I want to talk to you today about Pookie, my companion of fifteen years, more than just a pet or company, my baby, my friend, my soul mate, a cat so cool he is already slipping into legendary status in the minds of those who knew him, and of those who wish they knew him, a one - eyed pirate, a top hunter, a ginger genius!
I may exaggerate a little, and you can forgive me I'm sure, for all mothers exaggerate their children's successes, and that's what he was to me, a furry baby, I raised him from about five weeks of age. I've already written elsewhere about my grief, my feelings, my side of things, so I want to use the opportunity, the kind offer of a tribute to Pookie in The Daily Mews to just tell you all about Pookie himself, his character and personality, how wonderful he was, and he really was. It's been just over five weeks since I lost him and it has taken me this long to even be able to contemplate writing this, because it's painful to remember, but this is for him, he deserves fitting tribute, so without further delay, let me tell you about this special cat.
The first thing you need to know about Pookie is that he was funny! Boy was he funny! He made me chuckle and sometimes belly laugh, almost every single day I was privileged to spend with him! Whether it was unintentional, something stuck to him, a leaf or something, or a pine needle on his tongue causing him to gurn and curl his tongue dramatically to eject it from his mouth, or coming home with a filthy face from unknown causes (probably secret feline initiation ceremonies or war paint parties), or intentional (and I know he had a sense of humour) such as sneaking up on me and grabbing and biting my head (ouch!) or flopping comically down against me on the bed, demanding affection, or deliberately pushing things to the ground from shelves so that I couldn't ignore him, he was hilarious! Sometimes just looking at him sitting still, his funny little face, was enough to make me laugh.
Pookie was also incredibly brave, which surprised even me at first, because he seemed timid when he was younger, and he certainly was timid with people, particularly big noisy men, but over the years he showed incredible courage defending his territory, he would not stand for a non - household cat in his garden! He often came back with wounds, many of which became infected, from his battles, and he rested occasionally to recuperate, but he never shirked his duty, always back on patrol as soon as health allowed it. Once a poor unwitting fox, bigger than Pooks, made the mistake of entering Pookie's garden while he was on patrol, he was quickly dispatched by an incensed Pookie who chased him into the nearby forest! I have told that story so many times, some people have been known to yawn a little...
He was fiercely independent. He liked his space, especially when he was younger. In his prime he spent more time outdoors than in. In the height of summer, I would sometimes only see him for meals and a quick hello! This independence became a problem when he was sick. He would rather sleep in the nearby forest and waste away than come home and be forced to take medication, or have a painful wound cleaned! Why didn't I just lock him in, I hear you ask? Well you would have to understand Pookie like I did to answer that. He wouldn't have survived psychologically being told he couldn't go out. I always say that his mental health was as important as his physical, and if I didn't let him out he would have faded away from depression as sure as he would have from any physical illness, so I had to find a balance between treating him and allowing him his freedom. I often had to search the forest to find him when he was ill, usually at the base of a particular tree he favoured, alone, ill, missing me, but refusing to come home, because no one had the right to tell Pookie what to do, even if it was to give him medications or treatments to save his life! I would carry him home, holding him tightly, being scratched all the way, and treat him, and we would repeat this process until his pain was gone, and he didn't feel threatened anymore.
The eye - yes he had one eye in his later years. I have been asked about it more times than I can remember and it became his trademark in his old age. The story goes like this - I don't know for sure what happened to his eye, what caused the original injury, a scratch on the surface of the eye, the obvious conclusion would seem to be that it was injured in a fight, and it may well have been the case, but he was such an active, athletic cat that it could have happened any number of ways, he may have scrambled up a thorn tree chasing a bird or foe - scratch, a thorn in the eye! He may have taken on prey that fought back - scratch! There's just no way of knowing for sure, but the wound just wouldn't heal over, we battled with it for a few years, becoming infected and reinfected and generally extremely painful, it was a huge area of contention for us, that eye. Many stays in the forest. I knew he could still see through it though, so I was very reluctant to take it from him, but as he aged I also knew his chances under general anaesthetic weren't good, neither were his chances of continually fighting infection successfully, so, with his vet I made the decision that it was better for him to have it removed in the long term. He adjusted beautifully to one - eyed life, playing in a more carefree, and pain free way than I'd seen him in years.
Pookie was a top athlete and hunter with an amazing metabolism! He could eat for Ireland, and boy he did! I never quite knew where he put it all, and yes, he was regularly wormed, lol, he just didn't put on weight in his prime due to his activity. In summer, he was a skinny rake of a cat, it worried me sometimes, I'd try to convince him to eat more, and realistically he did eat plenty, between meals at home and those fast food mouse snacks he often got on the go, he had more than enough, but he burned it off quicker than he could put it on. In winter he slowed down a little (just a little) and got a nice big fluffy coat which gave the impression of him being a heavier cat than he was, and always reassured me. He would often bring me back gifts of mice or voles, crying out in victory as he approached, though usually polishing the rodent off himself, leaving just the innards for me...yeah...thanks Pookie! he was very generous! As he aged, the last couple of years, he didn't hunt quite as much, and was fussier about weather, so he relied on me more for entertainment, I bought him lots and lots of different toys, his favourite thing was to lead me up the garden to a preferred play spot with flattened grass. He would entertain me as much as himself there with his gymnastic moves, showing off, forward tumble pounces at full speed, with extra rolls for effect! It has occurred to me that this may have been, and probably was too much for him at his age, and I feel guilty about it, but also I honestly know that he wouldn't have wanted to take it easy, to just fade away in the feline version of a retirement home with no stimulation or activity, so I hope and pray that letting him play so rough and probably shortening his life somewhat was the right thing to do, was what his free - spirited soul wanted, and wherever he is now, he approves, but perhaps I am just fooling myself, and easing my own conscience.
The last and most important thing I want to tell you about is how loving he was, albeit on his own terms, (for the most part, kiss attacks against his will did happen frequently, I admit) and in his own way. Family members often remarked that he was a mammy's boy, and the greater part of his love did go to me, I am profoundly lucky to be able to say. Once he got used to other people he could be very affectionate with them, but there were certain things that were only for me. He would only sleep on my bed. He would only relax enough to show his belly to me (I was even allowed touch it occasionally!) he only totally trusted me when it came to play time, he would play in short bursts with others sometimes, but the trust involved in completely letting go and letting fly was reserved only for me. A very special memory for me, that showed me how much he really loved me, not that I had cause to doubt it, but reinforced the fact for me was how he behaved on the rare times he saw me upset and distraught enough to cry openly in front of him. I didn't like to cry in front of him, because you can't explain in words what's wrong to an animal, it just gets a general sense of distress and worry. The thing that amazed though, because he was so independent, and with all independent beings there is an element of selfishness, was that when he saw me cry, he came to me, and nuzzled me. Not in a way to seek reassurance for himself, but to comfort me.
My cat was amazing. He was an incredible, special being. He was an individual. He is irreplaceable. I may have another cat in future, and I may love it as much as Pookie, because they are all wonderful and worthy of love, but I will never love it in the same way as Pookie, because it will not be the same. No one or nothing is. That would be like trying to fit a perfectly good square peg into a perfectly good round hole. They are both good in their own way, but they are both completely different shapes, and there will be a Pookie - shaped hole in my heart that can't be filled for the rest of my life. I hope reading this article helps you to understand a little how special my One Eyed Pirate of Love really was.
By Aoife McCann
Pookie's Twitter for people who like to know him better: https://twitter.com/PookieMacalpi
My twitter: https://twitter.com/evamacalpi
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