You’d be forgiven for thinking, if you know me well, that I’m about to launch into some kind of blog about the Pink Floyd album with the same name (which is, I have to say, a very good album). But no, this is really about ‘animals’ – or, more specifically, about household pets.
I’ve just finished reading Dr.Nick Trout’s latest book ‘Ever By My Side’. Nick is a veterinarian. He grew up and trained in the UK but since shortly after qualifying as a veterinary surgeon he has worked almost exclusively in the US. In his first book (which I also narrated: Tell Me Where It Hurts) he described several of the cases he has worked with in his time at the Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston. In his latest he takes a more autobiographical look back at his personal experience with his own (and his family’s) feline and canine companions.
I must confess here that occasionally I am driven to tears by the material I read. Nick’s first book had one passage which I had to read several times before I was able to keep my emotions enough under control to allow the reader to experience their own truth of that particular moment in the story. But this time he had me going three or four times at least.
Those of you who have had no experience of growing up with pets may not understand what all the fuss is about. But I had the company of pets throughout my childhood. In my parent’s house I knew three dogs and four cats (not to mention a great many goldfish). Sandy was an Irish terrier, Mandy a black Labrador and Candy a Beagle. Smokey was a British Blue, Whisky and Frisky were Siamese and there was a ginger cat called Shandy (do you think we had a thing for rhyming names?).
But the pets that mean the most are those I had a part in choosing myself. Shortly after my first marriage my then wife and I went to pick up a kitten from a friend who had several. Needless to say we came home with two – Charlie and Champers we called them (something to do with ‘Champagne Charlie’). Charlie (he) was shorthaired and Champers (she) was longhaired.
After the end of that marriage both cats came with me, eventually surviving a long journey to settle in California. Charlie died at 11 years old – he hadn’t been well for a while and one day he crawled to his favorite place under the bed and left his mortal remains for us to find a few hours later. After Charlie left us Champers became a much friendlier cat – they’d neither of them been lap cats and that didn’t change, but she certainly sought our company much more often.
Champers was a tart! She really was. She was a real charmer and although she never became comfortable with being handled she loved to be near us and to be tickled and stroked. She slowly developed more and more health issues, but she stuck in there and made it past her 20th birthday. Then we come to the part that connects with my emotional side so strongly when I read about Nick and his experience as a vet. Especially when he describes dealing with the end of a much-loved pet’s life.
In January 2006 I flew to Toronto to film a role in an episode of a new ABC TV series (The Evidence – don’t ask! It was canceled after they’d filmed 8 episodes – I was in the 6th). Champers hadn’t been well, but looked like she’d hold on for a few weeks more. It was a Saturday when I was to fly home. While waiting at the airport I received a call from the vet – she wanted permission to put Champers to sleep. She had been brought in the night before, after having a relapse, by the person in whose care I had left her. She was not in a good way at all. It was Saturday; they couldn’t wait until I got home… I said my goodbyes.
I still regret not being there, though I couldn’t insist on keeping Champers alive for my own selfish reasons and I trusted my vet to tell me the truth.
Now, you may have noticed the photographs up and down this page. This is not Champers and Charlie, this is Sebastian and Simone, almost four years old (they joined the family in March of 2007). Just to confuse me, the boy, Sebastian is longhaired and it’s the girl, Simone, who is shorthaired. They kept the names they were given when we collected them from Community Concern for Cats.
My wife and I wanted lap cats and we got them. No butt can hit a chair in this house without a cat appearing from nowhere to take up residence in the lap. While writing this I’ve had to redirect Simone three times and Sebastian is on the couch beside me.
Neither Champers nor Charlie could ever be replaced, but I love these guys.
I’m sure that if you’ve ever had a relationship with a pet you’ll enjoy Nick Trout’s books… they may even make you cry!
Simon (and Simone and Sebastian)