Ten years ago my beloved feline friend and companion, Galahad, died, age 14.5 years. To some the death of a pet is like, So What. To others, like myself, it’s a loss as profound as that of any human friend. In some ways it’s worse. There is something about the relationship with an animal that is very pure. There is no prevarication, no dishonesty, no game-playing. In exchange for some food and a little affection, you re rewarded with unconditional love. More obvious with dogs perhaps but also true of cats ,who may be more reserved and far less likely to tolerate ill-treatment but if you are true to them they will be true to you.
Galahad with his sister Guinevere, came to me as kittens—the only animals I’ve had whose birthday I knew exactly—18 May 1999. I had already reserved them before they were born. Like royalty. Guinevere left home to live with another family some years ago. The problem was that I acquired two more cats. I didn’t choose them, they moved in on me and were impossible to get rid of but that’s another story. Guinevere preferred to be in a household where she was the only kitty. I know that she was happy there.
Galahad stuck with it—dominated the incomers and for many years held his place as alpha kitty. In the last few years, however, he has had to release the dominant position. He developed hyperthyroidism, couldn’t tolerate the medication so I tried to control it with diet. Still, he became very thin and the condition probably strained his heart, or so the vet thought.
In his prime, he was magnificent, a huge marmalade creature, weighing nearly a stone. A prodigious hunter who killed efficiently. No messing around or playing with the poor creatures. They never know what hit them. He ate what he killed (for which I was very grateful) as was natural. I didn’t really like it but that’s what cats do and he did it very well. I was happy when in later years he gave up hunting.
Galahad was the undisputed ruler of our little lane of four houses. He made himself at home in any of those house, never imagining that he might be be welcome. Trespassing dogs got short shrift from him. He attended my neighbour’s birthday party even though he had not been invited. He talked in conversational little meows in imitation of speech. He liked to lick soap, sit in cardboard boxes and chew his way around and est holes in my cashmere sweaters. The latter was NOT endearing. Above all, fierce though he was, he was very affectionate.
His passing was as graceful as could be wished.