Tag Archives: cats

Murphy

24 Apr

I am participating in the Health Activist Writers Month Challenge, in which I publish a post every day for the month of April, based on health-related prompts.

April 24 – Health mascot: Give yourself, your condition, or your health focus a mascot. Is it a real person? Fictional? Mythical being? Describe them. Bonus points if you provide a visual.

Seventeen  years ago, shortly after I had moved into my first apartment, I brought home a squirming pillow case containing a tiny scrap of a cat. At the tender age of three weeks, the kitten had been rejected by his mother, a stray cat who had had her litter up against a co-worker’s fence. This tiny creature was ill and emaciated, and holding onto life by a mere thread.

I called him Murphy, figured out how to feed him, and with the vet’s help, I nursed him to health. He made the transformation from sick helpless kitten to strong, healthy cat, and he ended up living a long and happy life.

It has been said that cats are autistic. They are seen to be aloof and unsociable, while at the same time being very, very smart. Murphy in particular would have been a great mascot for autism – at least, for my son George’s unique brand of autism.

* Murphy had a rough start to life and needed a lot of special care and attention. He thrived despite his challenges.

* Murphy, being a cat, was not the most sociable of beings. He tended to slink away and keep to himself if unfamiliar people were around, but once you earned his trust, he was your friend for life.

* Murphy did not like strange surroundings or circumstances. The first time I took him to my mom’s place he was a bag of nerves. After a few visits, however, he acted like he owned the place.

* Murphy had definite sensory issues. He disliked loud noises and crawled into my closet whenever there was a thunderstorm.

* Murphy thought way out of the box. He was intelligent and got up to some hilarious antics with the intention of making me laugh.

* A complex creature by nature, Murphy was happy as long as he knew where things stood. He did not react well to changes in routine.

When I left South Africa, I made the heartbreaking decision to leave Murphy behind. He was used to the sunshine and the wide open spaces, and to uproot him would have been the wrong thing to do. My mom willingly gave him the best possible home, and he lived a very contented life with her until he died of kidney failure just a few months ago, at the stately age of 16.

Although George never got to meet Murphy, I have no doubt that boy and cat were kindred spirits.

(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle)

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The Story Of A Dog In A Cat’s Body

23 Nov

Today I want to tell you a story about a dog, or rather, a cat who thought she was a dog.

Her name was Tushka and she was a black tabby. She came into our family when I was so young that I cannot remember her arrival. At that time, we also had two big “pavement special” dogs named Judge and Kentucky, a fat Fox Terrier whose name was Bianca but who everyone referred to as “The Bionic Watermelon”, a neurotically insane Fox Terrier named Twiggy, Megan the Siamese cat, and a hamster named Antoine.

Tushka was intended to be a companion for Megan, but while she didn’t exactly shun Megan, she definitely identified more with the dogs. At animal feeding time in the kitchen, my mom would always put the cats in one corner and the dogs way over on the other side. Tushka would neatly use her front legs to push her bowl across the kitchen floor until it was among the dogs. She would eat her meal there, surrounded by slobbering canines, while poor Megan ate by herself.

At the time, we were living in the Cape Town suburb of Tokai. Our house was across the road from the Tokai Forest, which was a popular dog-walking spot. On Saturdays, we would put the dogs onto leashes and venture out into the forest, where we would let them loose to romp around. We were always accompanied on our walks by Tushka. She would romp right along with the dogs, who seemed to accept her as one of them.

She even had a dog-like temperament. Oh sure, she did the odd cat thing, like purring and climbing trees. But she lacked the aloofness often displayed by cats, she always came when you called her name, she rushed around like an overexcited puppy, played with the dogs, and I swear she wagged her tail when she was happy. She was loving and loyal.

Megan was also loving and loyal, I’m not saying she wasn’t, but she was loving and loyal in a cat kind of way. Tushka was loving and loyal in the same way the dogs were. She would jump onto my bed in the mornings and lick my face with doglike enthusiasm.

By the time Tushka was about ten years old, we were living on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Several of the animals had moved onto higher plains, including Antoine the hamster and my beloved cat Megan, but Tushka still remained. One summer, we went on a family vacation to the coastal town of Ramsgate. We took our little dogs with us: Twiggy and The Bionic Watermelon were long gone, but we had another Fox Terrier and a wiener dog. Tushka stayed home with a new generation of cats and the two big dogs we had at the time. My cousin, who had a special bond with all of the animals, house-sat during our absence.

This was all in the day before cell-phones and the Internet, so when you went on vacation, you were pretty much out of circulation. You called home once a week to make sure everything was OK, but beyond that, there was no contact. Looking back, I wonder how that vacation would have turned out if we had had email or Facebook.

As it was, we arrived home after the vacation to find my cousin in tears (and this is not a gal who cries easily).

“Tushka’s missing,” she sobbed.

Our dog-cat had wandered into the yard after being fed three days previously, just as she always did. That was the last anyone saw of her. Ads were placed in newspapers, signs were taped to telephone poles, vets were notified, rewards were offered. With the help of the neighbours, we searched every inch of every yard on our street. We spent weeks scouring the banks of the river opposite our house.

No trace of Tushka was ever found. To this day, we don’t know what happened to her.

She is no doubt romping around somewhere in Dog Heaven. Because that’s where she belongs.

This week’s Indie Ink Challenge came from Head Ant, who gave me this prompt:Write a standalone, original piece on a lost dog.
I challenged Supermaren with the prompt:Write a story that includes an old copy of “Macbeth”, a strand of long blonde hair, and a footprint from a man’s boot.

Do Cats Go To Dog Heaven?

24 Mar

My first-ever dog, who had the somewhat regal name of Judge, was what we refer to in South Africa as a “pavement special”. He was a mixed-breed, and I have no idea what his lineage was. His mother, Kentucky, was a mixed bag herself, and we don’t even know who the father was. This doesn’t speak volumes for Kentucky’s moral values, but I guess this is less of a problem when you’re a dog.

Judge was about the height of a lab retriever but had the relative proportions of a bulldog. His facial features resembled those of Clifford The Big Red Dog, except that Judge was a couple of shades lighter than chocolate brown. He had enormous feet that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a St. Bernard. It was as if God, when He was done creating dogs, assembled all of the leftover dog bits and used them to make Judge.

I was young when we got Judge. So young that I have no memory of him coming into our family. To me, he was always there. According to my parents, however, he and I instantly took a shine to each other and we became inseparable. He was a big dog, especially from my toddler perspective, but he was unfailingly gentle. Although my parents were always vigilant, they never had to worry about whether I was safe with Judge.

My relationship with Judge had to be temporarily put on hold when I six. My Dad’s employers sent him on a three-year secondment to the United States, and we all went with him. We were able to bring our two fox terriers with us, along with our two cats, but Judge and Kentucky had to stay home as long-term residents of a local kennel. It seemed patently unfair to me that I had to leave my dog behind while my brother got to bring his dog, a fox terrier named Bianca, who was affectionately referred to as the Bionic Watermelon. I took some solace from the fact that my Siamese cat, Megan, accompanied us.

Three years later, we returned to South Africa. Me and my brother, our parents, the two dogs, one of the original cats, a new cat named Sarah who had been acquired to help me get over the loss of Megan during our stay, and a stray ginger cat named Ginger Peasley who had adopted us (Ginger Peasley was mean to everybody except my Dad, upon whom he lavished unending affection).

On our return to South Africa, we went to the kennels to claim Judge and Kentucky. I don’t remember much about the reunion, but I do recall that in very short order, Judge and I were best of friends again. My fears that he had forgotten me during our three-year separation were totally unfounded, and Judge and I frolicked happily together for several more years.

One day, shortly after the next-door neighbour’s dog had been run over and killed by the milkman (deliberately, we’re sure of it), Judge got sick. He was fine when he woke up in the morning, but by mid-afternoon he was lying helplessly on his side, breathing shallowly and too weak to even lift his head. By dinnertime, my beloved dog was dead.

We don’t know for sure what happened. We suspect the milkman, who by all appearances, had a toxic hatred for dogs. There was no way to prove anything, of course, but we did stop having our milk delivered after that.

Over the years, we have said goodbye to many dogs and cats. A few have died of old age; most have been euthanazed due to illness. My cat Sarah, who we brought back with us from America, lived to a ripe old age before her hips gave in. Mean old Ginger Peasley had heart trouble, although he did attain a good age. Bianca the Bionic Watermelon developed kidney problems.Kentucky, Judge’s mother, outlived all of the animals of her generation. She lived to a very respectable age and then simply didn’t wake up one morning.

Every time one of these four-legged friends has died, many tears have been shed. Today, one more was added to their number as my Mom made the heartbreaking decision to have her old dog Bella put to sleep. Bella lived a good life, but her body was failing bit by bit and it was clear that her time was up. It is a sad day for my Mom, whose dogs and cats are her companions.

I’d be willing to bet, though, that Bella and Judge and all the rest of them are having a hoot in Dog Heaven. It must be complete chaos there.

My only question is this: Do cats go to Dog Heaven?

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/beeldenzeggenmeer/297619009)