Jonathan: Our Molly is beside me here on the settee, tucking into slices of fresh-cooked turkey with relish, just back in from pottering around the garden before it gets too dark. But just a couple of days ago she was in such a poor way that we were preparing to lose her at any time. Like her sister, who died quite suddenly and unexpectedly back in 2009, Molly suffers from kidney and/or liver problems. She can’t process food properly, so despite being a big-framed cat with a very superior coat of fur to maintain, and an oversized sense of her own dignity to uphold, she’s become very thin, frail and unsteady. She can only eat a little at a time, needs water constantly, and has become extremely fussy over her food. This has resulted in us having to hand-feed her morsels of whatever happens to be her favourite food: currently turkey, but it could be tuna, some warm cod that has to come from our own plates, or perhaps some fruit cake, ditto, or even sponge pudding with Devon custard, also ditto. She is a cat of fads. Unlike her sister, Meg, who was given to showy blinks, noisy purring and needy meowing, Molly has never mastered the art of the facial expressions cat’s use to communicate with their humans: or rather she has never felt the need to debase the dignity of her person by such vulgarities. Molly has always been a very superior cat, both physically and in personality, and no matter the deterioration of her body, that dignity remains undiminished. Her 20th birthday is just eight weeks or so away, and Molly has no intention of missing the party! But her condition means that she suffers accumulations of toxins in her kidneys and liver, and at these times she suffers pain (which she deals with by constantly walking about), and a constant need for water (presumably to help flush out the toxins). The thirst results in her behaving out of character, and quite recently I found her drinking water – would you believe it! – from the water bowl by the back door used by Tilly! For nearly a fortnight, Molly refused all food other than the very occasional lick or scrap of something with a really tantalizing smell or taste, such as Brussels pate, smoked mackerel – but certainly not enough to keep her going. Her reserves of energy and strength were rapidly being exhaused, not least by the frequent padding to and fro to the litter tray (she passed very little indeed, and what she did would often be dark with blood. But she resisted any kind of physical help, and still insisted on carrying out her duty – as principal cat of the houshold – of making a tour of inspection of the house and garden at least twice a day. But yesterday her troubles seemed to be easing, and this morning she was sitting up in her basket, looking meaningfully at us both, licking her lips in anticipation of a nice bit of the Co-op’s Finest sliced cooked chicken, followed by an hour or two soaking up the warm sunshine in the conservatory! So, that’s her back from the brink of death! Yes she’s a very serious cat, she’s never looked us – or any person or other cat – direct in the eye, but after very nearly 20 years of close living together, we know she appreciates our care, and we know she’s content with her lot. Even at her lowest point, during this past fortnight, curled up on the sofa beside me, the rise and fall of her body with breathing so shallow, so slow we thought shed’d gone, there emanated from somewhere deep in her soul a purr so soft, so gentle, we had to turn off the TV and hold our breaths to hear her. God bless you, Molly dear!
Jonathan: It’s already a fortnight since Denise’s Mum moved to Sacred Heart care home in Daliburgh: my goodness where does the time go! The move came much sooner than we’d expected. The need was already beyond doubt : it was just a matter of time before ‘a room became free’ (a euphemism if ever there was!). Of course we did have last minute doubts: was she really getting beyond our coping? were we just being selfish? For her last evening at home with us Betty was on better form than she’d been for a long time, actually following the TV – it was Countryfile in the Peak District – with interest and a degree of understanding, and we were able to talk with her about the Peak District – with which she has been familiar throughout her life – and the events of her younger days. But out of the blue, in the midst of the Countryfile weather forecast – she pulled her glasses forward and asked us to look at ‘something’ on her nose that was bothering her: Other than the groove in which her glasses have perched for more than sixty years, we could see nothing of note. We were about to say as much when she volunteered further clarification : “It’s a fish, I think … It might even be a Cod”. There followed a silence, as profound as it was brief, in which the nagging voices of doubt and guilt were swallowed up as if into a black hole of sound, re-emeerging the other side in one great burst of belly-deep eye-watering laughter, and even Mum herself couldn’t help but join in! Denise: What on earth do you mean, you daft old woman! Betty (glowing from the laughter): Well … I don’t rightly know! We’ve had plenty of the same over the past couple of years, but never to such good effect!