Tag Archives: pets

The Newest Addition

Back at the start of this year, Mike and I managed to escape the UK and headed to New York for the week to celebrate my 40th birthday. It was a fantastic trip where we had so many fabulous experiences and yet a single event managed to interrupt our time away from home and left us having to consider how to break some very sad news to our youngest once we were back.

M’s beloved cat, Ginger, who had proved to be an invaluable part of our family as he brought so much comfort to M at some of the most difficult times of his treatment over the years, was hit and killed by a car on the main road near our house. My Mum, who was looking after G and M whilst we were away, somehow managed to keep this news from them both, even though they were checking in at home every couple of days to feed the cats and M’s dragon, Leo. I knew that this would be hard news for M to hear and feared a similar reaction to when we discovered one of our twin black cats had suffered the same fate 6 years ago when M was just 5. Back then, M had spent the entire evening and much of the night in tears and refused to eat for nearly 24 hours, an experience I hoped we’d be able to avoid.

Both children were upset when we finally broke the news, and although G’s response was fleeting, M struggled almost as much as we had expected. Much to my relief, the effects of this loss were not so long-lasting and within days M had moved on to what was obviously to be the final part of him coming to terms with the situation: the request for a new kitten. Knowing our son as well as we do, this didn’t come as any surprise to either Mike or me and we had already agreed on our answer. We would consider getting him a new kitten, but it would need to wait until we had got through SATs, past our summer holiday in Greece and were settled into the new school year.

Much to our delight, M could see the sense in this suggestion (something that doesn’t often happen) and happily agreed to delaying our search until the end of the summer at the earliest. Over the following weeks and months, G and M discussed at length what they were hoping for in a replacement pet. It had to be a kitten (because they’re cute), it had to be ginger (because Ginger was) and it had to be a boy (because…well…just because). Almost as soon as we arrived home from Greece, the search began and I spent the next couple of weeks online to find out what kittens were available in one of the many cat rescue centres in the area. To our delight, my enquiry about a different set of kittens led us to the discovery of the delightfully named “Bill and Ben”, a pair of ginger toms who were both looking for a new home.

Despite the best entreaties of G, who fell in love with “Ben” when we met them for the first time, and the surprising expectation of both Mike and my Mum that I would come home with both kittens, I managed to stick to what we had originally agreed and so it was that “Bill” joined our family at just 10 weeks old. He has been a source of great joy and many giggles since he first joined us at home, though his current tendency to bite everything in sight, particularly ankles and feet, has led to some frustrated shouts of pain too.

Now at nearly 4 months old, I take great pleasure in introducing you to the newest addition to the 7Y2D household: Biggles!

    

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Introducing Leo…

12239456_10153105383806123_4074499908760813169_oWe’ve had more than our fair share of animals since the children were small and over the years our house has been home to, believe it or not, 7 cats, 1 rabbit, numerous fish and now our latest family member, Leo. For the last 2 years or so, M has been eager to add another pet to our household and not just any pet: he has been very specific about the animal he’s had in mind. I have to be honest and say that I didn’t leap at the chance when he first made his bid, after all I have years of Mummy experience with M’s wildly fantastic and short-lived fads and this wasn’t one I was prepared to indulge unless he was genuinely intent on looking after it for the long haul. I’ve long-held the opinion that our pets have been a massive source of comfort not just for M, but for G and me too, and it was something of a stretch to imagine that this creature would bring the peace that cuddling one of our cats instills in me.

However, M has stuck to his guns and continued to ask for his new pet and finally, back in about October, I gave in and agreed that he could have it and so our plans for introducing a bearded dragon to the household began. Due to the high costs of kitting out this exotic creature, we discussed with M the need for this to be his joint Christmas and birthday present and something we couldn’t just go out and buy tomorrow. I am incredibly impressed by the mature attitude with M accepted this plan, a real sign that my baby really is growing up fast. 20160129_152625The first step was to buy him a book about them and he has spent hours reading and re-reading about bearded dragons and how to best look after one. His knowledge about these interesting animals is impressive and he has willingly shared what he knows with friends, family, doctors and nurses alike. Knowing that a GOSH admission could happen any day, we delayed our actual purchase until M was back home and life had settled down to something resembling our normal once again.

With the start of a new year, so also started M’s career as the proud owner of a bearded dragon. I was lucky to discover one on-line that needed re-homing and although I was initially concerned that M wouldn’t be keen on a “second-hand” pet, he quickly leapt at the chance when I was able to reveal that his new acquisition would share his birthday! The dragon’s previous owner had called him Nigel, but M felt that didn’t suit and quickly renamed him Leo. The vivarium was strategically measured and fits on top of the pint-sized wardrobes in M’s bedroom, so M can really take full charge of looking after him. Mike and M have willingly taken on the task of feeding the fresh veg and live crickets on a regular basis, which is just as well as it’s the one thing I have refused to get involved with. M spends time every morning and evening handling and chatting to Leo and is slowly filling his diary with play dates for his friends to come and meet a real life dragon. I must admit that owning a reptile was never at the top of my bucket list or life plans, but will confess that he is strangely intriguing to watch.

Leo

7 things to do in hospital when you’re 8 (& 3/4)

Two weeks in hospital is long enough to challenge the sanity of any adult, let alone that of an 8-year-old who is used to being on the go all the time.  As well as his daily visits to the hospital school, M was fortunate enough to have a number of other activities to take part in, which helped wile away the ever-lengthening hours.  I don’t know how many of these same opportunities, or others like them, are available at children’s hospitals across the country, but this is a selection of some of those M chose to do during his stay at GOSH:

Pets as Therapy20141209_131336We were lucky enough to have 3 separate visits from 2 of the amazing “Pets as Therapy” dogs, Molly and Woof.  These charming animals are specially chosen for their gentle manner and make regular visits into hospitals, care homes and special needs schools to bring a great deal of comfort and love to those in the greatest of need.  I wrote a blog post not so long ago about just how much calm and comfort M draws from our cats at home and I saw the same things happening as he was able to pet and cuddle both dogs in his own space in hospital.  G was lucky enough to also have the chance to meet and fuss Molly as she visited on both Saturdays whilst Mike and G were visiting, and both children were encouraged to offer her treats for her patient behaviour when she was with them.

 

ScoutsscoutsThe visit to the 17th Holborn Scouts and Guides at Great Ormond Street Hospital was one of the highlights of M’s last hospital stay in 2013 and since finding out he was due another admission, he had talked of little else.  His biggest disappointment was that he was admitted on a Wednesday as Scouts meet every Tuesday evening and he had to wait a whole week before he could go again. During the evening, they provide a range of different crafts and games which are tailored for the differing ages and needs of the children attending that week and even reward regular attendance, an important boost for those children who are there on long-term admissions.  Sadly, M only managed to make one meeting again this year, but is already asking when he can go to Scouts again!

 

Courtesy of gosh.nhs.uk

Courtesy of gosh.nhs.uk

Saturday Club – Every Saturday afternoon, the activity centre (located next door to the school) is opened to patients and their siblings and friends for a couple of hours of crafts, games and some much-needed time together, away from the constraints of the ward.  On our first Saturday in hospital, M wasn’t keen on venturing too far from his bed, but the arrival of 2 of the Saturday club play volunteers, who engaged him and G in some riotous games of “Extreme Uno” as well as giant snakes and ladders, convinced him to change his mind.  By week 2, both G and M were chomping at the bit to join in the fun and whilst the staff there helped my 2 celebrate G’s 11th birthday with some rather nifty face-painting, an elegant birthday crown and Christmas crafts galore, Mike and I were able to escape for a sneaky 45 minute catch-up over coffee and cake in the hospital restaurant.

 

Courtesy of scholastic.co.uk

Courtesy of scholastic.co.uk

ReadWell book trolley – This was a treat we almost missed during our first week as the trolley came round as we were enjoying the ballet at the Royal Opera House, but thanks to some near-perfect timing, we stepped out of the lift just as the trolley was about to leave the ward.  M was able to choose from the wide selection of books displayed on the trolley and took great pleasure in being able to spend some time before deciding on an author we had not come across before.  To his absolute delight, not only did he have a free choice of books, but he also got to keep the books he picked out and he has enjoyed reading them since we got back home.  M also had the chance to create his own story with one of the ReadWell workers, who came into the school and acted as scribe as he weaved his adventurous tale of aliens visiting earth.

 

20141214_105928Ward Playroom – Whilst this was not the biggest room in the world, it held a vast array of games and activities to entertain the most particular of children.  M played on the Wii, found new board games to master and was able to borrow a DVD player and DVDs to watch over the weekends.  We made Christmas decorations, painted pictures, experimented with creating circuits with a science kit and M even decorated a ceramic money-box as part of his Christmas present to G.  20141214_105916

 

Courtesy of magicfree,net

Courtesy of magicfree,net

Magic – As well as a fleeting hello to the Clown doctors as we passed them in the ward corridor, one afternoon was brightened by the promise of a visiting magician.  M sat enthralled with a small group of his new hospital friends as this talented gentleman performed one awe-inspiring illusion after another.  He invited both children and parents alike to participate in some of the tricks and wowed us with his skills.  He listened as the children asked him questions about what he was doing and even watched M perform a rope trick of his very own.  My Dynamo-wannabee loved every moment of the show and dissected the tricks at length afterwards, trying to work out the secret of how they’d be done.

 

20141219_184138Post – Last, but not least is an activity that had nothing to do with GOSH itself, but everything to do with the amazingly thoughtful family and friends who were determined to bring a little cheer to our dreary corner of the long-term gastro ward.  Messages came from around the world – Canada, Madeira and across the UK – and each was special in its own way.  M received get well cards, postcards, books, stickers, games and other gifts that were guaranteed to entertain him day or night.  We decorated his bed space with the cards and added a Christmasy feel with the decorations that we had made in the playroom.  Knowing that people were thinking of us, loving us and sending us get well wishes and prayers sustained us both during the most difficult moments of the admission and brought some much-needed sunshine on the darkest days.   From the Christmas card from M’s class at school, to 2 pages of messages from Mike’s cousin and her friends and colleagues in Calgary; from cards and presents from our friends at church, to a card from the lovely members of my choir; and the 2 extra-special gifts of Angry Birds Jenga from our fabulous FABED family and signed photos and scrubs for both G and M from Holby City, courtesy of Simon Harper, my man at the BBC; all the mail was gratefully received and enjoyed hugely by us both.

                        20141220_193939

Return of the Prodigal Cat

Do you remember the story of the Prodigal son?  The one who returns home, down on his luck after years of partying and living the high life with little regard for the family he left behind.  He is greeted with open arms and tears of joy from his father and a fatted calf is prepared to celebrate his return, whilst grumbling in the wings is his much relied on and increasingly disgruntled older brother.

No tale of cats is complete without mentioning M's precious Cat

No tale of cats is complete without mentioning M’s precious Cat

Last week, our household was the unexpected location for the return of our very own prodigal, G’s cat Misty.  Misty has been part of our family for a couple of years, but is considered the pain-in-the-neck younger member by our elder statesman family cat, Jet and M’s “fat” cat, Ginger.  When we returned home from our summer sojourn in the Florida sun, there was no sign of Misty and despite hours of calling, this errant puss appeared to have moved on from our humble abode. It seemed so unfair that once again it was G’s cat who had gone, as the last kitten we lost to the neighbouring A-road and a large milk tanker was also hers, but he was also the most independent of our feline trio and was often lured by the bright lights of the nearby farms.  We kept hope alive for a while, but there came a tearful hour one Sunday after church, when I had to explain to G and M that I thought it unlikely that Misty would be back.  I regaled them with a story from my own childhood, when our much-loved cat, Delilah – and yes, we also had her brother Samson – returned home after months away from the fold, saying it was possible he could return, although I thought it unlikely.  I was careful to make no promises and hoped that eventually the sorrow of his leaving would diminish.  As time passed, both children appeared to have moved on and even though G still occasionally called to him from the kitchen door when summoning the others inside for a cuddle, she seemed to have accepted his loss and had even added a new “kitten/hamster/gerbil” to the top of her birthday/Christmas wish list.

20140722_075343So, you can imagine my surprise and the children’s delight when, getting home from school last week, who should saunter around the car in the driveway, but Misty.  I’ve never seen G move so fast or heard her squeal so loudly than when she caught sight of her beloved pet reappearing as if he’d never been away and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.  In the 10 days since his return, G has taken every opportunity to shower love and fuss on this cat and both children anxiously ask every day at pick-up if I know whether Misty is at home or not; and he’s lapping up every moment of their unfaltering devotion.

You may wonder why I’m sharing this story with you.  It’s partly because our life isn’t all about EGID, there’s a lighter side to it that we strive to grab hold of much of the time and partly because it made me consider the impact of pets on our family life.  I’ve grown up with cats as an integral part of the family and so have G and M.  These cats have become a key part of our household and bring immeasurable comfort and enjoyment to us all.  There is nothing more soothing to me than a cat curled up on, or next to, me as I work or watch TV or read.  When M is feeling under the weather and is struggling with his EGID symptoms, he takes huge amounts of comfort from having any one of our cats alongside him and we have found that it has even helped him calm down and settle to sleep at the roughest moments. 20140803_200241The simple, unassuming acceptance by our family pets of my boy’s sometimes turbulent moods has been an unexpected blessing and Mike and I have been known to usher one cat or another towards him when nothing else can break through his tantrums.  G thrives on the peace that being curled up on the sofa with her book on one side and her beloved cat on the other brings.  Both children have learned to take some responsibility in looking after their pets and G can often be found dishing up their dinner in the evenings without being asked.  I know we’re not alone in experiencing the companionship and joy that pets can bring, nor the life lessons of love and loss that have been taught as our children grow up.  Our prodigal cat might not have been fed with a fatted calf, but we’re all delighted to have him back home, especially my beautiful girl.