Written by Standard Issue


National Pet Month: In loving memory

As we continue to celebrate our buddies from the animal kingdom during April, a trio of writers take time out to remember pets they have loved and lost.

Cal Wilson remembers her first cat, Poddy

Cal Wilson's cats Pod and SpookAfter a childhood spent making do with guinea pigs and mice, I finally got my first cat when I was 28. His name was Pod and he was a blue Cornish Rex. I’d had my heart set on a Burmese, but when the breeder showed me that scrawny little alien creature, all paws and ears, I had to bring him home.

Pod was born elderly, a hesitant, bumbling old fellow, given to clumsiness and nerves. He was known by many nicknames: amongst them, Poddy Pongo, The Grey Man, and The Querulous Paw.

He was also known as The Grey Glacier, because of his inestimably slow progress across the carpet when he was after food.

Every time you looked at him, he’d be sitting down, tail neatly tucked across his front paws, but somehow just a little closer to your plate. Eventually, you’d stop paying attention, and end up with a little grey face planted in your dinner.

He was prone to clumsiness, and getting his paw stuck in catflaps. Whenever I had a bath, it would always end the same way. He and our younger cat, Spook, would roam the edge of the bath; Spook delicately scooping bubbles with his paw, Pod huffing defiance at the threatening foam. Eventually, as Pod got his courage up, he’d try to taste the bubbles as well, and topple in. You’ve never seen a glacier move so fast.

When he was 13, Pod got pancreatic cancer, and deteriorated quickly. Our beautiful vet talked us through the treatment options and suggested it would be kinder to let him go. The day we put him down, my husband, who hadn’t grown up with any pets, was blindsided by the weight of his grief.

“Pod was known by many nicknames: amongst them, Poddy Pongo, The Grey Man, and The Querulous Paw.”

We still have his younger, more irascible brother, Spook: aka Spooky Boo, Black, The Furry Face of Evil. He’s 15, and shows no signs of slowing down, fuelled by tuna and malevolence.

The opposite of Pod in temperament, he retains his kittenish energy, and is full of swagger and loud opinions. He’s at his happiest stretched out on a knee, and isn’t picky about whose it is. His miaow can be heard from several streets away, and he can be summoned from the same distance by opening any tin. Although he used to tease Poddy constantly, when he died, Spooky spent three weeks searching the house and yowling for him.

We had Poddy cremated, and now the Grey Glacier sits in a little tin on the bookshelf in the study. We’d intended to sprinkle his ashes in his favourite spot behind the Birds of Paradise plants in the garden, but somehow we never got round to it. Now we’re used to having him about, and my son likes to look at the tin and hear stories of how Pod used to sit under his highchair, and wait hopefully for scraps.

Sometimes, and this may not make sense unless you’re a cat owner, when my husband is working on the computer in the study, I’ll get the tin down, and walk it across the keyboard, just for old times’ sake.


Jen Brown offers a tribute to Daisy Dog

Daisy the dogDaisy wasn’t a dog, she was a person and it was our fault. We had bought her when she was only five weeks old, far too young to leave her mother, we learned afterwards. In light of that fact, she was never going to be a proper dog.

She slept in our bed, sat on our settee and dined at our table – well, under it.

With hindsight, it probably wasn’t the way to go but to be honest, because she believed so strongly she was a person, she had us convinced and we have no regrets.

My neighbour, Doreen, had a similar looking dog and we sometimes went for walks together. Daisy, always excited for an outing, would jump around like a mad woman when she saw me putting on my coat. But her joy would quickly evaporate when she spotted we were to be joined by ‘Lady’ from up the street. She gave me a look that clearly said, “Well, I wouldn’t have come if I’d known THAT.” And she meant it.

She just wasn’t fussed on hound dogs full stop; she preferred humankind and a walk with her kin meant everything to her – even more than food (we have the findings of a scientific experiment to back this up).

Other than her dislike of fellow canines which brought about the occasional ‘bugger off’ growl, Daisy was never deliberately naughty. She was only a baby and knew no better when she destroyed my daughter’s boyfriend’s mother’s Italian leather handbag which had been ‘borrowed’ for a posh wedding.

“In her prime she had teeth like pearls and dark brownish black eyeliner that framed her velvet orbs. She also had a sexy walk but scorned all who made a pass at her.”

As a teenager (two doggie years), Daisy developed an ‘embarrassed’ ear. An ear that definitely felt uncomfortable if we were teasing or talking daft. Daisy herself didn’t care what we said or did to her but that ear definitely did. It would curl up like a very well-done bit of bacon. It earned her the nickname of ‘Bacon Lug’. Some of my friends still remember her by that title today.

Her other nickname was ‘Golden Arrow’ because at her fittest she could leap so high, she flew like a golden arrow in the sky. Passing dog walkers commented on her verve and beauty as she launched herself into the air.

In her prime she had teeth like pearls and dark brownish black eyeliner that framed her velvet orbs. She also had a sexy walk but scorned all who made a pass at her.

We travelled life’s road together, Daisy and me, and there was a time when we were both the same age because of the seven-year dog thing. We were fit, fine and forty-nine. It was a great age to share with a friend.

Walks might have taken precedence, but Daisy loved her grub as much as the next person. She could hear the fridge door opening when I was only thinking about cheese on a cracker and always got to the kitchen first.

Even when she became very ill and her end was imminent, she somehow managed to remain peckish and allowed me to gently put warm chicken in her mouth. It eased my mind to know she wasn’t going to be hungry on her journey.

Her last trip to the vet was swift, kind and necessary. She had reached the grand old age of 13-and-a-half or 91-and-a-bit. We’d had the best of times.

Afterwards, my daughter put video clips together of her bounding along the beach, running through the park, standing by our fridge and much more, all to a soundtrack provided by Van Morrison.

As the years have gone by and bigger losses have been faced, the memory of Daisy Dog has gained perspective – and rightly so – but I am still afforded a tear when I hear that song and I remember a curled up lug, a golden leap, and my brown eyed girl.


Dotty Winters: A Hedgehog Epilogue

Lola the hedgehogNot many pets can double as an emergency hair brush, but Lola could.

When she died a few weeks ago we realised we were going to miss much more than her detangling abilities.

Lola (renamed Lolo by the two-year-old) was an African Pygmy Hedgehog. They are tiny, feisty, flee-free bundles of sass and prickles. They don’t hibernate and need to stay indoors, so Lolo lived in our house with us and was a much loved family pet.

She didn’t love any of us unconditionally though. She took a dislike to Mr Winters on sight, and never really warmed to him at all. For a while we thought maybe she was one of those radical men-hating feminist hedgehogs, but it turned out this prickly reception was reserved just for him.

My children score highly on the Melton Mowbray Melodrama Coefficient* and so the funeral was quite something.

“For a while we thought maybe she was one of those radical men-hating feminist hedgehogs, but it turned out this prickly reception was reserved just for him.”

She was interred in her favourite slipper on a hillside overlooking her “favourite” river (she’d never been to a river). There were flowers, kind words (a hedgehog monologue) and grave goods. I ruled out an actual pyramid.

Later, wishes were dispatched to the heavens in a heart-shaped sky lantern. “This is part of why we have pets,” I thought to myself, “so that children learn about death.”

I replayed her little life in a soft focus memory-movie in my head: adventures in the Playmobil bus, snuggles with the cats, boiled-egg over-excitement, endless episodes of The Real Housewives, the time she absconded with a plumber. YOLO LOLO.

She ruled the roost, keeping all other pets in check: Our Hedgehog Demagogue.

The children were solemn at the funeral, but enjoying the spectacle. I, on the other hand was a bit of a wreck – snivelling, bogey-bubbles, the works. I wonder if I would cope better with the death of pets if I had buried more of them when I was young?

*Not a real thing.


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Written by Standard Issue