All Change!

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It must be said: there is nothing more alarming than being woken by the sound of a cockerel crowing. In your lounge. Particularly when said cockerel is actually a 6 week old hen. Or so you thought.

Gloria and Daphne

“Is that a cat I see?” “Nope.”

Yes, the female dominance in our household was never destined to last. It appears that we have not one but two cockerels amongst our little flock of chickens. Beryl’s crowing took everyone by surprise. It was 6.45am on a Thursday morning when the serene silence was shattered by the most excruciating sound that could only be described as like fingernails being dragged down a blackboard. Bedroom doors flew open and we all congregated, bleary-eyed, round the chicken cage.  Again we heard the dreadful noise that seemed to emanate from Beryl, albeit through her closed beak. To be honest, she looked quite shocked herself as she squirted out a runny turd. The rest of the chickens remained motionless, almost as if to say, “Well, this is awkward…”

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Is anyone awake yet?

Over the following few days, Beryl’s crowing increased with alarming intensity. She could be heard randomly from as early as 5.35am *groan* to as late as 8pm at night. Yet with night time temperatures falling to near zero, and the fact that the chucks were only a few weeks old, we had no choice but to keep them in the cage in the lounge. Even the chuffin cat’s initial interest turned to disgust and irritation. A couple of weeks previously, we had changed the brooder lamp bulb from a bright white to an infra-red variety. This had frustrated the chuffin cat, who realised that her chance of a quick poultry snack had now been replaced with ‘slow roast’ chicken – she never was that good with patience. Now her beauty sleep was being interrupted; after all, who wants their afternoon siesta ruined by a noisy pumped-up pile of feathers?

An Instagram follower kindly suggested that we cover the cage at night to keep it dark, which has worked brilliantly so far. Morning routines, of course, have had to be altered accordingly if anybody wants a lie in. It comes to something when you find yourself creeping round the lounge with the stealth of a ninja, just to avoid a slumbering cockerel. In fact, one morning I even resorted to shutting myself in a cupboard just to use the hairdryer. Yes, really. It was like a mini sauna in there by the time I’d finished.

With all this commotion, we realised that Beryl would need a more appropriate name. Beryl is indicative of a small, plump, pottering hen, not a loud, proud, crowing rooster. The name Clive was picked by son no 1, and agreed upon by all.

“Crapping Clive!” shouted son no 3 with glee.

You see, Clive has quite a party trick: he has mastered the art of the projectile turd, to such a degree that he can hit an object over 3 foot away! It might not impress many people, but the boys in our household regard that as a pretty impressive feat.

Hence Beryl has now become known as Crapping Clive, Sir Crapalot, or to give him his full title: Clive Von Craphousen. Clive is quite pleased with his new moniker and will happily come running when you call his name. Then again, he also comes to you when you call “Chicken Pie!”

So I mentioned 2 cockerels. Mavis has undergone something of a transformation: her looks changed very quickly from Justin Bieber to Crusty the Clown.

 

With a magnificent crest on her head and long powerful thighs, we could no longer deny the fact that Mavis was now to be called Marlon. A most flamboyant boy, he loves to dance around a small disco ball that I decided to hang in the cage as a boredom buster. This has earned him the title Marlon Fandango. It certainly suits him.

Marlon and Clive having a chat with Gloria

Marlon Fandango and Clive Von Craphousen hobnobbing with Gloria Chufflepuff

In other news, Joyce the Voice has been busy growing a beard. Daphne Dapplebum still likes to stare at the wall, not that she can see much through the profusion of feathers on her head. And Barbara is quickly becoming known as the brains of the flock – she was the first one to work out that flies make a tasty protein snack. Or maybe she was just copying the chuffin cat.

Yowzers!

Slow roast chicken?! Yowzers!

Introducing Gloria!

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Gloria!Last week we had the absolute delight of welcoming this beautiful little bundle of fluff into our family. At the tender age of 12 weeks, she bounded into our lives and completely captivated us all. Gloria's bodyart - "Yo"She has incredibly soft silver and white fur, with tasteful black accessories – classic black eyeliner, alternating black pads on her little paws and an exquisite black heart on the very end of her nose, a heart that merits a kiss each time you cuddle her. Just to add a touch more character, she also has white markings on her body, one side of which reads ‘YO’, the other which reads ‘OY’. Perfect.

The boys were given the important task of naming her… and all agreed on the name Gloria – a fitting name for a gorgeous yet very cheeky little lady. Her motto in life appears to be ‘if it moves, chase it; if it doesn’t move, eat it’.

A spot of ninja trainingShe has quickly found her place in the family as trainee fluffy ninja and chief ankle biter. Once home, she very quickly established her office HQ behind the settee in the lounge: the nerve centre for mischief and mayhem. Having appointed her two chief advisors – TB (Tinkly Ball) and FC (Finger Chicken) – she was ready for action.

Hide and seekKeen to impress, her first mission that evening was ‘hide and seek’. We searched everywhere for her, but she had clearly already been expertly trained in the art of invisibility. The major panic was over (after a very long hour!) when son no 1 managed to locate her underneath a bookcase. Yes, UNDERNEATH a bookcase, in a 3 inch gap. (Did I mention she was small??).

After a snooze underneath the bookcase, she felt ready for more action and swiftly made good friends with a conker. Oh what fun they had together, and by the end of the evening they were inseparable… until she discovered a feathered toy on a spring that desperately needed decapitating.

By the next day, Gloria decided that her new family needed some extra special attention. Cue lots of headbutting, purring and wrapping her little body round your legs whenever you tried to walk anywhere. Then her attention turned to the boys’ faces which were obviously filthy, so she took it upon herself to clean them with her little raspy tongue. In return, the boys played with her incessantly, watching with glee as she charged about the lounge and jumped on them with a high pitched <chirrup>.

The art of camouflageYou see, she hasn’t been able to leave us alone since she arrived, and of course the feeling is mutual. As I type this, she is sitting on my feet, a little pile of purring fluff. Every so often, she looks up at me and gives a plaintive <mew> a noise that breaks my heart, meaning I have to pick her up for a snuggle. She then parades about on my knee, slaps me round the face with her little tail and decides to help me with my typing. We don’t get much done. She then jumps down and leads me to her food bowl. Eating is one of her many hobbies, along with chewing inanimate objects, jumping and galloping about on the furniture. Our standard lamp will never be the same again, having had a kitten swinging from it at regular intervals.

It’s amazing how a small heap of fluffy mischief can bring such joy to a home. From the sound of the boys’ chuckles as they play with her, to her enthusiastic throaty purr, to the crash, bang, wallop as she hurtles about the house practising her kick boxing moves, it all fills me with delight. And it’s all down to our newest family member. Welcome, Gloria. Here’s to all the fun we will have together.

Sweet dreams baby girl

Remembering Ethelbert, the original chuffin cat

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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

 

Ethelbert’s Story

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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

 

How To Age 10 years in 1 Week – Part 2

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So in the past 5 days, you must have aged about 5 years. By the end of the week you’ve aged even more.  The story continues…

After a tense ‘phone call, you race back to the vet to collect your poorly cat. You pace up and down the waiting room nervously. What is taking so long? When the vet calls you into his consulting room, your stomach starts to somersault. “She’s been on a drip all day, so we’re not worried if she won’t eat or drink,” he says. “It’s her breathing we need to watch. Count her respirations – they should be between 20 and 30 per minute. If her breathing becomes more laboured, ring this number immediately and we will admit her again. Otherwise, we’ll see her tomorrow.”

The nurse brings your blue cat carrier through and hands it to you. Somewhere in there, hiding in the darkness, is your precious animal, relying on you for some intensive tlc. No pressure.

033“She hasn’t used the litter tray all day, so we’ve given her a laxative,” explains the nurse. You look across at the cage where your cat has been hyperventilating all day, and you can’t help but notice that the litter tray is full of what looks like the layers pellets you feed to your chickens each day. Feeling your lips twitch into a small smile, you realise that your poor chuffin cat wouldn’t have known whether to crap in it or eat it.

“Erm, how long will it be before the laxative takes effect?” you ask, nervously eyeing the cat carrier.

“Oh not long, maybe 10 minutes,” replies the nurse cheerfully. “We’ve put an incontinence pad in there for her, just in case.”

The laxative actually takes 9 minutes to work… whereas you take 10 minutes to get home. As you turn into the lane down which you live, your chuffin cat lets out a strangulated whine and the air fills with a putrid stench. Luckily, as the mum of 3 boys, you are adept at driving with your head poking through the side window. Now who’s hyperventilating?

“Oh Pooh!” you exclaim, as ironically that is the nickname you call your chuffin cat at home. “Oh poo!” you exclaim again, referring to the odorous deposit your cat has unhappily made, as the stink wafts through the window and past your nose.

Unfortunately the lane is littered with potholes, which you do your best to avoid, particularly those that make the car lurch suddenly from side to side. You are sure that your cat’s luxurious fur would make a great spreading brush, but not in a cat carrier full of crap.  When you reach home, you carefully grab the carrier and stagger as rapidly as you can through the lounge, ignoring the bemused faces of your boys who are eagerly awaiting the return of their much-loved pet. The stink that follows you through the house soon wipes the looks off their faces.  Imagine the ‘Bisto kid’ advert, but in reverse.

Chuffin cat on the prowlHaving placed the carrier on a washable floor, you hold your breath whilst carefully lifting off the lid on what has become your cat’s unintentional portable litter tray. Your cat slowly totters out and you relax as you see that she’s quite clean, having laid her reluctant turds in one corner of the carrier: no mean feat for a large cat in a confined space. You observe your cat making her way round the room flicking her paw out as she tries to get a bandage off her leg. She also adds a flick of the tail every so often, for a bit of variety. It’s like watching ‘The Ministry of Silly Walks’ from Monty Python – flick, swish, wobble, flick, flick, swish.

You make her a nest near the fire, padded with bubble wrap (one of her favourite things) and lined with son no 3’s fluffy hoodie (another of her favourite things). Gently you place her in the nest, and sit with her to ensure she is happy and settled. She looks at you gratefully, closes her eyes and purrs a little (one of your favourite things). You count her respirations regularly and feel your mood lifting as the count decreases: from 60 per minute, then 40 and finally when she dozes off a magnificent 29. Just what the vet ordered.

Later, you make a bed up on the settee to enable you to nurse your poorly cat through the night. When the rest of the family have gone to bed, you snuggle down under your duvet and your heart swells as you feel the ton weight of your beautiful chuffin cat land on your bladder. Your bladder also swells during the night, but you don’t want to disturb the sleeping beauty crushing your body, so you lay there listening to her gentle snores… now down to 21 per minute. Perfect. A Chuffin SmirkBy the morning you are sure that the circulation has been cut off to your legs, but still Her Chuffness is deep in slumber. Eventually you place your hands under the duvet and strain to lift the lead weight off your body. She stirs and lets out a whinge, but still doesn’t move. You manage to slide clumsily off the settee and land with a thud on the floor, due to pins and needles in both legs which makes coordination particularly difficult. As you look up, is that a small smirk you see on the chuffin cat’s face? That would be right.

That morning you take her back to the vet. You can report that she has started to groom a little, and has even eaten a little tuna – oh yes, she couldn’t believe her eyes: a plate of tuna, and you hand feeding her too. Shame she spilt much of it on your duvet, bearing in mind you have an aversion to the mere whiff of fish. The vet is most pleased, albeit still a little concerned about her breathing. He thinks she has a virus and decides that you can keep nursing her at home, he doses her up on painkillers and hands you a packet of antibiotics (to prevent any secondary infection). You look at the tablets, and then look at the chuffin cat. She hates taking tablets as much as you hate giving them to her. These have to be given twice a day too. Double whammy. Still, the best news is that she won’t be kept in. You pick her up off the examination table and she reaches up to pin her paws around your neck, clinging to you koala-style. She clearly hasn’t heard what the vet said, so you reassure her and willingly accept the hug. Then the warning: the vet says to watch her carefully and that 24 – 48 hours after she’s finished the tablets, she could suddenly go downhill, giving you emergency numbers to ring if that happens. She would then need a chest x-ray, something he had wanted to avoid due to her severe ‘white coat syndrome’ (sound familiar?!). He also wants you to ring him at 5pm sharp with a further update on her condition.

Having delicately stuffed the chuffin cat back into her cat carrier, you head on home feeling happier. You’ve already rung ahead and asked son no 1 to go and buy a litter tray, as the chuffin cat has to remain indoors – something she has always rebelled against, being very much an outdoors kinda feline; how else would she keep the rodent population in order?

Arriving home, this time minus the noxious fumes, you are delighted to see the chuffin cat amble towards her food bowl and survey the contents. She looks up at you and gives a small <miaow>, You approach her and start to gently slap her rump – something she likes you to do as she eats (yes, really!). The sound of her teeth crunching on the biscuits is music to your ears.

Son no 1 appears home with his purchases: a litter tray the size of a small skip (“She’s a big cat, mum!”) a mahoosive bag of litter (not that which looks like the chicken food) and a bag of catnip (not for use in the giant litter tray). He hands you the bill: just over £20!! You could have made one for less than that!

Poorly chuffin cat and sick chicken comparing symptomsYou now have a dilemma: don’t forget your sick chicken who wants to accompany you in the garden, at the same time as you need to be nursing your sick cat who has to remain indoors. Hmmm. How does that work then? You place a chair by the patio door and pad it with a soft towel, in the hope the chuffin cat will sit there and enable you to watch her whilst you and Cobweb Gladys peruse the garden foliage. Of course, the cat sits underneath the chair on the hard floor, clearly miffed that she has to share your attention. Cobweb Gladys on the other hand, seems to be improving daily, growing stronger and eating more.

Later, you need to collect son no 3 from school. Having put the chickens away, you ask your Handsome Husband to keep an eye and make sure that the chuffin cat doesn’t go outside. Cue a telephone call just as you reach the school: “Erm, I’ve lost the cat”

“You’ve done what?? How on earth can you lose a sick cat? She’s not exactly going anywhere very fast!” You can feel the exasperation rising in your voice.

“Where was she when you left home?” he asks.

“Under the chair by the patio door, sulking” you reply, wondering what on earth you are going to tell the vet at 5pm. (“Erm, yeah the cat, right. She was great the last time I saw her… then my husband lost her, so she’s been busy outside doing all the things on the naughty list that she shouldn’t be doing.”)

Of course whilst his back is turned, the chuffin cat has crawled into a box. Clearly starting to feel better, she is up for a game of hide and seek. It’s apparent that your Handsome Husband doesn’t spend enough time with his feline charge. Evidently she is in a box, behind a chair, in the corner of the room. Where else would she be? How inadequate of him not to know that.

Her Chuffness convalescing outsideHaving located the chuffin cat you ring the vet, as requested, at 5pm, You update him  – she is now eating, drinking and wanting to go out. He reiterates that you need to keep an eye on her, but agrees that she can go outside if she is pestering you. He’s getting to know your cat well. You are delighted to spend what is left of the afternoon in the garden with your pair of poorly pets, letting the sunshine bathe them both in warmth and happiness.

The following day, your chuffin cat needs to start her course of antibiotics. Cats and tablets are not a great mix in general, but when that cat is THE chuffin cat, things usually get completely out of hand. Yes, we are talking riot police on standby. The first tablet is administered with great difficulty – lots of fighting, scrabbling, clamping of jaws, shaking of heads and general riotous attitude.  Not necessarily just from the chuffin cat. Of course, by the evening you are better prepared: large towel, suit of armour, gauntlets, goggles, big syringe of water and one fluorescent pink tablet on the table beside you. The result? Her Chuffness takes one look at you, surveys the scene, swipes the tablet and swallows it herself in one gulp. Yes, really. What a splendid idea; why didn’t you think of that yourself?

20141027-003201-1921873.jpgAs the week goes by, Cobweb Gladys recovers tremendously. You realise she is feeling better when you find her pottering about the dining room, eating the cat’s food whilst standing on the mat which reads ‘Beware of the Cat’. Her large red comb has gradually risen by several degrees each day, so that now it is pert at 12 o’clock where it should be.

Chuffin cat chillingYou spend a nervous 48 hours after the chuffin cat has finished her meds, watching her like a hawk to see if she deteriorates in any way.  She remains stable if a little quiet. Then the crucial moment arrives, as you walk across the lounge, when you are ambushed, rugby tackled and tunefully serenaded by your one and only chuffin cat. You realise how much you’ve missed that rebellious attitude and furry mischief.  Bring it on in leaps and bounds, literally.  Life would not be the same without Her Chuffness, let alone your thick chicken causing mayhem and shouting obscenities across the garden.

How to Age 10 Years in 1 Week – Part 1

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Cobweb Gladys - 3 days oldTake one small white chicken: a much-loved little hen who you have raised for the past 6 1/2 years, after adopting her as a 1 day old chick. Go down to the coop one day and find that little hen looking very sorry for herself – her head hung low and her usually pert comb flopping heavily over her left eye. Not so much Pirate Pete, think more along the lines of ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody from Harry Potter.

So you go to the kitchen and you cook up some scrambled egg, adding a tasteful garnish of fresh parsley. Your Handsome Husband enters the kitchen. “Oooh scrambled egg!” he says appreciatively.

“Think again!” you reply with a frown. “This is for Cobweb Gladys.”

As you head out of the door, leaving him salivating and somewhat perplexed, you add, “There’s some bread on the side, you can have that.”

Wife of the Year, that’s me.

You place the tasty breakfast in front of your little hen, and sigh as she refuses to eat it. You let both chickens out into the garden, and follow the poorly hen’s every move like a crazed stalker. Over the next few hours you pick random leaves and offer them to her to peck, marvelling at the variety of greenery on offer for the average garden-dwelling omnivore. Then you sigh again as you realise that what minute amounts of food or drink make it into your little hen’s beak, soon squirt out the other end twice as fast…that’s if it doesn’t dribble out of her beak first.

Cobweb Gladys SelfieLeaving your boys on sick chicken duty, you head indoors to cook your little hen a nice bowl of warm rice, mixed with chopped grapes and mealworm. You put tonic in her drinking water (minus the gin) and take it all down to the coop. Your little hen stands at your feet, so you pick her up and tuck her under your arm. She nestles against you and blinks slowly.

“What’s happened, Cobweb Gladys?” you ask in a soft voice. You feel so helpless; you’ve never seen your little hen look so poorly. She just closes her eyes and bows her head. You place her down gently on the dirt floor of the coop and she slowly makes her way up the ramp to the hen house…oh so slowly. Meanwhile her sister, Dim Doris, munches noisily on the treats that you have provided, wondering if it’s her birthday or maybe Christmas, but not really caring either way.

The next couple of days pass in much the same way. You miss the coarseness of your hen’s voice shouting obscenities at you from across the garden, the way she always scuttles towards you at full pelt from the moment she spies you. You dose and you nurture and you cook; oh yes, you cook up all sorts of treats to tempt her.

By the fourth day it is raining, but you still let your little hen out of the coop – she only wants to be near you, even if that means sitting in a chair under an umbrella, listening to the rhythmic tap, tap, tap of the raindrops. You chat to her about all manner of things and she listens carefully with half-closed eyes.

“Come on, Cobweb, you need to get better.  We’ve still got lots of fun to have together” you repeat over and over again.

Her Chuffness resting in a hammockThen you discover your chuffin cat, usually so full of life and cheeky attitude, looking forlorn and refusing to eat. I repeat: refusing to eat! That single fact in itself rings alarm bells. So you dash her to the vet, who checks her over and shakes his head. He holds her down, shaves her throat and takes some blood: brutal but necessary. She sits hunched and dejected, her fight having ebbed away.

You kneel down and press your forehead gently against that of your ailing cat. “Noggin” you whisper in a choked-up voice – a word from your shared vocabulary, a word that means everything yet nothing. You close your eyes and sigh, a tear making its escape down your cheek.

Your beautiful, naughty-natured cat won’t be coming home. Instead you have to leave her attached to a drip, laying on a heat pad in the sick ward. She watches you leave, her glassy eyes pleading with the little energy she has left, a look that punctures your heart.

You are tasked with taking her blood samples directly to the animal lab, to speed up the process of investigation. Then you return home, to an empty house brimming with memories of your cat’s unique chuffness: her discarded catnip mouse, a clump of fur carelessly tossed on the carpet, her battered scratching post rudely upturned in the corner.

You look at the telephone, waiting for it to ring with what you hope will be positive news from the vet. Anything, just please make it positive.

Cobweb Gladys in the gardenThe silence is too much to bear, so you head down to the chicken coop. As you approach, you hear a lowly <cluck>, somewhat despondent but still far more than you’ve heard from your little hen all week. You open the coop door and she potters gingerly out into the garden. You watch as she pecks carefully at a few selected leaves. There it is: a small glint of sunshine battling its way through the funereal thunder clouds. You need that right now.

A crane fly lands gracefully on the ground near your sick chicken. Never before have you been so pleased to see an insect beheaded before your very eyes, as your little hen pecks at it then shovels it slowly into her beak. Such a shame that her sister suddenly snatches the insect carcass, pulls it from Cobweb’s beak and eats it herself. Still, half a crane fly is better than none. That will help the protein quota. You’ll take that.

After what seems like an eternity, the telephone springs into life: the news you’ve been anxiously awaiting. You hold your breath and listen. Your cat is still poorly, but stable…however the blood results haven’t shown anything nasty; in fact they haven’t shown much at all which is confusing the vet. They indicate that your cat is fighting something big, maybe a virus. (You can recover from viruses, right?) She has been pumped full of antibiotics and painkillers to try and help her. Then the vet drops a bombshell: he is concerned about your cat’s breathing. Her heart is racing and her respiration is far too fast. A decision is made: being on the sick ward is distressing your poor cat and making her worse. The vet asks how you feel about tending your ailing cat at home, counting her respirations, checking her breathing – can you nurse her overnight then bring her back in to the surgery the next day? Yes, you can do that. Yes! Just let your chuffin cat come home, let you nurse her. You can count, you can cuddle, you can nurture. Who needs sleep anyway?

You usher the chickens back into their home, surrounding the coop in a bubble of positivity. “Come on Cobweb!” you say to your little hen. “You can do this.” She looks at you and cocks her head on one side, her comb still flopping over her eye. It looks like she’s trying out a new ’80’s hairstyle. You nod at her and she blinks slowly. An agreement of sorts. This has to be the start of her recovery.

And now you have 2 sick pets to care for.

 


A Cup of Tea

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What a beautiful day. Determined to make the most of the glorious sunshine, I ventured outside. As I inhaled large lungfuls of fresh air, I noticed a pretty yellow butterfly. Perched on a fox turd. Nice.

I could hear the perturbed chickens shouting obscenities at me from the bottom of the garden. Accompanied by the chuffin cat, I went to release them from their coop. As I opened the cage door they looked up at me, squawked and hurtled off onto the lawn. As opposed to the chuffin cat who hurtled headfirst vertically up the nearest tree.

Son no 3’s voice drifted across to me: “Mum! I’m stuck on the trampoline!”

I ambled across to him to see what the trouble was.

“Every time I move, I get an electric shock” he complained.

“Best sit still then, love” I replied with a smile.

Chuffin cat on a slideThe poor little chap was having a bad day. He’d already spent half the morning tied to a tree, courtesy of his brothers. Having struggled free, he’d then had a fight with the chuffin cat as she wouldn’t let him play on the slide – she was having far too much fun clambering up and down it and completely refused to take turns. Now this.

I left him in his bouncy prison, rocking a funky new static-spiked hair do, and went inside to make a drink. I love a nice cup of tea, particularly Earl Grey … although my family don’t call it that after son no 3 once misheard the name, causing much hilarity: he thought it was called ‘Old Gay’ and the name stuck.

I looked through the window to see the chuffin cat was now playing hide and seek with the chickens. Well, she was hiding, they were seeking. A large crow suddenly landed in the garden, a menacing gleam in his eye. He didn’t stay for long – who chased him away? Yes, that’s right: Cobweb Gladys the small white hen, whilst the chuffin cat bravely cowered behind a blade of grass.

I brought my cup of ‘Old Gay’ outside and wandered towards a garden chair. The chickens instantly spied me and came running full pelt, their little spindly legs working hard as their fat, feathered bodies waddled from side to side. I placed my cup on the ground and they took it in turns to peer impertinently at the tea. Much to my annoyance, a small black fly decided to nosedive directly into my cup. Chuffin cat stuck up a treeIn a frenzy, Cobweb Gladys plunged her beak into the hot tea. It didn’t stay there long: she shook her head in a stupor, knocking the cup and spilling the entire contents all over the grass. Not to be outdone, Doris DooDah decided her errant sister should lose her ‘Head Chicken’ status at that precise moment, and she launched a full scale mutiny. The chuffin cat hit major panic mode and shot up the apple tree, her claws splintering on the trunk in her haste to escape. There she remained, shouting loudly as if to provide a running commentary on the battle unfolding below her.

I sighed in frustration. How could a simple cup of ‘Old Gay’ have turned an idyllic afternoon into a scene from Gladiator?

Son no 3 appeared, evidently having managed to extricate himself from his static cell.

“Mum, I’m hungry. What’s for tea?” he asked.

“Roast chicken!” I replied tartly, looking at the squabbling heap of feathers fighting at my feet. “Take your pick!”

"Got any grapes?"