An Epitaph for Boyd (2006-2008) : L'Ami de Tout le Monde

Someone suggested that I should write down all the funny little things that Boyd did that were so special.

Memories fade with time, and I am not at all ready for Boyd to enter this dimmer reaches of my mind, the past, the places I only look when I'm reminded of them. I want him to be where he has been for the entire two years of his life with us, in the forefront of my thoughts at every moment, no matter how hard that will be.

Early Life

Boyd charmed me the moment I met him. He had been carried into our house in a new carrier and we'd paved the way for him by spending lavishly on all the most ridiculous things we thought he could want. "His" room was prepared with a cat fort, and hi-tech litter tray, and a million dangling things that he could chase and attack and play with.

We lived on a main road, but we sold the house to people who saw it the very day Boyd arrived, like he was some sort of lucky charm. We'd decided to get a cat because we were moving to France soon, and moving into a wonderful big barn that would be the ideal home for both us and them. It was the one thing that had stopped us from having a pet, was that I've never thought that flats in big cities are the place to raise animals. The dangers of road accidents and falls, and escaping pets were too much worry for me.

But once the plans were set in motion for the move to France, we gave in and got our cat early, to cheer us up in a pretty stressful time, to be honest. We started looking and once we saw Boyd, his photograph on the breeder's website, we both instantly looked at him and said "that's the one". This was despite both of us having made fun of ginger cats before-hand and saying we wouldn't get one.

Matt rang the breeder and we were all set. I had to stay home while he fetched Boyd because, as I said, we had an open inspection of our house that day, so I had to stay there and show potential buyers through.

When he got back and opened the cat cage into the room, Boyd jumped out and immediately leaped around the room familiarising himself with everything. I sat cross-legged on the floor, utterly entranced by this incredibly curious and friendly creature. One of the first things he did when he was out of the cage, was come over and plant himself in my lap purring and touch his nose to mine, as if to check out who this big person was.

A people-watcher from day 1His nature was unique, he was, in turns, incredibly relaxed and contented and happy - fond of cuddles, and then on the flip side, incredibly curious and with an insatiable appetite for new people.

We quickly made him at home for the last couple of months in our place, before the sale went through, and it became my evening ritual to play with him. An amazing release, this adorable kitten that chased anything that dangled, and I mean anything. Every evening, I'd spend hours sitting on the floor with him chasing a tie, or a toy on elastic, or in fact, anything I dangled for him at all. He would chase a piece of string for hours as I span it around my legs for him.

I'd never had a proper pet before so I was enthralled with the novelty of it, and yes we spoiled him a bit. The best food, and ludicrous amounts of toys and a toy fort to climb as well.

He was insatiably curious about my desk, as the pictures show, he would jump up and amuse himself chasing the figures on the monitors, or my mouse, or tapping out his name on the keyboard with his little ginger feet. He would inevitably tire out and fall asleep. His most usual position when he was that small would be with his head actually resting on my mouse-hand so that I couldn't move my mouse hand for a number of hours for fear of disturbing him.

In more recent times, he would happily move to a cat-bed on the desk, but early on he absolutely had to be touching me, feeling the warmth of my hand.

He had all the usual kitten idiosyncrasies - such as a tendency to chew cords that I solved with rubbing chili on them. He still managed to put paid to two different Logitech headsets, by snipping neatly through the cords. One of them, he cut me off mid-conversation, and I had to hurriedly explain to 39 other online gamers that I was leading, that "My Kitten stole your raid leader".

Matt and I were reasonably inept first-time parents. We fretted over every little thing, wondering if we were doing it wrong or right. If Matt had had his way, we would have had him down the vet every week inspecting every spot, every not-so-solid movement, every tiny oddity in his fur. But thankfully he seemed completely untouched by any sort of illness. We established rigorous procedures to make sure he never even saw the front door open, because we didn't want him to be curious about outside when the main road was just 2 metres from our door.

Boyd was very playful right from the start, he'd chase around the house and under curtains and roll on his back to have his tummy rubbed. He was very much everything we'd always imagined a kitten would be. Playful and cuddly and full of spontaneous purrs and demanding of our attention, which we gave him without hesitation. Both of us were utterly smitten with him, and it became a little bit tedious for anyone we saw socially because we found ourselves talking about nothing else.

Initially, because I'm allergic to cats, we kept him out of our bedroom and slept in there without him. But after a few weeks, when the house had sold, we realised we'd be moving into one-bedroom at a friend's house, for a short while when between houses, so Boyd would have to sleep in our room then. So the final barrier was let down, and what became a habit of two years started. Boyd plopped himself down between my feet (almost always my feet, because Matt moves around too much, he wriggles, whereas I sleep like a stone). Over time, I slowly got used to sleeping with my legs slightly apart, so that he could find a nice curled up spot between.

And of course, this stage brought about another ritual. The morning kisses. I started being woken up by him every day. He'd wake up, and move up from his position curled between my feet to my chest. He'd stare down at me and purr at what always seemed a ridiculous volume, and then he'd often touch his nose to mine, like a sort of cold and wet morning greeting. If I didn't wake up, he'd fall back asleep there, right on the centre of my chest, and I'd wake up sometimes hours later with a gorgeous furry lump right on the centre of my chest. Being woken by this every morning was bliss and that pretty much describes how he became to Matt and I over those first few months. The centre of our world.

I don't think anyone can understand how waking up with a kitten asleep on your solar plexus can make every day seem like the most amazing thing in the universe. That Matt and I could share this amazing experience only doubled the incredible joy he gave us on a daily basis.

A Few Moves

We moved out of that house shortly after and into a friend's place, where we had to stay while I worked out the rest of my contract. Matt had to spend a lot of this time in France and Australia, so Boyd became even more my constant companion every evening. He would spend the evening happily following me from room to room, and then curl up between my feet every night, waking me each morning. It did an amazing job of helping me get through this period of separation, when Matt had to be in either Australia for work, or in France overseeing the start of the build process.

Marcus (the friend who we were staying with) was enchanted with him, and as luck would have it got his own kitten while Boyd was still there. Boyd and Fergus were instant friends. Almost no hissing or fuss after maybe 24 hours, and then they would sleep together arm in arm on the couch. They were together for about a month and ran absolute riot around Marcus' place before Boyd finally moved to France with Matt in a van with Katrina and Fi (ahead of me by about 2 months). According to them, he was an absolute model passenger on the ride over, happily sitting in his big cage, watching the world go past, and never once being upset, sick or fretting, so long as he could see people through the cage.

They said they'd call out to him by "meowing" at him, and he'd always reply. He was a very vocal cat generally and even more so as he grew older.

For a brief period, he and I were separated. I was working out my contract in Edinburgh, and he was already in France. I went over as often as I could, but it wasn't quite the same. I slept at night without him, but there was no joy in it, with him and Matt away. The apartment that Matt and I had rented over there (for it's location, near our "ruined barn") was quite large - 5 bedrooms - and Boyd quickly made it his domain. The neighbours downstairs adored cats as well, and his charm offensive on them was altogether far too easy. He mastered a whole new repertoire of cute tricks such as sitting on top of a 6 foot bookshelf, but generally was pretty much at home wherever he found himself.

The Perfect Place for Cats

Finally, we moved into our Barn in October, when we'd had Boyd for around 9 months.

A big part of the motivating factor in moving to a place like the barn was so that our kids could enjoy full and amazing lives in an idyllic environment for cats. We're at the end of a road, so there would be very very little passing traffic. Basically just the postman and the neighbour coming and going once a day. To one side of our barn is a basically pristine wilderness leading to a river, and uphill from us is massive fields of hay and wildflowers, filled with mice and burrowing rodents. Downhill from us is a thick and steep wood, clinging to the almost vertical slope of the mountain we're on, and while cats navigate it fearlessly, it's quite untouched mostly because it's so steep.

We kept him inside at first, to get used to his new home, and he quickly developed a fascination for the upstairs part of the barn, which is just a big open space with rafters to climb and lots of smells like birds and mice. We kept him inside for about a month, and he quickly re-established his pattern of behaviour. He'd sleep on our feet every night, and happily wander the house all day long. This started an amazing period of our lives together. Matt and I are were both working from home, and so all day every day, we had time for Boyd. He would wander between us, and meow a lot, help himself to his food, which is just to the right of my computer desk, so that he was constantly visiting me.

Early on, he developed a fascination for drinking water directly from the tap, and would race into the bathroom whenever he heard the tap start running and lap hungrily at the cold water coming straight from our tap, despite several water bowls around the house that he could be drinking from instead. He loved the log fire, particularly.

Whenever Matt lit it, he would plant himself immediately in front of it, all stretched out and lap up the warmth from the fire for hours at a time, often having to be rolled to the side so we could get in to put more logs on.

He loved to watch from the windowsills, see the world go by, but his favourite spots were the warm ones. The end of the couch with the woolen rug over it, and the end of our bed with a cat-fur covered rug on it as well. We bought him cat beds, but he didn't really use them much, preferring instead to be closer to us than they allowed.

The one in the bedroom only got used when I put it within patting distance of my keyboard. Then, every evening, once Matt had gone to bed, he'd park himself there for a few hours, watching my night owl tendencies and getting affection from me every time my hands left the keyboard.

Soon enough, we began to let him go outside. Just a little at first, but more later. We considered it a safe spot, we live at the end of a road and cars rarely come past. Only really the neighbour has any reason to, and then the postman once a day. It was snowing by then, so he wasn't terribly keen on being outside anyway, truth be told.

He'd tentatively step out there and wander up to the edge of the snow, and put a single paw down before recoiling from the cold. Soon enough, his curiosity with snow was satisfied and he'd not even really move from under the eaves if there was snow on the ground, which there was for most of the winter.

But he quickly began to be very demanding about when he wanted to go outside. If we shut him in, such as when we had workmen doing the kitchen who had power tools and sharp objects, he would very quickly express his extreme annoyance at us. He really just wanted to go out there and poke his nose in their business, and make a new friend. Such was his insatiable curiosity that not being allowed to meet new people was the worst thing we ever did to him.

Whenever anyone arrived at either our house or our neighbours, he would race over with his tail held high and demand affection and a sniff of the arrival. With this over the top friendliness he absolutely charmed everyone in a wide radius. We have a hiking path that goes past our Barn, and he would race across our lawn and present his fluffy back for pats and cuddles from complete strangers. We were always more worried that someone would decide to take him home than anything else.

Race you around the couch- The round the couch spazzing, when he was in a hyperactive mood, he'd race around the couch at lightning speed, and we have the scratch-marks in the floorboards to prove it. It didn't seem terribly endearing at the time, but it was just another unique facet of his unstoppable personality.

The bizarre conversations he'd have with me. He'd meow directly at me, looking me in the eye, like he was really trying to tell me something. And so long as I said something in return, he'd keep meowing at me, relating his story of something we'll never understand, or maybe citing his demands for something. But he would carry on the conversation as long as I would.

The slightly unhealthy obsession with his toileting, prefering those places in the house that were softest. When guests were staying we had to be extra careful to keep him out of the guest room so that their beds weren't "graced" with his presence.

The demand for cuddles at the oddest of times. He had a habit of coming to join me in the toilet if I left a door open by even a tiny crack. This would result in him rubbing himself against my legs and then demanding to sit in my lap (not the ideal place to cuddle a cat, but it didn't stop him jumping up).

Sleep Patterns- The lush way it didn't matter what he was doing, when or where if you wanted him, all you had to do was call him and he'd come running up to you and demand to be picked up and cuddled. And as soon as he was in your arms, the contented purring would begin, and you'd just know he loved you to bits. He was always ready for a cuddle, day or night, and always happy for every tiny little touch.


Around the middle of winter, we took the opportunity to add to our family and welcomed Rupert, a maine-coon from a breeder in Cornwall, to our fold. He and Boyd became instant buddies, despite us panicking and worrying about whether they would get along. We'd heard so many stories about cats refusing to share a house, a litter tray, or a foodbowl, that we were quiet worried.

But Boyd's charm works on cats, too. Within an hour of Rupert's arrival in the house, we gave up all pretence of there being any problem and just let them play. They were like kittens from the same litter, playing and rolling around each other and then stopping for cuddles and what would become their trademark - the slightly aggressive competition of who could clean whose ears more. Rupert's nature and demeanour is a world different from Boyd's, but the two of them were basically inseperable from the moment they met.

New Cat bed?As Winter turned into Spring, we were apart for a couple of weeks as Matt and I returned to Australia, and it was the cats that we missed more than anything of our home. It just wasn't the same in Adelaide, knowing that they were back in France, in our Barn with our log fire kept burning by our friend Jenny who'd leapt at the chance to cat-sit the pair of them. We only really managed to make the trip at all, knowing that someone who absolutely adored cats in general and ours in particular was living there for us, paying them attention day and night.

One Perfect Summer

Just one summer. So unfair.

What the thaw meant for Boyd and Rupert was their first proper spring. Rupert wasn't born before last Summer and Boyd had been an indoor cat in a big city for the first summer of his life, so that meant there was a whole world of things to explore! They both discovered an incredible world on their doorstep and began to demand more and more time outside. Boyd loved so much of it, he was so incredibly happy, this one long golden summer, which turned out to be the first and last one of his life.

Every time the neighbours had a BBQ or entertain outside on their deck, Boyd would go and befriend their entire family. I can remember one day he played chasey with one of their younger children for hours and hours, running in circles around the trees at the back of their place. When they finally left, he came in and planted himself on the couch and slept a thoroughly exhausted sleep.

He chased butterflies, and caught (or procured) mice from the fields. He'd dissappear into the long-grasses, with only his distinctive fox-like tail floating above to let us know where he was. Unlike Rupert, who roams far and wide every day, Boyd was never really very far from the house. He played int he gardens at the front, or the fields behind us, and still spent a lot of the day coming back into the house again and again to talk to us. We were working hard this summer, so spent a lot of time at our desks, and his constant visits were a feature that made every day an absolute pleasure.

He'd come in, his bell jingling, meow and demand attention, then have something to eat and trot outside again, or take a seat for a well earned rest on the wood floor behind me. In the early evenings, he'd be hard to fetch in for his dinner, so much fun was he having chasing the field-mice or butterflies. We'd save his dinner until after dark, so that he'd have a reason to come in. But it was always a bit of a chase, we'd have to get our shoes on and go hunting for him every night, wandering through the fields or down the lane to try and find him, all the while banging his dinner bowls together. When we finally got his attention, he'd leap after us and run like a lunatic until he danced inside for his meal with Rupert.

He was never a greedy cat, he never expressed much interest in food other than the basic needs of survival. He never sniffed our plates or expressed any interest in human food at all. Which meant he never really ate his fair share of the dinner either, Rupert would always finish off his bowl because Boydie would move away from the feed bowls long before he'd finished his half.

His favourite spots outside include the stone wall around our deck, and he could often be found sleeping on the wood pile facing our front door. It was a high spot, but shady. It never looked very comfortable, but he obviously had no complaints about it and spent many a sunny afternoon there. He loved being outside, he loved the sounds and smells and things to chase and play with, not least of all being the 5 other cats that live in this tiny Hamlet of two buildings. Everyone one of them was a friend of his, and all the younger ones would gather together on the grass in the early evening and chase each other's tails.

Taken From Us

Just two days ago now, Boyd was brought to my front door by my neighbour. She was utterly distraught, sobbing hysterically and crying tears and at first I simply didn't comprehend what had happened. I tried to determine if Boyd was alive, but there was no breath coming from his sweet little mouth. He looked entirely untouched, and I couldn't bring myself to believe that he was gone for many minutes. I just sat there, holding and patting his beautiful ginger fur, and cursing him for not being more careful. Matt was away, and so it fell to me to find an appropriate place to lay him to rest on the mountain that he'd loved so much.

Eventually, I put him under the tree at the back. It's a big old tree, probably 50 years or more old. Boyd had climbed it once or twice, and the first time he climbed it, he got stuck right up near the top, and I had had to borrow a 9m ladder to rescue him. When I finally climbed out, literally on a limb and grabbed him in my arms and put him inside my jumper, his frantic fearful meowing changing to the deepest and most emphatic purring I'd ever heard him make. He was so amazingly grateful that I'd risked myself to climb the tree to rescue him and keep him safe.

Well, my dearest Boyd, I'm so incredibly sorry I couldn't keep you safe from that car. I would give anything in the world to have you back safely inside my jumper right now. Your passing has left the hugest hole in mine and Matt's life, and so many other people's as well. I'm so utterly distraught I haven't slept, eaten or stopped crying in 2 days, and right now I just don't understand how people go on after grief like this. You'll never ever be far from my thoughts.

All our love,

Your "Big daddy", "Little Daddy" and Rupert