Analysis (Services and Self)

Koan Bremner's view on life as a database and data warehouse professional / addict and non-genetic woman

Saturday, November 06, 2004

In loving memory

I had occasion in an earlier post to mark (but not mourn) the death of someone. I'd like to mark (and mourn) the passing of a different individual, who only lived with us for a short time, but who touched the lives of all with whom he came into contact, and who has left a tangible void in those lives since he died. And that, to me, is the true measure of the quality of an individual's life; the gap they leave with their passing.

Sooty was a stray who came to us when a tiny kitten, because the person who found him (wandering in the road outside the nearby petrol station) knew that we were animal lovers who would shortly be providing a home for another kitten, and therefore might be able to look after him for the night. Which, of course we did; only, he was to stay rather longer than one night... Anyway, I cradled him and fed him from a bottle; he was so hungry he chewed through the teat. Once he was satisfied, we settled him for the night in a carrying box next to Billy. Up to this point, Billy would fly into a rage whenever he saw a cat (he probably only wanted to play with them) but his reaction was amazing; he rested his head on the box, and just lay there watching over Sooty, all night.

The next day, Kim took Sooty to the Vet for a check-up (where he was given a clean bill of health) and we attempted to find out if he belonged to anyone, without success; but already, any thought of taking him to a cat shelter for rehoming had gone. A couple of weeks later, Willow joined us; he was one of a litter of four, born to a feral cat who had given birth in a quiet corner of the garden next door. He probably came to us a little bit too early, but the kittens had started to wander from their mother, and were in danger of being run over, so the owner of the house next door asked us to take him in.

Sooty and Willow were unrelated; but, almost identical in age, they took to each other as brothers, and were almost inseparable. They slept together in the carrying box for the first few weeks, and quickly learned where to take care of "sanitary business"; barring a couple of accidents, they were (like most cats) naturally clean about where they went. Playful and inquisitive, the funniest times were watching their interactions with Billy and Lucy. Lucy was not really interested in them; if they became too boisterous around her, she would simply get up and walk away. Billy, though was fascinated by them, and would play with them and stalk them for hours. Neither kitten was intimidated by Billy; and quite a few times in those early weeks, Billy discovered that a spit and a swipe from Sooty was more than enough to put him in his place!

Once they were old enough, we used to put the cats out to sleep at night. They had cosy beds in the garden shed, to which they had easy access through an open window, and were happy to laze around the house during the day and have fun and games outside at night. As they got bigger, they also discovered which windows in the house were left open at night, through which they could get in, if they wished.

Over the months, they, like most individuals, fell into patterns of behaviour and developed favourite places. One of Sooty's was right in front of the gas fire in the sitting room. In truth, both cats and dogs favoured that location, but somehow Sooty always managed to get closest to the fire.

Sadly, a few months ago, Kim found Sooty lying at the garden gate, dead. It was not clear exactly what had happened, but we suspect that he had been trying to get in through an open window on the upstairs landing, slipped, and fell awkwardly to the ground. Billy, Lucy and Willow knew that something was wrong; Billy and Willow, in particular, were dreadfully upset. Kim arranged for Sooty to be cremated, and brought his ashes home in a little casket which is placed by the side of the gas fire, in his favourite place. If that seems unnecessarily sentimental (or even inappropriate) then that is your opinion; all I will say is that Sooty was as much a part of our family as if he had two legs, and he is as loved in death as he was in life; and missed by all of us.

Possibly the most remarkable thing is the behaviour of the others to the casket; when they come to lie down by the fire, Billy and Willow particularly, they will sniff the casket as if saying hello to their little brother or friend who rests within. Am I guilty of anthropomorphising their actions? Maybe; but I don't think so. They may be "just" domestic animals, but they have distinct personalities; and they, like us, miss little Sooty, who only lived for a little over a year, but who left indelible memories behind.

Rest in peace, little one.


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