Thursday, 27 August 2009

The animals in my life.....

I grew up in a family of 5 children, so you'd imagine that there might be animals around. Most children love animals and it's a great way to learn responsibility. My dad had had a cat called Blackie when he was a boy, but my mum was always scared of cats and dogs - something she picked up from her own mother. They kept chickens during the war, mostly as a food source, but made the mistake of giving them names - so they became pets, and she couldn't bear to eat one of her pets!!

My first experience of an animal as a child was next door's dog - a lovely boxer girl. But I think I probably picked up some of my mum's fear of animals, and really didn't like her jumping up at me. I was also quite small, and she was gentle, but rather strong. However, I'd always loved cats. Even before I had my first cat I used to cut out pictures of cats I liked and stick them in a scrap book. Even from a very young age I felt an affinity with them.

Imagine how excited I was when I got home from school one day to find a little ginger and white ball of fluff waiting for me!!! Despite her fear of cats and dogs, Mum had got us a little kitten she called Andy - from a friend whose cat had just had a litter. I was in love - we all were! He was so cute, and lovely. But quite a handful, and what we didn't realise was that while we were all at school during the day it was becoming torture for Mum. He was so little, there wasn't really anything to fear, but you know what kittens are like - always getting under your feet, and getting into everything they shouldn't!!

One day we got home from school to find he wasn't there any more - she'd returned him to where he'd come from. So our excitement and pure love that had lasted only a week quickly turned to something like grief. I was only 9, so couldn't really understand why she had done this. I was in floods of tears for days.

We'd always had budgies in cages (something I really don't like now), but we still wanted something warm and fluffy to hold and care for. So it wasn't long before we had a rabbit. We got him on the day of the moon landings, so called him Mr Mooney - until we discovered that "he" was actually a she, so dropped the Mr part, and just called her Mooney. We had a huge garden, so dad built a great run for her - which she was always burrowing out of!! And from that point we had a succession of guinea pigs to keep her, and then them, company.

There were dogs on either side of us - to the left was Heidi, a rather excitable Dalmatian, and on the left was Sasha, a German Shepherd. Before Sasha came though, Sophie the cat lived there, but after Sasha moved in she pretty much moved out and into ours. When they decided to emigrate to South Africa, it made a lot of sense for Sophie to move into our home on a permanent basis, and she continued to live with us very happily for a number of years. Needless to say, all us kids, and dad, were very happy. Mum seemed to cope quite well too - perhaps because she'd known Sophie for a while, and by then she wasn't a kitten, so was quite calm.

I moved out and got married while Sophie was still with us, and we got a lovely little kitten we called Moggie. Her sister Mitzi was adopted by our neighbours, so they would call on each other to come to play. We lived next to a farm, and they would follow me when I went for a walk in the fields. And there was a hilarious time once when I looked out of the window to see Moggie sitting quite happily on a cow's back! I think it was a great place for her to live.

Moggie was with me through various events in my life, including my marriage break up (she came with me), various house moves, and finally a move to Peterborough. She came on the train with me, in her little basket, and really seemed to enjoy the journey. I have no doubt that some of the difficulties I experienced in my life affected her too, but she was always there for me and with me. She left this physical realm far too early - when she was 11 she started to suffer from kidney failure as do many cats, and I was devastated when the vet said there was nothing further he could do.

After that my job took me overseas for 18 months, and I spent a number of years travelling frequently, so it wasn't possible to have another animal friend for a while. I also think it took me a long time to get over her being taken from me, and just couldn't face the fact that if I had another animal companion, the same thing would be bound to happen at some point.

While Moggie was still with us, one of my sisters adopted a little girl cat who was all black except for a tiny white spot under her chin - so it was easy to see why she was called Domino! Domino wasn't the easiest cat - she was prone to lashing out, and definitely didn't like being picked up. This was really my first experience of regular pet sitting - she didn't live too far away, and whenever my sister and husband went away, I'd go and sit with her for a couple of hours and watch TV with her as she cautiously climbed onto my lap. But her favourite person in the world was Josh - another sister's son - who was only very young at the time. He could do anything with her and she never complained!

More recently Josh's mum had a couple of Westie sisters - sadly now only one - and am looking after Zoe as I write, as they've gone away for a few days. She's always been a very sweet tempered little angel, and even my Mum loves her!! And my best friend Mark (his family are like my second family - aaahh...) has a brother who has a gorgeous little black Spaniel girl called Cinder, who is lucky to live by the sea. So I've still had lots of lovely animals to play with and give love to.

I'd started to think about having a cat again by this point. I wasn't travelling any more, and lived in a little house in a quiet cul-de-sac with a small garden which was perfect for a little cat. But I guess it's a commitment, and much as I'd missed having my own animal friend, I wasn't sure I was ready yet. But then one day, I saw an article in the local paper, about cats that needed homes at a local animal sanctuary. I showed Mark, and he decided that we should pay them a visit. It's as though everything came together at the right time, and this was the final sign I needed. We didn't find Bella - she found us. She was a very vocal 6 month old at the time - still very vocal! - and told us to pick her. So we did!! And the rest is history....... the picture at the top of this post is Bella as she is now.

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