My parents have recently adopted a cat. Not just any cat of course: no, this cat is a huge 4 year old silver blue Maine Coon boy. Never having been owned by a Maine Coon before, it’s been a bit of a steep learning curve for them.

Murdoch selfie with his new toy

They named him Murdoch, looking at his regal stance and proud lion shaped nose. One week later, and this name has been reduced to Murdy Turdy or Humperdink, depending upon his daily activities.

This is what they have learnt so far about Maine Coon ownership:

Who needs a coffee table when you have Murdoch?1 All of the furniture in the house now belongs to Murdoch, from the armchairs to the coffee table to the dining room table. If you are in the way, Murdoch will move you. As my dad told me: “Murdoch goes and sits on your mum, and moves her about until she’s in the right position for him.” You see, my mum is barely 5 foot tall and rather petite, whereas Murdoch is particularly large and most insistent. My mum can’t lift Murdoch but clearly he can pummel her into a suitable shape to fit the position in which he wants to sleep, much to my parents’ bemusement.

2 You will never have a bath alone. Ever. The day after they adopted Murdoch, my mum ran herself a bath. In her words: “As soon as I squirted the bubble bath, fluffy boy jumped straight in!” By ‘fluffy boy’ she was referring to Murdoch, not my dad. She was relieved to see that, upon her somewhat harassed cry of “OUT!”,  the cheeky feline quickly exited the bath. What she didn’t realise is that he most likely ran off to wipe his wet, fluffy trousers on her nice, pretty curtains.

"I think you'll find this is MY chair!"3 Water bowls have many uses. Murdoch looks at the water in the bowl and dips in his right paw. He then looks at his paw and shakes it vigorously. Next, his left paw is immersed in the water before being shaken, with the clear intention of redecorating the kitchen. Only once both paws are soggy and there is more water on the floor than in the bowl, will he deign to have a drink. By that time, the bowl will have been dragged across the floor to maximise the puddle factor.

4 You need to change your bathroom habits. I received the following text from my dad the other day: “We weren’t out long but when we came back home, the toilet floor was awash with water and there were big fluffy boy footprints everywhere. Need to close the toilet lid in future. Sod.

"I'm here. Love me."5 A comfort blanket might not be used as you would expect. The adoption centre insisted that Murdoch’s ‘comfort blanket’ needed to go with him to his new home. ‘That’s nice,’ thought my parents, ‘he has a soft blanket to sleep on.’ Erm, no. The day after they adopted Murdoch, my parents were having a nice civilised breakfast when along came Murdoch, one end of his blanket in his teeth, the rest trailing between his legs. What followed next certainly raised a few eyebrows. I mean, it tends to put you right off your food when your cat insists on humping away at his blanket right under your nose. It transpires that he engages in this lewd behaviour every time they sit down to eat. How unfortunate. According to my mum, “If you chuck him a toy, he does stop eventually.” Dinner and an x-rated show. Marvellous.

6 The house will never be quiet again. As a typical Maine Coon, Murdoch announces his arrival each time he enters a room. He also announces the arrival of any extra guests too, usually with a loud <miaow>, sometimes with a happy trill, occasionally with a growl: yes, he likes to growl at strangers (particularly at the poor man mending their neighbour’s roof). This rather surprised my parents, who are now wondering if they have inadvertently adopted a dog in disguise.

Whiskery kisses from Murdoch7 There will never be a love stronger than that between a Maine Coon and his staff. This beautiful big fluffy boy has stolen the hearts of my parents. They have never known a cat to saunter in, sit down, look at them with huge amber eyes and declare, “I am here. Love me.” Yet that is exactly what he did. The latest email from my dad reads: “Big fluffy boy has really settled in. He comes up to bed and snuggles up to me all night. He will probably want to read the sports section of the Times and join me in the pub. I will however, draw the line at him driving my car“. It’s good to see some boundaries being set then.

So welcome to the family, Murdoch ‘Murdy Turdy’ you big humping heap of fluff and love. And good luck to my parents who have unwittingly accepted a life filled with boisterous exploits, cheeky chuckles and fetid comfort blankets.

Time for a nap

Remembering Ethelbert, the original chuffin cat


This post is written with the help of my boys, to mark what would have been Ethelbert’s 10th birthday. I wanted a page bursting with happy memories, for them to visit as and when they need to. She was a massive cat, in both size and in attitude. Here we remember all the fun she brought us.

Her Chuffness

We remember:

Chuffin cat on a slideThe fun she used to have on the slide in the garden. From the wriggle of her fat rump as she lay at the bottom of the slide, to the mad, scrabbling dash as she suddenly tore up to the top, her bushy tail swishing as if clearing the way behind her. She would then sit at the top, almost whistling nonchalantly, eyeing up the birds, before hurtling head first back down the slope, her rear feet skidding to a halt at the end. Whilst she was playing, nobody else got a turn: no sharing, it was her slide during that time, and all the other children had to stand and wait… and laugh.

Chuffin cat stuck up a treeThe way she could sprint up a tree at full pelt; it was amazing how she could run along the ground, reach a tree, change direction by 90 degrees and carry on running up it. She never changed speed, even when running from a horizontal position to a vertical one. Of course once up a tree, she would sit on a branch and sing. Loudly. Maybe she wanted some attention from the local firemen… perhaps I missed a trick there! For as long as you stood at the bottom of the tree, she would sing and swear at you, yet the moment you walked away she would grumble and climb down noisily, claws splintering on the bark. You would not believe the noise that can be made just by a cat extricating herself from a tree.

Sashaying up the pathThe way she would accompany us on the school run as we walked up the tow path. She never strayed far, stopping en route 4 doors down to hide in a neighbour’s fir tree. On the way home, you would be greeted by a howling tree, which if you looked closely enough, had a pair of reflective eyes deep in the foliage. With a little encouragement, and a lot of noise (see above!) she would appear at the foot of the tree and skip along in front of you, leading the way home in case you got lost on the last 50 yards or so. She insisted on being let into the house first, no doubt needing to check on the status of her food bowl which had been neglected for at least 30 minutes.

HungryThe way she loved to help cook family meals in the kitchen, singing along to your music together and tripping you up as she insisted on laying stretched out on the floor between the cooker and the sink. That’s if she wasn’t sitting up, pawing at the laminate floor, alternating from one paw to another and salivating at the aroma coming from the oven. How many times did you have to wipe up cat dribble from the floor once the food had been dished out? Hungry - action shotTalking of dishing out: the way she used to stand on her hind legs which made her tall enough to swipe food off the kitchen worktop with ruthless efficiency. The way she always preferred roast potatoes to the lovely, tender morsels of beef that you loving carved for her.

20141110-210530-75930159.jpgThe way she loved cake. Particularly bun cases, which she would kidnap from the recycling bin, take into a corner somewhere and suck noisily. Freshly baked cakes were never safe. You would place a beautifully iced cake on the table, leaving the topping to set, and when you came back you would find teeth marks around the edge, or raspy tongue marks across the top. You lost count of how many cakes were thrown out thanks to her greedy nature.

20141110-210300-75780580.jpgThe way she always drank out of your flower vases, regardless of how fresh the water was in her bowl. You would walk into the lounge and hear the <slurp> <slurp> <gulp> as she helped herself and left the flowers to wither away. All the flowers in the house had a light coating of cat fur within hours of being placed in a vase.

Sherbet fetishThe way she had a fetish for Sherbet Fountains. She would hear you opening one even if she was at the bottom of the garden. Then she would sit beside you, clawing at your leg, bullying you for a taste of sherbet. Even though it made her sneeze, she still insisted on a taste.

You expect ME to use a cat flap?The way that she hated her electronic cat flap. She would sit and head butt it repeatedly, listening to the loud beep it emitted each time the chip in her neck activated it. Yet she didn’t squeeze her portly body through it that often. No, she would sit and miaow at the patio door instead, some 3 feet away from the cat flap. Fools that we were, there was always one of us willing to let her in or out. To be honest, although the cat flap was the biggest we could find, and in theory it was of an adequate size, she always found it hard work to hoist her body through it; she would stop half way, with her head and front legs outside, leaving her back legs stretched out behind her horizontally. Then she would heave her legs through slowly as we laughed uncontrollably inside. I wish I’d videoed her now, it was just too comical.

A special relationshipThe way she would sit on the back of the settee, waiting for Son no 3 to come out of his bedroom. As he appeared, she would slap him across the back of the head with her paw. Many a time the cry would be heard, “Mum! I can’t get out of my room! The cat won’t let me!” – one of the joys of living in a bungalow. How she loved beating him up, particularly if he was sitting on the floor. She would rugby tackle him and claw up the jigsaws he so enjoyed doing when he was smaller. Whiskery kissesThey had a particularly special bond, as we adopted Ethel when Son no 3 was 6 months old. If he cried when he was a toddler, she would come up to him and place her paws either side of his face, before licking his head. She was incredibly responsive to his cry, and boy it was a loud cry! Yet she would come running, and if he didn’t calm quickly she would walk up and down beside him, miaowing loudly in concern.

Hobnobbing with Doris DooDahThe way she had a fear of the chickens (Cobweb Gladys rules the roost, and the garden!) yet she would fight off the foxes in the garden at night. It amazed us how, for such a prolific hunter, she never once tried to maul the chickens, even when they were cute, fluffy chicks.

Chuffin cat on the prowlThe way the vet always called her a ‘big girl’ and struggled to feel her tummy through her ‘fat fur’. That fur was thick and luxurious underneath, with a soft, silky coat on top. You could see her whole coat move as she bounded round the garden. When she came indoors, you almost expected her take it off and hang it on a chair.

033The way she abjectly refused to budge if she was sitting somewhere she shouldn’t have been. You would say sternly, “Ethelbert OFF!” and she would chatter her teeth, flutter her whiskers and look away indignantly. If you repeated the command, she would yawn as if to say, “Oh do stop wasting your breath, human slave. Go and fill my food bowl, then I might think about moving.” She understood the command ‘off’ from quite an early age, yet only obeyed it when it suited her.

Sunbathing in a hanging basketThe way she used to slink off to a neighbours’ house, where she would climb into the conservatory and sunbathe on her very own chair. The day that your neighbours left her in the conservatory whilst they went out, and returned in a blind panic, having realised that they had left a batch of newly-hatched chicks in the conservatory with her… only to discover her snoring away, with the chicks noisily cheeping away in their box in the corner.

Balloon TennisThe way she loved balloons: she would hold them between her paws and lick them. Yes, really. Balloon tennis was a favourite sport of hers. She loved to bat a balloon to and fro with whoever would indulge her. I must post a video I have of her partaking in a game with Son no 1 (whilst she was nestled on a pile of clean washing… another of her favourite things!).

Snagging, chuffin cat styleThe way she would hide in cardboard boxes, waiting to ambush any unsuspecting human who happened to be passing. Not great when you have a heart defect! Hide and AmbushThen again, she didn’t actually need a box; any furniture would do. She would come flying through the air and land on the back of a chair just as you were passing, claws extended ready to catch in your clothing and prevent you from going any further. We all walked around with snagged clothing; it seemed to be a family trait when you had a chuffin cat.

chuffin snoringThe way she would like to join in family movie nights, laying the length of my lap and hanging over my knees. Then she would fall asleep half way through the film, snoring so loudly that we would have to turn up the volume on the television.

20140427-004102.jpgThe way that she would merrily sleep on her back with all 4 fluffy feet in the air, her tail often resting along her fat belly. You just wanted to thrust your hand into that furry belly, but you knew that if you did she would have curled round your hand and sunk her teeth lovingly into your wrist.

You don't need a torch in the attic when you have a chuffin catThe way she often got stuck in the attic, driving you mad as you could hear her singing but couldn’t work out where she was. Then you would open the loft hatch to be greeted by 2 fluorescent eyes beaming down at you. By the time you’d lowered the loft ladder she would have disappeared into the dark, causing mischief elsewhere. I have no idea how many hours that loft hatch was left open, yet she never came out that way. She preferred to use her secret entrance instead.

20141027-003902-2342716.jpgThe way she would sit on the windowsill when you went out, watching you mournfully with her nose pressed against the window, anxiously waiting for you to return. Yet when you came home, she would be there at the door greeting you with a look of total disdain, before shaking her head and leading you to her food bowl. Then she would insist you slap her rump whilst she crunched on her biscuits. If you stopped slapping, she stopped eating. So you would be there bent double until she’d eaten her fill.

Chuffin white van driverThe ApprenticeThe way she had a fascination with our vehicles, particularly Handsome Hubby’s van. As soon as he was parked in the drive, she would sit under the van. If he was tinkering on the engine, she would be beside him offering advice. The same went for Son no 1 – he spent much time mending his car with the chuffin cat sitting on the seat next to him, supervising. She loved our vehicles so much that she would run about with glee behind us as we reversed down the drive.

Chuffin cat in a Christmas hatThe way she loved to wear a soft felt Christmas hat, making the most of the festive season with the rest of her family. Don’t even mention the Christmas tree – a wonderful play centre for her, complete with shiny baubles and sparkly tinsel. It could be played with vertically or horizontally, depending upon her mood.

Catnip crazinessThe way she ran about like a larey packet at the first whiff of catnip. If you sprinkled it on the floor, she would roll over and over in it. Such a lot of her life was spent in a catnip haze. I had to hide the catnip sachet in the fridge one night as she just kept finding it and throwing it about the room.

Big smilesFinally, our favourite memory of all: the way she used to kiss each of the boys at bedtime every night. They would stand beside her, and the first boy in line would kiss the top her head; she would then turn her head and tenderly lick his cheek. This was repeated for all 3 boys, without fail, every single night. We always spoke of videoing this moving routine, but never did. A cherished memory of our wonderful, cheeky, mischievous chuffin cat.

Bad mood


The Funny Thing about Dyslexia


Life with a dyslexic child is never dull. Our Son no 2 is sporty, clever, full of fun… and dyslexic. Moderately so, according to the experts. Rather than fret about it, we chose to embrace Son no 2’s differences, giving lots of support where needed but dealing with much of it through humour. For instance, in our house we don’t have left and right: we have left, and ‘the other left’.

Our boy gets many words muddled. Imagine the embarrassment when, at a charity fete one summer, he announced in a VERY loud voice, “Oooh I want a go on that stall – I love cocaine!” He was in fact pointing at the Coconut Shy and wanted to win a coconut, not score a line of cocaine. It wasn’t that kind of fete.

Or what about the time he desperately wanted a DVD of a film that he insisted was called ‘Meet Steve’. I searched high and low for this DVD, in shops and on the internet, all to no avail. After quite some time I did find a DVD entitled ‘Meet Dave’. “Oh yes, that’s the one!” he exclaimed cheerfully when I mentioned it.

Then there was the time we went to a neighbours’ bonfire party and he asked, again in a LOUD voice in front of a whole heap of people, “Will we be burning Ray Mears on the bonfire?” As everyone turned to look at him in bemusement, it was left to me to correct him: “Guy Fawkes. You mean Guy Fawkes.” “Yes, that’s the one!” he chuckled. To this day he still wants to burn Ray Mears on the bonfire every year. Poor chap, I have no idea what he’s done to deserve that.

A quick nap in the doorwayAs for games, Scrabble is never a good idea to play with Son no 2. Unless you change the game to ‘make as many rude words as you can with the letters you have’. You see, for some reason he can spell rude words reasonably accurately. Maybe that’s a boy thing. Then there’s I-Spy: a game particularly difficult to play with a child who often confuses the beginning sounds of words. You need to spend several hours guessing, plus ask for copious amounts of clues, to have any chance of even getting close to an answer. You might as well just guess any random words that come into your head. Or there’s Hangman of course. We can never win a game of Hangman with Son no 2. He adds spare letters in the middle of words with out realising, which might be useful if you’re playing in Czechoslovakian of course, but not in English.

Short-term memory is another strange area. We have a boy who can think several moves ahead in Chess or in a Magic the Gathering card game… yet give him a 2 step request (ie ‘do this, then do that’) and he is completely flummoxed.  For many years, he failed to recall the days of the week in order, yet he could recite all the rules and regulations on how to play Warhammer. He struggles to read fluently, yet can accurately work out complex Chemistry formulae (which is more than I can do!).

School has been a bit hit and miss. Give Son no 2 a ball or a bat, or a running track… in fact anything to do with sports, and he will excel himself. Yet give him a book to read or a sheet of paper to fill with words, and he will struggle. There are times when we struggle too. One day he came home from school with some English homework written in his exercise book. He told me that he’d copied it off a board at school. At the top of the page he’d written: ‘The Sobodret Cluce’. Apparently he needed to find out what that was for his next lesson. We were completely baffled. Once again, I trawled the ever-faithful internet but came up with a total blank. It was only after emailing the English teacher in a panic that we learnt what he actually needed to research: ‘The Subordinate Clause’. Shame neither of his parents had heard of that either.

In History he had been learning about the outbreak of World War 2. I had to raise an eyebrow when, leafing through his exercise book, I saw he’d written an essay on ‘Hitler and the Nancies’. I think that might have changed the entire course of history.

Or how about the Geography homework he had to complete, the title of which he’d written in his book as ‘Latitud and Longaturd’. My, how things have moved on since I studied at school.

Son no 2 daftnessCookery lessons have been something of an experiment to Son no 2. He’s never brought anything edible home. Most dishes have been dropped on the way back from school or knocked off the work surface in the lesson… that’s if they weren’t burnt, squashed or exploded in the oven. Once he baked something and apparently forgot to add any sugar. He didn’t know where the sugar had gone, only that he hadn’t put any in. Or how about the time he made Apple Turnovers? Easy enough, so you would think. Unless you forget to cut holes in the pastry of each one, so that they explode in the oven before you even take them out. I’m sure his Cookery teacher must have had a breakdown by the end of the year. Only once did he bring home some delicious buns: spongy, moist and baked to perfection. When I congratulated him he admitted with a grin, “Oh I didn’t bake them. I swapped mine with the girl next to me as mine were awful and she felt sorry for me.” That’s our boy, resourceful as ever.

I have to admit it seems that baking disasters run in the family. When son no 1 had to take Cookery at school, with relatively more success than his brother I might add, he once muddled up teaspoons with tablespoons when adding baking powder to muffins. Yes, you guessed it: they exploded in the oven too.

Science is one of son no 2’s favourite lessons. He asks his teacher the most interesting questions, such as, “If someone farts on your pillow at night, will you wake up with pink eye in the morning?” Or “If you split an atom and put it inside your head, would you have a head left?” Recently, he came home from school most chuffed with himself, having found out the answer to a question that had been puzzling him for a while: “Why does it make a noise when you fart?” The reply, according to his long-suffering Science teacher is “because your bum cheeks rattle when the wind passes through.” Not sure if that question will be on the GCSE paper, but Son no 2 was most enlightened.

Parents’ Evenings are a total joy to experience when you have a dyslexic child. “So how is my boy doing?” I asked his Maths teacher at the last such event. “Good, now that we’ve passed his Origami phase,” she replied patiently, “although I’ve still got one paper swan on my desk.” ??

Picking which subjects to study for GCSEs has been something of a challenge recently. Pondering which options to take, Son no 2 came up with quite a random question: “Mum, if you take Biology do you also have to take Textiles?”  “Erm no love,” I replied somewhat confused. “What makes you ask that?”  “Well,” he replied seriously, “if you cut someone open on the operating table, you’ve also got to be able to stitch them up again.”  Fair point.

You see, our boy looks at things differently to most people. He has diverse views, which when questioned, make total sense. You just need to open your mind. He is a very capable boy with, according to one of his old sports coaches, ‘the heart of a lion’. His humour is delightfully daft, and his ability to laugh at mistakes that he makes has made him a much stronger person. Far from defining him, his dyslexia is just a small part of who he is and how he functions. We wouldn’t change him for the world. Besides, when given the choice, who wants to be the same as everyone else?

The final say should maybe rest with the teacher of a Business Studies class, with whom we spoke at a careers evening held at Son no 2’s school. As we discussed the merits of the subject and whether or not it would play to our boy’s strengths, the teacher exclaimed brightly, “Oh I know your son, I see him walking to school each morning. I love the way his hair bounces as he walks!” So if the GCSEs don’t pan out very well, maybe we’ll just sign him up for the next Timotei advert instead.

Son no 2 smiles

Ethelbert’s Story


This is the post I did not want to write. It has taken every ounce of my strength to type. Here it is: Ethelbert’s story.

Our beautiful Ethel

At about 11pm a week ago, I was alarmed to hear Ethel coughing. It was a strange cough, not one I’d heard before, almost as if she had something caught in her throat. Thinking she was going to throw up a giant furball, I grabbed some kitchen towel and knelt down beside her. She wasn’t sick. What came from her mouth was a small amount of what looked like white, frothy spit. She panted a couple of times, then looked up at me. Having reassured her, I cleaned it up and left her as she curled up again and dozed off.

Hey! I was using that pen!Feeling concerned that something wasn’t right, I made up my bed for the night on the settee so that I could keep a close eye on her. Yet I couldn’t sleep. The cough was strange, but Ethel had been fine during the day: eating, drinking and she had even executed a manic dash sideways round the lounge, bouncing on her paws whilst I made some Halloween party invitations. That had raised a chuckle, until she landed in the middle of my decorations and scattered them everywhere. A normal day then. So why was I worried?

At 3am I heard Ethel cough again, the same as before but for longer. My heart leapt into my mouth. I found her on the lounge floor, coughing and wheezing. Bubbles of white saliva had formed round her mouth. In a panic I rang the emergency vet, who advised me to bring her immediately to the veterinary hospital. I threw on some clothes, grabbed the carrier and went to gently lift my beautiful cat. She gave a low groan, a base animalistic noise I’d never heard before. She seemed to be in severe pain round her abdomen again.

I don’t remember much of the 10 minute drive to the hospital, only that Ethel was completely silent in her carrier. No serenading, no swearing, just silence. The vet unlocked the front door as we arrived and she ushered us inside. The bright lights in the consulting room made it look stark and clinical. I blinked hard several times, to try and adjust my eyes. The vet opened the front of the carrier and dragged Ethel out. It pleased me to see the fight in her, however small; her reluctance to exit the carrier gave me a flicker of hope. I bent down and cupped Ethel’s face in my hands, kissing her soft nose lightly and reassuring her, as the vet listened to her chest.

Suddenly the vet threw down her stethoscope and shouted to the nurse, “We need oxygen! Now!”

She scooped up my precious cat and swept out of the room. “I daren’t handle her any more otherwise we stand the risk of losing her. Her lungs are completely full; it might be pneumonia, I don’t know” she called to me, and with that she left.

I stood alone in the reception area, completely stunned. I could hear the blood pounding in my ears, in contrast to the deathly silence of the empty surgery. I have no idea how long the vet was gone, but when she returned her face was grave.

“We’ve put her in an oxygen unit. She is very poorly. I need to do an x-ray to see what’s happening inside, but I can’t give her a general anaesthetic right now as she won’t tolerate it. She’s really not in a good way. You need to go home and leave her with us. We will call you if anything happens. No news is good news.”

I was allowed to see her before I left, but I couldn’t touch her. She was in a sealed unit. I could hear the hiss of the oxygen being pumped in. Ethel was sitting facing the far corner, her head tilted upwards, eyes closed. Her body was heaving in and out with each breath that she struggled to take.

The vet looked at me and nodded slowly. “She’s trying hard.”

I drove home in a daze. It was like a bad dream from which I could not wake. I lay down on the settee in the lounge but didn’t sleep, my ‘phone clutched nervously in my hand.

The call came at 5.30am: “She stopped breathing, but we managed to bring her back. We had to breathe for her for a while – about half an hour – during which time she suffered some brain damage due to the lack of oxygen. We don’t know how bad the damage will be, but she’s now started moving a little.” I held my breath, unable to take it all in properly. The vet continued: “Whilst she was unconscious we drained both her lungs so she’s breathing a bit better. We also took the opportunity to x-ray her. She has a major internal rupture: her stomach has been forced up into her diaphragm. It’s consistent with being hit by a vehicle of some kind.”

“What…??..” I managed to stutter. I thought I was going to be sick.

“It’s not a recent injury. It wasn’t sustained during the last 24 hours. That complicates things. If it was recent, we could have operated and she’d have had a reasonable chance of recovery. Unfortunately the longer the stomach is out of place, the more the body tries to adapt and the stomach starts to stick to the other internal organs. That makes it a much more complicated operation. She’ll have to be sent away for probably 10-14 days to a specialist hospital. It will be harrowing for you, she’ll be touch and go for some while. It’s a particularly difficult recovery. That’s if she survives the night, and then of course the operation. But with the brain damage plus her breathing problems… she has everything against her. We can try, and the pet insurance will cover the costs but… you really need to make a decision: do you want us to try and continue treatment, or would you prefer us to put her to sleep? I’m so sorry…”

I couldn’t speak. Each time I opened my mouth, no sound came out.

“Would you like to have a think and ring us back?”

“Yes please,” I uttered in a choked voice.

I hung up the ‘phone and stared into the darkness. All I could hear was the impatient ticking of the clock. This really had to be a bad dream, a nightmare. I shook my head. No. No, not our beautiful Ethelbert. I went to find my husband, and told him the events so far. He just sat and looked at me.

“We have to make a decision,” I finished. “I know the right thing to do, but I don’t want to make the decision alone.”

He nodded despondently, his eyes never leaving mine. “I know. I agree.”

I drove back to the vet in silence. The roads were starting to come to life as people woke up and began their journeys to who knows where. The vet once again unlocked the door and let me in. Her face was stoic, sombre, resigned. She placed a sheet of paper before me that she asked me to sign. When she passed me the pen, my hand shook. Try as I might, I couldn’t place the pen on the paper. Several times I tried, each time I failed. Then the tears came, an avalanche, unstoppable. I started to sob uncontrollably, leaving the poor vet to grab a large box of tissues and console me.

I couldn’t read the writing on the page through the tears, but somehow I took a deep breath and signed it.  The vet ushered me to the operating room, where my special girl lay stricken on a table. I gasped in shock at the sight before me. She was laid flat on her tummy, all four legs splayed out at the sides. There was an IV line coming from her front paw and her little face, usually so proud and lion-like, was pushed into an oxygen mask. Her eyes were glazed but only half-open. But the worst thing was the noise: her breathing was coming out in loud rasps, every breath a complete struggle.

“Oh what on earth…?” I gasped. “What’s happened to you? Oh baby….” I sat down beside her, the tears again falling freely, this time in silence.

“She’s on a heat pad and has the blankets to keep her warm,” explained the vet quietly. “We had to shave her tummy to scan and x-ray her.”

The vet placed her hands under Ethel’s front legs and gently moved her over towards me. Ethel made a strange noise, not one I’d ever known before, one I felt rather than heard. I held her on my knee and nuzzled her head. I felt her warmth spread into my arms. “We all love you so very, very much,” I sobbed.

“Are you ready?” asked the vet.

It was then that I made the hardest decision of my entire life: a decision not for me, nor for our family or our boys. It was a decision just for Ethel, our beautiful, treasured cat. A decision made with love, pure and simple, but one that I will have to live with for the rest of my life.

The vet placed the needle in Ethel’s front leg, and she slipped away so quickly but peacefully in my arms, my kisses easing her passage, tears dampening her head. “Sleep tight,” I whispered, squeezing my eyes shut in immense pain.

The vet left us and I sat with Ethel for some 30 minutes or so: alone, bereft, in disbelief. I hugged her and kissed her, smelled her. She didn’t smell like our Ethel, but smelled instead of antiseptic and medication. Still, I held on to her.

When the time came to leave, I looked at the vet and asked tearfully, “I did do the right thing, didn’t I? It was right?”

She nodded at me sympathetically. “The odds were completely against her.”

It broke my heart even further trying to explain to our boys what had happened. Best palsHow do you tell your children that their beloved cat has died not from old age or illness, but from being hit by a vehicle some 23 days ago? She must have been in unbearable pain for all that time. Our youngest son was inconsolable. We adopted Ethel when our boy was 6 months old, so they had grown together. She treated him like a fellow kitten, not a human. Their relationship was unique. When the sobs stopped wracking his body, he turned his head and looked up at me. I will never forget the hurt, misery and utter pain deep in his eyes.

A box for Ethelbert, decorated by our smallest boyWe buried Ethel in the garden next to Blodwen, the much-loved cat we had before her. Our youngest son decorated a cardboard box in which to bury his special furry pal. After a simple ceremony, we all stood round the grave, united in our grief, silent and heartbroken. We lit some tealights which we placed on the grave. Our youngest son kept a graveside vigil long after we’d all made our way back inside: a small boy trying to come to terms with the brutal loss of his first pet. Except that she wasn’t just a ‘pet’ – she was a member of our family, a little person in a fur coat, full of attitude and mischief. We miss her more than words could ever convey.

Speaking to our vet a few days later, it appears that Ethel was most likely hit by a cyclist. The major abdominal trauma yet lack of external injuries is a classic result of this kind of collision. How someone can hit a cat and just ride off leaving them stricken, I will never know. There are some heartless people out there in the world. Yet the worst feeling is that she could have been saved. Ethel on the track outside our houseHad that cyclist owned up to the collision, our precious cat would have had a good chance of still being here. She could have received the correct emergency treatment, rather than antibiotics and painkillers for some mystery virus. We live down a little dirt track along the towpath of a canal. There are only 5 houses down here, surrounded by woodland. Ethel was the only cat in our little neighbourhood: a huge cat with very distinctive markings. She was so well-known, almost a local celebrity. Yet none of that mattered to a speeding cyclist, too busy to stop and tell someone what they had done. We are all struggling to cope with this. I can’t eat, can’t sleep. Each time I close my eyes, I see her face and relive all the events of the morning she died. What an awful way to go.

Forget-me-not thoughts

A couple of days ago I received a card from the emergency team who tried to save Ethel’s life. Enclosed in the card was a packet of forget-me-not seeds to plant round her grave. Although upset, I was touched at such a lovely thought, and a very fitting one too. For we never will forget our beautiful Ethelbert, the original chuffin cat.


Ethels Grave

RIP our special girl xx