The Cat – actual handle Countessa de Kitty-Kat – was buried in the fortress pet cemetery late last week.
When I first met Tessa in 2002, she was a bit of a poor excuse for a feline – watching her climb a fence always made me flash on the unfortunate Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket. She wasn’t heavy or anything – just… out of practice with being a cat, or something like that. She was friendly enough (no random attacks received), well-mannered (when handled with care, she gave fair warning when enough was enough), and low maintenance (she always toileted outside).
In 2003, Tessa went through a number of major life-events. The aiga, numbering three humans at that time, moved westward to what was to become Fortress Mamea. The new abode had its own resident cat, Pablo (full handle Pablo Ninja Cat), a large and gregarious chap. The aiga swelled with the sudden arrival of a fourth human, The Boy. And then The Dog was acquired.
Each change was a challenge for Tessa. She sealed her place in the fortress hiearchy with the patient and successful stalking of a mouse under the oven. She shunned Pablo who enjoyed our company until the word ‘diet’ was mentioned, whereupon he adopted the lovely Gladys across the road (who feeds him – I shit you not – on a 24/7 basis). Tessa’s relationships with late arrivals The Boy and The Dog could easily have been the final straws… but both boy and canine soon found their place in the fortress hierarchy (below the cat).
The fortress grounds have ample trees and vegetation, and soon enough, Tessa learned how to scale fences and trees like a real cat. The local fauna have provided other exercise, the past decade scattered with the remains of a mouse, bird or rat tastefully left outside the back door for the unsuspecting barefoot occupant. In winter she loved the wood burner – curled whiskers a specialty – while in the summer she soaked in the sun like a four-legged black hole.
Tessa will be missed. She was loved by The Girl and The Goddess. And although The Boy and I dreaded the racket she would make at the back door to be let into the house for —
e). a). through to d).
— we have found ourselves waiting to hear it in the morning, curses on the tips of our barely awake tongues – only to realise Tessa is no longer with us.
May there be plentiful 1kg blocks of tasty cheddar cheese wherever she is now.
Visitors to our abode have to be vetted by The Dog, a mongrel big of heart, if not stature. (There’s The Cat somewhere on the property as well, whom, should The Dog fail, be our insurgency force.)
Summer – summer-proper, rather than the summer-in-name-only we had earlier – has arrived. As I hunch over the keyboard in the study, The Dog roams the house and surrounds, cycling through: the kids’ rooms where she moults furiously; the lounge where various breezes meet and cool her down; and the deck where she slow-bakes herself.
Sometimes I look up from the inevitably blank screen and envy her simple Dog Life. Of course, it’s not that simple, really – she has her responsibilities: she protects both home and family from visitors, strangers and hedgehogs; she’s a great receptacle for dinner scraps; and she gets us out of the house for exercise or play.
Sure, The Dog needs regular exercise (or she’ll be overzealous in her protection of home and hearth [which is not good in Auckland]) and is a social animal through and through (it’s us owners who suffer separation anxiety when we leave her alone for more than a few hours). But when the children are at school and The Goddess is out doing Godly Work, it’s nice to have her around – panting in the heat, spread out on the floor for heat dissipation, or sitting and hoping that I’ve forgotten that I’ve already fed her.