I nearly missed Q; I was already working on R and suddenly remembered Q; what a thing to forget – especially as a Quaker.
And since I have a cat called QC (for Quaker Cat) who has lived with us since 2004 and has experienced an intensive Quaker environment in Brussels, I thought I should focus on her for this post.
By her mere presence in the house (she never left the flat except in her basket on the way to the vet, to the cattery or to come with us to the UK when we moved back) she kept mice at bay – totally non-violently; just sitting quietly exuding cat-ness.
So that made me think about what our furry friends tell us about life and how to live it.
They are lovely, and life wouldn’t be the same without them. Here’s my gallery of furry Friends:
There aren’t any pictures of the cat we had when I was a kid. She was called Peter; we thought she was a boy cat. And then she had kittens (we did too, when we realised). I don’t know what happened to most of the kittens; we kept one. But none of the photos show her or Oscar, her son; nor can I remember what eventually became of them.
Our first dog was called Bessie; she was a boxer and was 8 weeks old when she came to live with us. I was 6 years old and there’s no question but that Bessie had the upper hand. When I was allowed to take her for a walk by myself, she managed to pull me over and drag me behind her all the way home. It was a bit scary; but I had been told never to let her go. We went right across at least two roads. But then, the traffic wasn’t so much of an issue. But it taught me lots about taking responsibility – whatever the price; and about assessing relative strength. It only happened once; after that, I practiced handling her and the lead better and eventually, we were balanced in our strength – assisted by th fact that she began to look to me (and other humans) for instructions. That’s what dogs do. They understand that they’re not in charge and they like it that way.
Bessie died when she was maybe 12 or 13; we got another boxer; she was called Baska; I don’t have a decent picture of her – this all predates digital photography and the someone blurry images don’t make a good transition ot the screen. She was about a year old and had been living in a brewery where the workers had mistreated her. The guy who ran the brewery was only too pleased to give her to us. She was a lovely dog; but for the rest of her life – if you tried to offer her food from your hand – she would show signs of distress, a clear sign that being offered food in this way was connected to her mistreatment. She never grew out of this – in all the years we had her. She made it to around 13, too. So the trauma she had experienced in the first year of her life affected her – in her terms – forever. Nothing can ever replace the trust developed early on; and nothing can make up for trust broken.
When Bessie died, I had moved away from ‘home’ and so her replacement, a cat named ‘Floh’ (German for ‘flea’ although I’m sure she was completely clear of any such critters) was not my furry friend, though she was nice enough when I was there.
I acquired two dogs, Holly and Fly, in so many ways a key part of my life. First came Fly; she came to us when she was far too young (5 weeks) and was brought up by the cat that had temporarily adopted us. We called her Meg but I’m sure she had a perfectly good home somewhere in the neighbourhood where she was called something else. That’s one of the things cats do; they leave home if they don’t like it and they go elsewhere; but often, they go back often enough to make their ‘owners’ (as we would think of ourselves; or ‘staff’ as they see us) think they are still there and need feeding.
So Meg took Fly in hand and taught her all sorts of things; lying on the back of the sofa (which was fine until Fly grew into a fully grown dog and kept falling off; but she never stopped trying to do it). She didn’t teach her to bark; and when Fly barked for the first time ever, she nearly jumped out of her skin with fright. She got over that, quickly, and then spent the rest of her life announcing that she was there and required attention. That was one of her most ‘catty’ traits.
Holly joined the household as a friend for Fly; and it worked; the two of them got on really well once Holly had established that between the two of them, she was in charge.
They coped with all sorts of life changes; they coped with being left all day at times; they coped with being put in a pet hotel when we went on holiday; and they really never complained. Every time I got home, there they were, excited to see me, keen to go for their walk, happy to be told what to do. Totally loyal; no side to them.
When we moved to Brussels, a dog wasn’t an option; I took one look at the house, the road, the thin windows, and decided: this is not for a dog – not anyway one that I would have considered ‘dog sized’.
We acquired a cat; we called her QC (Quaker Cat); I think she sort of realised that she was not just a cat, but also standing in for the dog we couldn’t have. So when we come in she stands by the door to greet us; though she doesn’t bark.
But is also very much a cat; independently minded, in search of somewhere to hide. Do cats have a sense of humour? You bet. She knows we’re looking for her, but she hides somewhere so quietly and so still that you can’t see or hear her at all. Does she have moods? Absolutely. She can make a face like a wet Wednesday any time.
She knows we don’t have a clue; she also knows where the food comes from. So she accommodates our wish to cuddle her because that’s the price tag for her expensive favourite foods.
I don’t like to anthropomorphise my furry friends; I take them as they are: dogs/cats that are different from humans; what’s amazing is: they have learned to get on with us; they have found ways of making us useful to them. They have worked out that this requires compromise. They broadly know what is expected of them and if that’s communicated clearly, they take that on board. We could learn a lot from them.