Saturday, 31 August 2013

They Buried Her Under The Mango Tree

They buried her under the Mango Tree
My kitty, my lovely Misty.

Today we said a tearful goodbye to a very special cat, and so I have decided to write a special post remembering the pets we have lost.
                   FUDGE                                                TETRIS                                    MISTY
                       CHESTER                                TESSA                                           TIGARA

Stray Male Cat
Cape Town

I don't remember much of Socks other than what he looked like and even that memory might be more of my own imagination than memory. You see Socks was a stray who adopted us. I was only 3 or 4 at the time. One night two cats were screeching and meowing outside. Mum opened the back door to scare the cats. One cat ran away, the other ran inside. This was Socks. He was black with white paws - hence the name. He wasn't much of a house cat, coming in for food mostly. When we left the Cape for Kwa-Zulu Natal, Socks stayed to keep  the new family company.

Collie x Cocker Spaniel
SPCA Special

Fudge was my sister's lovely dog. We rescued little Fudge from the local SPCA and she settled into our home with a quiet and calm spirit. Within the first few weeks she had a fearful night when we were burgled. She was locked in the kitchen and didn't make a sound! I have few memories of Fudge strangely. I do remember she and Misty went through a stage of fighting a bit but it was probably all Misty's fault as Fudge was a very patient little dog. In 2002, a tough year for our family, we had to put her down when she could no longer eat because she had a cancerous growth on her jaw. Our first and very special dog, she will always be remembered.

Long Haired Tabby (Possible Maine Coon!)
October 1995 - 12 August 2013

In 1995 Tetris was just a ball of fluff in a litter of similar little balls of fluff. "She" was Sean's cat. We named "her" Tetris because "she" liked to sit on the computer keyboard and our favourite game back then was Tetris. I remember someone taking Tetris to the vet because we thought "she" was pregnant. Turned out he was just fat. Oops.
Tetris liked sleeping. A lot and anywhere. Whether it was an ice-cream tub, the top of the dog kennel, the motorbike or someone's clothes cupboard! He could sleep anywhere, in anything. Just like those videos and photos on the internet of cats fitting into things seemingly too small to fit into!
He spent the nocturnal hours roaming the neighbourhood finding other male cats to challenge for the position of Top Cat, which he always seemed to win! For the first couple of weeks in every new place we moved to, cat fights were normal. I don't remember Tetris coming home with any major injuries from those fights.
One Sunday morning he walked into Mum and Dad's room with his eye nearly hanging out. I think he got it caught on some barbed wire. The vet on call happened to be Mac, the "big animal vet" who worked with the farm animals. He said he could either take the eye out or stitch it up. We opted for the stitched version and his eye healed well with just a small scar that never disappeared. He did finally go blind in that eye but it was many years later.
In his old age he was very happy to spend time with the other animals like Tiggy and he even shared a bed with Misty every now and then - I remember the nights when he would walk into my room, sit on the windowsill and growl because Misty was on my bed!
At 19 he was our longest surviving cat, the old man of the family and the news that Nicole had chosen to put him down was not unexpected and therefore slightly easier to take.

Boerbul x Bulmastiff

Chester used to belong to our neighbours when he was a tiny little puppy. They didn't treat him very well - they simply didn't know how to look after him. During the day when they were out he would be locked in the garage and we would hear him whining and barking all day. Their little boy also liked using him as a horse. So when they decided to move, they offered him to us. I remember Dad talking to us over supper that night about it and we all said "yes" without any hesitation. Because Sean had Tetris and Nicole had Fudge, Chester was mine. I was the youngest with the biggest and most boisterous pet (sounds like Chance from Homeward Bound!). But Chester was just a big baby (like many big dogs!). He would never come inside, even if the door was open. If we needed to take him through the house, Dad would have to drag him through. He hated the loud Natal summer storms and he would stand with his paws up on the door and whine while a storm was going on.When I remember Chester the storm that comes to mind was a big hail storm. The hail was golf ball sized and it covered the ground like snow. After the storm, he ran through the hail like a little puppy while Sean shoved a handful of hail down my back!
Sadly when we moved house, Chester had to leave us because the garden was too small for him. And so Chester went to a farm where he lived a happy life chasing sheep! He mauled a sheep within the first few weeks but the farmer just stitched the sheep up and kept Chester! Sadly, Chester also succumbed to cancer and had to be put down. He was my first pet - although I don't even know if I was always the one to feed him!

SPCA Special

Chester left a void in the house. And so we went in search of a new dog at the SPCA. Tessa had been brought in after she chased her previous owner's chickens. She had also been pregnant I think. When she was let into the pen where we could play with her at the SPCA, she raced around it like a mad thing and we fell in love with her. She was such a cuddly, soft dog, she earned her nickname Tessa Bear. When she jumped up she would lean back and not let her full weight fall on the person she was jumping up on. Not that she had much weight.
She used to race around the garden whenever the postman came or whenever another dog walked past the house and this way she kept thin, fit and healthy without needing walking. Thanks to the German Shepherd in her, she was good at protecting us. We had to keep her inside first thing in the morning so the paper delivery man could put the paper in our postbox or Tessa would jump up and try and bite his arm!
When we lived in Klerksdorp there was one night when dad was away at a conference and it was just Mum, Nicole and me in the house. Sometime after midnight Tessa started barking. A strange bark that didn't sound vicious or urgent, just persistent. She was curled up outside the back door, next to her kennel. The small church hall was adjoined to our house and Mum decided to look through the big glass sliding doors to the driveway to check if anything was wrong. 2 men in black were standing in front of the nice clean white wall! Mum banged as hard as she could on the window (which made a ton of noise!) and they ran away. The next day I found a large pair of bolt cutters in the grass outside our house. If Tessa had gone to the gate to bark at them, she probably would have been hit with those very heavy bolt cutters. Such a clever dog!
Another time, in Howick, I heard someone trying to open our backdoor. The dogs were sleeping inside and they went manic. They sounded so vicious (even Tiggy) and just through their barking and growling they scared the would-be thieves away - we later found out that the thieves went down the road to some friends of ours and stole their bicycles.
When we left SA, Tessa went to live with a good friend of ours in a house with a few other dogs. She enjoyed her retirement but sadly had a type of stroke last year and had to be put down.

Chow x

When we lost Fudge, we knew we had to get another playmate for Tessa and so we went to our local SPCA in Klerksdorp and picked up a beautiful Chow x. We named her Touzè (no idea how that name came about, or even how it was spelt!). But sadly due to some very dodgy dealings at that SPCA:
We had to take her back the week after taking her home, to be spayed. We had noticed some blood in her pooh as well. The vets told Dad over the phone that she had parvo and asked permission to put her down. We weren't sure and wanted to see her first, but then the vet admitted that she'd already been put down - we don't even have a photo of her.

Labrador x Rotweiler

She was a cute little puppy from a large litter. I remember sitting around the lounge looking through Animal Talk magazines to find a name for her. Nicole wanted to call her Gargoyle. But we settled on Tigara when we found it in a list of race horses (I think). So Tiggy became the latest in our list of dogs. Tetris and Misty were not sure what to make of this new comer. Misty, who would probably have faced a growling Rotweiler, was scared of this puppy who was smaller than her! In fact we had to move her food into my room while Tiggy slept in the kitchen during the early days, because Misty wouldn't go near Tiggy.
As a puppy she used to run around after Tessa who seemed to take on a mother-like role. Dad tells the story of Tiggy clinging on to Tessa's tail as Tessa flew around the garden! We think Tess turned around one day and snapped, because Tiggy's tail forever had a kink in it after that!
Somehow she got her head caught in Nicole's burglar bars one day. Dad had to get the saw out to release the poor dog while Nics kept an eye on how close the blade came to Tiggy!
Tiggy and Tess used to play a lot. Late one evening we heard Tiggy yelping her head off and we found her paw stuck in Tessa's choke chain! Tessa was being suffocated and Tiggy's paw was so tightly stuck we couldn't loosen it! We had to call some friends of ours to bring some tools to break the chain! We gave Tessa some rescue drops to calm her down and made sure she had enough water and could breathe and soon we had the chains cut off - they never wore choke chains around the house again - only on walks.
When we moved to the UK, Tiggy went to some church friends who had a farm. Nicole couldn't take Tiggy to her new house, as she could the cats. And so Tiggy became a farm dog. We didn't ever hear from her new owners again so have no idea what has happened to her.

Domestic Short Haired
1996? - 30 August 2013

In my, perhaps biased, opinion, Misty was the most special of our family pets over the years. Her story has been told many many times to friends and I have tried on several occasions to write it into a short story without much success.

In true South African style, Misty hijacked a fishing trip Dad took Nicole and a friend on. As they tell it, this kitten came bounding out of the trees, or long grass, and before Dad could finish saying, "don't pick it up," the kitten was already purring in Nicole's arms! They tried various tricks to get rid of the kitten but in no way was it going to let them leave without it! And so Dad gave in and took the kitten home, thinking Mum would say no, take it to the SPCA. The first words out of Mum's mouth at seeing the cute little white and grey ball of fluff were "ahh cute," or something to that effect. And so Misty became pet number 4 in our house. This was when we had Fudge, Chester and Tetris.

She settled into our family without a fuss and even Tetris accepted her. They used to chase each other around the lounge, first Tetris on top of the sofa patting his paw down at Misty, and then Misty on top, then racing around, somehow not knocking over any ornaments as they did. Misty soon earned a new nickname in the house, one that still comes to mind today; Mischief. While I was trying to sleep at night she would climb my bookshelves, knocking over everything possible in her attempt to climb to the top. She was always trying to get the leftover food in the kitchen when we were eating supper and on the rare occasion that we ate in the lounge she would sit as close to me as possible and bring her paws up to my fork, trying to get at that food. She was so bold, Sean thought he would see if she would actually eat from his mouth. Ew. She did. Among her many exploits we discovered a very unique and clever thing - she liked Milo, or even tea. And she used to lick the last dregs from the mugs. But when she grew and her head became too small to fit all the way into the mug, she started dipping her paw in and licking it off her paw! And then she would also scrape up any last bits along the side of the mug! She didn't only try her luck with an empty mug. The milk jug was also game!

Most cats, when they are young will pounce on anything that moves. Misty wasn't content with butterflies, moths and flies. Oh no, she had to go for lizards and geckos. We started calling tail-less lizards Mizzy's Lizzies because we knew they were the ones who had got away. Again Misty showed her cleverness to us by putting the lizards in the bath where they could not escape, so she could play with them before eating them!! One of our friends said their cat did the same and they got into the habit of leaving the bath plug hanging into the bath on it's chain so the lizard could climb up!

There came a time when we realised Misty needed to be spayed. But just as we were about to think about booking her into the local vet, Tetris got a bladder infection. He was a bit of a stubborn cat sometimes and during a particularly rainy week he refused to go outside. And so his problems took precedence and Misty was left unspayed for the moment. And then she was pregnant! Our very educated guess was she and the next door neighbour's cat Pugsley had spent some evenings together. So we waited excitedly for the kittens arrive.

I remember the day pretty well. Mum picked me up from primary school as usual and told me Misty was ready to have her kittens. On my bed! She was very intent on having her kittens on the comfort of my bed. Mum put down newspaper and towels but Misty just moved back onto the nice blue duvet! Thankfully she finally settled on the towels and I was just in time to see the kittens being born. Little MJ (Misty Junior), Mutt (it was Sean's favourite word and Mutt was just a boring grey!), Tabitha (no idea what our original name for this little ball of fluff was!) and Rats (because he looked like a rat when he was born.) Together these 4 little fluff balls wreaked havoc in my room, playing with and in anything they could find. But once in a while they stopped and allowed a photo or two to be taken. 

From left to right: Tabitha, Mutt, MJ and Rats

From left to right (sort of): Tabitha, Mutt, Rats and MJ

Tabitha hiding in the Times Tables Poster that never got put up in my room!

Three of the kittens found good homes. MJ went to the neighbours. She was renamed Sasha but it didn't take long before she ran away and perhaps did a Misty with some unsuspecting family! Tabitha was given to a friend of my sister's - she still lives but is more of an outdoor cat these days, perhaps because the house is full of dogs!

Edit: This photo was taken by a good friend today. Beautiful 15-year-old Tabitha.

Mutt was given to one of my school friends and promptly named Attitude. He managed to scare away their other cat who took up a timeshare residence with some other friends of ours down the road from her home. Sadly "Timeshare" was run over by a car. And Mutt had the same fate a few years later. 

But no one seemed to want poor little Rats, the tabby. And so realising we were going to be keeping Rats for a little longer, we decided to introduce him to the rest of the family pets. Below, Rats is a bit on the scared side as Dad makes sure Fudge behaves. On the far right you can see Misty peering out of the window a little worried. I didn't notice this until I scanned these photos in a couple of years ago!

So Rats became a temporary part of the family.

But we couldn't keep him and one Saturday when I was playing hockey, Mum and Dad took him to a pet shop. I didn't even get to say goodbye to him. Poor Rats. We don't know what became of him. But I have met one or two tabby cats in the same area of our old house that all could have been possible Rats!

With the loss of her kittens, Misty continued her mischievous ways, finding more and more interesting activities to make us laugh and smile. 

Like drinking water from the tap while sitting in the wet sink.

Or copying the master (Tetris) and trying to fit into as small a container as she could find!

Or in the winter months, finding a nice warm jacket, jersey or shirt to wriggle under. I used to walk around the house with her curled up in my school jacket - a living hot water bottle.

If she couldn't find a jacket to sleep in, the computer was her next favourite place. It was warm and there was almost always someone on it to keep her company. This might have been a good thing for Misty but not so much for the poor computer screen which did start to suffer from all of Misty's hairs!

My kitty was a very clever cat but I think the rest of the cat community would have called her eccentric and strange. She came to me when I called her, we meowed to each other, having little cute conversations. She even begged for bones with the dogs! And once I found her licking clean the dog's food bowl.

One eventful day she rolled in the leaking petrol from Dad's motorbike. I wasn't there to witness the aftermath but I was the only one Misty liked that evening, and the only one who liked her! - The rest of the family had scratches all over them from trying to bath the silly kitty.

Misty begging for bones...

What would her mother have said?!

She had us firmly wrapped around her little finger and I know I didn't mind a bit. But when Tigara came along, things changed a bit. She didn't like this tiny little dog. She didn't know what to make of it!

When she had sorted out her "Tiggy Issues" she was firmly in control of the house once more.

Her life wasn't without incidents. She had a few scraps with other cats over the years, some of which ended with her in a bandage of some sort. She also had an eye condition that eventually led to her having to have surgery to fix it. 

But none of that phased her. She was such a trusting and calm kitty, at least in my arms. It got to a stage that when she was in a bit of a bad mood, all I had to do was sit her down on her back and she would immediately calm down and start purring.

She still made me laugh, finding brilliant places to soak up the not-so-hot African Winter sun, even if it was flower pot!

When I found her in this flower pot, I ran inside to fetch the camera but when I came back she had jumped off the pot and was stretching. So I put her back in, she curled up, waited for me to take the photo, and then left again.

Here, she is sleeping on top of the microwave. Another favourite spot in winter when the computer was not on. The microwave after supper was a brilliantly warm sleeping place. But once I found Misty actually IN the microwave! Oops.

Drawing closer to the end of our days together (the end of 2006 we left for the UK, leaving the cats in Nicole's capable vet-nurse-trained hands.), I took more and more photos to remember my cat by.

And when we left Misty was put in the kennels at the vets for a week while Nicole moved into a more suitable house. My kitty pined for me during those days. She slept in her little igloo bed all day except when she really had to eat. But she soon got over all that and settled into her new home with Nicole. Tetris was also there as were Nicole's two other cats Bacardi and Rubear.

In 2008 I saw my kitten again. She was a little changed, having undergone surgery to remove a small cancerous growth on her nose. But she still posed for the camera, looking relaxed and happy in her retirement years.

Retirement didn't mean she stopped her mischievous ways. I remember sitting in Nicole's lounge while we chatted. Nicole had a glass of milk in her hand and Misty was sitting on Nicole's lap, her eyes following this glass as it flew this way and that while Nicole spoke.

Retirement meant long lazy days in the sun (with Rubear).

Or relaxing near the car wheels on the driveway. Misty's last major incident involved this car. She was lying on the grass, and Jason (Nicole's husband) didn't see Misty as he reversed, driving over my cat. Amazingly Misty didn't have any broken bones. 

She went through quite a few of her 9 lives over the years, that's for sure. But on 30th August 2013 (at 17 years old), she had no lives left. The loss of her adopted brother, Tetris, was too much for her. Her nose was looking suspect again and her eye problem was back. She no longer asked for affection and spent most of her time outside. It was time to say goodbye. I had known in 2008 that I probably wouldn't see her again. But to be so close to December, and going back to SA for the first time since then, it was hard to accept Nicole's decision. But of course it was right thing. We couldn't let her suffer just because I wanted to see her again.

The cat who used to meow around the house looking for me, who used to keep me awake with her purring directly into my ear at night, who used to sit in the echoing bathroom at midnight and meow just so I would carry her to bed, who used to lie on my shoulder as I walked around the house, who used to bring rats and mice and shrews into my room as presents, the cat who killed Wilbur the bird, the cat who slept in my bed every night for 10 years, who trusted me enough to have her kittens on that same bed, who licked my tears away when I was sad, who knew how to make me laugh. This was Misty. She came into our lives of her own accord, and left after a life well lived, explored to the full. Her life was an adventure. And one day I will write it down fully.

They buried her under the mango tree.

So let's remember her at her cleverest:

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