I am a columnist – not a blogger – thus I rarely do “personal” pieces. But here is one such…
As a child, I had a pet guinea-pig and later, a budgerigar. Harry and Percy, respectively.
And as a twenty-year-old, having moved to a flat in London, I acquired a kitten. It had been dropped out of a car, to make its way in life. After this unfortunate start, it encountered me.
However, despite loving little Millie and caring for her through a litter of kittens (which I was able to find HOMES for) things did not END well. I did EVERYTHING wrong. Long story short; ALWAYS make sure cats fed on dry food have plenty of WATER to hand at all times. And FORGET MILK.
If only packets of dry cat food had that message printed more PROMINENTLY on them…
Thus I had no more pets for over thirty-five years.
Then I retired to Thailand.
At this point, three things; one – here in SE Asia, dogs and cats are often treated appallingly. Two – give me the strength to change what I can, the serenity to accept what I cannot (that’s the one I have trouble with) and the perspicacity to differentiate between the two. And three – you cannot change the World, but you can change HIS/HERS (an ASPCA slogan).
I wish I could care for all the cats and dogs of the World. But I cannot even care for the ones in this street.
In the West, people make jokes about how SE Asians eat dogs and cats.
They’d stop laughing if they saw street dogs and cats being rounded up – or bought, with cheap plastic items – and being crammed into rusty cages and driven on flat-bed trucks for hundreds of miles in the scorching sun.
And they would feel like KILLING the people who, with those animals unfortunate enough to survive, take the cats and literally skin them alive, before throwing the still-living felines into boiling water – and string the dogs up by their back legs and BEAT them to death, believing the more PAIN and TERROR they inflict on the creature, the more tender the meat will taste.
Should you find yourself on holiday in SE Asia and a restauranteur offers cat or dog as a delicacy – see how HARD you can punch them in the face.
Of course, ignorant Westerners often opine that the consumption of dogs and cats is no worse than the consumption of livestock. However, this is monumentally absurd. You can call a cow Daisy and a chicken Henrietta, but they will no more BOND with you than a tortoise will.
However, dogs and cats are SENTIENT. Self-aware, with personalities and emotions, they rely on us who bred them for companionship to care for them. And by treating them as livestock – never mind horrendously ABUSING them as well – we BETRAY them.
Bearing the above in mind, here is my story…
It began seven years ago, when a young female Manx cat wandered onto our patio, as we were having a sauna. I stroked her (I have always loved cats and disliked dogs – noisy, dirty, stupid things) and eventually, we fed her.
This continued for several days. However, while we allowed her into the house day-times, we always put her out at night. But every morning, she would be waiting outside our back door. It quickly became obvious that no-one else was feeding her.
One night, at about two AM, we were awakened by an almighty up-and-downer outside. I instinctively knew it was Sophie (as we had begun to call her) being beaten up by another cat.
We went to the back door and there stood Sophie, looking somewhat the worse for wear.
I invited her in and got a cushion and placed it atop two large bean-bags – a nest if you will – and we returned to bed.
In the morning, I discovered she had let go in the night – SOAKING the cushion and both bean bags. Verily, no good deed ever goes unpunished.
But where many would have thrown (possibly literally) her OUT, I went to Tesco (they have them here) and purchased a large plastic tray, a couple of plastic bowls and some cat food.
I then drove to a builders’ merchant and bought a 50-kilo bag of sand.
Then, having arranged these items in our back room, I placed her in her new sand box.
She sniffed it, pawed the sand – and immediately used it. That was seven years ago and she has not embarrassed herself since.
Around six months later, I noticed this large, woolly dog (whom I later discovered was an Aussiedoodle – half Australian Shepherd, half Poodle) hanging around, in the street outside.
My wife told me it was a stray the boy in the house opposite had been feeding – until his mother had bashed the dog on the head with a broom and chased him away (it took two years for the bump to flatten out).
I said it was sad, but we could not take a dog on. Apart from the fact I was NOT a dog person (although not any more, now I care for FOUR of them) – Sophie would FREAK.
But the next day, I saw him LIMPING. I figured he had been run over by a car (that happens a LOT, here). I mithered over it all DAY – finally coming to a decision; SOMEHOW, we would take him on.
However, first we had to FIND him. This proved harder than expected – but after running a search pattern around the village, we located him hiding from the blistering sun, under a parked car.
Poor old Jasper (as I eventually named him) was in a DREADFUL state.
Filthy dirty and ALIVE with bugs, he licked me as I examined his foot. He seemed to recognise that here was someone who CARED.
I discovered that while his leg was okay, he had lost a fight – along with a “finger” – with another street dog.
So I put him on the car blanket and we drove him to the vet where I had gotten Sophie jabbed and “fixed” – to get the same for him (minus the “fixing”) – along with an X-ray, which confirmed my diagnosis.
He lay peacefully on the table, having completely given me his trust. I pulled the wild-life out of his fur and the vet bandaged his foot (within a week, he was fine – running around our large garden with glee).
Another trip to Tesco and I had a “dog kit” to match the “cat kit” I had got half a year earlier.
Then I had a local workman build a kennel for him (possibly the only one in SE Asia) – but we always let him spend the night in the house when a storm comes. He HATES thunder.
For about three years, I had a problem with Jasper. Having elected NOT to get him “fixed” (I’m a MAN – what do you expect?) I worried the still-young dog had no SEX life.
When I took him for walks, he would occasionally see a young female street dog. I would run along behind him – but the females always escaped his advances.
I was half glad of this – a union might produce yet MORE street dogs. But I felt for Jasper.
Then the NEXT people opposite (nicer than the previous occupants – but still clueless, when it came to cats and dogs) acquired a street dog from the nearby market, where the man had a stall. They had named her Dang.
She was a young, Siberian Husky. Even I could see she was GORGEOUS – and Jasper immediately fell in love with her.
But this time, the feeling was mutual. We opened our gate and she RUSHED in – and Jasper and this dark beauty ran around and played endlessly.
After a few days of this, I sent my wife over to the guy to make him an offer. Forget plastic crap; I had stuck a TENNER down one of her boob-cups and a TWENTY down the other, with instructions to start with the tenner, then the twenty, then both. He caved at the tenner.
She was in much better shape than Jasper had been – all she needed was jabs and being “fixed”. The strange thing is, although I only got her as a companion for Jasper, WE have really bonded too. I love the bitch.
We wash them in bug-killing shampoo once a week. This gives me the opportunity to give both of them a hug while my wife checks them out for the bugs their last shampoo MISSED. Of course, this task has now become doubled – but I’m getting ahead of myself.
It was another two years before Ginger came along. It was past midnight and next door’s dog – a yappy little Chinese thing – had been barking for HOURS. This was unusual, even for him.
Naturally, the occupants were ignoring him (the Thais mostly use dogs as living burglar alarms – then tune their barks out) – but my wife could hear ANOTHER noise, which she said sounded like a cat.
We dressed and investigated. Looking over the wall, we saw the yapper had cornered a tiny light ginger kitten, under a chair. She was about two months old (most countries insist kittens are not separated from their mothers until THREE months).
I got our ladder and helped my Lady over the wall – and she handed me the very ANGRY little kitten. She told me it was a stray she had seen earlier – and did not “belong” to said occupants.
Of course, Sophie was not best pleased with this interloper and hissed at… him? Her? At two months, it was hard to tell – which is why I called it Ginger.
But after keeping the new arrival apart from her for a few days, we supervised their meetings until Sophie’s maternal instincts kicked in and she actually began to take care of… him.
More jabs and another “fixing” later – And Now There Were Four.
A year later and we acquired ANOTHER two-month-old light ginger kitten.
This was, and is, a female – whom the now-grown-up Ginger immediately took under his wing.
Born beside a main road, two of her siblings had already been squished, so her “owner” was more than glad to give her to us (he lived by where I parked, when my wife shopped at the market where Dang had earlier hung out – and while gone, little Queenie presented herself to me).
The curious thing is that all three of these cats may be RELATED.
Sophie – who had obviously had kittens before we met her (gawdnose what became of THEM) – is 100% Manx, with a tiny deformed tail, short body and long back legs (like a GT – but she drifts on corners) and is 50% white, 25% dark ginger and 25% light ginger.
And while Ginger is a standard light ginger cat, the tip of his tail has a 110 degree KINK in it.
Plus Queenie’s tail has a TINY kink (just a few degrees, but distinct) around the same place.
So if Ginger is a descendant of Sophie – and a brother of his made it across that main road…
Anyhoo, we finally (HOPEFULLY) come to our latest acquisitions; a THIRD collection of people opposite (also nice people, but yet again completely hopeless at caring for animals) took on two Rottweiler puppies – but soon discovered they were more than they could handle.
My wife told me they were planning on giving them to some up-country builder they knew, for use as guard dogs. The little dogs’ future looked decidedly bleak.
And so following a twelve pound donation to the neighbours’ cat-food fund – Now There Are Seven. And given how cats and dogs fare around these parts, you can see why I have called them The Lucky 7.
But as the song goes; there may be trouble ahead…
Well, three problems in the main. First and second; on paper, I’ve about seventeen years left In This Place, but if I peg out before our brood, my wife will have great difficulty looking after them – and if I don’t, I have to watch them DIE, one by one.
And third; the Rotties – which I named William and Benjamin (yes, Bill and Ben) – are small and cute NOW. But in a couple of years, they will be as big as said wife – LITERALLY. THAT should be interesting…
Further, a constant problem is keeping the dogs APART from the cats.
Not having grown up together (in which case, they would treat each other as siblings, oblivious of the speciel difference) Dang would EAT Queenie, given the chance.
In the meantime, here is a little record I made of our Lucky 7 (they don’t KNOW they’re lucky – they’re cats and dogs – but I know).
YouTube already has enough cute animal videos – and I have enough hits (to date, over 130 MILLION) – so this is merely a “rogues gallery” I made up, with an appropriate piece of music (without which, it’s just a video of an old geezer groping a series of animals).