Monday, October 13, 2014

My Cats and Dogs by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey

My Cats and Dogs by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey
I have always loved cats.  When I was a child we had a gray cat named Smoky. He slept with me most nights and greeted me at the door when I came home from school. When he was outside and wanted in he jumped up onto the narrow ledge of the front window and sat down looking in until someone opened the door. We had him many years and then one day he became ill. My parents tried to cure him but nothing they tried made him better. He lost weight and they finally decided to take him to the Pound and have him put to sleep.  It was a cool autumn day when they put him in a box and set the box on the floor of the back seat. Mom and Dad and we four kids went to the Pound to drop him off. It was a sad day and we each took turns saying goodbye.
       But he proved to be a tough cat. On a cold winter morning when mom opened the drapes of the front window, there was Smoky sitting on the ledge. She quickly opened the door and let him in. We never found out if he had gotten better at the Pound and escaped or if someone adopted him and he left them to find his way back to us. He lived another three years before finally dying.
       We then got brother and sister tabby kittens and I named them Salt and Pepper. They were still around when I married and moved away. Due to my first husband not liking cats and my son being born with an allergy to animals, I was unable to have indoor cats. However, after my daughter was born a collie dog showed up in our yard and we had ourselves an outdoor dog. Over the years my second husband, Mike, and I had outdoor cats and dogs but I disliked that they had to stay outside during the cold winter months.
       Shortly after my son’s eighteenth birthday he came home with a Cockapoo pup which he was not allergic to. When he graduated in the summer he headed to college and left Chevy with us. Chevy grew to be about twenty pounds. We had him seventeen years before we had to put him to sleep.
       During that time Mike and I rescued an abused and starved pup while on holidays in northern B.C. He was about the size of our little cockapoo and on our two week jaunt home he slept on the bed with us and Chevy. When we got home I thought Modie would be an outdoor dog. The first night he howled so long and loud that I let him in the house but made him stay at the back door landing. That wasn’t what he wanted and he continued howling until I let him onto the bed where he settled into his spot with Chevy and us. Even when he grew into a 130 lb, dog he insisted on sleeping on the bed with us.
      During the day Modi followed Chevy around and grew to idolize him. However, Chevy was less than happy to have Modie in our family and would turn and snarl at him. Modie thought Chevy was playing and would run around him excited. If Chevy ignored him, Modie would trab his tail and pull him backward to get his attention.
       Our house had a three bedroom basement suite that we used for family get togethers and when family and friends came to visit. Because my son was allergic to Modie we kept the door to the basement closed so he couldn’t get into it. Since my son was already allergic to one of my animals I decided to get a cat. A couple we knew in the country had a stray kitten show up at their place so I went to pick her up. It was a striped tabby just like the two cats we’d had when I was a teenager. I named her Salt.
      Just after that, my sister, Gwen, got a male tabby and called him Pepper. When she got a female tabby she called her Saltina. Unfortunately, Salt left us one day and never returned. Mike suggested that I go to the SPCA and find another cat. I brought home two female cats. One was a ten month old tabby that I named Saltwo and the other a three month old gray and white kitten that I called Saltry. So we had two dogs and two cats but then we had to put Chevy to sleep. Not a happy time in our household.
       One day Mike noticed an advertisement in the newspaper that was looking for a home for a cat that had been left by its owners when they moved. The cat had survived the winter outside and the people who found it already had three cats which was the limit allowed per house in the city. I phoned and then went to pick up the cat. It was a short haired orange tabby which I named Red. We were now a family of two adults, three cats and one huge dog.
       So those were the animals we had when we moved from Edmonton to Vancouver Island. We settled on a small acreage and put up a fence so Modie would remain in the yard. Red and Saltry liked to explore our acreage as well as the neighbours. Saltwo was more inclined to stay close to home so it was a real surprise when she got into some poison somewhere and died.
      Once I had recovered from her loss, I called the SPCA and asked if they had any cats for adoption. One had just come in. They needed a few days to check her over and then I went to pick her up. She was six months old and a long haired orange tabby. I decided that I had one orange tabby named Red so I named my second orange tabby Purple. Saltry took over from Saltwo as the head of the pride (not sure if that is the word for domesticated cats) and the others acquisitioned.
       The next year when I was doing a book signing for my first mystery novel at Comox B.C. While waiting for me Mike saw some cats at an SPCA display. He took me there after my signing. He had looked at a long haired white cat but I found a tortoise shell cat and decided on her. Her name was Molly and she had been born in the SPCA and was now two years old. She had never been outside except to be taken to these displays. When we got her home I changed her name to Daisy.
       Daisy had lived in large cage with three other cats and was used to cats coming and going in her life. When she saw Saltry she mewed and went over to her. Saltry was not that friendly with strange cats and hissed and swatted at Daisy. Daisy stopped in surprise and Saltry walked away. Daisy next tried Red who was a bit standoffish but friendlier. After a couple of days, Red had taken Daisy under her wing and was grooming her and they were sleeping together. Purple didn’t really care that there was a new member to the family.
       It didn’t take her long to figure out how to go in and out the cat door and she was soon enjoying her taste of freedom.
       About a year later I looked out onto our front deck and saw a skinny, long haired orange tabby eating the crumbs from Modie’s treats. I went out but she took off. I found a small dish and put some cat food in it and left it on the deck. The next day I saw her eating from it. I went outside to talk to her but she scurried through a hole in the skirting under our mobile home. I called to her and heard her answer but she never came out. The next day was the same but this time I went to another opening under our mobile and talked with her. She answered me and slowly came to me. I picked her up. She was so light, it felt as if she weighed about three pounds although she was a full grown cat. I carried her inside to the pails of cat food I leave out for our cats. She ate but then left again. The next day she was back and this time after she ate she allowed me to carry her into our bedroom and lay her on our bed. Over the next three days all she did was sleep, eat, and use the kitty litter. She became our fifth cat. Even though I was naming our orange tabbies after colours, this time I couldn’t think of a colour that suited our latest addition. She was quiet, demure, aloof and just wanted to be left alone so I named her Lady
       By this time Modie was 13 and had very bad arthritis. He was overweight because we had had to stop our walks, and was having a hard time walking and standing up when he laid down. We finally decided it was time to put him out of his misery. Mike took him to the vet and two days later we had his ashes.
       So we were left with five cats. Three years later Gwen’s cat, Saltina, died. A few weeks later Gwen was at our place and Lady spent the night with her. Gwen said that if we ever had to get rid of Lady she would take her. We offered Lady to Gwen and she accepted. So we are now down to four cats, the same four cats that my husband and I are now on a three month tour with through the United States.

Books of The Travelling Detective Series boxed set:
Illegally Dead
The Only Shadow In The House
Whistler's Murder