A Boy And His Cat

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Stay tuned for the end, where Callum makes his Barefoot Cook debut with some thoughts about his time with Sunny.

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Callum and Sunny, circa 2008

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Callum and Sunny, circa 2015

 

I’ve been putting off writing this for a couple of weeks now, hopefully I can get the job done tonight.

We had been closely watching our frail aged dog for signs of being ready to depart the world of the living, when suddenly Sunny the cat became very unwell.

I say suddenly because we hadn’t been watching her slowly decline over several years like we have with Rosie. But over the course of a couple of weeks Sunny had lost weight, despite still seeming otherwise well. She was still hunting and roaming as she always had. And then she became noticeably poor, lethargic, not interested in food or going outside. The cat with a history of crying at the bedroom door for hours before crapping in a beanbag because she refused to use the litter tray was not even well enough to complain about having to wee on some packing paper in the bathroom. She lay on the bed for 36 hours and was taken to the vet on the Monday morning. The vet diagnosed kidney failure. We tried a day and a half of medications and IV fluids but the damage was done, and on the night that Callum was meant to have been buying his new football boots for the season, we instead made a trip to the vet clinic to say a final goodbye to his favourite pet, followed by a funeral among the trees near the back fence.

Sunny and Louie came to live with us as tiny abandoned kittens, around four weeks of age, when Callum was a toddler. We still had the legendary Puss Puss living with us, but Buster the cat had stopped coming home altogether. I knew that three cats was not something I would be allowed, so my sister agreed that she would take one of the kittens when they were old enough, on the understanding that it would come back to live with us when Sarah went off on her planned trip around Australia.

They were so tiny. And mental. Their eyes were blue and their hind legs were still wobbly. They  made themselves at home, tearing around the house with their bells jingling, to the delight of the boys. After a couple of months Louie went to live with Sarah and she would bring her to visit on weekends. The pair of them would be nothing more than a joyful blur of tortoiseshell fur and jingling bells from one end of the house to the other. After a little while, though, we had to stop these visits as Sunny would be very sad when Louie went home again.

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Tiny Sunny

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Kittens playing in the recycling box

Louie came to live with us permanently when the cats were about a year old. The two never cuddled up together, but they would sleep on the same bed if it suited them. Their relationship was complex, Louie being the stirrer and Sunny the sensible one. Regular bouts of what came to be known as ‘kitty smackdown’ occurred, usually instigated by Louie. They would fight over a particularly good patch of carpet, for no reason other than one was lying there and the other thought she should have it. Fur would fly, bells would jingle, collars would sometimes be removed.

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A rare photo of Sunny and Louie together.

I don’t know at what point Sunny became Callum’s cat, but she made herself comfortable in his cot and was happy for him to cart her around by the underarms, along with his blanket. She tolerated being used as a pillow and cradled like a baby. She was there at dinner time, at bath time, at play time and at bed time. When there was no longer room for Sunny and Callum to comfortably share the cot, they were moved to a bed.

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Mmmm baby soup!

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Playing with Thomas and the boys.

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Whose bed?

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Sunny, Blanket and Callum.

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Once again, whose bed?

Sunny was not so fond of Rohan, in the early days. On one occasion she ambushed him as he walked past the end of the couch and left him with claw marks across his face. Another time she surprised him from inside an expanding play tunnel, giving him such a fright that he turned and ran into the study door, hitting his head on it so hard that the door opened, and rendering him inconsolable for about half an hour, with me unable to stop laughing at the spectacle.

Sunny had a bright orange face framed by darker patches and would stare at you while miaowing slowly, as if talking in a slow, loud cat voice could make you, the dumb human, understand her.

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So comfy.

She would spot me in the garden or hanging out the washing and make a beeline for me, jump up on my back while I was bent over and rub her face all over my head, purring, while I hung out washing or weeded the garden.

She could open double sliding doors by first running her paws over the join until a tiny gap opened, then squeezing one foot through, followed by her face and the rest of her body.

She was a brilliant hunter, catching rats, mice and rabbits on a regular basis. At the new house she had plenty of rabbits to prey upon, and made herself a secret bunny stash on a shelf in the garage to prevent the dogs from plundering her spoils when she couldn’t eat the whole thing in one setting.

But most of all, she was comfortable hanging out with the boys. She would sit with them for hours watching TV or playing games. Bedtime every night included the ritual of removing Sunny from Callum’s bed and putting her outside.

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Chilling on the kids’ couch.

Callum had often joked about taking Sunny with him when he left home, or having her stuffed if she died before then so he could keep her on his bed even once he was grown up. In the end neither of those things happened, and his special friend left him way sooner than any of us had anticipated.

It has been two weeks now. A big log and a pile of rocks marks the place among the trees where Sunny’s Earthly remains now rest, no doubt to be joined by other friends at some stage. Callum still wears her collar around his ankle, rests his arm on her fur-covered couch blanket while watching TV, and looks at photos of her every night before he goes to sleep. I recall the grief I experienced at a similar age when my beloved dog Mandy was killed by a car and know that these are the things that shape our childhood.

We are looking for just the right picture of Sunny to have enlarged and framed for Callum to hang in his room among his footy posters, and I expect this to take some time. There are still photos scattered on devices and in files that we haven’t come across yet. We won’t get him another cat, but I do intend to find him a new friend of some sort before too long.

Wherever cats go when they die, I hope that the rabbits are slow, the food dish is always full and the doors are always left open just enough to let a cat through.

 

 

Callum Writes…

It was hard to believe it. I couldn’t believe it, but I had to. Its a really sad feeling when a pet (friend) dies and only the people who have experienced know what it feels like.

My favourite memories with Sunny are:

When we moved and brought the cats it sounded like Sunny was saying hello,

When Rufus got out of the farm yard and Sunny saw him she froze and stared at him,

When we (Rohan, Sunny and I) were waiting outside the shower for Mum,

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Sunny and the boys making sure Mum doesn’t spend too long in the shower…

When Mum put Sunny outside out the front and she (Sunny) would walk around the back and I would let her back in not knowing Mum had just put her outside,

When Rohan and I were walking down to the to the bus stop in the morning occasionally Sunny would come with us some of the way,

When her and Louie were fighting, once Louie flipped her over.

Sunny was the best cat you could hope for and I will miss her forever probably, mainly because she always slept on my bed and she always meowed at the door in the morning and usually left a dead rabbit on the doorstep (until Leo stole it) and most of all because she won’t be here but she is always in here ❤

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Sausage

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As we head into another breeding season, it feels like kidding season only just ended. Although, to be fair, with Ambika kidding in December it pretty much did. Yet here we are again, planning matings, thinking about which resulting kids will be the best to keep, which does will be aimed at milk awards and deciding what each first-time milker will have to achieve in order to cement a place on the team.

One of my favourite aspects of kidding season is making new friends. You never know which kids will worm their way into your heart and become special members of the herd. But every  now and then one comes along whose story just about writes itself.

Last kidding season saw me call the vet to assist with a kidding for the first time. Luckily I have a vet who I can call at 11.45 on a Saturday night and who will be there in 15 minutes. I had managed to fairly easily extract two tiny doe kids from my first-timer Hera, but the third kid was a lot bigger and very very stuck. No amount of manipulation on my part could get that third kid’s head around and he was too big to come out otherwise.

I was doing that mental calculation of whether the doe was potentially valuable enough to justify the cost of a cesarean when my wonderful vet managed to rearrange the third kid and get him out in one piece, although very much dead. I had two doe kids, an uninjured doe and we’d avoided surgery, so I was pretty pleased with the outcome. But those two doe kids were tiny, and I knew that being born alive was just the beginning of the battle for them.

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Hera with her two doe kids, Layla and Cecilia.

Layla and Cecilia weighed in at 2200g and 1800g respectively. The smallest kid I had bred previously that had lived was Puck, also a triplet, who was a little over 2kg at birth. Hera’s kids were so little that they could simply walk through the bars of the gate and leave the pen, which they did regularly and much to Hera’s distress.

Layla died on her second night after refusing to feed from either a bottle or her mother. Cecilia, however, soon learned to feed herself, standing on tiptoe to reach Hera’s teat and feasting on the ample milk supply. She gained weight so quickly that her skin started to feel tight and her little body felt like an overstuffed sausage. Hence I started calling her ‘my little sausage’ and Sausage became her nickname.

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This gives an idea of how tiny Cecilia was.

Sausage was one of six kids born that weekend who lived, all by my sturdy young buck Toggalong FitzWilliam. The others kids were tall and flash, at least twice the size of Cecilia, but she never once backed down to any of them. This was sometimes to her detriment. When she was two weeks old I noticed a lump on her spine and she was walking oddly, dragging a hind leg. She was not her normal cheerful self, and would cry out if you grabbed her. All signs pointed to a back injury. She was a bit slower for a while, but I massaged the swelling either side of her spine twice a day, which she seemed to enjoy, and she spent a couple of nights locked away from the bigger kids. After a while she recovered and now the lump on her back is barely noticeable.

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Chilling out on her own at the Geelong Milk Test. Note the lump in the middle of her back.

When she was nine weeks old her mother suffered an injury to her teat, and would not allow Cecilia to feed. While the injury was immediately obvious, it took me a few days to realise that Hera was not letting her kid feed off either side. It took a very hungry Sausage a very short time to learn how to feed from the bottle. After a good few weeks of hand milking Hera from her injured teat, which included lots of stomping from her and swearing from me, the injury healed and Cecilia once again took up feeding from her mother.

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When they won’t move over, just climb on top.

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Cecilia (3rd from left) with Sienna’s triplets, who were born the same weekend.

 

Later on poor Cecilia was one of a few goats to be infected after one of the show team came home with a respiratory infection. She lost a lot of weight and would stand around panting. She was diagnosed with pneumonia, the vet stating that she was probably down to 25% lung capacity. Bigger, stronger goats have died from pneumonia, but Sausage battled on, recovering over a few weeks after a round of antibiotics and getting back to her rowdy self. I kept her on a bottle during this time to help her gain weight, and after a couple of months she has started to catch up to her bigger peers.

Even now, at over six months of age, my little Sausage is about 2/3 the size of other kids the same age. She will most likely never be shown and may never get to the size she should have been, but she is an exquisite little doe with lovely type and the pedigree to be a handy milker. She uses her size to her advantage, and never lets it disadvantage her. She is boisterous and healthy, and loves attention.

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Hera and Cecilia at the feeder. Cecilia is the image of her mother.

After so many setbacks, my tiny kid has never lost her sense of humour or her zest for life. She will have every chance to be a useful dairy goat, and be managed sympathetically to reach her potential.