After our pussycat Kimmy passed away, it became a bit quiet in the house. Much too quiet in the view of my girls. So after a mourning period we had a place for a new puss.
The Animal Shelter is a good place to look for a new pet. The place is cramped with animals that would like to have a new owner and a new house, at least that is what we think in our human pride.
In the Animal Shelter - currently known as Animal Reception Centre - you can find all kinds of pets. This change of name is no accident, the Dutch word for Animal Shelter (Asiel) bears much resemblance with Refugee Centre, a bit emotionally charged concept with the current Islamitic immigration, better said prevention of this immigration in Holland. So the management of the Animal Shelter changed the name.
Many pets there are found walking the streets, have been saved under difficult circumstances or have been taken there (on payment) by people who are not able or willing to keep a pet. Every major city in Holland has its Animal Reception Centre, and so has my own place of residence.
The girls were well prepared. The Animal Reception Centre has a web site with photos and descriptions of pets that are looking for a loving master and a comfortable home. After some extensive research they found that a photo and a story are nice for a first impression, but for a click a real meeting is necessary.
Thus on a chilly Saturday in the beginning of December, Erna, Daniëlle and me went to the Animal Reception Centre to take a look. In the cat’s department lots of cats were milling around. Maybe it is a matter of season ("get rid of your cat for Christmas"), the place was just filled up. A hectic environment, but most pusses and tomcats seemed to live together in peace.
We took a look at many cats, about each one the keeper had a a little story. It was fun to notice that she knew almost all the cats by name.
There were young kittens and old cats, some even very old. Well, after loosing Kimmy we did not want to take the risk to go through that experience soon, so a very old cat was out of the question. On the other hand we did not want a kitten either, even though it is more easy to teach them things. It’s true, they are quite popular with future owners, but we were reluctant.
We did a few rounds and tried to find out which cats we liked and if we had some contact too. I found it difficult to choose and the girls agreed with me. In fact we thought about going home.
At a certain moment, however, something peculiar happened. A puss emerged from a hideout in the corenr, jumped on a stool just besides us and allowed petting. It was a slender tabby and white cat. I responded to the contact and to my delight the animal started nuzzling against my hand and sniffed at it.
"That’s a very shy pussycat", the keeper added, "the last owner could not take care for her any more.
Shy or not, the cat charmed me, and later she did the same with the girls. She had a nice tabby pattern and an expressive face. We asked the keeper for her age and she appeared to be six years old. A middle-aged lady so to say. Her age was helpful for the choice, the girls found that an older pussycat deserved a chance too, because most people only aim for a young one. Thus we chose the shy tabby.
After a few days we could collect her. Her original name was Marla, but we did not like that. After a while we called her Snoes (which translates as "sweetie"). No more and no less!
After coming home we opened the travelling bench for the first time. Immediately she dashed away and hid under the sofa as far away as possible against the wall. It was clear that it would take some tome for her to acclimatize. We put food and water in the kitchen and waited. Fortunately after the first night it showed that she had found the food and also knew how to use the cat box.
During the first days she started to scout her territory to be very cautiously. Initially we left her downstairs and closed the door, the upper floors were just too much at this time. By degrees we opened all doors, which gave her the opportunity to examine all crannies and nooks of the house.
Gradually she became more responsive as long as you did not touch her. She remained nervily indeed. If you walked towards her or made a sudden move, she dashed off as if you were the greatest danger in the world. Unfortunately we do not know what befell her in her previous living place. It was clear that she was a cat with som traumas. Only patience could cure some of it.
It was quite important how you approached her. If we stood upright, we apparently looked like a threat. If we sat down, she came closer a little bit. If we were lying down in bed, she sometimes jumped on the bed to investigate.
Yet she came closer and closer. From her hideout under the couch towards a basket in a safe place in the cupboard. From the basket to the couch, as far as possible from your place. Finally she moved to the cushion right beside us. On that spot she accepted some petting in the end. Just with one hand, doing so with two hands looked to much picking up. In that case she got frightened and dashed off.
After a while she got very fond of snuggling up on us on the bed. She particularly liked den-like places such as tight against your back of the knee or against your belly, so tight that you did not have room to turn. That was awkward at times. Finally, however, we were sufficiently assertive to push Snoes aside. In that case she gave some disappointed mews and moved up to another spot.
The months went by and Snoes got used to us beter and better. Just like her predecessor Kimmy, Snoes appeared quite susceptible to Erna’s crystal pendulum, she just liked to join her on the sofa for some balancing with crystal therapy.
Later on Snoes’great pleasure became clear: brushing! You could wake up her for that all day and night. First some strokes with the rouh brush on her back and sides. Then came the treatment with the soft brush on her back, paws and head. In the beginning she accepted it in silence, but after a few months she rewarded you with loud purring and enthusiast nuzzling up. She did like it indeed!
She permitted more an more approach, yet she always kept her options open, holding her or lifting her up was out of the question. She always wanted to have an escape route. Of course we left her this option.
Meanwhile she appeared more vocal than Kimmy used to be. She reacted to us with mews in various keys, at times almost in dialogue form.
After the winter, Snoes discovered the garden. In no time it became her private domain. Her she went or regular inspections, basked in the sunshine and did what she liked. At times she defended her territory against cats than climbed over the fence.
As soon as our new fence was completed, we made a little venture. A few times Snoes had been curiously spotting the garden gate and the big world that she suspected behind it. With the old fence she could not slip away under the garden gate, but with the new fence there was quite some space under the door. Initially we put a strip of wood underneath to restrict the crack of the door. Unfortunately an obstacle like this is not quite practical. So we removed the strip and off went Snoes!
Although we found it a bit stressful, we opened the gate at times to permit her to take a walk through the neighbourhood. She did not make long walks, she used to return at a gallop, mostly all by herself and at rare occasions at the moment you started thinking: "Where is she hanging out?" It looked like telepathy!
We permitted her walks only in bright daylight, as soon as it got dark we kept her inside. Sometimes she did not agree and she sat near the back door mewing indignantly. Never mind, sometimes you have to stick to your policy.
Thus Snoes became a sweet housemate with her very own habits.
She was fond of drinking coffee with us. Every time we sat down for a coffee break, our little madam came walking by with a questioning glance in her eyes: "And what about me?" We always had a little tin can on the table with cat chunks in a number of varieties. So she could join us.. She was a real cat chunk puss, she did not like the tin cans with meat at all.
She liked toys, particularly Catnips, little bags with some weed inside. She used to wrestle with them on the ground with a blissful grin on her face!
We were surprised that she liked to meditate. It was a funny sight when we saw her for the first time lying on her back on the floor, with forelegs and hind legs joined as in prayer and a neat twist in her tail. At a certain moment we noticed that she meditated when she felt completely satisfied. Cat’s Yoga!
She came closer and closer. If Erna put a little blanket on her lap, Snoes used to jump on and lie down comfortably. In the end she even ventured it without blanket.
Who knows how things had developed... If the opportunity had been there.
On an ill-fated Saturday in February Snoes went for a little walk outside the gate. Within a few minutes she limped back, completely in shock and severily wounded. She had a bloody snout and pelt was grazed.
Such a shock! It looked terrible, but we had no idea how she got in that state. Initially we thought about a crash with a car, it happens often in this neighbourhood that pets are overrun by cars. We immediately called the vet and we were lucky that we could go there right away.
Veterinarian Coen examined her and soon the damage became clear: broken teeth as a consequence of a struggle, a complex sternum fracture, many broken ribs and large bite wounds in her abdominal wall. Normally these wounds are lethal, particulary with a high chance of infection.
Yet we decided after some discussion to strive for recovery in order to be able to operate on the abdominal injuries because these were the most dangerous. If she could be kept quiet, she might recover sufficiently. She would have to stay in a bench for a few weeks and antibiotics and morfine should help the recovery.
The cause of this mess became quite clear too, it was no crash, she had been caught by a large and apparently aggressive dog. Obviously the dog had been interrupted by someone (his master?), else Snoes would not have made it home anyway, she would have been bitten to pieces.
The fact that she made it is a bit of cold comfort indeed, because the uncertainty of a disappearance is worse. That shows clearly from the notes that people sometimes post in the neighbourhood hoping to retrace their vanished pets.
Snoes’ condition was too serious to take her home. Just like with our last cat Kimmy, veterinarian Coen did a fine job to take care of Snoes. Unfortunately his efforts were in vain, after a brief recovery Snoes died two days later.
Well, there you are again, confronted with a loss. In the time she spent with us, Snoes had become a dear housemate. We stay behind with the cold comfort that she has had a good life with us.
Again we have arranged for a cremation, the thought to discard her in some container was not appealing to us. There was a clear difference with the situation when Kimmy died, however. At that time we left her with the vet who arranged for the transfer to the crematory. This time we decided to bring her there ourselves.
The same day that she died we took Snoes to the Breborg, the crematorium for pets in our district. We could say goodbyte to her in a nice and attractive funeral parlour. It was such a funny thought, she never allowed us to pick her up. And now all of a sudden she permitted it for the last time... from bench to the cardboard box that served as coffin.
Many people make a kind of keepsake spot at home in memory of their beloved. We did the same in this case, a few nice photographs of our cats are on the same shelf as the old family pictures. In fact it is the concept of a private chapel, without the aspect of veneration.
The chain of events left a sad and frustrated feeling with me. It’s not just the fact that we lost our pet. No, it is the notion that someone did not control his dog in the right way and apparently fails to be honest about it.
All of a sudden you have a different look on the neighbourhood. Every dog that you see, with or without master, suddenly becomes a suspect. Would this one...?
We have our suspicions... A few houses away lives a family with a large dog that used to walk around without a leash, in fact an illegal act by law. A few days after Snoes’ death we see this dog strictky kept on the leash, and he had some plastic cone around his head to prevent him from licking wounds.
Just guess what causes injury of the head... A cat that fights for her survival perhaps?
The combination of these observations lead to an obvious conclusion.
We have struggled some time with this feeling. Involuntary your attitude towards people changes for the worse. It obscures your view on the world. It casts a shadow of distrust and cynicism.
We will not get back Snoes by means of thinking this way, in terms of vengeance and compensation. She will not return from the dead, it has happened and it is done. What’s the use of these thoughts? Pestering yourself with vengefulness?
I was more or less surprised to notice that I foster these dark feelings. Snoes does not deserve that her memory is tainted this way. That was the conclusion Erna and I got after writing and reviewing this text.
You cannot blame the dog, he just follows his instinct. Nature does not know Good and Evil. We used to notice that as children when we browsed through illustrated books about the animal realm and saw the pictures of animals that devoured each other. We noticed that with natural disasters like the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
I hope that the owners of the dog have learned a lesson from this. They have pets themselves and doubtlessly they know how it feels to loose a beloved pet. Myself, I would not like to carry the secret that you caused such a thing yourself without reconciliation!
My lesson is that vengefulness is a double-edged sword. The sharp edge is on the hilt too! I hope that I will be able to drop this sword to the ground.