Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Any regular readers of this blog will know all about our beloved border collie Hayley. Well, Miss Hayley was not our own four legged companion, she had a quieter, yet equally significant companion, our cat Gypsy.

It is unfortunate that I have been remiss in giving Gypsy his due on this forum; last night, at age 22 (or so) Gypsy passed away. It was not a shock, he has been ill for a week or so and we knew his string was running out. I think it was a good passing, he was laying on his heating pad, made a little chirping kind of sound and just went.

It is always sad, when you lose a pet. Collette and I lost our first dog, Gigs, over a decade ago, Gypsy was still a young cat then. Both deaths were hard but Gigs was over 13, Gypsy was 22, and that is just the natural order of things.

Gypsy came to us in his own, unusual way. It was at the first house Collette and I lived in here, on our own, and it was late in the fall, towards the end of October. Leaves were down and it was getting cool. Collette was out in the yard, just finishing up some garden/yard work when she heard this small, plaintive sound; she looked in her herb garden and there it was, this tiny, minuscule black kitten. Baby, I mean, just hatched. His eyes had probably just opened and were this dark cobalt blue. There were a lot of feral cats in that area and this was clearly one. Collette saw no sign of other kittens or of mama. Her instinct was to wait to see if mama would come back but it was getting dark and it was getting cold so, being Collette, she brought the kitten into the house ...

We had a dog at that time, our first dog, Gigs. He was a few years old at the time and we were totally dedicated to him and had no intention of getting a cat. I don't describe myself as cat person but I've had a few over the years. Collette grew up with a cat, it was still alive when we first met but we were, and are, dog people.

Still, here was Collette with this tiny, newly born, venerable kitten. She didn't want to leave the cat out in the cold, so her first thought was to bring the cat inside ... Now, let's stop our program here to learn something about our beloved Collette; if she brings a stray into the house, it's going to stay in the house. Forever. That's how we got Gigs, our friend Karen dropped him into our bed one morning and we had him for about 13 years. Hell, that's how Collette got me, she took me home one night and 25 years later, I still haven't left ...

So, in other words, Collette decided to keep the cat. But she just had to convince me to go along with it. She knew she had two points in her favour. One, was the fact that Gypsy was entirely black. I've only owned black cats. The second point was my essential frugalness; Collette and our friend Michele went out right away and loaded up on kitty supplies; food, litter, litter box, collar, etc. Her rationale was that if she had already invested in the cat, I would accept him. As usual, she was right.

He was such a young kitten, so recently abandoned, Collette had to feed him formula from a doll's bottle and she had to teach him how to defecate, by ..er .. stimulating him. He was so small that when we took to our vet to have him checked him over, Dr Bell only charged us half the normal visit rate as he was "only half a cat"

Gypsy was a feral cat and for the first several years of his life, he was an outdoor cat. And a murderer. One morning I was in the bathroom, you know, solving that pesky cold fusion problem, when in walks Gypsy, a freshly slain bird in his jaws. "Here you go boss, you pluck him, I'll fire up the BBQ" He was an awesome mouser. But one thing you need to know about domestic cats who get their dinner out of a can: They don't kill for food. The kill for fun. Gypsy liked to break one of their back legs so they couldn't run away. When he got bored with playing with them but if there was still life in them, he would drop the poor abused rodent in my shoe, so he could find it later. Yeh, I learned to shake out my sneakers before putting them on. Eventually Gypsy became a civilized indoor cat, basically learning that he was small, pampered and no competition for the real wild beasts of the neighbourhood; like most males he got tired of prowling around all night and discovered the bliss of kicking back on the couch with a cold beer ... um, ok, I may be projecting here just a bit ..

Although Gypsy did lose a lot of his feral heritage, it did take him a while to warm up to people As in, someone who had been to our house three or four years into his life, finally seeing him and saying "I didn't know you had a cat" I told someone he was in the witness protection program from all those mouse murders.

Once he matured and calmed down a bit, he got along pretty well with Gigs; generally they ignored each other but on more than one occasion I found them curled up, sleeping, sharing the same chair. Yes, there was the famous incident when Gypsy was still a kitten, he went for one of the dog's treats and Gigs taught him that was a very bad, bad thing .. Gypsy bore the scar from that to the day he died, but other than that, it was domestic bliss. But Gigs passed on, Gypsy enjoyed a few months of solitary bliss .. and along comes a new puppy. A border collie puppy. A I-really-need-to-herd-something-but-I-don't-know-what-Hey-you'll-do puppy... Leave it to say, Gypsy spent a good year sleeping on top of the console TV, out of herding range. But eventually, these two worked out their boundaries as well. We kept attributing Gypsy's long life to an attempt to outlive a second dog ...

Well, he didn't quite make it, but boy he made a run at it. We will miss him but, as we ponder getting a new border collie pup, it is unlikely that we will ever get another cat. Of course, I've said that before ...

Happy hunting, buddy.

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