My pillow was empty this morning when I woke.
Most mornings when I wake, I need only to turn my head slightly to see a long haired whiskered friend staring at me.
“Good morning Dawn” to which she would reply with her paw gently touching my face.
Some mornings she would get impatient to get me up and tap my face with her paw until I woke.
This morning, she was not there. She will never be there again. She died early this morning at the age of thirteen. Her body no longer able to fight an illness she had.
Many people think of cats as aloof and solitary. I have been blessed. The cats in my life have been anything but. They are independent. They will come when they feel like it, but, they are loving beings.
Dawn seems to have been a mix breed. Maine Coon seems to have been mixed up in her genes. She didn’t have their size. She definitely had physical features, the intelligence and mischievousness.
I brought her in as a three month old kitten. She was the last of a litter a farmer had. He’d given up on anyone choosing her. For about a month she had been moved from the house to the barn. She seemed very happy to get back to a house.
It was a few months after my dad had died. My sister was visiting from London and we’d headed up to Peterborough for an outing. A few weeks before dad died I’d lost another cat, Raven. She’d succumbed to renal failure at seven years old.
I’ve always believed that having a pair of cats was healthy for the cats. It gives them companionship when I was away and they’re able to play with each other. When Raven died it left my then sixteen year old Siamese mix, Cookie, alone in the house for the first time in her life. With dad dying, I really hadn’t given any thought to getting her a companion.
My sister and I had talked briefly about the subject. I was going to get another kitten just hadn’t actually been looking. As we were headed out of the city, a sign in a pet shop window caught my eye, “Free Kittens”. Why not? Might as well stop and have a look.
They only had male kittens left and I usually prefer to bring in females. As we wandered around the store a photo on a notice board caught my attention. It was my first glimpse of Dawn. We called the number on the notice, found out they were not far away and went over to their farm.
They had brought her in from the barn and she was running happily around the house when we arrived. She quickly showed herself to be an energetic and friendly little soul. She had no fear in coming to both of us for cuddles.
Not having planned on looking for a kitten. We didn’t have a crate with us. We had an hours drive home. But, it was fall. Unlike me, my sister wears things like fall jackets and she was the passenger.
The yet unnamed kitten was tucked inside my sister’s jacket, papoose like. We started our trip home. The kitten quickly dropped off to sleep between the warmth of being cocooned in the jacket and the movement of the truck.
Midway through our trip home this little soul popped up through the zipper of my sister’s jacket having awoke from her nap. It was something about that movement made me think of a sunrise and the name, Dawn, was born. My sister agreed when I mentioned it to her. Not sure if she saw the same or was just humouring her older sister.
Later I had a friend tell me you should always name a cat with two syllables cause it has more impact when calling them. I thought it odd advice at the time. she responded to my calls more when I called “Dawn-Dawn” than when I called “Dawn”. Maybe not so odd.
We arrived home, set her down and stood back to let her explore and find her way. Took her only a few minutes to spot Cookie watching from atop the armchair in the kitchen. She bound up to greet this new feline friend only to be met with full on, mouth opened, teeth showing, Siamese snarl. Dawn wisely backed up and proceeded to explore at a safe distance.
I had learned some time ago to not worry about a negative start with cats. That’s more an “I’m boss” sort of reaction than “I hate you”. Over the next few weeks Dawn tried several times to with bond with Cookie. For her part, Cookie would tolerate this interloper but she wasn’t going to be the buddy she’d been to Raven. That was clear.
Dawn was full of energy, showed herself to be smart in short order and in even faster order, affectionate. She loved to come on my lap and lay on her back in my arms like she was a baby. She would spend countless hours like that throughout her life. I became very good at carrying on typing on the computer with her cradled in my arms
She never gave up trying to play with and be with Cookie and, Cookie never relented. I was very aware of Cookies’s advancing age. I chalked up her steadfast refusal to bond with Dawn to that age. I was also concerned that if I waited for Cookie to pass before bringing in a companion for Dawn that the continuous rejection would have rubbed off on this friendly, playful little soul.
It took me almost two years to finally decide that any inconvenience of temporarily having three cats would be offset by the closeness of age between them. A friend’s cat had a litter of cats and was looking to place them. I went to have a look when the kittens were five weeks.
I was reaching for one kitten as one of the others jumped onto my arm, ran up it and nipped my ear–Then sat on my shoulder looking at me. I had to laugh at the speed of it. Reached up and took this little bundle into my hand. Looked to be a female, she was cute, a very light fawn colour and amber eyes. Yes, I do believe I’d been selected. We agreed to let the kitten have another week with her mother before bringing her home.
I went back to get the kitten which I had decided would be named Fawnya, an old English word meaning ‘fawn’. Arriving home I brought the box into the living room and set it down. Let Dawn explore around it for a few moments before opening it. She was bouncing with curiosity.
The lid opened. She peeked inside. Her tail shot up, the fur on it stood on end and she let out a hiss that could be heard across the universe. Apparently she’d learned something from Cookie. The racket did nothing to dissuade Fawnya from wanting to explore.
OH, just to avoid confusion, I later learned when some parts appeared — Fawnya is a guy. So, I’ll just starting calling him that now.
I set him out onto the carpet and let him start to explore. Dawn at a distance, grumbled, growled and watched. Settling into my armchair where I could watch, Cookie joined me as she laid down on one arm, also watching. I watched as the kitten explored. He’d moved off the carpet and into the dining area only to be met by Dawn who hissed at him and gave him a swat.
Fawnya ran across the carpet, leaped onto me and burrowed between my leg and the arm of the chair with Dawn in hot pursuit. She slapped at retreating butt before glaring at me. Thus began a few days of war between the two of them. I let it play out.
Cookie on the other hand astounded me when I saw her let this little fur bundle take shelter curled up against her where Dawn dare not go. It was an instant bond with the cat who was affectionate with me but on her terms only and would just tolerate Dawn. Considering the age difference, it was like watching a grandparent melt at the sight of a newborn grandchild.
I had brought Fawnya in thinking that at eighteen, Cookie would only be with me another year or so at best. She lived for another six. As he reached adulthood, Fawnya was larger than Cookie and would often wrap himself around her as she slept like he was protecting her.
As for Fawnya and Dawn? A few days after I brought him home I had to leave for the day. I decided I’d come home to one of two scenarios — blood on the floor or the two of them having reached detente.
I took a phone call from my sister when I arrived home. Just as she was asking me how it went with Fawnya and Dawn while I was out, I looked into the living room to see the two of them seated facing each other on the carpet with Dawn grooming Fawnya.
“Apparently, they have worked things out.” I told my sister.
Female cats are referred to as “queens” and Dawn lived up to that in this household. What she wanted, she managed to get through force of personality or persistence whichever was called for.
Her awareness of what was going on around her often fascinated me. One thing she absolutely loved to do was watch videos, particularly if they had other animals. At first I thought it was just her looking in the direction of the screen until the day she got up planted herself on my keyboard and was actively trying to touch the animal on the screen. Then she went around behind the laptop lid to inspect there.
That got my attention, which became laughter when her head popped up and this look like “WTF?” was on her face. She came back around and proceeded to watch from beside me. At that point I realized. She really was watching.
We spent many hours with me laying on the couch, Dawn on the arm of it beside my head watching as I scrolled through Facebook on my tablet, stopping to watch animal videos. I never stopped getting a kick out of watching her responding to what was on the screen. She even started paying attention when I’d watch other videos.
One Canada Day she took in the live broadcast of the fireworks from Parliament Hill with me. It wasn’t until I saw her head moving like she was following the colour trails that I even noticed she was actively watching. There wasn’t any animals but there were moving lines of colour. I was watching on my laptop with my headset. She wasn’t hearing the loud noises.
Maybe watching those videos made her less stage shy as she’s so frequently inserted her presence into my radio shows. Her loud voicing heard in the background from all parts of the house as she’d walk through announcing herself to my audience.
Our morning routine had rhythm of its own. The cats always got wet food in the morning and then dry food and water was available when they wanted it during the day. Dawn ate her breakfast on the center island in the kitchen, Fawnya and later Hobo eat near me in the living room. The why of that is a story for another day.
I start my coffee brewing first thing. That would always be accompanied by Dawn standing on the island with her paw outstretched meowing like she hadn’t been fed in week. As soon as I turned the coffee pot on, the meowing stopped and she’d wait while I put out fresh water, refilled the dry food, picked the can out of the cupboard and add a few tablespoons of warm water to their food bowls.
Right on queue, I would open the can of food and she would jump from the island to the counter and advance along the edge toward where I was preparing the food. The can immediately was picked up, I’d step back and cross my arms.
“Get back where you belong Dawn.” I’d command until she complied. Which she did, within the first half dozen times of me repeating myself. She was a queen, can’t expect much better.
Breakfast having been served. I’d settle down at my laptop and the next stage of the day would begin. First Fawnya would arrive, settle on the couch beside me with his head nestled against me for cuddling.
A short while later Dawn would arrive coming in from the other side to claim her space on my chest. Fawnya would quietly get up, shift and lay down beside me. Remaining where he was, would invite Dawn to slap him until he moved. Did I mention she had a way of getting what she wanted?
So, Hobo, where did she fit into this picture?
One morning last October there came a noise at my east door just before daybreak. It attracted the attention of the cats who came to investigate. The noise stopped and I thought no more about it until just as I was sitting down with my first coffee of the day.
A loud meowing could be heard at the east door. I went outside to investigate. As I approached the east door, a small bundle exited the plants near the door and landed at my feet. I looked down to see what amounted to a short haired kitten with similar colouring to Dawn. She was maybe a couple of months old and clearly hungry.
I picked her up and slowly started toward my back door. She was in too good of shape to have been out in the wild long. It appeared she had likely been dropped off. In the thirty plus years I’ve lived on this corner, this was a first. It didn’t take me long to decide to take her in and feed her, once she met the family. For better or worse.
I carried her through the inner door. Dawn and Fawnya headed toward me, then stopped seeing what was in my hands. Dawn reacted first, she turned tail and disappeared for pretty much the next two days. She wasn’t happy. Fawnya, he was curious but cautious. I set her down on the island and mixed up some wet food for her. She was ravenous.
I was careful to give her small quantities until she seemed less frantic to eat. I learned later, my neighbour had been feeding her outside thinking she was one of my cats. They saw the picture of the kitten I posted on Facebook on the very slim chance she was actually a stray.
In honour of her method of arrival, she became Hobo. Her and Fawnya quickly became buddies. As for Dawn, she actually came to like Hobo without all the drama she had imposed on Fawnya when he arrived. That was either Hobo’s sweet personality or Dawn’s maturing age. Either way, Hobo has quickly become part of the flow of this household with her own quirks and personality.
Little did I know when I became a three cat household again less than five months later, it would be back to two.
It has taken me most of the day to write this post. The flow in the house has changed. Its quieter than most days. I keep expecting my queen to hop up on me wanting her cuddles while I work and not taking no for an answer. She’s been a part of our life and now she’s had to leave us.
I noticed this morning a photo of her I had printed several years ago and hung. It’s in line of sight from where I sit working. Hadn’t noticed it in a long time, now I look up to see her looking back at me. I’m glad that picture is there.
The other two cats have been around to visit over the hours today. I think they sense the change in our family.
Safe travels Dawn. You are missed.