The Day We Walked With Gordon

Gordon

Gordon

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

Wednesday 23rd August 2017

‘Will you walk with me Mum? You promised?’ Gordon asked me as we both sat on the sofa. His beautiful green eyes now speckled with age, his once 7kg frame now barely touching 4kgs.

His eyes bore into mine, searching for my response – almost pleading for it.

I bit my lip and hesitated. He was right, I had always promised him that I would walk with him right by his side and I was not about to let him down now.

‘We will both walk with you, one of us either side and will be proud to do it Gordon’ I reassured him, ‘Even if you did put your teeth through my finger that time causing me to have tetanus’.

‘Yeah, about that…….’ Gordon laughed.

Suddenly Brutus came running into the living room with his gingerbread man in his mouth. ‘What are you talking about? Is it me? Everyone always talks about me because I am nice!’

‘Not everything is about you Brutus,’ Rocky snapped at him and went back to reading his newspaper – ‘The Kelpie Times’.

‘Well I heard you saying about walking with Gordon so thought I might be invited’ Brutus wagged his tail and cleared the table of its contents in the process.

Gordon stared at him ‘No Brutus’ he said firmly, ‘Just no’.

Saturday 26th August 2017

‘Mum! Mum! Why is Gordon wearing a tweed suit?’ Brutus yelled.

Rocky glanced up and saw Gordon standing there looking rather odd and if not out of place, wearing a tatty tweed suit – the type old people wear.

‘It is a day for tweed and I am dressed for that occasion’ Gordon replied as Brutus tried to clean his bum, ‘and one day my friend, you too will wear tweed’.

‘What occasion? I have never noticed that suit before either?’ Rocky looked puzzled and then after a few minutes, he realized what it was about and said nothing further.

Brutus stood there with his gingerbread man in his mouth, his tail had stopped wagging, ‘I don’t understand’ was all he said and then dropped gingerbread man on the floor and walked back to his bedroom looking confused muttering something about tweed suits, old men and mothballs.

A short while later

 ‘Where are you going? Can I come’ Brutus pleaded. ‘Are you are taking Gordon to the vet? You always take us when he goes, shall we get in the car now?’

‘Brutus, come and sit with me’ Rocky said firmly and patted the mattress on his bed to gesture for Brutus to sit down.

‘But we always make these trips as a family!’ Brutus started to bark and then realizing it wasn’t going to have any effect, he jumped on the bed beside Rocky.

‘I don’t understand’ Brutus repeated and nudged Rocky in the ribs for reassurance.

Gordon looked at Abdel and myself, he stared up at each of us ‘Will you walk with me now?’

‘Of course’ I replied and we took him to the car leaving Brutus with his face pressed up against the window wondering why he had been left behind. Rocky sat upright on his bed rigid like a bookend staring at us through the glass, as the car pulled out of the garage while Brutus repeatedly mouthed ‘I don’t understand’.

In the car

‘What are you doing?’ Abdel asked me as I grappled with my phone while trying to balance Gordon in his basket on my knee in the front seat.

‘Lion King – The Circle of Life’ I replied simply, ‘It reminds me of Gordon’. I turned the radio down and put Lion King on full blast on my phone.

‘Now that’s more like it’, Gordon laughed.

‘Do you remember when I got tickets to Lion King and held you above my head like Simba?’ I reminded him.

LionKing

Gordon – my very own Lion King

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

‘Remember? How could I forget!’ Gordon replied. ‘I believe that this song was written for me’.

‘Yes Gordon, I believe it was’. I agreed and turned up the volume on my phone.

Feeling his ginger fur stick out through the wire squares in his cat basket, I smoothed him down and touched him, memorizing every single part of him.

‘How about the time in London when we had a guy round to measure up for blinds and he didn’t like animals. You jumped into his over sized laundry bag and all I saw was it shifting across the living room with you inside it.

‘I had to grab you and throw you across the living room before he saw you, and I managed it as well. He never did notice that you had damaged some of the stuff in his bag’. (This is actually true, it was in our flat in London)

Gordon laughed.

‘It’s not been a bad 15 years has it?’ Gordon looked up at Abdel and myself.

‘It’s been the best my friend, it’s been the best’. Abdel said quietly and carried on driving.

And in that journey to the vets we laughed, we talked, we played ‘Circle of Life’ as loud as we could while knowing that our very own Lion King was on the front seat of our car in his basket.

And so we walked….

‘Are we there yet?’ Gordon asked Abdel.

‘Nearly Gordon, nearly’ Abdel replied.

‘How will I know when I am there?’ Gordon looked at me.

‘Because you just will’ I patted his head.

‘Hold on a minute, I can see something, look at that over there – I can see towels hanging on the trees!’ Gordon shouted excitedly. His long slender ginger legs with pink toes like little beans, his nails gripped on to my jumper.

The finaltowel

The final towel – the night before Gordon left us, he didn’t eat it

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

Gordon looked at Abdel and myself and then looked ahead of him. As if conflicted, he kept alternating his gaze between us, and what he could see in front of him.

As we got closer I could see a large white greyhound waiting at the gate. He wore a glamorous soft red martingale collar with a golden disk around his neck saying ‘Bowie’ on one side and ‘Gate Keeper’ on the other. Clutching a clipboard he was ticking names off and greeting various animals that were lined up to go in.

‘Hello there, you must be Gordon – I have heard all about you. You look very smart in your suit; it’s the perfect day for tweed! These must be your humans who I must say are jolly privileged to see this’, Bowie greeted him affectionately.

‘Will you come and make my bed?’ Gordon asked Abdel hopefully, ‘And put sardines in my bowl and smooth my head down?’

Abdel looked down at Gordon, not quite believing what he was seeing or what was happening. He rubbed Gordon’s ears and stroked his back over the tatty tweed suit.

Abdel.1

He promised he would ‘walk’ with him to Rainbow Bridge – and walk with him he did

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

‘Sorry Gordon, your humans can’t go beyond this point, it’s not their time’ the greyhound said gently to Gordon who looked panic stricken at the thought of not being with us.

‘But they need me, and I need them’ Gordon protested, his long nails defiantly gripped my arms.

Bowie smiled, ‘I know my friend but they and you, are going to be just fine, I promise’.

‘Well I guess this is it then, you said you would walk with me and I guess you did’, Gordon said after a few minutes.

‘What do I do now?’ Gordon asked Bowie the greyhound.

‘There are some towels hanging on the washing line and they have your name on them’ Bowie encouraged him.

‘Maybe tomorrow, I am a bit sore today and tired, I am so very tired’ Gordon yawned.

‘Try it, you never know it might be OK’ Bowie nudged him with his long white snout.

Gordon nervously walked ahead and was surprised that his joints didn’t hurt him. There were several brightly coloured towels all clipped on a washing line and blowing in the breeze as though they were enticing Gordon to get closer and shred them.

Cats were scattered around on chairs, trees or just chasing butterflies. Some were playing with dogs, some were eating and some were having a catnip party and were off their faces on catnip while playing a game of poker.

I stepped forward to get a better look at him but Bowie blocked my way. ‘No further for you my friend, this is our world now and your place is with your boys at home. We have got this covered’, Bowie winked at me and wagged his tail.

‘Oh and Samantha?’ Bowie asked, ‘Don’t you tell the other humans what you have seen today, they will get jealous and we can’t have that now can we!’

Abdel and I took one last look at Gordon who started running towards the towels, he then looked back at us as if to get permission to chew them. The next minute he pulled a towel off the line and was bicycling furiously with his hind legs kicking the fabric, while shouting ‘bollocks’ and his tweed old-man-suit had been replaced by a luxurious silky ginger coat that tends to be worn by the young, fit and healthy cats.

I looked round at Abdel and then back towards Bowie and in that split second of looking away, Bowie was gone as was Gordon.

Back to reality

Abdel and I kept our promise to walk with him to Rainbow Bridge and that is exactly what we did.

Gordon had a cannula placed in his arm and then he was handed back to us all cuddled up in his blue blanket. I sat in a chair and he sat on my lap while my husband stroked his head and the vet crouched down to my level and told Gordon just how loved he was.

He went quickly, so very quickly – I knew he would, he was so frail and the moment he was removed from his basket it was like his illness and years had caught up with him. Gordon looked exhausted, he looked sick and had been holding it together in the home but once at the vets, there was no further need to do that because he was ready to go.

Once out of his basket it was like someone had turned the lights on and we could clearly see how tired and sick he was. It was no longer about our selfish needs to keep him, it was about his need to go on the final journey of sleep that he so rightly deserved.

me and Gordon

Goodbye my darling cat

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

His huge personality left with his little heartbeat, leaving behind his old body on the vet’s table. I cried that embarrassing sobbing that you can’t control that vets and nurses have seen so many times before.

Since when did he get so tiny, so thin and so frail? How did such a big cat with a huge personality get so small? I held him in my arms, we both did – he felt so small but still warm like he was asleep. Where did he go, where did you go Gordon, did we do the right thing? Why does it hurt so much and why do we feel so guilty?

Our hearts were breaking as we cradled our little cat of 15 years who we had brought over to Perth from the Motherland over 9 years ago. The cat that had seen us through the toughest times, the death of my Mum, some serious health problems, a few house moves, moving to Australia and when my husband was nearly killed in a car accident. Gordon was the one constant in our lives and whatever happened, he was there at home ready to bite us and shred the towels and say ‘bollox’ whenever we told him off.

Baby Gordon

Gordon aged 9 weeks old

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

Gordon doing his time at Byford Quarantine in 2008

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

Gordon and Brutus

A very special bond between Gordon and Brutus

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

Empty Basket

We walked out clutching our empty white wire basket that we have had for years, in fact it belonged to our old cats Bruno and Juniper and I walked out of the vets with it empty when they crossed to Rainbow Bridge as well.

It was a painful drive back home; I kept the basket on my knee as though Gordon were still in it. He always travelled in the front and it didn’t seem right to put the basket in the back. I remember thinking that the basket would probably never get used again because no way could I ever face getting another cat – ever.

Rocky and Brutus

‘I still don’t understand?’ Brutus said to Rocky.

‘Brutus, when an animal goes to Rainbow Bridge it is customary for them to wear a tatty tweed suit and once they pass over, they regain their beautiful coat again along with their health’ Rocky explained.

‘Tweed suit? But Gordon was wearing a tweed suit this morning’ Brutus gasped, his eyes looking around the room for his brother.

dogs1

Photo taken the day after Gordon died – the quietest they had ever been

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

‘Gordon! Gordon! Stop hiding, it’s not funny any more, come on Gordon, where are you?’ Brutus was frantic as he ran into Gordon’s bedroom to check for his brother.

Gordon’s grey plastic bed with his brown fluffy blanket and his stuffed reindeer in it remained untouched with all his other toys lying around plus a bowl of cat chow and a bowl of water from that morning. Although the room was full of Gordon’s stuff, it was empty of Gordon. I had to clean that room when we got back which was hard.

empty room

The empty room, too clean, too tidy and not right

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

‘He’s gone Rocky, he’s gone!’ Brutus cried and when the realization hit him, he kept howling even the calming influence of Rocky couldn’t console him.

Back home

Once we were back home I took the basket in to Gordon’s room and placed it on the floor and started crying again. There was a Gordon sized gap that had been left in our home and I knew that the animal dynamics were going to change because of it. I didn’t know how they would change, just that they would.

I suddenly felt a wet nose on my face as both of my boys came into Gordon’s room. They pressed themselves up against me and both tried to wash my face.

‘Don’t cry Mum, I don’t like it when you cry’ Brutus kept swallowing which he always does when he is nervous. Rocky rested his head on my knee, he said nothing but kept pressing his head into me and licking whatever bit of me he could reach.

My house was quieter, the dogs were out of sorts and I could now leave the bathroom door open without my towels getting chewed. Did I like it? No I didn’t, nice towels are overrated and nice towels are shit.

I missed my little cat, I couldn’t bring myself to throw his stuff away or even give it away; I just couldn’t do it. I bagged it up and put it in the spare room.

We had Gordon privately cremated – something I never thought that I would do or would even consider. For some reason I changed my mind and I am glad that I did because we get comfort in knowing that Gordon is still with us in his own way (he is on the bookcase).

In my stories Gordon swears a bit (as many of you that follow my animal stories will know), his favourite word in my stories is ‘Bollox’ – and that is how he spells it as well. So it seemed only fitting that we would have that engraved on the brass plaque on his box.

The vets also took some paw prints for us which is a nice keepsake as well and when keepsakes are all you have left, they suddenly become very important.

LionKing2

Gordon’s ashes – and that is just what he would say as well

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

Pawprints

The vets took a paw print for us and gave us this lovely card with a handwritten message

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

Pet Bereavement

I have been through this before many years ago but was hoping that at 50 years old, I would be older and wiser and how wrong I was, how very wrong.

I had also underestimated how hard this would be on Brutus as it hit him so hard that his grief was tangible. Just after Gordon died Brutus started to curl up outside his bedroom while holding his fluffy turkey in his mouth. He had started to vocalize and howl the loneliest howl I have ever heard a dog make, it was heartbreaking to witness.

You will have noticed that I have taken photographs of anything out of the ordinary in terms of my pets behaviour. You may not see what I see in the photos but it was there and I promise you that.

dogs2

Brutus curled up outside Gordon’s room

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

Rocky is a sensitive little kelpie dog and that night we lost Gordon, he lay in the spare room with me while I made myself ill from crying. His slim black paws gripping round my arm and he had pressed his solid little black body up close to me, so close that I could feel his heartbeat. That is unusual for Rocky, as he normally likes to lie by my feet, but that night he patiently let me cry into his fur until I fell asleep.

I woke up at 5am and Rocky was sitting by the door to go out and he went straight to his bed and went to catch up on his own sleep. Animals are so special and I often think that some humans don’t deserve such loyalty and love that we get from our pets.

Getting used to things

When your animal grows older with you, you have your routine and you just ‘get’ each other. Your cat knows what you do and vice versa but once the cat (or dog) has left you, the gap is enormous and getting used to not having to care for that pet, hear or see it around is hard – very hard.

It was the longest week of our lives dealing with our own grief and by now Rocky, who had been sensitive to our own feelings, was now starting to exhibit distress from Gordon not being there.

It took several trips into Gordon’s room to get Rocky to settle and realize that Gordon wasn’t coming home. Brutus has taken even longer and still checks for Gordon to this day.

Brutus had a habit of stealing Gordon’s toys, in particular his fluffy reindeer. He always pinched it and would suckle on it and walk around with it proudly presenting the toy to whoever was around. The day Gordon died, Brutus stole this reindeer and brought it to my husband.

‘Don’t let him have that, we can give it to the new kitten’, my husband blurted out, looking protectively over Gordon’s beloved reindeer.

‘What new kitten?’ I asked him, he shrugged and walked away without saying anything further. New kitten? I don’t bloody well think so.

Never say never

It was on the Friday after we had said goodbye to Gordon and a colleague at work and myself had been looking on a pet rescue site, just looking of course.

‘My house is so empty without a cat’, I said to my colleague. We had always had a cat in our 26 years of marriage and have never once been without one.

‘That’s cute’, I pointed out at this tiny 7 week old rescue ginger tuxedo kitten from a pet rescue website. My colleague agreed and we continued to look at cats but I kept going back to this little kitten.

Later that night I showed my husband a picture of this kitten and to my surprise, he told me to email the cat rescue place to see if he was still available. Not expecting to hear anything back, I sent the email and didn’t think any more of it.

The words ‘We will never have another cat’ were fading fast in our heads, the ‘Gordon’ sized gap in the house was enormous and it wasn’t just a Gordon sized gap, it was a cat-sized gap as well.

The next morning Abdel and I had gone out for lunch when I decided to check my email. To my surprise the kitten was still available, asking my husband what he wanted to do, I left the decision to him but something inside told me that this was meant to happen.

‘Let’s go now and view him’, Abdel said with a flicker of excitement in his eyes. And after speaking to the rescue lady, it was organized that we could drive to her house to view the kitten and to see if we would be suitable as owners.

Seven weeks old and full of attitude

The first thing we saw when we were taken into the kitten room were several kittens but one in particular stood out and that was the unmistakable orange semi long haired tuxedo kitten that we had seen on the pet rescue site.

This tiny little chunky boy marched across the floor totally ‘owning’ it while shouting to his siblings, ‘Move out of the way you bastards, this family has my name on it’. Then walking up to my husband, he gazed up at him and said ‘Pick me up then!’

And in that split second, we knew our decision had been made and it was certainly not the ‘Never again’ type of decision either.

‘The name is Kuma, pleased to meet you’, the kitten said to me when it was my turn to hold him.

Kevin2

Kuma – now known as ‘Kevin’

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

‘Hello Kuma, how would you like to be called Kevin?’ I asked the furious bundle of ginger who was trying to gnaw on my knuckles.

‘That’s fine, but my middle name is Bastard’, Kevin replied.

‘What do you think?’ The rescue lady asked me.

Abdel and I looked at each other and then looked at Kevin, ‘We will take him’. Then opening his wallet, my husband handed over the cash and we completed our adoption papers.

‘Catch ya later losers, see ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya!’ Kevin yelled to his siblings and his Mum, who did a phone gesture with her paws saying ‘Call me!’

Fast Forward to now

Rocky has accepted the new baby and is also terrified of him, he won’t give Kevin eye contact but sits protectively outside the cat room when he hears Kevin crying. I have warned him that by being scared of him that Kevin will exploit that and launch a takeover of his bed and his food bowl. Rocky said he knows who is going to wear the trousers in this house and those trousers will be ginger so resistance is futile.

Brutus is on a very slow introduction as Kevin still looks like lunch/prey but each day Brutus gets to sniff Kevins bum while Kevin is in my arms and gets rewarded with food as we are working on a positive association with the kitten.

We always give Brutus choices and when Kevin is in my arms, there is usually chicken or some treats on the work counter in the kitchen that Brutus can have as a reward for choosing food over being over excited and too focused with the kitten.

Kevin got an ear clean from Brutus the other day which was cute but Kevin is far too small to be left alone with Brutus as Brutus is so big and clumsy, we are just being cautious.

Brutus still has to check Kevin’s room for Gordon and sniff the litter tray and we are slowly getting there but it will be a long while before Kevin is allowed to play in the same room as Brutus. We are lucky that we do have a cat room with lots of toys and we are so glad that we kept Gordon’s stuff.

Kevin’s cat basket belonged to our first cat Bruno, we bought that basket in 1994. The cat bowls are about 20 years old, we just pass them down from cat to cat and in its own bizarre way, we pass down the stories as well.

Kevin

 babykevin

The day Kevin came to us – note Gordon’s fluffy reindeer

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

At the time of writing this (19th Sept 2017) Kevin is 9 weeks old, he is a sweet little kitten who has started to shin up our legs and use our torso as a cat scratch pole.

He is in to absolutely everything, chewing, trashing his crate in his room if he isn’t fed on time or fed enough. He will tip his entire bowl of food over if you upset him and dabs his paw in his water bowl and flicks it.

Yesterday I could hear the sounds of his bedroom being trashed and tiny paws skidding along the floor and a ginger voice shouting ‘Yeah, bollocks to everything!’ and ‘Gingers have rights too’.

Kevin3

Gingers rock! – according to Kev

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

A large bowl of meat and biscuit had been consumed, there were toys everywhere and Kevin was trying to convince me that every time I leave him alone in his room, a large ginger Tom cat appears and teaches him what to say and what naughty stuff to get up to.

The conversation went something like this – ‘Don’t be silly Kevin, I can’t see any ginger cat, you must be imagining it’ I tried to reason with him and told him that it is quite common for baby cats to pretend to see things.

‘But Mum, I am not I swear, there really is a ginger cat that appears on the clothes drier each time you leave me alone. It was him that taught me to chew the blinds and said you would like it’. Kevin protested.

Sighing, I shut the door – I had no time for this, I am finalising my book before it gets sent to the typesetters in two weeks. Large ginger cats in the spare bedroom – whatever next?

‘Told you she wouldn’t believe me!’ Kevin muttered after I had left, ‘Why doesn’t she believe me?’

A large orange tabby cat sat on the clothes drier, his coat luxurious and plush, his eyes a beautiful green colour, his puffy mouth that was begging to be kissed.

The ginger cat looked at Kevin who at 9 weeks old was tiny compared to him. ‘Don’t worry lad, she will soon believe you. Now, are you ready for tonight’s lesson – because I am going to teach you how to chew some towels’.

‘Towels? Really? That sounds fun!’ Kevin grinned, ‘By the way, what is your name?’

‘You can call me Gordon’ The ginger cat replied simply, ‘Now – about those towels…..’

Kevin and Gordon

Gordon lives on in the naughtiness of Kevin

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

Thank you

Thank you to the veterinary staff at Spearwood Veterinary Hospital, Perth Australia for looking after Gordon for the past nine years since we arrived in Australia, he could not have been better looked after.

Losing a pet is hard enough but how their final journey ends in the vet surgery and how it is dealt with can leave a lasting impression on the owners – either good or bad.

To be given the time to chat, to cry, to say goodbye and have the vets and nursing staff show such genuine compassion and emotion, is not a skill, it is a gift because you simply cannot make that up, it has to come from the heart.

Dr George Jackson – you have an amazing and incredible team working for you. Your staff made that awful day for us so much more bearable.

And while we said ‘never again’ to another cat, you had better get yourselves prepared for Kevin and before you say anything, yes he is a bit tubby because if I don’t feed him when he wants, he trashes his bedroom and shreds my ankles.

These ginger cats can be so demanding you know.

Samantha

If you need help

Pet bereavement and grief is real and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It is never ‘just a cat/dog/pet’, it is YOUR pet so don’t let anyone tell you what to love or how much to love it either.

We have can’t believe how much losing Gordon has affected us, both my husband and I are still picking up the pieces and having intense moments of missing our cat and it is almost 3.5 weeks on.

All I can say is you have to acknowledge your feelings and ignore anyone that tries to dismiss what you are going through. Please be kind to yourself if you are going through this and if you do find yourself struggling to cope, don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

Help for Pet Bereavement

Never again or how soon is too soon?

I can’t believe that a week after losing my precious Gordon that we have another kitten. I was adamant that no cat would come into my home and take Gordon’s place and that I could not put myself through that ever again.

Then I had a word with myself and made myself face up to a few things. Firstly, when you lose a pet and you get another one, you are not replacing them in any shape or form. Each animal that you bring to your house is not replacing your old pet, it is creating a new space, new memories, it is a new personality that is going to make you laugh, cry, spend money on toys and treats – it is going to be different. No guilt needed, just giving another pet a chance of a loving home.

I realise that we as pet owners don’t want to put ourselves through that pain again, my goodness the thought of it still scares me, the pain that I am still going through and choosing to do it all again with another animal? I must have rocks in my head.

But on the other side of the coin, wouldn’t life be harsh if we only limited ourselves to loving only one animal and never allowing ourselves to have another? I don’t regret any of my animals that I have owned in the past, they have all given me love and memories to treasure and for that I am grateful.

Anyway, that is my update and I guess writing it all down and documenting the whole thing is more for my benefit really. I always express myself through my writing and this is no different.

If you are interested then you can check out this five minute micro doc about how we got Gordon to Australia.

Gordon’s Story – Get Gordon Down Under

 

Samantha Rose (c) Copyright September 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “The Day We Walked With Gordon

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