Vale, Bucket, the Biggest Bucket of Love We’ve Known

Image-15These posts are never easy to write, but I need to write them. Although our animal’s lives cannot ever be adequately summarised, I still feel the need to write each pet’s eulogy, to try just a tiny bit, to honour what they gave us in life, and to honour the grief we feel. This one is for our cat Bucket, who passed away last week from a swift and aggressive illness, the cause of which heartbreakingly remains unknown. The unanswered questions about his death–and I have many–haunt me, but this piece is not about Bucket’s death, but his wonderful life.

Bucket was named such because from the moment I picked him up–a skinny, horribly flea-infested, unwanted kitten that was being all but given away on a cold morning in Kingaroy (his price was a mere $3) he proved himself to be the biggest bucket of love I’ve ever met in a cat. He was one of three, all brothers, and my hubby and I were torn as to whether to take one kitten or all three. We started by picking up each one, to get a vibe. The first one struggled to be put down, so we put him down. The second one pushed us away, so we let him go. The third one practically crawled up our arms and clung on for dear life. Take me home, right now! So we did. I took him to the bedroom and closed the door and sat down in the corner of the room to give him some space to investigate his new home. He didn’t want space, though, he wanted me. He climbed right back into my lap and made no efforts to leave.

Being utterly infested with fleas, I had to go to the local vet to see what to do. At his tender age, the only thing I could do was give him a medicated bath. He didn’t like that one bit, and I had to do it multiple times before all those awful fleas were gone, but finally he was relieved of them. We lived in a rural location at the time, on six acres, surrounded by other acreages. We already had another cat (Jasmine), two dogs, and three horses. He was my first kitten in ten years and I had forgotten how absolutely delightful kittens were. Pure joy. (Except for the amount of times he climbed up my legs! I wore nothing but jeans for a year to protect myself.)

Bucket’s first love was cuddling, but he didn’t just receive hugs, he actively hugged back.

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His second love was mischief. At these times, our ‘bucket of love’ became a ‘bucket of trouble’. He loved the dogs, love being very much a verb, an action. He would sneak up behind them and grab onto their tails, swinging off them in a rollicking jaunt while they ran around trying to dislodge him. He would come out to the lawn with us while we threw tennis balls for the retrievers. He raced them down the hill and always got to the ball first, but as he couldn’t pick it up in his mouth, he let them pick it up and then he raced them back up the hill, where we got the ball back and threw it again and the game would start anew. When he was still less than a year old, my stepmother visited us with her poodle puppy, and Bucket and Cocoa spent an hour chasing each other up and down the hallway before locking onto each other, somersaulting over one another, wrestling enthusiastically until they both collapsed, panting with exhaustion and happiness.

These days, all our cats are one hundred per cent indoor cats, but back when Bucket was younger, he got some time to range outside on the property during the day. We started to rethink this idea when two days in a row he discovered a baby hare, killed it and brought it back into the house, happily devouring its intestines. Not long after that, our third cat Sapphy, a stray who walked in off the street not long after Bucket arrived, was bitten by a brown snake and spent a week in hospital, and we closed the door to outdoor excursions.

Because we have so many animals, it’s difficult for us to go away, but on the odd occasion it’s happened, we’ve had to have house sitters come to look after our furry family, and everyone reported that Bucket struggled with our absence the most. He was a cat who needed his cuddles.

He was a generous soul, and over his life with us he accepted into the home two more dogs, four more cats and a human baby with maturity and grace. He was one of those magnanimous animals, with love to spare for all. He was our biggest cat (part Manx, was always my suspicion)–very long from nose to tail, a hefty seven kilos at his peak, a ball of muscle beneath all that soft fur, the kind of cat you could sling over your shoulder, fireman style–with a huge heart inside.

For ten years, he was our most loving, affectionate, cuddly boy, a ginormous bucket of love. He’s gone too soon and we miss him terribly, but we know we were so blessed to have had him in our home and life. I am proud to say he had a good life, a really good one. He gave joy and he received it and I know he knew he was loved hard till the very end.

His ashes will be back soon, and he will go in the garden next to Daisy, his most favourite canine friend.

How to Keep Writing (When Life Gets in the Way)

I’m far from an expert at this, but I’ve had to learn really fast how to deal with high levels of writing commitments (i.e. publishing contracts with deadlines and money and stuff) with a baby/toddler in tow). And right now, I’m in the middle of my structural edit for my second novel, with a deadline this month so it can move through editing and onto the printers in time to hit the shelves in April next year (yay!).

And, timing of all timings, our household has been hit with one nasty virus after another–I’m talking flu, gastro, and now my toddler has a strain of a particularly nasty chest virus that’s knocked him down for more than a week. And when your very young child is sick, there’s not a lot you can do other than drop everything and look after them. They can’t go to daycare (if that’s what they do) and no one else (even the most doting aunties and grandparents) will want to look after your germ-infested, dripping, feverish, sneezing, snotting, wailing darling child. Quite reasonably.

Act like a squirrel: prepare, prepare, prepare

Act like a squirrel: prepare, prepare, prepare

Add to this the extra effort required with washing, sterilising and disinfecting, trips to the doctor, late-night runs to the pharmacy, the emotional stress of watching your little darling crying with fever or pain, or simply because they can’t breathe well enough to actually get any sleep, their rabid wrestling when you try to administer medication five times a day, and their likely constant need for affection and comfort, and you’ve got yourself a pretty intense time, and not a lot of mental space.

And then there’s the stress that your work is falling way behind.

So here’s what I’ve learnt to do: act like a squirrel. Be singled-minded about preparing for the future. Give up any idea of getting any serious work done and simply nest. Shop for food. Cook food. Freeze food. Plan meals. Do tidying and cleaning where possible. Wash clothes. Order supplies. Pay bills. Make phone calls. Send emails. Essentially, pretend you are leaving home soon to go away for a two-week holiday. You can do these things in little snatches of time between nursing, and they don’t take much mental power. And then the very second that the crisis has passed, you are set to go. Leave all that domestic chaos behind and sink blissfully into the newfound time and freedom you have so efficiently created while nesting alongside your sick child (or sick dog, or couch-surfing nephew, or whatever else turned up unexpectedly at your door). Right now, my freezer is filling and I’m on top of the washing. I’m just waiting for the season to pass so I can dive back into my book and enjoy all those nuts I squirrelled away during the storm of relentless ills.