Remember that old song, “My boy Lollipop”? This is the story of “My boy Harry”. Harry came to me in the Winter of 2000 when I lived near Exeter in Devon. He was the first cat of my own. He was brown smoke in colour and an ‘Asian’ – a breed of Burmese. His ‘family’ history was full of the most amusing and majestic names. Dad was a champion called Kennbury Azer Baijhan and mum, Quercus Kennbury Rani.
My initial dilemma was: should Harry be kept as a house cat or should he be a free ranger? Harry decided that one and so he went out into the big wide world. It wasn’t too long before he met another cat called Sammie. Ruling the cat neighbourhood with a rod of iron, little Harry did not have a chance against big cat Sammie! From then on, Harry was bullied and relentlessly challenged. Not only was Harry challenged but I suffered to – scratched arms and even a scratched head when Sammie plunged his claws into the crown of my head. I couldn’t find a way to ease the situation and sadly one of Harry’s claws was pulled out by the monster resulting in costly treatment at the vet and agony for poor Harry. But Harry learned many lessons from Sammie and went on to be top of the pecking order when I moved to West Sussex!
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Fortunately for Harry, unbeknown to me I was destined to move from Devon to West Sussex. This happened in 2001 but I kept the house on in Devon for a while and Harry came to know the meaning of long car journeys. As he had been introduced to car journeys fairly early on in life, fortunately there was very little miaowing and generally he seemed to handle the journeys well and I was even able to let him out in the car when I stopped off for a drink at a pub along the way.
Another cat-alogue of events dogged (or perhaps catted) me in West Sussex. My job came with a house and three acres of ground. Harry was in his element but I wasn’t! Reason? Harry became a skilled killer of the many rabbits in this rabbit heaven. That would have been manageable if he had killed them but alas he seemed unable to. It is true that there was a surfeit of rabbits, with mixamotosis into the bargain (poor things). However, I was on my own a lot of the time with absolutely no idea of how to deal with the rabbits Harry maimed. Consequently I spent many nights at my wits end, phoning the local RSPCA and thanking God for David Martin – the lovely man across the road – who was able to very calmly deal with the casualties.
The time came to buy a house in West Sussex and we bought a lovely barn conversion – not for ourselves of course but for Harry! We couldn’t manage acres for him to play in but we could run to an apartment near open country and wheat fields. Harry loved it. That should have brought me nicely to an end but sadly not! Some of our neighbours decided that Harry was a distinctly unpleasant cat as he caught rabbits and turned up in people’s wardrobes. Eventually the management company became insistent that he should be locked in. After years of being a free ranger, I knew this woudn’t be possible. Consequently we moved! Harry was welcomed by his new neighbours and all around grew to love him. Whilst I was at work Harry spent his days at the home of a doctor across the road who fed him with spoonfuls of crème fraiche!
For many years Harry enjoyed his life with me and we became very close. I have the most wonderful neighbours and they regularly took care of him over weekends. For longer periods of time, he went to a local cattery. One weekend in September 2011, I went back to visit a friend in East Budleigh not far from where I had lived in Devon. I knew Harry would be well looked after so I felt at peace. During the night in the attic room of the friend’s home, I awoke and rubbed my eyes… there on the bedside cabinet was a tiny ball of pure light – I felt I must be seeing things… suddenly the light rolled off the cabinet and onto the floor. I thought the whole thing very strange and could make neither head nor tale of it.
The train journey couldn’t go quick enough…I was so looking forward to seeing my Harry again. I arrived at the local station and rushed along the public footpath adjacent to my home and then round the corner straight up to the front door. There appeared to be a piece of paper stuck in the letterbox. I opened it and read, ‘Please come straight round to us – John & Clare’. An ominous feeling gripped me – I dashed to their home and knocked on the door. John opened it and they both stood there speechless and then: ‘Sorry, Liz, Harry had an accident and is no longer with us. He was handed to us this morning and we believe he was killed on the road.’ I felt faint and perplexed. I could not accept what they were saying and insisted that they let me have Harry. They sat me down but I felt crushed and disorientated. I took Harry home with me wrapped in a blanket. He was not damaged in any way and I periodically looked at him. I spent the next two days at home barely able to function and disbelieving. I was also very sad for Clare and John who had the responsibility of Harry and the dreadful task of telling me what had happened.
There was a special bond between Harry and I that I don’t have with my existing cat, Harriet. That bond is still there and I take consolation from the fact that Harry has only shuffled off his mortal coil and is not gone.
Do you have a cat story to tell? If so, it would be lovely to hear from you…
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