Friday, May 9, 2008

The Last Meow

All my life I was surrounded by a variety of domestic animals. As far back as I could remember, there were cats aplenty in and around our house in the iron mining community of Bukit Besi, Terengganu.

Apart from our own pets, countless neighbourhood strays would also saunter in at any time of the day to steal a meal or two.

My late Grandma, bless her soul, would ensure that aluminium plates laden with rice and flaked boiled fish were placed at strategic locations, so these felines had enough to eat. My task was to conduct daily inspection of the plates, and to top up the feed where necessary.

It goes without saying that my grandparents loved animals and spared no efforts in ensuring their comfort and safety. Eventually, our humble abode became a focal point for the dumping of unwanted newborn kittens.

Every now and then miserable-looking furballs would mysteriously appear on our doorsteps, and Grandma would uncomplainingly take them all under her wing.

Grandpa retired from the mines when I was in my early teens and we relocated to the seaside town of Dungun, some 22 miles away. It was here that Grandma expanded our menagerie to include chicken, ducks, goats, geese and pigeons.

It became an established routine for me to hustle the animals to their respective coops and pens every evening before giving them their last feed for the day.

The goats would follow me around when I came back from school, hoping to be fed with delectable young shoots. The older ones would be somewhat hesitant but the kids would frolic with joyful abandon. And one thing I know, goats have such expressive eyes and lovely lashes.

The geese were not so friendly though; they headbutted anyone who came close (hmm, they must have been from Glasgow!). They had attitude, those geese, but they scared me not. All it took was a light tap on the beak, and they would go squawking in all directions.

As a young wife and mother, my house was refuge to no less than two dozen cats at any one time. The children would collect strays, bathe and feed them, and generally lavish affection on them without reservation.

Living in the city has its limitations. I would have loved to keep a goat or two, or even a cow. I have always fancied having a cow named Daisy. The best we could do, however, was to have rabbits, hamsters and the occasional goldfish.

The children are now grown and gone. They are living their own lives and we see each other only on weekends and special occasions.

The number of pets in my house has also dwindled to just two cantankerous felines (three, says acerbic Pak Abu, if you count in the writer).

Come June, Pak Abu and I would be moving into a condo nearby. We bought this condo early this year in anticipation of the children's eventual departure from the roost.

When that happens, the two overly manja cats would have to be placed in SPCA for adoption and it will be the first time since I was born that I do not have any pet in the house.

Frankly, I don't relish the idea of not having a feline companion. Who is going to listen to my monologue bitching?

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