It's so quiet around here without Little Boy.
He was always there in the morning, waiting at the door for his breakfast, scolding me for taking so long to get to it. Throughout the day, he was a constant presence, talkative, always up for a walk down the stairs with me to the garden. It's hard not to keep seeing his little face peering through the windows, or out from under the benches, or from atop the table out on the deck.
Our animals become such a part of our lives, such a fixture, that when they leave us, we're totally bereft. We find ourselves looking for them, eyes automatically focussing on the spots where they used to hang out, ears waiting for the sound of a meow or bark (or chirp, or bubbles from the goldfish).
Little Boy had a peaceful end last Saturday afternoon. It was time.
The vet came to the house, and she looked after him under his lemon tree. It was the most beautful sunny day with a good breeze carrying scents of garden, lawn, and sea, birds all about, nature happening.
I've written before about those black birds. About an hour before the vet came, they left the lawn where they usually forage about, and sat up on the supports for the clothesline, quiet, looking down on Little Boy where he lay under his tree, sleeping. They stayed there until we tended to LB, and after we had buried him in a lovely part of the garden that he always enjoyed, they came back to sit on the supports again, looking down at the garden where he had been.
I think all creatures share a universal spirit, a collective consciousness, if you will. My other cat, Betsy, was also affected by what happened to Little Boy. The last couple of days, I've seen her sitting in a spot she has never visited before, one with a view of where LB is lying. She just sits there and looks, watches, for about an hour, then returns to her usual places.
Grief and loss sit with us. We never just 'get over it'. One cries as many tears as one needs to, feels as much hurt and pain as is needed, and finds a special place within to store the memories, like treasures.
Painful ones, but treasures all the same.
Little Boy has been poorly the last couple of days so we went off to the vet this morning. The news wasn't good, so I've brought him home for the weekend with some medications to keep him comfortable, so we can say goodbye.
A friend often reminds me of the days before Little Boy arrived on the outskirts of my front lawn, looking beaten up and skinny, an obvious stray. She says that I was wanting a cat I could cuddle, because my other cat, Betsy, is a fractious tabby who doesn't like coddling of any sort.
'You were saying how much you'd like a lap cat," she says," and then this little stray appeared, and he turned out to be the cuddliest, sweetest cat you've ever had."
That is true. Little Boy and I have become inseparable. He waits for me to come home at night, sitting patiently at the bottom of the stairs, then walks up with me, telling me off all the way for being so late.
He pouts and ignores me when I leave him in the care of others, even for only a day or two.
If I'm down, or unwell, he knows. He comes and sits beside me, gently, just sits, being with me in that cat-ly way of his.
Every morning he sits out on the deck, or on the grass under my bedroom window, waiting for me to get up, greeting me with his customary meow.
How do you summon the strength to make that last trip up the hill to the vet, make the decision that must be made, because the last thing you want is to see your beloved pet suffering?
Most probably anyone who has owned a pet has faced this decision at some time. My Mother was always very good at it. She would dispatch sick cats and goldfish with a ruthlessness that I always found astonishing and rather upsetting. The only time I saw her devastated over the loss of a cat was when Critter died, a feisty and rather nutty marmalade cat. Critter was named after another marmalade cat my parents had in Texas, not long after they were married. Mom used to tell the story of how that Critter cat chased a big snake out of the house they were renting at the time, something that earned my Mom's enduring devotion and love.
So this weekend there will be lots of cuddles, brushes with the little red comb that he loves, plenty of time out in the garden, lying under his favourite lemon tree with the sun and the wind, birds hopping about in front of him.
How do you say goodbye to a beloved pet that has been with you for so many years, one that has been a constant and faithful companion, who has given you so much joy and fun, heartaches now and then, and of course more than a few vet bills?
With respect, time, humour, comfort, reassurance, memories, and so much love.
I've spent some time lately sitting out in the garden, resting while recovering from my recent breast cancer diagnosis and surgery.
There's been plenty to look at.
The weather has been particularly lovely - warm, sunny, calm days that are encouraging all of us to come outside and enjoy, especially the birds and their new borns.
The garden is alive with flapping, chirping, fluffy fledglings trotting about after their parents, shrieking away, mouths agape for worms and other goodies from the soil.
My two cats, Little Boy and Betsy, are too old now to care. Betsy, in her youth, was atrocious during the season of hatchlings and I was forever rescuing and trying to save these new entrants to life.
Nowadays, they're safe enough, and even walk right by Little Boy as he sleeps amongst the bread that I throw out daily.
However, the black birds are driving me nuts. I feel like I'm being held hostage in my own home.
They're smart, these guys. They've figured out where the cat food is (inside the front door for LB and in the laundry for Ms B) and no matter what I do to discourage them, they keep trying. If I leave the front door open, they walk into the house, pooping as they come, strolling about, casing the joint. They're always on the front deck, watching, eyeing their chances, pooping as they do so. The male blackbird has worked out how to get into the laundry through Betsy's entrance-way, gets up on the washing machine, eats her food and drinks her water, pooping all the way.
I put obstacles up to keep them out of the house, to no avail because it doesn't take them long to figure out how to get round them. Every trap I set, they work out a way to avoid it - and they pass this on to their new kids, so it's inter-generational, I reckon.
I have to leave the doors closed, something I occasionally forget and then pay dearly for, cleaning up the poop off the carpet.
Birds are smart. They figure stuff out. I once watched this programme on TV and they determined that our native parrot, the Kea, was one of the smartest and cleverest creatures in the world.
I"ve not spent so much time before, watching the birds, nor have I ever had to deal with so much bird poop on the carpet.
One day I threw my arms up in despair, thinking I've suffered enough lately, leave me alone! The mama blackbird and her baby looked up at me in synchronised choreography, checking out my behaviour as one, pooping as one, fluffing their wings as one, then stalking off with a 'what the hell' attitude.