Hector's journey

Those of you who've read some of my recent posts (over in the dogs group) will know that I've lost two animals over the past six months: Mabel, an 11-year-old Cocker spaniel, and Lily, a Cocker who was just seven.

As we have several old and/or sickly dogs and cats, there are likely to be more to follow.

But rather than writing about my pets in the past tense - and without becoming ridiculously over-sentimental - I wanted to record and share them in the present, while they're around.

So, while I still have him at home, here's Hector.

Hector in his younger days

At 17, Hector is one mightily well-travelled cat, but sadly that's going to end shortly.

He has been plagued for the past year by a series of tumours on his spine, and while he has overcome three operations to remove them, they're aggressively spreading, and to such an extent that they are now inoperable.

They're not threatening his vital organs but they are unsightly and at some point will become so large that they'll significantly decrease his mobility and make him increasingly uncomfortable.

So it's a waiting game; watching the number of lumps and their size grow, monitoring his eating and toilet habits and checking daily to ensure the tumours haven't ruptured or perforated his skin.

Unfortunately, that's exactly what has begun to happen, and although he undeniably has most of his faculties about him (taking into account his age) and isn't in pain, it's obvious what decision will have to be made sooner rather later.

Of course it won't be easy as Hector has been with me "through thick and thin" for 17 years and that's one heck of a chunk of my life too.

But he deserves to go out in as dignified a fashion as possible. That's the least I owe him.

Born in Germany, Hector has had to up sticks several times to follow his peripatetic owner's lifestyle which has included lengthy stopover's in Italy and Switzerland as well as four moves within France.

Yes, Hector is proof that cats can and do travel. He has adapted to each new home with the consummate ease of a seasoned voyageur and along the way put up with the sometimes uncalled-for attention of a rowdy bunch of Cockers.

As an "adolescent" he would happily trot around the garden late at night when I was potting the dogs, teasing and taunting them from a safe distance and daring them to give chase.

I hesitated before having him neutered because I wanted him to be a "proper" Tom with a masculine head and fully jowled face. But I soon changed my mind after he had spent a night mistakenly locked in the walk-in closet providing me with a malodorous welcome the following morning.

Over the years there have been the inevitable scraps with unwanted trespassers; a slightly ripped left ear bears witness to his youthful indiscretions. But Hector has never strayed far from his "tin opener" and "biscuit provider" and that has proven a huge relief after each move when he was first allowed out to investigate his new surroundings.

A more mature Hector

Old age has most definitely made Hector less brave and he'll scare more easily at a sudden unknown sound, but even though he's toothless he can still pack a powerful swipe with his claws when it suits him - ask the vet.

He often appears distant, staring at nothing in particular and has developed the habit of taking an eternity before "making a decision".

For example, although he learnt from an early age how to use a cat flap, Hector now sits by the door almost "willing" it open and waiting to be allowed out, taking his time once the cold air has entered before venturing forth, only invariably to appear at a window minutes later demanding to be let back in again.

He might be frail and often give the impression of vacillating, but he's still in fine fettle physically - apart from those blinkin' lumps - and sometimes I see flashes of the "old" Hector.

He frequently hogs "my" chair just as I'm about to sit down, resolutely refusing to budge and instead begins his rumbling purr of contented superiority.

And there are those grooming sessions he shares with Hiro, the air head moggy who so resembles another cat we used to own but which died when Hector was a young adult.

Yes he's old now. I see that. And yes his life consists mainly of eating, sleeping, sleeping and more sleeping.

But, for the moment, he's still very much alive.

So, I'm going to enjoy the last few weeks the vets have said he might have, before giving him that dignified send-off he deserves and I've promised him.

When the time comes I hope I'll be man enough to live up to that pledge.

There'll undoubtedly be a tear or two or several in my eyes and a lump in my throat, but at the same time there'll be oh so much gratitude in my heart for the life I've been privileged to share.

Hector, February 2012

Thank you so much for sharing. This is very moving. I have been privileged to be accompanied by cats throughout my life. Losing them is so hard, but the memories of the pleasure they have given, the love we have shared, always bring a smile to the lips and warmth to the heart. Hector is lucky to be so loved and to have someone who will accompany him to the end, and 'm sure you will make sure his end is right.

Thank you Johnny for this beautiful tribute and the wonderful pictures. What a handsome fellow he is, what a fine lad. The photo of him curled up on the red patchwork is exquisite. He looks so peaceful, so confident in his place and knowing he is loved. This is what they all should have. Best regards from our household to yours.

That brought a tear to the eye.

Hi Johnny,

He looks like a lovely fellow, Thank you for sharing his story.


Hi Johnny

You are so right to celebrate his life as Julie says and enjoy him while he's still very much alive.I understand how you are feeling about your dogs.On the 27 february 2010 Jacot (my dog) died aged 17 and then 3 months later lancelot ( my other dog) died aged 15. A few months prior to this I found and adopted two abandoned cats. Well,when my dogs died they helped me so much to deal with the grief and sadness that I was feeling

We now have another dog who great fun and I love her to bits but Jacot and Lancelot are always with me.

Hugs for Hector

Hi Johnny,

so lovely to read all about Hector! He looks like a very special cat. 17 years is a long time and I can just imagine how hard it must to imagine that one day he will no longer be around....:-((

We lost our cat Purdy at the age of 17 and she also had been moving with us from South Africa to the USA to Germany and eventually to France, where she found her final resting place in our garden.

Enjoy every minute that is left with your sweet companion and remember:

There is a bridge of memories
from earth to Heaven above...
It keeps our dear ones near us
It's the bridge that we call love.

Author Unknown

Johnny your posts about your animals always bring a lump to my throat. And what a fabulous idea to celebrate your four legged friends whilst they are still with us. Thank you so much for sharing Hector with us xx

It is difficult to find the words to reply Johnny, you have expressed so neatly why we care so deeply for our cats and animals. He sounds like he has had the best 17 years any cat could of asked for.

I'm sure that you will find the courage when the times comes, and we will all be there with you.

Heartfelt best wishes and bon courage.

What a lovely story, & he looks so much like my Brutus, down to the white socks & chest.

You've seen him before but here he is chilling out with Daisy.

Keep us posted, so that we can be there for him too.