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My Great Gatsby

On 26th April 2014, after dropping Mark at the station, on his way to a trip to Vegas, I made my way to a local animal shelter with my parents and Bill.

I was really struggling a year ago. I am a pack animal and, having lost Max, along with the dust from the split starting to settle, I was finding the lonely nights hard. Mark was around, of course he was, but we lived separately, an hour apart, and it was very early days.

Max had been gone for six months by that point, settling into his new home amazingly no doubt, but I was still full of regret, guilt and loss.


I could never look at another dog, not now at least, but I loved cats too, having grown up with them. So I decided I’d adopt a cat and that would be that.

The second I walked in the shelter, I saw this beautiful big black cat on his hind legs just desperate for attention. If you’ve rescued an animal before you’ll know that it is a little like love at first sight. He was absolutely beautiful. Huge. Shiny black. And a face more like a big cat than a domestic one. He was selling himself very well, forever the little salesman, and because of this it took me a while to notice another cat at the very back.

His sister.

Sweet, timid, frightened and so stressed from her life so far. She had pulled the fur from her stomach and looked desperate.

The shelter staff explained to me that they had been in for a while and struggled to find a home because there were two of them, and because they were black. The little girl’s condition hadn’t helped either. And to make matters worse, their story hadn’t been a kind one. Bought as kittens, they had quickly been neglected when the owners discovered their little boy was allergic. Instead of rehoming them immediately, they banned the cats from coming inside and left them riddled with fleas and desperate for love.

I did the dutiful thing of walking around and looking at the other cats, and even kittens which I had initially hoped for, not wanting to lose another pet too soon, but I couldn’t stop thinking about that brother and sister.

Ruby and Robin.

I turned round, next to the kittens and said I’d take the duo.

And everyone looked shocked. I think my parents thought I was mad, but I remember my dad saying that he expected it of me.

I went back to see them one more time and the boy was trying so hard. “Please,” he seemed to say. “I know there’s two of us but I promise you we’ll make you happy.” And as he pushed his head against my hand with some force, I felt like I had to take them home. I gently walked over to his sister and let her suss me out. Eventually she accepted my hand and as I stroked her I could feel her swell with happiness. When a sandpapery tongue licked my hand I was sold.

I hadn’t expected to spend what spare money I had on adoption fees, and I remember my dad stepping forward and buying one of them as a gift for me and Bill. My parents could see how much it meant and I’m eternally grateful for that as I couldn’t have afforded both on my own sensibly. I’d have gone into my overdraft and done it anyway, but his help meant I’d not struggle.

I left, expecting to arrange a home check and maybe pick them up next weekend, but only hours later, a lovely lady declared my house perfect and I was told I could collect them the very next day.

It breaks my heart to be writing this, because I know I’m going to remember so much and I have to get it down because I’m so frightened of forgetting one day.

In short, those cats changed my life. I spent my time at home with a little tiny boy and two black beauties. We played, we cuddled, and I laughed more than I ever could have hoped for.

As Mark became more and more a part of our family, he fell in love too.

And that was us. A family of five. With two cats who formed a huge part of our lives.

Gatsby and Elsa.

Just last week I celebrated their first year together with us. Old photos came up and I felt pride in the bare belly that Elsa no longer had, and the trimmer looking Gatsby, who was pretty chubby when we got him.

I remember sending Mark photos from our bed, while he sat downstairs, and chatting about how much we loved them.

But on Friday, as I was coming to the end of my lunch, feeling tired and fuzzy-headed, my phone rang. And I never answer unknown numbers, but I recognised the area code and for some reason I answered the call.

And I dissolved into tears as a vet told me that my gorgeous boy, a best friend, had been hit by a car and he didn’t make it.

If you don’t resonate with animals you won’t understand the joy of loving them and the true loss of losing them.

We left work. I finished what I was doing through tears and Mark somehow managed to get me home. I just felt defeated. Absolutely heart-broken.

We just missed our hourly train, so we took another to a closer station and battled early rush-hour traffic in the longest taxi journey of our life. I thought I was going to be sick the whole way. I held in my sadness with so much force that my head was banging and I was desperate with claustrophobic grief. Finally, we pulled up at our station and moved from one car into the other and it was there Mark called our vets and we made our decision to have him cremated. As he drove us to collect Bill, I heard myself make a noise I’d never heard before. It was full of pain and regret and I couldn’t breathe properly, or see.

I don’t remember much after that. I remember collecting Bill. But mainly just crying. I remember us both desperately seeking out Elsa within seconds of opening the front door. And I remember the puzzled look she gave us as we held her tight and cried.

I loved my cats wholeheartedly, and having Elsa here is a relief, but it doesn’t change that our boy is gone.

Gatsby and I had a natural affinity for one another. I felt like we’d chosen each other and as Mark said as he tried to comfort me yesterday: “He was your cat.” When I argued that he was ‘ours’ he replied: “No, he was ours, but he was yours. He was most like you. You were most like him.” And it is true.

I wrote once that Gatsby was healing me. Not only filling the hole in my heart that Max left, but making a place for himself all his own. And understanding when I needed company and something to hold when Bill wasn’t there. He was always there though.

He was my shadow, in every way.

And I won’t forget him.

I won’t forget the headbutts, the way he’d push himself with great force against you to get attention.

I won’t forget the burps and happy noises he made as you picked him up like a baby; a jumble of giant paws and fur.

I won’t forget way he had spot that was his in every room, if not more than one. The arm of the sofa that always got the sun. The other corner by the television, which I’m sure he chose because he knew it was my spot. Underneath the dining room table, on a chair, so when you pulled your chair out to eat, you’d struggle to do it, until you revealed a bleary-eyed cat looking confused. Sometimes you might spot him there, with a furry paw dangling down, if you were lucky.

Or the chair immediately to the right of the door in the conservatory, with a throw I’d have to wash every two weeks as it would become darker with fur. I didn’t care though. I even brought new ones in the end as they seemed softer for him. Our bed, always the bottom where the throw was. And the downstairs bedroom, Gatsby would take the side Mark always took in bed, and Elsa would take mine. We’d walk in and joke they were like an old married couple, sleeping side-by-side, heads up near the pillows.

I’ll miss his addiction to Dreamies, and food in general. How he’d try and paw bits of food from your plate, or hop right up and just assume it was a sharing platter. I’ll miss the hungry happiness of dinner time, where he would fight to get to his bowl before you’d finish pouring the biscuits out.

I’ll miss the stubbornness to eat anything other than Go Cat. Costing us money and wasting cat food. I remember telling him that some cats have nothing and tapping him on the nose when I told him he was a greedy and ungrateful cat head.

I remember my grandparents and mum creasing up laughing, as they told me how he’d got involved with some DIY while we were at work, angling up Gramps’ workbench, which had a piece of wood balanced atop of it. He angled, ready to jump, balanced and made it, walking to the end of the bench and then panicked as the wood flipped and catapulted him.

I remember his nosiness. Only on Monday we were building a picnic table and Gatsby got right next to Mark’s face as he was lying on the grass and drilling upwards. We laughed and had to shoo him away. But when all was done he was the first to take a seat as he joined us for lunch.

I will miss shouting your name. I tried the other morning, because I was desperate. Gatsby. Gatty. Gats. Gatty Bombatty So Fatty. Gatsby the Catsby. Gato. Gatty the Catty. Lamp Eyes. Frank Lamp Eyes. Mr Gats. Panther.

I will probably miss the way he used to lie like a slug, more than most things. I used to cry with laughter every single time I saw him like that. He looked so ridiculous. And he knew it.

I’ll miss the time we played cat noises to them both and they freaked out and started hunting for hidden cats and acting so bizarre. We felt bad in the end but it was one of the funniest things we’ve ever seen.

I remember the time Mark was on his computer and Gatsby wandered over, hopped on to the table and sat between Mark and the screen following the cursor on screen and completely distracting Mark from whatever he was doing in the end.

I remember the time when we were eating tea, and Gatsby thought it the perfect time to wash himself, hind leg in the air, little cat toes, splayed, and Bill looks across at him, reaches over and goes: “Oh! Hi five cat!” We couldn’t control the tears that came with the laughter.

I remember how he could easily spread out across both of our laps and still look like he needed more room.

I remember, just last week, watching him steal leftover chicken that was covered in chilli and licking his lips for the following half hour as he instantly regretted it. I remember spotting him as I opened the curtains before work, and opening the window and wishing him good morning as he just looked so funny watching the street in the early morning sun. I called Mark over and he did the same.

I remember the run he did, like a bulldog, as he saw us come home from work. Every single day he’d be there and he’d rush and greet us and stand by the front door, pawing it until we let him in.

He’d boff you with his paw if you weren’t hitting the good spots with your strokes and scratches, and he’d purr louder than a steam engine when you loved him, which was all of the time.

He was friendly to anyone but chose us. Never leaving the house unless nature called, and never going missing.

He was just always there. But not part of the furniture. He was part of the family.

I still can’t understand how it happened boy. It was so unlike you. And this road is so quiet. I can’t stop thinking about you. And I miss you so much. Collecting your collar hurt the most. I knew then that there was no hope.

And I hate that I didn’t have the courage to bury you or say goodbye, but I was scared of what you might look like and I didn’t think I’d cope. And I hate myself for that. I hate that I couldn’t find the words to ask if you’d have felt pain, or were scared, or you were alone when you died, or where it happened. I hope it was instant and you didn’t cry and wonder: “Mum, where are you? I need you.”

I wish I’d got to say goodbye. As your dad said: “I thought we’d grow old with him.” I expected you to be here forever, or at least be looking after you as an old boy, when our babies had grown-up and you would be 20 and we’d be 47 and we’d all curl up on the sofa together. Me and you. Your dad and Elsa. And instead you were only two.

I’ll look after your sister. I promise. I’ll give her all of the love I had saved up for both of you. She’ll be happy.

I know I rescued you. I know you needed a home. And I know we made you so happy.

But you rescued me too.

You took my lonely away. You gave me a family unit back. And you never left my side in the struggles of the last year.

I’m so sorry. I wish I could have saved you.

I will miss you so much.

I love you.

My Great Gatsby.

Always.

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  • Reply
    Amber Allen
    10th May 2015 at 9:03 am

    Oh, Charlotte – you love him so very much, don't you? And he loved you.

    I'm typing this with tears running down my face, too choked up to answer Kirsty who's been calling to me from the kitchen. I know this loss so well. I know that you don't recover fully, that you dream of them for years to come.

    That the memories fade but they never fully leave. In dreams especially they come back and you remember silly little details, so that even in the dream you're saying to yourself 'Of COURSE. How could I have forgotten THAT?' and they're back with you, for a few blissful moments.

    Please accept a virtual hug. I'm sorry for your loss. Thank you for saving them.

  • Reply
    karenmarytaylor
    10th May 2015 at 9:13 am

    Cried! Goodnight Gatsby x

  • Reply
    Alex Gladwin
    10th May 2015 at 9:18 am

    I read this on my phone, with tears rolling down my face and I just had to log on to the MacBook to leave you a comment.

    As you know I am a great believer in animals/pets being a part of the family and I know how much your Gatsby meant to you. I think anyone reading this can see that. I don't have any magical words to make you feel better, only time can start to heal the loss you feel about losing him. But just remember that you gave him the most wonderful home, life and a family to properly be a part of in his last year of his life. He didn't die alone, he died knowing he was finally part of the most wonderful little family. He died knowing that whilst he saved you, you saved him too. He died known that his memory will live on and that he will be remembered for all of the quirky little parts of his personality, not alone in a cattery with no one to love him. You, Mark and William gave him the most wonderful last year of his life next to his sister and though your time together was short, your memories of him will last a lifetime.

    Sending you all lots of love and hugs xx

  • Reply
    noahandthegirls.com
    10th May 2015 at 9:21 am

    Oh I'm so sorry. This is really very sad.

    I had a cat like this! He too was my shadow. He'd follow me down the road when I left the house and he'd leap from the sofa into my arms when he wanted my attention. I still miss him 6 years on!

    Sending hugs & hoping you have a good supply of chocolate and prosecco in the house xxx

  • Reply
    Emma Bailey
    10th May 2015 at 12:24 pm

    Oh no Charlotte!! So devastating for you, you poor thing. Hope you are all ok πŸ™ Sending lots of love to you! xx

    myprettymummy.com

  • Reply
    Laura
    10th May 2015 at 2:02 pm

    I welled up reading this. Not at all like me.

    I can tell how much you loved him and it sounds like he loved you right back. You gave him a lovely life, he was happy and lucky to have such a caring family. I hope that will give you some comfort.

    Such a beautiful kitty with so much personality, RIP xxx

  • Reply
    All About Ali Mai
    10th May 2015 at 5:13 pm

    Sending you big hugs lovely. xx

  • Reply
    Hannah Twine
    10th May 2015 at 6:17 pm

    This made me cry as well. So sorry about your beautiful boy. X

  • Reply
    Nicola Johnston
    10th May 2015 at 6:57 pm

    I've read this with tears rolling down my face. I'm so sorry for your loss. X

  • Reply
    Caroline Robinson
    10th May 2015 at 7:27 pm

    I'm so sorry for your loss, sleep tight Gatsby x

  • Reply
    N
    10th May 2015 at 7:43 pm

    This really choked me up πŸ™ So sorry to hear your sad news.

  • Reply
    Carie
    10th May 2015 at 7:50 pm

    Oh Charlotte, I am so so sorry to hear this, he was such a part of your family, it's heartbreaking. He was lucky to have you and you were lucky to have him it's just devastating that it was for such a little time. Big hugs

  • Reply
    Oh so amelia
    10th May 2015 at 7:51 pm

    Oh Charlotte. I am so sorry to hear this. I welled up reading this post.

    Sending lots of love xx

  • Reply
    newcastle familylife
    10th May 2015 at 8:19 pm

    I cried reading this, what a horrible thing to happen i would be heartbroken if i lost my cat. At least you gave him an amazing year and showered him with love xx

  • Reply
    Lucinda Teacher2Mummy
    11th May 2015 at 8:16 am

    I'm so sorry Charlotte, losing a much loved pet is devastating. They are part of the family, it's clear how much Gatsby meant to you, he would've known it too. X

  • Reply
    Stephiemcd
    11th May 2015 at 11:51 am

    So sorry to hear this! Losing a pet is like losing a family member. Just because it has 4 legs doesnt make it any less hard. Just remember you gave him and his sister such a lovely life. Without you they could still be sitting in the shelter begging for a home. Big love to you all x

  • Reply
    Chantal Milk and Nappies
    11th May 2015 at 3:04 pm

    I'm so sorry Charlotte, losing a pet is so hard, they truly are part of the family. Sending love your way xx

  • Reply
    My Two Mums
    11th May 2015 at 8:30 pm

    Oh gosh Charlotte, I read this with tears in my eyes. I only wish I could take away the pain for you. I know it is no consolation at, but the fact you gave Gatsby so much love before he left for the stars when he came from so much ill treatment will have meant he had the happiest of days before he left you.

  • Reply
    Alison Perry
    12th May 2015 at 5:03 am

    Charlotte I'm so so sorry that you're having to go through this. Sending you lots of love and strength xxx

  • Reply
    Lamb & Bear
    12th May 2015 at 6:11 pm

    This post has brought me to tears. I love cats. All cats. We recently re-homed 2 and I've been struggling with them and looking after a toddler. For the first time in my life, I've not enjoyed having cats. I'm so glad I read this post. You have helped me realise what I've always loved about having cats as pets. Their consistent head bobs against your leg to get your attention, their constant scratching on the bedroom door so they can have cuddles at night, their reluctance to stay off the bloody kitchen worktops! But I love everything about them and will appreciate the joy they bring our family everyday. I'm so, so sorry for your loss and I know exactly how you are feeling (the same thing happened to us last year). I also didn't have the nerve to bury him or say a proper goodbye. My poor husband had that job and I'm so grateful to him for allowing me to keep my memories happy. Remember, you gave that fella a very, happy life. Sending you lots of love in this tough time πŸ™‚ xxxxxxxxx

  • Reply
    Christina Crouch
    12th May 2015 at 10:13 pm

    So sorry for your loss. RIP Gatsby x

  • Reply
    Laura CYMFT
    17th May 2015 at 7:05 pm

    This is so sad. As a cat owner, I know how much they become a part of your family. We had to say goodbye to two of our cats about 2 years ago now. They were poisoned. It was horrific. Losing a pet is hard. So hard. But It sounds like you gave Gatsby an amazing life in the short time you had together.

  • Reply
    Happy Homebird
    1st June 2015 at 9:26 pm

    I am so sorry πŸ™ I love animals so much. Hugs to you xxx

  • Reply
    Donna Wishart
    11th June 2015 at 2:54 pm

    I totally shouldn't have read this. I am crying massive fat tears because I am right there with you. May has been a blur for me, We had T's Birthday on the day you wrote this post, then we were on holiday, having building work done and just being so busy that I hadn't caught up with blog reading – I'd marked my bloglovin as read quite a few times but I remembered reading that you'd lost your cat in a previous post and always meant to read back but didn't get the chance. Then I went to read your Romeo post today and stopped myself to read this post first.

    You see, our boy cat Luke, who we'd had from 8 weeks old, got hit by a car and died on Friday. He was taken to the vets and it was the same as you – we also had him cremated. The only difference is that he lost his collar but we did go to see him. But it wasn't him, he was already gone. I wanted to leave the minute we arrived.

    Since then I have been overwhelmed by the pain. I physically hurt at him not being here and his sister miaows constantly and doesn't know what's going on. She's a mess, I'm a mess and yet the world is still turning and I just want my gorgeous big boy cat back.

    So, anyway. I'm so, so sorry about Gatsby. I know exactly how you felt and those boy cat headbutts, the big paws and the love is something that you will always miss and never, ever forget.

    Much love Charlotte, he was a beautiful boy and you were lucky to have each other xx

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