A few weeks ago, Shalimar and I went to a pet fair called PawPrints.
My Home and Community Care comes from an awesome organisation with the most lovely people – no matter who I get from there as a case manager or helper, they are kind, caring people who I always come to see as friends. They don’t only provide assistance for people with mental illnesses, but to the disabled, the elderly, and they also have a service to help people who are homeless.
They sponsored PawPrints along with the council – and ‘marginalised’ people were invited to take their pets along for a free vet check, vaccinations, worming, samples of food, and home made blankets/coats/leashes.
It was so darn awesome!
The Courier Mail asked me if I would be in a article with Shalimar and it was in the paper today -
I’m so proud of Shalimar
I think it’s time I wrote more about my beloved cat!
This story starts years before Shalimar was even a twitch in a tomcat’s tail. We had many pets growing up – and cats were part of the menagerie – four of them. Hotchy was mine – she had been one of a litter of kittens an ex-stray cat had had, only two had survived, Hotchy, and her brother (my older sister’s cat). The honour of her being ‘mine’ meant that my mother had a good reason now to enslave me more than she had already been – but that’s another story.
Hotchy was my best friend. Home was hell, but suddenly I wasn’t alone. Hotchy was the first living being who showed me unconditional love, and I loved her back with all my heart. She would always be waiting for me when I got home from school – she’d jump up on the front of the car as I walked through the garage and put one paw on each of my shoulders, smooooching my face
Hotchy lived for six years – she died in December 1993, five days before Christmas when she was bitten by a baby taipan. I was heartbroken and cried myself to sleep every day for a year.
Those years were the worst ever, the year before and the year after she died. The bullying was intense, home was intense, I was depressed as hell, my eating and weight had attracted the attention of the teachers and I was often questioned about my intake. Mum had begun dragging me around to doctors trying to get me diagnosed with anorexia which infuriated me, I did NOT have anorexia (so I thought. Seems I was the last to know it. I remember being so angry when a couple of girls in front of me in Biology during a discussion where anorexia was brought up, looked back at me and whispered “Fiona’s got that.”)
I was finally diagnosed with major clinical depression and all prozac’d up. Not long after that, I left home for good – things got too dangerous and I had to get out fast. Looking back, I don’t think I would have been able to leave if Hotchy had not been gone all that long – it took that year for me to even be okay with not being able to be around where she was buried, and to not feel like leaving was a betrayal. If she had still been alive, I would have stayed. So I guess… she wasn’t meant to be alive longer.. but I missed her so much.
Sorry for the quality of the photo – it’s very old. I don’t have a scanner so some of the photos for this post have been photographed from the originals.
I know this is VERY unusual, but I bonded strongly from the beginning with all animals. It just is natural for me. And I wasn’t getting any love from my family.
I always hoped that I would have another cat in the future. I used to wander though the David Jones in the city when waiting for my train after school, trying on the perfumes, and Shalimar by Guerlain had become my favourite. Nobody in my life that I can remember wore it, but it evoked feelings of safety, comfort, and nostalgia in me. Funny how perfume can do that! Somehow I decided that if I had another cat in the future, I’d call her Shalimar. I never forgot that.
Roll on to 2002. I had been in hospital many times by then, I was battling the eating disorder big time. One of my friends, B, had died the previous year from it. Her mother, E, had been about to send her to a new clinic that had opened up in a southern state – but B had not made it in time. After B died, she bought a house here in my city for the clinic to have a branch based here, too. I went along to the opening party, but I never dreamed that I would go there. It was simply another private clinic that was inaccessibile to me since I didn’t have the money to pay for it. (People mortgaged their homes to go to this clinic, it cost tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, and wasn’t covered under private insurance which I didn’t have either)
One day I got a phone call from E. She said “You have an appointment at the clinic on –day, and I’m going with you”. I was blown away! It was a dream come true, I really believed I would get better, and I did very well for a while, but sadly they didn’t have what I needed, and I wasn’t ready either. Not every method works for everyone – we are different – and this method didn’t work for me. Also, if you are not ready to face up to things, be honest, do the work – you will get nowhere.
While I was at the clinic, E took me to the RSPCA to buy me a kitten as a gift. So exciting! We went on the 13th of February 2003.
I walked up and down the rows of mature cats, but the kittens cage drew me in. There were so many of them! All squalling and squealing and playing! So cute. But there was one little grey one, the runt, and the moment my eyes fell on her I exclaimed “There she is! Shalimar!” E did everything she could to convince me to choose a healthier looking, less scruffy specimen, but I was taken. Shalimar was bought, boxed, bundled into the car and off we went!
On the way home we stopped for supplies, and I stayed in the car with her. I couldn’t bear to keep her in the box. When E came back a few minutes later, she was curled up in the crook of my elbow, asleep and purring. We bonded instantly.
That night, I hardly slept as this sweet little kitten clambered all over me, snuffled in armpits and neck, tangled in my hair, bounced on my tummy… she hardly left me alone, apart from jumping off the bed to go explore our little flat for while before always coming back to her new ‘mummy’.
From the start she was so naughty, so mischievous! She toppled head first into ugg boots, clambered up to the laundry tub and stole wet socks that were soaking, hoarding them under my bed in a pile. One day I turned around to see her with her face white as snow. She’d gotten up on the kitchen counter and toppled a box of milk powder off it, then been busy licking it up for all she was worth. That night I felt so sorry for her – poor thing had the runs! But she never overcame her addiction to milk powder. It is like kitty crack.
Shalimar has been my best friend and constant companion for nine and a half years now. During that time, I have been extremely sick – but I could not leave her alone in this world. It broke my heart whenever I was in hospital, because she had to go to the pet motel (they were amazing, they treated her like a queen) and it motivated me to get well enough to go home.
She is why I hung on when I had no other reason to do so. I used to fall into a sort of coma like sleep before Shalimar came into my life, where I would wake up days later and not even know that it wasn’t the same day. Shalimar prevented those from ever happening again, because she just will not give up if I don’t wake up. I’ll wake with a face like mincemeat from her jabbing at me, but she will get me awake.
Since moving house at the beginning of this year, I finally have been able to give her the life she deserves, as well as the fact that she hasn’t had to go to the pet motel for two years now. And I hope that she will be with me for much longer. Nine is a grand dame in cat years, but my removals man told me his cat was 17 and still going, so she has that to beat!
These days, Shalimar likes sleeping, eating, walking all over me, using my tummy as a jumping castle, eating my bean plants, and generally getting into everything. She truly is happy, and she makes me happy too.
Do you have a pet, and how has your pet affected your life?