Tuesday, March 26, 2013
This is the story of Spike. As a naughty cheeky kitten, he used to run up the sides of my dressing gown while I made breakfast looking for trouble (him, not me.) Half Abyssinian, he grew into a beautiful sleek grey feline who liked to chat all day long. If you said 'Spike', no matter what your tone of voice, he would answer with a 'yes?' type of miaow. Spike's greatest passion was hunting. The times I arrived home to find all manner of dead wildlife be it mouse, vole, rat, once even a rabbit on the doorstep are too numerous to mention. He also liked to bring me a present when I was least expecting it, like the time I was lying on the floor of my office doing a phone interview with a supermodel in Paris and a little grey dormouse popped its head up inches from mine, leading to a mid interview meltdown and me leaping on my desk screaming while Spike tried in vain to catch it. I like to think we saved as many small creatures as he killed, so inept was he at keeping them as soon as he brought them through the catflap. I would get Handyman to set a humane trap, catch the little blighter and let him go in the paddock at the end of our garden, while Spike looked on to see if he could make a better effort second time around. When we made the hot interminable journey from the UK to the South of France with Spike and his sister Lottie, who is as quiet and calm as he was crazy, he spent the entire journey howling in his cage in the back of the car. He hated being cooped up or trapped and was in and out of the house dozens of times a day. On sunny days, he would come and sit by the pool, perched on the end of my sun lounger, stretched out lapping up the rays. When it got too hot for him, he had a den in the bushes by the palm tree where he would curl up in the dust for a siesta. He even loved rain, as the myriad of muddy footprints from our back door testified. Last night, as we laid by his side waiting for the vet to come - he had recently developed chronic arthritis, an unfortunate result of his very active 11 years, which had moved into his spinal cord and was having trouble walking so the time had come to do the right thing - we recalled our favourite memories of him. Mine was the fact that whenever we went on holiday, no matter how long we were away for, when we arrived home and drove up the drive, Spike would always be sitting there waiting to greet us effusively. The girls loved the memory of him being regularly tucked up in Issy's doll's pushchair when she was a toddler, wrapped in baby blankets with just his head visible, and wheeled around the house. Bizarrely, he loved this and never tried to escape, lying there like a swaddled newborn, until one day he decided he'd had enough and leapt out of the parked buggy and landed on Issy's head while she ate breakfast. Handyman remembers him shinning up the bamboo last summer like a very fit squirrel. When the dogs arrived five years ago, Spike still ruled the roost, and took to lounging on the top step of the staircase, superior in the knowledge that Tallullah, our mini schnauzer, wouldn't dare to try and come past for fear of a swipe. Oscar, on the other hand, had plenty of spats with him but never managed to get the upper hand and grudgingly conceded defeat on being top dog. Top dog was always Spike and he knew it. He is already much missed, so much so that I can't bring myself to mop away the last of his muddy footprints. The house feels quieter and emptier without him. We are going to bury him today under the olive tree that he used to love climbing, while he explores whatever new turf he is now king of.