Sometime during the Christmas break I overheard Johnny talking to Pushkin as the cat lovingly greeted his old friend with his distinctive head butt. 'Hey so it's that time of day is it? When Push comes to Shove'. As I had laughed I remember watching Pushkin twist his head on one side in pleasure and repeat his head butt. It breaks my heart to now report that Push will no longer come to shove anyone anymore.
On the 19th of January I asked Emily, one of the local vets, to come and inject him. She was kind enough to sedate him first before giving him the heart-stopping drug and he died in my arms. He had lost a great deal of weight over Christmas and his blood tests showed that his creatinine and urea levels were all raised and on that final morning he was clearly visibly distressed. Michael helped me perform this awful act by saying that he was sure now the time was right. Now it would be cruel to keep him going on. After I had phoned the vet and made the arrangement for him to be put down Pushkin suddenly took it into his head to go out into the garden. He raised his head and wailed in his hight pitched almost girlie way, about five times in all. I wept for his distress. Did he know? Was it pain? Was it confusion? Perhaps all of these things.
After the three remaining cats had sniffed him and licked him goodbye (it is important that they recognize he is dead so they don't go out looking for him) we buried him in the rose garden above the pond and put two large boulders over his rather shallow grave so that marauding foxes don't disinter him and then it went cold and wet and I kept thinking about him being out there in the cold dank soil and not being with us inside in the warmth where he belonged.
Two nights later, on the 21st January, something most disconcerting happened and this is what I wrote in an email:
'Such a strange thing happened last night. It gets dark here at 4.30 which is when the hens go in and all the day birds roost - the blackbirds are the last to roost and you hear their final territorial calls at around 5pm. Last night it was wild and rainy and the wind was howling down the chimney making the fire roar up and Titus and Fannie were lying on the sofa next to me and Michael was pottering about the place. (Gilly was up in my study under my desk, she has hardly moved except to chase the other cats and to eat since Pushkin died). Suddenly we heard tap-tap-tap, tap-tap-tap, tap-tap-tap out in the conservatory. It went on for a good half hour and by this time I noticed on my watch that it was 7.30 so it had been dark now for a good two and a half hours. Michael went outside to look and couldn't see anything. He came back in. By this time Titus and Fannie were standing up with eyes wide and whiskers forward in reaction to the noise although they didn't leave the sofa, but they were quivering with curiosity. It continued and then suddenly Michael shouted quick quick come and look. And there down on the ground outside in the balck night was a small Great Tit jumping up and down just banging its beak against the window, over and over again. It made me burst into tears and when I sobbed that I thought it was Pushkin trying to get back inside it made Michael cry as well. We turned out all the lights (although Michael wanted to let it in till I pointed out that three cats against one tit wasn't very fair) and after the house was dark the noise stopped and the bird went away. This morning we looked to see if we could find a body (in case it had hit the window in the storm) but there was no sign of a tit anywhere except the usual ones on the bird feeder.'
Why this is a weird happening is that Pushkin was born on 21st January and so the night that this happened would have been his elevent birthday had he lived to see it.
When I told my friend Kate that we had had to have Pushkin put down she wrote me these healing words: 'In tears I remind you that you have just given The Last And Greatest Act of Love' which helped me no end at a vulnerable moment, because even when you know it is probably right you still wonder if you should perhaps have waited another week, or tried some other treatment etc. And she then went on to say 'Harry may be on duty at Heaven's Door as this is his week, if he is, Pushkin will be O.K.' Harry was her cream pointed Siamese who died in 2001 and whom I wrote about in The Coach House Cats. He left a jagged rock in her heart which she reckons has now turned into a pearl.
Now, on 19th February, Michael and I have missed and still miss Pushkin more than I can easily say. He was the gentlest, the least troublesome and the most beautiful of the four cats. He was graceful to a fault, he was sleek, he was elegant, he was affectionate and had a purr to die for. And in his calm tranquil way he ruled the roost we now realise. Oh Pushkin, I ache for you from the very depth of my soul.
I realise now, more than I did when he was alive, that he was the PEACEMAKER. He it was who allowed Gilly so much and no more of her bad behaviour, so she would be allowed to beat up Titus once, but any more of her bad behaviour and Pushkin would chase her, playfully, and clock her with his front paw. This she understood and then she would desist. Now he is gone she chases the two remaining cat unmercifully and Titus is suffering badly. I know she is grieving Pushkin as are the other two and I don't know what the final outcome will be. I try to love them all and to comfort them but it is not a happy household at the moment sadly.
However let my final words be an enormous THANK YOU to God and to all those who made is possible for Pushkin to become part of our life and for being able to love him so much and for his great and gentle love in return. It was a good ten years of life Pushie that we shared together and I will never forget you.