Below is a story submitted to me by Debbie Wakeham who read my book, Cloudy Rainbow, and told me how much she liked it. Her beautiful tale about the loss of her cat Eric, told by him, also deals with pet bereavement. I think it will resonate with those who have lost a pet. Warning: you may want to read this with tissues handy.
They were worried – I could tell by the way they kept stroking me and trying to induce me to eat. They offered me my very favourite foods (chicken, ham and steak) but I was just not interested. For some time now I had been feeling under the weather. I was losing weight rapidly and just did not feel like doing anything. Sometimes I was sick. They did not notice at first that there was anything wrong, as I was very good at hiding things, but eventually it became obvious.
When things became really bad, they got the carrier ready with a soft blanket and placed me inside, preparatory to making that all too familiar journey we had made many times before. But this time felt different; they were making strange noises and kept wiping their eyes with those tissue things they had sometimes used on me when my eyes got ‘gunged up’ as they called it. Their eyes were not gunged up – just wet. ‘Oh Eric, we love you so much’ they said, before lifting me, in the carrier, into the car.
I had spent many happy years with them. An old lady had found me wandering the streets, undernourished and covered in mange, and had taken me home to live with her. She was not in good health herself and, deciding she now had too many of us to look after, she determined to find me a good home where I could receive the love and attention I deserved. Her granddaughter happened to know exactly the right people: a couple who had, over the years, opened their house to many like me and accepted them unreservedly as members of their family.
At first I was very nervous and kept running away from them and hiding. They fed me and let me slowly get used to my surroundings before attempting to give me too much direct attention. I could tell they both loved me and once I heard the female say that one day I would break her heart. I resolved to do nothing of the kind and, as my confidence grew, I would reassure her by lying full length on her at night, on top of the covers on their bed. The male had no objection to sharing their bed with me; I think he liked it.
One day soon after I arrived, they took me in the carrier, in the car, to a new place. We waited in a room with other people, some with monsters attached to them by a collar and lead and some with carriers like mine. After a while, we were invited into another room. I was placed on a table and a strange male person gave me a thorough examination. He shaved my front leg and inserted something. I felt a slight sting – then I was put back in the carrier and, to my relief, they took me home. (I did not want to be left somewhere else just as I was getting used to my new place).
I began to feel much better in the days to come. The mange stopped itching; in fact, it went away completely and my coat grew back. I had been virtually bald down my sides but now, though I say it myself, I was becoming extremely handsome. Visitors would admire me greatly and one young man described my colouring as Peach.
I had a few problems with my health over the years: I got a scratch on my eye and the clever man (who had cured the mange) did something clever with my third eyelid – stitching it across so I was blind in one eye for a while. When he took the stitch out, my eye was perfectly healed. Another thing was my teeth – they got to hurt like crazy and though I was starving hungry, I recoiled in pain from the food bowl every time I tried to eat. Once again, the clever man sorted it out. It seemed I was allergic to plaque and eventually I had to have all my teeth removed. My mouth was a bit sore at first but soon my gums hardened and I could even eat biscuits again! I had to bluff my way through verbal exchanges with that horrible tom down the road; it would not do for him to suspect that, if push came to shove, I would be unable to bite. My male person laughed at these episodes and said I was ‘all mouth and trousers’.
The main problem was Popps. For some reason, she could not stand me and would bully me remorselessly. Being a gentleman, I refused to retaliate. I was not scared of her – of course I wasn’t. I don’t remember if I have mentioned that I shared the house with a few others; most of them were ok; it was only Popps who was the problem. At that time we were living in a place where my people were reluctant to facilitate spontaneous exits and entrances via the back door into the garden, and we always had to ask when we wanted to go out. Something to do with nasty neighbours, I think. Anyway, if I needed to go out in the night (I was reluctant to use the facilities so thoughtfully provided in the kitchen, as Popps would stand in the way) I had to resort to jumping on the bed and trampling back and forth over my people, asking very politely if they would not mind getting up to let me out. They always obliged even if, as they said, it was four o’clock in the morning!
Other than that, life was perfect. I had everything I wanted and needed, an abundance of love and as much food as I could eat. I liked nothing better than to bask in the sun, either outside in the garden, or inside on a large armchair with a splendid throw over it – the sunlight casting intricate patterns of light and shade over me and the chair. I would get into silly positions, lying twisted on my back with my legs in the air, to amuse my people. The female would laugh out loud and point a rectangular thing at me. It went ‘Click!’ and then she would show me what it had captured – yes, a tiny picture of me in my favourite chair. She took several like that, and a few when I was curled up asleep, unawares.Seasons passed and, whatever the weather, my people made sure I was always comfortable. Spring and Summer saw me exploring outside in the garden and venturing further afield when I felt like it. Once they thought I had disappeared and they were worried sick. On my travels, I noticed pictures of me posted up in shop windows with some writing underneath and the word ‘LOST’ at the top, in large black letters. Imagine their relief when I turned up a couple of days later. I don’t know what they were worried about.
Autumn and Winter saw me curled up on chairs, on the sofa, on the bed, wherever it was warm. Then one year, they decided to move to a different house. I knew something was up by the general disruption and removal of furniture. The hustle and bustle continued for most of the day, then we were all loaded into our carriers and taken in the car to the new place. I liked it straight away and, though it was Winter, I was delighted to see that they had put something in the back door so that we could come and go as we pleased into the garden. Of course we had to stay in for a while, till we got used to the place and called it our home. But once we 3 of 4 were allowed outside, life became even better.
I looked forward to the Summer, when I would go out and bask in the sunshine. But no sooner had I got used to the new place than I became unwell again. This time it was kidney trouble and they had to feed me some special food (they said it was expensive but that I was worth it) from tins they got from the clever man. The food was boring but I still ate well; I managed two tins a day. It wasn’t long before I began to go off the special food. It really was very bland and I was glad when they tempted me (against their better judgement, they said) with chicken, which was my favourite.
For a short while this worked and I regained some of my appetite. But gradually I began to lose condition and to lose interest in food. I also lost a lot of weight. My coat lost its shine and became woolly. My stomach felt increasingly uncomfortable and I felt – I can only describe it as – wrong all over. It wasn’t just my kidneys, of that I was certain. Then came the day when I could only manage one small mouthful of chicken.
When we arrived, they took me in the carrier into the room I knew so well – the smells, the other people, some with carriers like ours and some with monsters wearing collar and lead. I was glad the monsters were securely attached to their people, as their lunging and the noise they sometimes made unnerved me. We did not have long to wait; soon we were in that other room again with the clever man. I was lifted out of the carrier onto the table. The clever man gently stroked me, felt around my stomach and stroked me again. He nodded to my people and said: ‘Yes, I think it’s time.’ While my people held me close, he shaved my front leg and inserted something. I felt a slight sting and then I think I went to sleep. Everything went dark.
When I woke up, I felt wonderful. Gone were the pain, the lethargy and the sickness. I just wanted to run and run and explore this beautiful new world. Strangely enough I had no desire to eat but that did not seem to matter. There was, and is, so much to see and do in such beautiful surroundings – woodland, green fields, sunshine to bask in and shade, just when needed, for a rest and a sleep. The air is always so fresh, the temperature just right and the scent of the grasses and flowers is so vivid. I even came across old friends I have not seen for years and we spend many happy hours running, sniffing, chasing imaginary mice, or just relaxing, stretching out on the fragrant grass and picking up each other’s thoughts. The only thing missing is my old home and of course my people. They are not here, and they do not come to see me.
My old friends and the new ones I have made communicated to me that they often pop back to visit their respective homes, which are only a thought away. They explained that most of their people do not live here in the wonderful land and, like mine, they never come to visit. Those who have their people with them have no need and no desire to go back.
As I wanted to see mine, I decided to pay them a visit. I was surprised and more than a little disappointed to find that they did not appear to notice my miraculous return to health; in fact, they did not seem to notice me at all. However, one of their friends (a lady with long, blonde hair) caught sight of me on the stairs on one of her visits. She seemed very surprised to see me, which was strange, as she had often made a fuss of me in the past.
Though I am extremely happy in the wonderful land, I still go back from time to time, in the hope that one day they might pay me some attention. So far, that has not happened. They no longer put out food and water for me (but that does not matter). The litter tray has gone (but that does not matter either). Why are they ignoring me? They never stroke me anymore and they have to keep wiping their eyes with those tissue things. Their eyes are not gunged up – just wet.