Saturday, 4 October 2008


As a child I always loved animals, but my mother didn’t share my love. She could tolerate dogs, but cats made her cringe and the sight of a mouse turned her instantaneously into a screaming mess. So our house remained pet free until one day a large black cat decided we were its family. Mum tried her hardest to make it go away, shooing it, squirting it with water, but it kept coming back and eventually she gave in to my pestering and let it stay. Unfortunately it decided one night that my bed was a nice warm place to sleep and snuggled in with me while I was asleep. My screams when I cuddled ‘Teddy’ and Teddy objected and jumped out of bed with a loud hiss, woke the whole house, and the black cat quickly found a new home far away.

When I was nine, we came to Australia. To cut a long story short, things did not go well in the first nine months and my youngest brother died at the age of six. Shortly before he died, a kitten wandered into our garden. It was tiny, and misshapen from rickets. Again I pestered my mother to let me keep it and stressed out, I suppose, from everything else that was going on, she gave in. Despite all my feeding, he remained kitten size for the rest of his life. When my parents decided to move house to escape the memories, my mother tried to give him to the next-door neighbour. She didn’t know I was listening in, but fortunately the neighbour persuaded her that I needed the cat. He came with us and stayed till he died when I was a teenager.

I didn’t have another pet until I went teaching. This time I got a dog, a mongrel kelpie/ German Shepherd cross who had been found in craypot as a pup, about to be used as bait. She was a lovely dog with only one problem – she hated men. Only three men were ever allowed into my house without at least a low, menacing growl – my dad, my brother and the old man next door. That last one was a mystery to me. All I can think of is that he reminded me so much of my dad. Maybe he reminded her of him too. My poor husband was growled at from the very first day until the day she died at the age of fourteen. I think the feeling was mutual.

Since we married, we’ve had a sad succession of cats. First there was P’s cat, a black cat with a strange eye. Unlike my dog with P, he took an instant liking to me from the first day, curling up on my knee just as P shouted from the kitchen, “Don’t worry about the cat, he hates people.” He died of old age. Then there was another black cat who disappeared very quickly, a tabby who died from what was probably a snakebite, and another tabby who walked out the day he was booked to visit the vet for ‘that’ operation and never came back. We thought maybe two cats would keep each other company, so we got ‘Oscar’ and ‘Lucinda’. Oscar liked to nip across the road to the neighbouring farm and Lucinda would follow. Oscar was quick. Lucinda was not. She didn’t make it across one day. So then we got Emmy to keep Oscar company, but she went the same way. Then Oscar disappeared. I decided after that, that I wouldn’t have any more cats, but Dynamo is as mad about animals as I am, so we ended up with two female cats. I’m not going to say anything about them. I want them to stick around a whole lot longer.


C.R. Evers said...

As a fellow animal lover, this post really tugs at my heart. They really do bring a sense of joy and peace into a home and provide a measure of balm for our losses and frustrations.

I love your illustrations. They colors are so striking, and there is something in the eyes that "speaks" to the soul. Your love of animals shines through in your work!

Sweet post.


Kate said...

Thanks, Christy. Funnily enough, I usually start with the eyes. Once the animal looks 'alive' the rest seems to just come together.

Luc2 said...

Our family never had a great history with pets either. Dogs, cats, rabbits, birds and fish died or ran away/got lost, despite our best intentions.
The worst story is about the rabbit my grandfather told me to take care off, only to find it at the dinner table at New Year. I didn't realize it at the time, (I was 7) and thought the rabbit had run away a few days before. Only years later i found out, and never had the courage to ask for another pet again...

Kate said...

Aw, poor Luc. I bet you could never look at another rabbit in quite the same way again?

How about getting yourself one of the prickly critters I just blogged about? He's not likely to end up on the dinner table, that's for sure.