ has already given us so much – it allowed me to be there for my family when they needed me and most importantly of all, it gave me time with my precious mum. Then, afterwards, it provided a place of healing and retreat for us all.

We have no idea what 2019 will bring, hope can be cruel, so I’m leaving it in the box for now, but one thing I do know – when life brings you lemons, at least we have dogs.

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