What’s in a name? A pet by any other name…

Originally written March 2013

Mammy-Monster (self-confessed crazy cat lady) has a new kitten, a tiny ball of ginger cuteness who steals my heart even though I’m technically a dog-person more than a cat lady. The name of this new kitten is still up for debate, Jasmine wanting to call it Jelly-Tot but it’s now looking like it will permanently be called Monkey. This may seem odd but the other cats in the house hold are equally wonderfully named:

Beast (Now in cat heaven. NB: cat heaven is one level up from rat heaven and one below dog heaven, this facilitates the fun of chasing without the risk of astral injury – This was important philosophical discussions over breakfast)

Pig or ‘Pork-Chop’ (Also residing in the aforementioned cat heaven)

Jess (Rescue cat who came with her name)

Chicken (Er…)

Starfish, ‘Fish’ or ‘Stumpy McStump’ – Mr Williams (a tiny kitten with giant fish eyes who has actually only got three legs which makes the name starfish even more ironic).

Ebony-Grace or ‘Gracie’ (black rescue kitten, all limbs accounted for)

Monkey (The new tiny tiny ginger kitten with razor sharp claws & jaws of death… The kitten formally known as Jelly-Tot)

Bearing this in mind and for those of you who know us, you’re probably thinking that Bramble is rather a vanilla name (Though admittedly her full name is ‘Bramble Bonecrusher (Captain Colon) Williams’ following too much to wine and an interesting walk home from the pub) and Poppy, who is affectionately known Poppy-Fantastic, came with her name when she arrived.

(When she was going through her chewing phase… it was Bramzilla or Beelzepup! Her teeth were like needles)

The reason for Bramble’s vanilla name is that we learnt an important lesson that you should never call your animal something you would be embarrassed to call out in public.

A couple of years ago we were living in a tiny one bedroom flat in Cardiff and had 2 pet rats who were called BINKY (after DEATH’s horse in Discworld) and Cowpat as he had a cow print pattern. We thought this was hilarious and was a real conversation starter until they both developed chest infections… Hilarious names quickly lose their appeal when you’re sitting in a crowded vets surgery with sneezy rodents waiting for a nurse to call out BINKY or Cowpat Williams… Though the receptionist did inform us she had a rat called Winky… (Keep it clean, it apparently only had one eye!)

binkcowThey both survived that particular round of illnesses with the help of TLC and anti-biotics. Beautiful Scandinavian vet-lady promised us ‘rats are curious things and will happily take oral anti-biotics from a syringe – I want to see her evidence!! She obviously has never met my boys, they may have been curious but they became highly skilled ninjas at avoiding medicine time.

If you haven’t ever been around domestic rats, the only comparison I can make is that they have the temperament of dogs, very intelligent, can learn tricks, can differentiate between people and love cuddles. They like to hide so would sit under my pony tail and peer out or come with me to the co-op nestled in my hood.

Alas rats only live from 1.5 years to 3 years… When we lost Cowpat I was heart broken, we weren’t expecting it, we took him to the vets as I’d noticed he was covered in bumps, it turned out to be tumours and he had to be put to sleep.

So after we said our goodbyes, I sat teary in the waiting room whilst Mr Williams settled our account. One by one the nurses came over ‘I’m very sorry for your loss, Cowpat was a lovely rat’. Through my sadness I smiled and the crowded waiting room raised its eyebrows, went quiet and tried to suppress giggles and hidden smiles, I held it together for the first condolence but found it hard to suppress a giggle with the next 2, snot filled and leaking as I was, my boy was already making me laugh.

We bought home Cowpat to bury in the garden, at this point we’d only just moved in to a house near Merthyr Tydfil, the garden actually wasteland that was where a demolished old chapel stood, there was a thunderstorm, torrential rain and hail – it was also December and pitch black. Undeterred I sent Mr Williams out to dig a hole, but the ground was too rocky from fallen stone, I stood in the kitchen door, hysterically holding a dead rat in my arms.  Adament we shouldn’t have a deceased rodent in the kitchen, the ever-patient Mr Williams ventured out into the lightening with a pickaxe like some kind of 70’s horror film.

When this didn’t work, I went out myself – crying, digging at the ground and cut my hand.  So I was dragged back into the kitchen, covered in mud, snot and blood, soaked to the skin and looking at an agitated, wet muddy Mr Williams and holding a pickaxe like a Welsh Igor.

‘We will have to wait until tomorrow’ he told me

‘We need to bury him tonight, he’d want that’

‘Why would he want that? He was a rat, he’s dead, he’s not going to mind!’

‘He needs to be buried before sunrise’

‘Isn’t that Buddhists?’

Dramatic crying

‘You’re being ridiculous’

We compromised and decided to get up early the next morning but again its December and it was just as dark at 6am than it is at 9pm at night so Cowpat remained in the kitchen until the next evening and Mr Williams buried him when he returned home from work.

That evening was a Friday and the kids appeared after school, we broke the news to them and they asked if we could have a funeral. Mr Williams got out the remote control helicopter for a military flypast, I played the last post on a kazoo (this actually happened – it would have sounded better on a recorder but I can only play Lord of the Dance and as we’re Pagan and Cowpat was apparently Buddhist… that didn’t seem appropriate) and Jasmine laid flowers on the grave (except it was December so she laid some ivy which she pulled off the wall). BINKY sat in my hood and mourned with dignity at the loss of his brother. As weird as it was, it a moving family moment and we looked over into the mountains and discussed rat heaven (being below both cat and dog heaven). Once the ceremony was over, we turned to find the old lady next door watching us over the wall with a look of interest (oh dear, what a way to impress the new neighbour). We explained that we had buried a pet to which she replied ‘I have all my animals on my mantelpiece so they can be put in my coffin with me’ (we hoped that they were ashes.. not some collection macabre taxidermy) and with that she handed the kids sweets to cheer them up. Me and Mr Williams wondered how many people like us there was in the world.

grave

As we later found out, our street was a plethora of wonderfully brilliant people.

BINKY never did get over the loss of his brother and developed a tumour on the side of his face a few months later. Pre-empting what we both thought was coming, Mr Williams dug a hole in daylight before we left for the vets. Surprising the vet was optimistic and suggested trying antibiotics for a couple of weeks so BINKY came back home with us. The next day he was nestled in my hood as I was putting the bins out, and climbed onto my shoulder once he knew he’d got out of the heavy lifting.

WHAT’S THAT FOR? he said looking at the hole in the ground by his brother’s grave. I looked sheepish and pretended I didn’t hear his psychic question. I moved a pot of herbs into it and tried to act innocent.

BINKY was put to sleep 2 weeks later and lay next to his brother. He also had military honours but this time to a rousing chorus of Land of our Fathers (I couldn’t find the kazoo).

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