Stories, Artwork and Poetry ~
by Vivien Steels
My Pets' Place 2 - Later Pets
by Vivien Steels
My Pets' Place 2 - Later Pets
I have decided not to have another rabbit after Honey & perhaps this poem I wrote below says everything I need to about a most beautiful Dwarf Lop-eared rabbit, who was born on 9th May 1993, came to live with us on 20th June 1993 when he was seven weeks old & was put to sleep at home on 18th October 2002 at 10.45 am. He was innocent & simple, calm & happy. I loved him totally & miss him dreadfully.
The Last Kindness
Warm, soft head cradled in crook of left arm,
lop-ears framing face, mouth twitching, tasting dandelions
but kind eyes closed in rapid movement
following dreams to fields of clover,
hind legs strong again to jump, twist,
flick joy into air brimming with sun.
Thin curve of body breathes heavy -
spending this last hour holding onto love
in room he gnawed a hole in the dining table,
chasing round sofa playing 'catch me'
when night-time and hutch beckoned.
"It's his time," as first injection, crystal-clear,
brings immunity from pain to deepest sleep.
"It's the last kindness I can give him, isn't it?"
Tears punctuate words falling on cream, brown-tipped fur
resting on familiar blanket on knees.
Second injection brings total peace.
I place him gently as a baby down to cushion in basket
where lifeless body appears to rise and fall,
but wanting makes it so.
Payment made through blur, vet leaves
and waiting begins for Ian's return,
to dig deep, dark square by pink 'Apple Blossom' rose
at garden corner, where he scampered to peer indoors.
Curled in death, missing him already
racks its tortuous tempo on the heart
and tears will never be enough.
© Vivien Steels 2002
Published in Animal Antics 2006 - (anthology Anchor Books) - December 2005
(Illustrated with my original coloured pencil drawing of Honey)
Why the poem was written:
My Lovely Cat, Misty
(Very sadly Misty died on 24th February 2006 at 12.10 pm. She was 13 years & 4 months old. Ian & I have buried her in our garden under the Hawthorn Tree by the bench where she loved to sit & lie... this time I couldn't save her, as I did in her special true story below. But she did have nearly 5 years extra life.) I have had Misty since she was a kitten about 6 weeks old on 6th December 1992. She was born on 19th October that year & I visited the owners of her mother, Minty, a lovely grey cat & her father, Buster, a cream Persian all the time Misty was growing up from 2 weeks old onwards. Her special story is here:
Misty Revived - 9th November 2001
I just went upstairs for a minute or two and, when I came back down into the lounge, I wondered where Misty was. She had been out in her beloved garden for a few minutes & the weather was very cold and frosty. I heard funny noises under our dining table. I found Misty under a chair next to the dining table. Her legs were jerking & paddling, her head was arched back, she was having real difficulty breathing with her mouth open & was gagging. She lost of control of her bladder & then stopped breathing.
Time slipped into slow motion. On auto-pilot I picked her up. She was floppy, lifeless & her gums were deep purple/blue, her eyes glazed. There was no heart beat or breaths. I checked her throat for obstructions. I blew up into her nostrils and massaged her heart. She lurched and gulped. I then put her on the sofa. Her heart began to beat very rapidly. I stroked her gently and she gradually began to have normal heartbeat rhythms after about 5-8 minutes. She had been having intermittent, occasional, short-lived breathing problems, where she gagged and had an asthma-like wheeze/cough.
I took her straight to the vets, who confirmed a bad heart murmur (which she has always had, but I don't know if it had worsened) & he asked me to bring her in again in a week. I don't know if she had an actual seizure or it was more like a heart attack. I missed nearly everything that happened, because I was out of the room except for the last few moments.
Misty is fine now & has never had a recurrence. She had a course of diuretics for a while. My vet said if I hadn't been there when this happened to Misty & did what I did to revive her, she would have died. In one of my cat books it does say what to do if your cat stops breathing, but I can't remember reading it. I'm sure I stored the knowledge subconsciously & used it in this emergency.
I think we have a telepathic link with our pets (see Miffy's Story) & that is why I felt drawn to go into the lounge to see where Misty was. She needed my help & thankfully I was there to give it.
© Vivien Steels 2004
You have stepped out into your garden of grace
to observe trees, birds dancing like leaves,
watch grass shifting in waves
and to sniff wetness on flowers
after rearranging dark earth,
paws scrabbling at roots.
Now you slink gently as silence
venturing into conservatory, then house,
assume patrol position on wide windowsill
to ensure all your great outdoors is in its place
then you come to me,
butting me with nose and side of cheek,
licking my hand and arm,
purring friendship all over my knee.
Circling you wind down to curl your feathered tail
around yourself and me, relaxing completely
(except for satellite ears)
into curve of soft furry sleep -
white chin on grey paws.
* Dedicated to Misty (19th October 1992 - 24th February 2006)
© Vivien Steels 2004
Published in Vantasia No: 22 - Summer 2004 and Moggies(Illustrated with White Chin)
* Sadly my lovely little Shadow was put to sleep on Wednesday 23rd September 2015 at 5.15pm. He was 9 years and 3 months old and had developed hind leg paralysis, couldn't hold himself up and deteriorated rapidly. He is buried under a garden Angel in the back garden in the back central border. I feel devastated and can't stop crying, but my dear friend, Annie, said I 'gave him a lifetime of care, comfort and love and that is a wonderful gift to have given to another living creature.' This has comforted me greatly.
Shadow* - A New Arrival!
Shadow arrived at our house on Friday 11th August 2006. He was born on 29th June. This delightful bundle of black & silver fur had come via a rather strange route.
I had been driving to Mapperley Plains to do some shopping, when on the long, rollercoaster road from Colwick, I was passing the fields near Scotgrave Farm on Arnold Lane, when a wild rabbit shot out from under the hedges to the right into the oncoming traffic. I slowed down to a crawl & prayed this rabbit would hop in front of my car, but to my horror, he stopped, mesmerised, then shot back into the path of the car coming in the opposite direction. This car did not slow down. I don't know if he, or she, saw the rabbit, but the car, at a considerable speed, just ploughed into the rabbit, killing him. The only thing I can say about witnessing this awful event, was that it was a quick death. But I am appalled on car trips, how many dead animals I see on the road, including badgers, foxes, rabbits, hedgehogs & birds, plus domestic cats. Most people do not seem to slow down when approaching an animal in the middle of the road, leaving a battered, bloody body beneath their wheels.
I was so upset at witnessing the death of this small, brown rabbit, that I kept thinking - what can I do? What can I do to help this situation? I had vowed not to have another rabbit after my last lovely rabbit, Honey, had to be put to sleep on 18th October 2002. I thought, I can give a good, loving home to a rabbit. I decided there & then to go to the pet shop near my mother's flat & buy a rabbit. I cuddled the small black furry rabbit I'd chosen. He was a Lion-Headed Dwarf rabbit about 8 weeks old with a fluffy ruff of fur round his neck & he licked & nibbled my blouse. I bought a two-storey rabbit Chalet with large living areas joined by a ladder & a large garden run. Tina, the shop owner, kindly delivered him in a special carrier within an hour together with hay, shavings, food bowl, water bottle, rabbit food & small animal disinfectant as a special package!!
Shadow has settled in very quickly. His Chalet is installed in the (carless) garage, as we have two foxes, who visit our garden every night. He loves exploring the garage, conservatory & kitchen & was litter trained when he came to me, using his blue litter tray in the corner of the conservatory, though we have had one or two accidents. He has also begun to explore the hall & the lounge. He has had one or two supervised trips round the garden, as well as being in his garden pen. (Rabbits must not be allowed a free run of the garden, until they are about 6 months old, because they can gorge themselves on green plants, causing stomach upsets.)
Shadow is very sociable & inquisitive & loves being combed & brushed, which has to be done daily, because of the long fur round his neck & back. He affectionately butts my hand & licks me & loves running circles round me making a funny honking noise. He expresses his joy of life by jumping & twisting in the air, dashing at high speed round his toys & in & out of obstacles. In the morning he rushes to greet me on the top storey of his hutch so he can dash out into the garden & his happy disposition lifts my spirits every morning.
© Vivien Steels 2006
Shadow was also featured in Pet Tales in The Sunday Telegraph Lifestyle section on 11th May 2014
The Arrival of Mittens
Mittens is a very special cat; he's a rescue cat.
After Misty died in February 2006, I waited nearly a year before I had another cat. I decided I would like to rescue a cat and contacted Burton and Joyce Cat Rescue and Welfare and said I didn't mind a cat any age up to one year old, I loved bi-colour cats and would prefer a female. Brenda e-mailed me and put me in touch with Alison, who was fostering a male black and white cat about six months old. Brenda said he was adorable.
I arranged to meet Alison to see if I would like to rescue him. On Friday 26th January 2007 I went to meet her and a beguiling young cat kept sitting on my knee, purring like a lawn mower, butting me with his head & staring at me with huge green eyes far too big for his small head. His wet nose kept touching mine when I put my head down and he wriggled enthusiastically on his back to be tickled, very much like Wrigley had done. I was smitten and I knew he was the cat for Ian and me. I instantly called him Mittens because of his very white front paws on his black legs. He also has long white socks on his back legs.
Mittens had been found in a stable inside a horse blanket very near death from starvation and the lady who found him had nursed him back to health and handed him over to the BJ Cat Rescue & Welfare rather reluctantly, as she kept dogs.
We arranged for Mittens to come to our house with Alison on Monday 29th January, so she could see our home and just stay while Mittens settled down. Mittens had been neutered and micro-chipped before he came to us. We were very excited about this latest arrival. My Mum had bought me a cat activity centre for my birthday for my next kitten/cat & we bought ping pong balls, a goldfish on a rod, feather twizzlers, string with a paper bird...
Mittens emerged from his carrier quite confidently and immediately began playing with the pom-pom on a string that I'd made for him, but a sudden noise made him dive under the sofa. He was soon lured out and began playing in earnest, then he discovered his activity centre!! He hasn't stopped playing since. We have named him the 'David Beckham' of the cat world after his dexterity with a ping pong ball and his super-trick is to leap in the air after a high-bouncing ball, control it and carry on dribbling around all the obstacles in his way. He had discovered he can play a version of Bagatelle by batting the ball under the linen bin in the bathroom and, because of the camber of the floor, it keeps returning to him for him to bat back. And then he has found that a ping pong ball in the bath provides endless playing permutations. After all this activity he loves lying next to you on the sofa & always includes your hand & arm in his cleaning rituals.
Mittens and Shadow love playing together. Mittens' birthday is 1st July 2006, so he is nearly the same age as Shadow.
Mittens also loves his garden, chasing leaves, butterflies, bees and any bird that deigns to enter his personal domain. Food is always an issue. Whenever I am in the kitchen he comes charging in there, crying for food and leaps onto the breakfast bar, which he has requisitioned, to be stroked, kiss noses, purr and wait for his dish to be filled with the next delicacy. Every night he sleeps on his fleecy cat blanket on the end of our bed at my feet, waking in the night to meander up the bed for cuddles and strokes before tackling the great outdoors again.
© Vivien Steels 2007
memorial plaque and have put it on our Japanese garden where Teddy loved to hide and play, plus have bought a little red Acer tree and a special pot to plant it in to put near him. I will call it Teddy’s Tree and have ordered a small solar garden lantern to light it up. I’ve also got a lovely brass butterfly plaque to put on the bench in the garden where Teddy loved to snooze and I am getting one for lovely Mittens, my last rescue cat, for the chair where he loved to snooze. I am so sad without my lovely cats.
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Vivien Steels' poetry, prose, artwork and photographs are protected by Copyright. All rights are reserved by the author. Requests for permission to use Vivien's poetry, prose or artwork in any print or electronic form must be requested in writing.
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Muffy, Our New Rescue Cat
Muffy, our new rescue cat, came to us in August 2020. Still very sad about Teddy, Alison, of BJ Cat Rescue in Burton Joyce, asked me if I'd foster a cat and after initial doubts, I said "Yes". But within a few minutes of being introduced to Muffy, an all black cat like my first cat, Miffy, I fell in love with her and her super-affectionate ways. She has a way of buffing you with her head and purring. I should have called her Buffy-Muffy...
Muffy does have a skin condition and so has special food for sensitive cats and has had to have steroid injections, but she has gone from strength to strength and her black coat is now lovely and glossy. She is a delight and has been so lovely to have during this last lockdown.
She loves going in and out of the garden, but likes the door to be open so she can get back every few minutes to make sure you're still there. She loves chasing pieces of string with a bow on and loves her tunnel and light-up balls. She has commandeered my computer chair to sleep on for her naps, but always sleeps on our bed on my feet over-night although I know if it is cold, because she creeps up the bed and lies on my abdomen where it is warmer, like a furry hot-water bottle.
Muffy has a beautiful nature and has really come out of herself. I am so sad about Teddy, as I am about all my cats who have passed away, but Muffy has brought lots of joy again and we wouldn't be without her.
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Sadly my beautiful cat, Mittens, who you can read more about at the bottom of this page, had to be put to sleep on the 19th December 2019 at 9.05 am. He was 13 and a half years old. I loved him so much and will miss him even more. He was with me all the time as my little constant companion and my heart is breaking without him.
You can read my eulogy for him on the Blog on my Heart-Work online journal.
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Please note my painting White Chin is now SOLD.