READER REPORT:

Pets ruling the roost: Charlie's travels

JAN BURTON
Last updated 05:00 22/11/2012
Charlie
ATTENTION SEEKER: Charlie packed a lot of living into her 16 years.

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We had a cat. Charlie Cat. And she had an amazing life.

Charlie and I first met when she was a kitten in a pet shop, BH (before husband) and BK (before kids). I thought that she was the perfect kitten as when I first saw her she was using the litter box with good aim and the precision of a diamond miner. Just like a goldfish, I thought - no mess, no fuss.

Not so. Somehow the wires were crossed once the adoption was complete and Charlie held the firm belief that the spare room was actually a dumping (pardon the pun) ground for her waste products. Granted it was a chilly Dunedin winter and one' s furry bottom would have had a hard time on the frosty ground, but I swear that the carpet may still have not recovered in that house.

Being a smart cat, Charlie found that the warmest place in the house was on the back of my current flatmate's Golden Retriever. Luckily he was a good natured fellow and they formed quite an attachment while together, though cats being cats, it was totally unreciprocated as Charlie would often give the poor fellow a swipe on the nose on the way past.

Being a not so smart cat, Charlie had little appreciation for vehicular matters and her first broken leg, or should I say shattered hind leg, occurred within her first year. The threat of amputation was there but the bullet was dodged and she spent three months in a cage on antibiotics, which did not agree with her stomach at all.

There was also little appreciation for getting locked into places that she had no business being in and little appreciation for dealing with an upset stomach by not rolling in one's own vomit. Charlie also does not care for a bath.

So the time came when the husband arrived on the scene and assumed his rightful position in the bed. Adjustments were made and all was well in the household. Discussions were had and it was decided that Charlie would also take my new married name ... and move to Canada.

Arrangements were made and we headed to Canada leaving Charlie to follow in three weeks once we had somewhere to live. An apartment was best and we sent a postcard to Charlie to inform her that she was going to be an indoor cat. She arrived in Toronto in a blizzard and we were called by Air Canada to inform us that she was well but would not be travelling on her final flight to us that evening as it had been cancelled. Charlie had other ideas though, and managed to make it down around midnight. We picked her up, took her home and let her out of her travelling crate that she had been in for 30-plus hours. She walked out of the crate, had a stretch and went under our bed. Charlie was not amused.

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Air Canada was also not amused - they were a bit worried. Charlie had apparently entered the country as an illegal immigrant and was quietly whisked back to the airport the next day where she had to pretend that she had just arrived. Luckily she kept her counsel and began her big OE.

Spending her big OE under the bed was not really an option so after some consideration, Charlie became a big sister to Georgie the hairy black kitten. We also decided, after seeing a lady walking her cat one day outside like a dog, that that was what you did in Canada - cats who were indoor cats were walked outside like dogs! So pretty pink collars and leads were purchased and our little family hopped in the lift to go for a walk. After some time with neither cat inclined to budge an inch, and to the amusement of the people in our apartment building who perhaps thought that walking the cat was what was done in New Zealand, we picked up both Charlie and Georgie and returned in the lift to the apartment. We never saw another person walking a cat and it took some time for both cats to recover from the shame.

On completion of Charlie's OE, we moved home to Dunedin. Out of the four of us, two of us needed to spend a month in quarantine. Charlie and Georgie drew the short straw and headed home. When I called MAF in Auckland to make sure that they had both arrived safely, I was informed that they weren't in the place that I had called so they weren't dead. Good to know.

So home we were and outside cats they became again. Charlie's big-sister toilet training skills were lost on Georgie and defecating in the garden was not entirely successful, as evidenced by the fecal-encrusted foliage that was transported inside. Charlie's vehicular issues also continued and probably a different car but definitely the same leg connected again. This resulted in a worrying wait while she had more surgery with the high probability of amputation. Four legs survived, though, and after another cold Dunedin in a cage with antibiotic diarrhoea, Charlie emerged with a more pronounced limp ready to move... into a university residential college with a couple of hundred students. Charlie Cat became Charlie the College Cat.

And there we stayed. Charlie made friends with anyone who would have her. She learned the timetables of the students and would position herself at the entrance of the college so that it was more difficult to ignore her than to give in and pat her. Time passed and it dawned on Charlie that there were places inside the college where it was warm and where attention could easily be sought. She was in her element and ended up with her own Facebook page.

Charlie died in my lap after 16 years of living. Things just got harder for her and she was tired. She had had an amazing life and it was a life well lived. Charlie Cat is missed.


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