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