In October 2004 I got a call from my vet-nurse colleague who said that a ginger kitten had been brought into the surgery. He’d been found bedraggled and wet by the side of the road, was only about two weeks old and would I nurse him back to health? How could I resist? I’d wanted a ginger tom for a while to beat the crap out of a mangy cross-eyed brute who’d been coming into my house and terrorising my other two cats – this little kitten was the answer.
This tiny ball of ginger fluff was soon mewing all night and keeping me awake as I fed him every two hours on weaning milk. Both his little voice and bright blue eyes were piercing, and he followed me everywhere I went, without fail. I’d run to the loo during a commercial break and he’d just about making it halfway up the stairs before I was on my way down again. He slept on my pillow and lived under my jumper for the best part of a month.
My little ginger tom spent several weeks with rather politically-incorrect names. He had the shakes a bit – we later found out he had a condition known as cerebellar hypoplasia (CH) – and was called Parky and Ozzie -aka – Mr Osborne. He also looked like a tiny gremlin, and earned himself the name of Gizmo. Eventually, however, he became Tobias, Toby or Tobes.
Over the past 10 years, poor little Tobes has been rather manky. His CH meant that he fell over, dropped off and tumbled down a lot of things, breaking whiskers and many teeth in the process. He developed urinary tract disease, had a blocked bladder four times, had a heart murmur, went bald on the tip of his tail, got a flea allergy, development arthritis in his back legs, suffered from occasional fitting and decided that peeing and pooping outdoors was not for him. Nor did he have the capability of going in a litter tray because of his wobbles. So, for almost a decade, I’ve lived with towels covering my kitchen floor.
Despite that, Tobes always snuggled, came on holidays with me, journeyed on the train back home for Christmas, buried himself under my duvet, and purred in my ear when I was feeling ill. He even managed to pull a softer side out of Mimi, my tabby with the most horrible of temperaments, and got her to lick his ears on occasion. Meanwhile, despite my fantasy series never originally having cats in it, Toby wormed his way into the pages there too, and will forever be the lolling ginger and white tom in Roberta’s Ridgewood house.
Yesterday, another blocked bladder and a lot of pain finally meant that poor ‘ol Tobes had to pass on. It’s a sad day here, and the place feels empty without the sounds of him tumbling around the kitchen, banging into things and taking hours to eat just one kibble. Life is an experience, and so too, is death. And, no doubt, poor little well loved Toby will have etched his way into my writing in some form or another. But, for now, my little hermitage is slightly bereft at the loss of a brave little moggy who soldiered on despite extremely poor odds. RIP Tobes.