Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Pet retrospective... wait, shouldn't that be "Petrospective"?

The other day, I got reminiscing about pets gone by. I think a few of these photos are already on my blog somewhere, but if I can't remember them, you probably can't either!

Chelsea was the first dog that I considered "mine." I grew up with a parade of English Setters, but they were all really my Mum's dogs, at least until the last one, Tara, whom I ended up inheriting! But Chelsea I picked out myself, at the Pickering-Ajax-Whitby animal shelter. She was just a wee pup in December 1987, approximately seven weeks old, and her little face reminded me of a Chelsea bun, hence the name.

1989 was a hard year for me, but Chelsea was always by my side! She loved to help me rake leaves...

She was a Lab-Collie-Pointer mix, affectionately known as a "Collabointer."

And here she is in the last winter of her life, letting me know she's had enough of the snow.

Chelsea had severe hip dysplasia and arthritis from a very young age, not that she ever let that slow her down. She adored swimming and was very happy when we moved to Nova Scotia, where we had a house on the ocean and she could swim as often as she liked.

By August 2003, Chelsea was nearly 16 and she was getting very tired. The day before the vet came to the house to put Chelsea to sleep, we all spent a little time on the beach together.

Her passing left us in tears, but Tara did her best to keep us amused! I inherited her after my mother died in 1997. She was born on St. Patrick's day, 1992, and was always good-natured and full of mischief.

"I know I'm not allowed on the furniture, but really, is this deck chair technically furniture? It's made of plastic, for Dog's sake!"

Me whispering sweet nothings to Tara in British Columbia. She was due for a trim!

In December 2003, we moved from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, cramming three cats, the aforementioned English Setter, and a leopard gecko into our Mazda Protege 5. Here's car at a pit stop somewhere in northern Ontario:

The little sign in the rear window said "BC or bust!"

The pets were extraordinarily good in the car, sleeping all day and enjoying the pet-friendly Comfort Inns at night! Here is Mashka, who was a lovely blue-grey kitty we adopted from the Toronto Humane Society in 1995:

When we arrived at the hotel each night, we would immediately put the litter box in the motel bathroom. The cats would literally line up and perform their business while we finished unloading all our crap from the car.

In 2003, poor Tara did not have a lot of space in the back of the car! She did manage to curl up comfortably for a long snooze, though.

The amusing bit of this photo? Mashka is actually sleeping on top of the plastic box the gecko travelled in, which was well-wrapped and topped with a pillow!

Julius looks more than a little peeved.

Mashka loathed crates, so she always got to free-range while the other two cat were confined.

Another day, another hotel room -- 2006, on the move from BC to Quebec! Gordon was stretching out his tootsies in the foreground. The drawers and other stuff are piled up against the bed to prevent the cats getting under there. Until we figured out this system, Julius and Zoë would, like clockwork, neatly rip a hole in the boxspring bottom and crawl in while we slept at night! After shaking cats out of a boxspring for two nights in a row, we figured out a solution. We also found a selection of girlie mags under one motel bed (eeeyuw!)

Mashka sleeping comfortably on top of her kitty siblings. More like "lording it over" her kitty siblings. She was the BOSS.

On both trans-Canada moves, like this one in 2003, Mashka would migrate to my lap every day in the late afternoon. She would position herself parallel to my thighs, drop her head down between my knees, and go to sleep.

We drove through the Rockies when we moved from NS to BC, and had a pit stop at beautiful, snowy Rogers Pass. A busload of Japanese tourists pulled in at the same time, and they were fascinated by Tara! Everyone wanted to have their photo taken with the exotic dog.

She was always such a diva. Someone in Japan has this photo in his album!

After the photo shoot, Gordon took Tara for a walk in the snow. Tara had to be put to sleep in 2006 at the age of 14-1/2. But she has a pretty darn good life with lots of adventures!

Zoë was my striped tabby heart-kitty. I got her as mangy, ringworm-ridden itty bitty kitty, sent to me from Seattle when I lived in Toronto. A chain of volunteers handed her off to each other, and she arrived at the Toronto airport being carried by the boss of a lovely woman named Jude who was involved in senior dog rescue. This kind man, a total stranger to me, brought Zoë to Toronto on a business trip as a favour to Jude, carrying her in the cabin of the plane in her tiny blue crate.

Zoë showed her gratitude by promptly infecting me and Gordon with ringworm, despite our best precautions. My vet at the time said she was the ugliest kitten he'd ever see, but ate his words a year later when he called her "beautiful."

In 2006, she and Mashka enjoyed a snooze on a warm Gordon.

My Zoë died suddenly in 2007 at the age of ten, the day I arrived in Scotland on a trip with my friend. It was heartbreaking not being able to be with her in her hour of need. The vet suspected a tumour on her heart. I still miss that cat!

Sweet Mashka left us before that, on December 18th, 2006. She was 16 or 17 years old, and suffering from kidney failure. Here's a photo of her on her last day. She was Gordon's heart-kitty and had such character!

When we moved to Quebec from BC in 2006, the cats had more room in the car as Tara left us that year. Here is Mashka, rudely flaunting her freedom as she sleeps in front of Zoë and Julius' crates:

Julius the orange tabby is of course still with us. He was born in Nova Scotia and has lived in four provinces: NS, British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario. He is now nine years old and we hope he'll be with us for a long time yet.

Pets.... they bring so much joy to our lives, but it sure hurts when they leave us. I raise a toast to all our beloved furry friends who are no longer with us.


  1. Natalie, thank you for your beautiful tributes to your pets. Your experiences are quite similar to ours. We traveled from California to Texas in a van loaded with four large Collie-mix dogs, a Chihuahua and a mini-Dachshund. We made the trek in two days with one overnight stop in a rest area on the border of Arizona and New Mexico. There was a lady next to us with a bunch of Chihuahas and when she saw the dogs get out, one at a time, her eyes almost popped out of her head because it looked like one of those clown cars in the circus! Those dogs (rescued either from the animal shelter or from being dumped off on our road) are all gone now too, but they do live on in our hearts.

  2. So many wonderful friends Knatolee. You have been blessed!

  3. TTPT, that's so cool that you travelled with your menagerie! What a wonderful pack of dogs you had. Rescue dogs/cats are the best, in my humble opinion!

    And Jams, we have indeed been blessed with wonderful animal companions. And our leopard gecko is 16-1/2 years old now! I really need to get her photo up on the blog.

  4. An amazing post - amazing is that you crossed country like that with 3 cats, etc...I just can't imagine it. I am on the verge of honoring some of my long-departed (pre-blog) - I have to find the "old" pictures (pre-digital). And please do post a pic of the 16 year old gecko!

  5. How lovely! Thank you so much for sharing!

  6. I love this post. I know how it must've felt to look over those photos and scan them. When I found all those photos of Cinnamon it was heartbreaking. But at the same time, they give us so much love...I guess we have to remember those times and cherish them. Thanks Natalie. Great post!

  7. I am in love with Tara....hope she's in a happy place! I am sure she is....

  8. Beautifully said and done, Knatolee. You brought back memories of the many pets we had, each one truly special and so much missed.

    We went up to the Arctic (Baffin Island) with an ugly, scrawny, timid little cat that we called Zero. My two boys loved him. We didn't have the heart to leave the cat behind. I thought Zero would never get out of the house. Such a different environment. Then, one day, he ventured out. The Inuits, and their big Husky dogs, had never seen a cat. The dogs ran away to hide. And the people kept at a distance, somehow fearful. At that moment, Zero decided that he liked that place. And, everyday, he would go walking on the muddy road as if he owned the village. The Huskies never approached him. We thought Zero was so brave. My boys re-baptised him: Zorro.

    In my next life, I might become a cat and live with Jams and the Not-Wife, or you and Gordon. Hope one will take me in...All the best!

  9. What a beautiful post! Cheers to all your furry friends, past and present! Much as I enjoy a beer with "legs", I think that Penguin would kick my butt! :)

  10. Anna, I'm working on the gecko pics.
    The pets were SO good in the car on those moves. I couldn't believe! They would all sleep for 10 - 12 hours a day. *I* was the one going squirrelly! My behaviour was much worse than the pets'.

    Thanks for the compliments, everyone!

  11. Sue, Tara was a sweetie. She had a very good life for a large dog (14-1/2 years for an English Setter is pretty darn good!) She absolutely adored children, especially babies, and was very gentle.

    Claudia, you have so many great stories! I hope you've written these down somewhere. I love the name change from Zero to Zorro! I am not surprised that Baffin Island is not awash in cats!!

    Lisa, that beer would actually knock me flat, but I'd like to try some anyway. I have just about no alcohol tolerance, but hey, I'm an excellent designated driver!


Thank you for all your comments, which I love to read!