I’ve been fortunate enough to have two very special animals that came from the Animal Welfare League. A little Corgi-cross dog named Humphrey who I adopted in 2000, and never left my side until he passed away in 2013.
In 2009 the then Editor of The Canungra Times, Stu Comley, and I visited the Animal Welfare League Shelter at Coombabah to do a story with a view to running ‘Pets of the Month’ in the paper.
Of course, Stu and I are ardent animal lovers, so any excuse to go and visit was a good excuse. We started running the Pets of the Month in the December 2009 edition along with a story on donations collected by Canungra FoodWorks for the AWL.
When we visited the cat enclosure, I couldn’t help but notice a tabby cat, sprawled out on a ledge high up in the enclosure. The staff told me she had been at the shelter for 12 months, and still hadn’t found a home. Her name was Millie.
Stu and I featured Millie in the December 2009 paper as one of the Pets of the Month, along with Bandit the dog and Cleo, another cat. At the time, I had just separated from my husband and my life was kind of in turmoil. However, I couldn’t stop thinking about the little tabby cat who had been in the shelter for 12 months.
In the end, I decide that if she was still there on Christmas Eve, I was going to adopt her. Sure enough, when I rang the AWL she was there. When I told the staff I wanted to take her home, they were very excited that a long term resident was finally going to her forever home. Until they tried to get her off the high shelf that was her favourite vantage point.
Millie bit, scratched and fought everyone who tried to get her off that shelf, until at one point one of the staff asked if I was sure I still wanted to take her.
“If you can get her into the box, I’ll take her home,” I replied.
Fortunately, they managed to get her into the box and Millie was introduced to the kids as a ‘gift from Santa’ the next day. I think it was about 2 years before I confessed that I had gone and adopted her myself.
Since she arrived at our house, Millie has whacked almost everyone she came into contact with. At first she would snuggle on my lap each night until about 10pm when she decided it was bedtime and whack me a few times until I got the message. She slept in the bed, purring loudly. A great arrangement, except if you moved too much, in which case she would whack the living daylights out of you.
One night, the kids had gone to bed and Heather started yelling out, “Get her off me”. Millie had tried to sleep in Heather’s bed and when Heather started moving around too much, Millie went for her, fortunately without claws. I moved her to another sleeping spot! I honestly can’t remember a time that she whacked Sophie, but I suspect Sophie, being fairly cautious by nature, was very good at staying still when it counted.
Over the years, Millie moved house with us a few times, was introduced to new cats and dogs and never really missed a beat. She loved being up high, often jumping on top of the kitchen or wardrobe cupboards to sleep during the day. The kids knew they could only pat Millie for a certain amount of time, because as affectionate as she was, when she had enough she would let you know in no uncertain terms.
She formed a strong bond with my partner Ben, who decided he was going to be a ‘cat whisperer’ and spent a lot of time trying to overcome Millie’s violent tendencies. For the most part it worked, except one time when Millie was cleaning her back leg, and Ben decided to run his finger down her leg. Millie looked up, raised a front paw a slapped him across the face, claws and all. We heard the screaming from the other end of the house.
Another time, Ben sent me a photo of his face, a big scratch mark across his nose. He had been playing with Millie, hiding behind a pillow and mucking about and she had enough. She launched ‘like a tiger’ apparently, and fully attacked his face!
We never scolded Millie for any of this behaviour, everyone who came to our house was told to leave her alone. If you didn’t leave her alone it was your own fault if she whacked you, and if she came and sat on you, it was a case of stay still no matter what and hope for the best.
Millie slept in the bed every night, under the blankets in winter and always purring away. Often I’d be woken up by Millie, standing on my chest or arm, meowing for me to lift the blanket so she could get under if it was cold.
Any time she went to the vet, she was very affectionate when she was put in a holding cage, until they opened the door to get her out. Then she went full tiger! Over the years I learned to offer to go and get her out myself. If the vet nurse didn’t know her she would say ‘oh no I’ll get her out’, only to return shortly to ask me to get her out.
At the beginning of the year, Ben and I separated and Millie and I moved house again. Millie had lost a bit of weight before we moved and after we moved lost noticeably more. At first I thought it was age or stress, but I took her to see Dr Chris Corcoran at Canungra (Yarrabilba) Vet Surgery who diagnosed hyperthyroidism.
Chris said he had good news and bad news. The good news was he knew what was wrong with her and it was treatable. The bad new was she would have to have a tablet every day.
“For how long,” I asked, thinking of the potential shredding of the skin on my hands and arms. My stepdaughter Chloe was the only one who seemed to be able to wrangle Millie enough to give tablets, and she lived an hour drive away.
“The rest of her life,” he replied.
Fortunately there was a dermal cream that we chose to use instead. We tried the tablets for a couple of days but it was like trying to give a tablet to a wild animal. When she wasn’t fighting you she held it in her mouth and I’d find the tablet spat somewhere on the floor later on.
Sadly, Millie didn’t respond well to the treatment. She kept losing weight, becoming more and more , and eventually I made the difficult decision to have her put to sleep. On Thursday this week, Ben and I took her to the vet clinic for the last time. Chris and the staff were lovely, and she passed very peacefully.
We adopted Millie as an adult cat and the affection she showed me during that time was unwavering. Despite, or perhaps because of, the kinks in her personality, Millie was an integral part of our family. Today, it is hard to imagine life without her, and going home to one less cat feels weird.
I can’t imagine what my life would be like if Stu and I hadn’t made that trip to the AWL that day. Fittingly, Millie is buried in the bromeliad garden behind Stu and his mother, Jean’s garden.
If you are thinking of getting a pet this year or next, please consider the animals at shelters like the Animal Welfare League at Coombabah. They have so much love to give.