Friday, November 4, 2011

Holding hands

It's that time of the month, so you're in the hands of The Husband...

We’re a family who likes animals. We’re a family who loves animals. We’re a family who will pause the TV when a cute beaver comes on and call in the others for a look.

I go all funny when I see a boxer, pug, staffie, or bulldog – the uglier the cuter – and ask their owner if I can pat them.

One of the best ever was a boxer with quite severe dental issues who prompted strangers to say nervously, “er, oh my, aren’t you, er pretty,” as she revealed a row of drooling snaggled fangs. She did this, her owner said, because every time she “smiled” people told her she was pretty so she “smiles” at to everyone she meets.

That’s the sort of story we like to tell each other around the dinner table. So imagine what we’re like with our own animals. Mental.

Some 15 years ago, pre-child and in rather tasteful rented accommodation in Sydney’s east, we decided to get cats. We got a couple of Russian Blues, sisters from the same litter. They were the last two in the litter, purebred rejects. Maisie was like a mini-panther, huge, sleek and a very simple soul. Bella was the opposite, a little round-faced bear, quirky and smart.

Over the years, and with the arrival of their “sister", The Child, they wound their lives around ours, purring and asking for dinner.

Our mental family story archives are full of “remember the time that tom cat tried to assault Bella and Maisie tore him to pieces. “Remember when Maisie bit the child but only after she poked her in the eye five times in a row. “Remember when Bella got locked outside for the night by mistake and leaped into “Mummy’s” arms, covered in twigs and leaves.” Okay, legends in our own family, maybe.

Four years ago, big, robust Maisie, Maisie who never got sick, Maisie who could lick a litre of spilled turpentine off her fur and not blink, got kidney disease. She died within two weeks of diagnosis. I wrote a story in a magazine about her death and its impact on us and, to this day, it is the piece that most people talk about to me, over a 25-year career in writing.

So, three months ago, Bella got the same kidney malfunction. We thought she was gone. But two nights on a saline drip at the vet and presto! – she was back with us, a little skinnier perhaps, but pretty much her old self.

Last weekend she had a relapse, much worse, and we all sobbed at her absence, imagining her cringing in a cage at the vet, shaved and hooked up. There was no way she was going to make it this time. She was just so sick.

After two days we took her home. The levels of toxins had dropped a bit and she was at least eating and drinking. It’s such a bittersweet thing. We though we’d lost her. Yet she’s back again, purring as she stands on my stomach as I lie on the bed, making nests in The Author of this blog’s crochet.

As she’s become sicker over the last few months I’ve taken to nick-naming her PC – short for Pet Cemetary. Okay, so we like animals and inappropriate humour.

She’s very “PC” indeed. Her back legs are wobbly, her meow has turned into a quavering quack, and she seems to take a minute or two of grunting and huffing to get her purr motor going. On waking, she’ll take a minute or two to focus the eyes and get moving – like most of us.

Next time the toxins overwhelm her, we’re not going to torment her with days in a cage at the vet. She hates it.

We don’t know how long she’ll be with us. Every borrowed day is a joy, an absolute blessing. To hear her claws on the floorboards as she shuffles up to our bedroom and arrives at the door – “quack!” is such a deep pleasure, because we thought we’d never hear it again.

The bond between her and The Author is as deep as any animal-human connection I’ve ever experienced and I can’t imagine the day it’s not there.

So for now we’ll enjoy having little PC with us and make every moment for her and us as wonderful as it can be.


  1. Well, now you have me tearing up. What a beautiful tribute to sweet Bella. It is so awful when we do what we can for our furry friends but one day even that will not be enough and the end will come. She will be loved right up until that moment comes. Love the image you've posted of her precious little paw. Yesterday I wrote about how the Persian kitty I rescued was adopted by a very good friend of mine. I am overjoyed that Chloe has a forever home. Wishing you all the best, Tammy

  2. So sorry to read about your little cat's condition - its a tragic disease. I'm a vet with a particular fondness for little catties, and over the years have taught some clients to do fluid treatment at home - but it has to be the right cat and the right owner - some tolerate it, some hate it. Check out 'subcutaneous fluids cats' on You Tube and see if its something you think might be possible for your family. Best of luck, Sarah

  3. xxx

    lost my 2 pussy cats last year. Sick dog this year.

    They are so much the part of us.

  4. The deep bonds we weave with our furry family members go deep and this piece brought a whole stream of memories flooding back linked to the demise of our own beloved boxer due to Kidney disease.

    His best mate, our Frankendog Luke missed him dreadfully for some time but then began to thrive like no-one's business, no doubt due to the double amount of love and attention he began to receive.

    Thank you for sharing this light-hearted and endearing celebration of your special family members, I hope the tapping of claws on floorboards is a morning melody you hear again soon.