by Judy Brentnall
(Blue Mountains NSW Australia)
I had been reading a favourite book: "The Cat Who Came for Christmas" by Cleveland Amory. I hadn't had a pet for many years but immediately picked up the local paper and saw free kittens were available. There were only two kittens left but Max stole my heart at first sight. It turned out he was only 3 weeks old when we saw the vet the next day, and he was half feral, which certainly made life interesting!
For many years he was a one woman cat. With age he mellowed and, while he kept his distance from strangers, he warmed to my mother and sister. My sister and I moved to a house a few doors away from Mum but Max would often go to visit her and, if the food dish was empty, he would come and tell her to put something in it - now! He knew she was a soft touch. He developed many endearing habits and was a definite personality. We all adored him. He turned 16 in December, was fit and healthy, and could have been with us for years to come.
Nearly three weeks ago, two rogue dogs were loose in the street and attacked him viciously. He had no chance. My neighbours saw the attack and I am grateful to them because they took care of Max - they knew how distressed I would have been to see him in such a condition. The dogs have been euthanised after being caught two days later having killed another cat and two hens.
For two weeks I would lie awake every night, unable to rid my mind of the fear and pain which Max would have experienced at the end of his life. Sleeping pills didn't work, nor did keeping the TV on, or the MP3, or trying to read myself to sleep. I am sleeping now, but his last few minutes I think will always haunt me. I tear up every time I look at his pictures.
It is hard to go to bed without Max curled up in the crook of my arm. Every aspect of my life reminds me of him - trying to push the book or laptop away so I could cuddle him, jumping on my lap while I watched TV, arriving at Mum's and going home together at bedtime, snuggling up whenever I was unwell or sad, sitting in the suitcase to stop my packing because he knew a suitcase meant I would go away. I was welcomed every time I came home, but I'm sure there was an element of scolding there for leaving him - even if it was only for half an hour!
In September we had to put down my Dad's cat, KC (almost 14 years old), who had cancer - in my opinion caused by fretting for Dad for two years. I had shoulder surgery in December, ten days later one aunt died and I went to help my cousin (the only one without siblings) make arrangements and helped her through the private cremation. In January I conducted aunt's memorial service and that night another aunt died: her funeral was two days later. It was only eight days later that we lost our precious Max, the only non-peaceful death.
Mum's cat has made a point of jumping on my lap for a smooch every day since it happened, and my sister's cat, who is not a lap cat, has jumped on both our laps. Max's friend from over the road has also jumped up on the fencepost for a cuddle when he sees me. This intuitive and empathetic behaviour from our feline friends I know will last longer than the temporary sympathy of family and friends - I have already been offered a kitten. I know it was kindly meant, but it devalues the important role Max played in our whole family for so many years.
Max will forever hold a special place in our hearts.