By rights, I shouldn’t be a cat person. Growing up our pets were goldfish, snails*, guinea pigs and eventually dogs – by which I mean I’m not exactly used to having cats around. More to the point, I’m allergic to them. Like REALLY allergic.
All things considered, cats don’t exactly make the most obvious choice of pet here in WeeGee Land. It’s funny the way things turn out, isn’t it?
I first met Gryff in 2005 – November the 4th 2005 to be exact. I made the 110 mile round trip from London to Milton Keynes and back again to collect him with my then boyfriend on the basis that he was a silver, black and white tabby – and silver black and white tabbies aren’t easy to come by. By the time it became apparent that he was in fact going to grow up to be a ginger, black and white tabby it didn’t matter one jot. By then, there was nothing that little dude could do to disappoint me.
The journey back from Milton Keynes wasn’t exactly smooth: we got lost and by the time we reached the M25 it was a car park. Long story short the whole thing took a lot longer than anticipated – far from ideal when you’ve got a tiny kitten with no capacity for ‘holding it in’ on board. Needless to say, the inevitable happened and we ended up with a tiny kitten who was inconsolable because he’d shat in his cat carrier on board.
It took three packets of baby wipes and a good half hour to put things back in order with Gryff getting more and more upset by the minute. In the end I picked him up, looked him square in the eye and in the gentlest voice I could manage said something along the lines of ‘It’s okay, nobody cares that you shit the bed you little fucker, just please, please, please stop crying. And he did – he looked right back at me and sized me up for a while. Eventually he blinked at me twice in that slow, trusting way that cats do and from that moment, I knew we had the measure of one another and I knew we were going to be the best of friends.
He was an awesome little kitten – mostly bossy, sometimes nervous and always good fun. His favourite pastime was scaling the bookshelves and knocking the books off, one by one, until he’d made a Gryff shaped hole to sleep in. He followed me around all the time, in the hope, I think, that I would open a drawer for him to hop into and empty of contents in seconds flat – his second favourite pastime. He was always a vocal cat and made sure to tell me all about it if ever I left him for so much as five minutes.
As time went on it became clear that whilst he would mostly tolerate his usual humans (provided we fed him promptly), he really wasn’t fond of strangers. He made a habit of creeping along the back of the sofa and biting visitors on the back of the head. Hard. He once chased a very frightened plumber into the hallway and refused to let him back in to look at the boiler no matter how much I appealed to his better nature. To others he probably seems like a vicious and aggressive cat but the way I saw it, he way always just a frightened little guy who came out fighting before anybody else had the chance to throw a punch…. It makes a lot of sense to me.
By the time Gryff was five it was all change in WeeGee Land. The then boyfriend was no more and Gryff and I set out on a new adventure together. It was the two of us against the world and we made a pretty good team. On our first night in the flat in Surbiton he burrowed under the covers, nestled right up against my tummy, and slept there all night. It reminded me that I was going to need him as much as he needed me and that was how we came at things from that point on.
During those early days in Surbiton, Gryff saved my life. It sounds so dramatic but that doesn’t stop it being true. When it all fell apart, and I stopped caring, and stopped hoping, and didn’t know where to turn Gryff was the thing that got me out of bed in the morning. He was the thing that helped me put one foot in front of the other, he was the thing that kept me trying. He was constant and forgiving at a time when nothing made sense and everything was harsh. Gryff kept me in the here and now when the past hurt too much and the future seemed liked a foreign land.
In time of course, we got through it and found our way to the other side. Life started feeling like life again and the future became a possibility. That said, when Mr Awesome Thing Number Five first arrived on the scene I think it would be fair to say that Gryff and I both regarded him with an equal measure of suspicion. For my part having a whole new person around in my life was a pretty big and scary deal and to be fair, I don’t think it was too different from Gryff’s point of view.
In the early days of Mr Awesome Thing Number Five and Gryff there was a lot of patience, endless gifts (or bribes) and some not inconsiderable injuries on the part of the Mr and not much more than the occasional glimmer of something a little better than contempt from the cat. It didn’t seem possible that relations would ever enter truly friendly territory between them. I suppose what happened in the end – which was nothing short of miraculous just goes to show how far a kind heart and the patience of a saint can take you with an aggressive, frightened and over protective cat. Gryff and Mr Awesome became, and remain, the very best of friends.
Gryff is 11 years old now and I’ve spent every single one of those years loving him. I love him even more than I ever thought possible and if I’m perfectly honest, I can’t think of many humans I regard nearly as highly as I do my boy.
Gryff is very, very poorly right now in fact, he’s in the hospital fighting for his very important little life. I’m doing my best to will him on from here because if the very excellent veterinary staff can get him through the next 48 hours then we’re in with a shout. Right now, I don’t need a miracle – I just needa shout. Like I said, Gryff gave me a reason to put one foot in front of the other for such a long time and I owe him a debt of gratitude. Now, I need him to find what he needs to find to get through this, because I’d like the opportunity to pay the debt off in cuddles, and tuna, and toys. But mostly in cuddles….
Strength to your elbow little man, strength to your elbow.
* Yes, snails.