This was written at a rather emotional time but I’ve left it as it was as it shows how I felt that day.

Thursday December 2, 2004

Jaspie - losing a pet

“To live in the hearts of those you leave behind is not to die” – Anon
It’s another heartbreaking day. Less than three weeks ago our 18-year-old black and white cat, Jasper (the Newcastle United fan) was still coming over the stable door into the kitchen and jumping up on the 4 ft high working surfaces. No wonder people don’t come round to dinner.

Two weeks ago he had some diarrhoea and started to lose weight. Then I noticed he couldn’t jump on my lap or on my desk like he used to. It could be quite irritating when I was busy. “I know it’s a mouse Jaspie,” I’d say, as he rubbed his face into my hand, “but it’s for the computer.”

One of our little party pieces was for me to tell him to get in the out tray. Quite often he did and sat in it.

How I wish he could interrupt me again.

Our vet came out to see him and we tried him on some pills but he still deteriorated. Yet he still wanted fuss and his engine-like purr was as strong as ever.

Laura was away for a few days so the house was empty when I came home last night, ironically from a lunch in Newcastle. Our friend Sue had fed him and left a note saying he didn’t eat much. As his pill was in it I left it in the hope he would eat later.

I took a snack into the lounge and watched the last half hour of the Manchester United-Arsenal League Cup semi-final.

When I looked up I found he had silently come in and was lying in the middle of the floor. Normally he would have jumped up on me but he had now given up trying.

After the game I laid on the floor and fussed him. Then I left him there and went to my office. Half an hour later he had moved to another part of the floor but was still flat out. I picked him up, took him into my office and laid him on the cushions on my spare chair. He jumped down but fell over. Carefully I picked him up again and he went and laid under the radiator in the hall.

Hoping he was settled for the night I left him and went to bed but came back to look at him a couple of times during the night.

I had forgotten to turn off my 5 30 alarm call from the day before and woke with a start. My first thought was for him. There was no sign of him in the hall but I found him in the kitchen tucking into his previous night’s food and then he had some water. I started to think this was hopeful until he just laid down by the side of his food on the cold, uncarpeted floor. Something totally out of character.

He had a squeak rather than a miaow and he was giving me some silent squeaks with his mouth. This has always been a sign that he wanted something. He clearly hadn’t visited his litter tray for 10 hours so I carried him to it. Normally he would jump straight out if this was not what he wanted but he stayed and tried to go. After a time he gave up and got out flopping onto the black plastic sheet around it.

I put some cushions under the radiator and carried him to them. He laid on them and looked very peaceful. From time to time I would come back and see him.  I would lay beside him on the floor and stroke him. At one visit I wept over him, a few of my tears dropping on to his fur. At this there were plenty of soundless squeaks coming from him. Perhaps he was telling me not to worry? I hope so.

As light came up I had several tearful calls to Laura. She agonised over whether to come down and then drive back to London again. Fate made the decision for her when she found she had a flat tyre.

The vet agreed to come out after 11 and I pottered about without much enthusiasm or purpose.

Sue arrived at 9 and he showed a bit of interest. He even got himself into the kitchen and ate a little of the fresh fish I’d put down for him. Then he had a drink and flopped again by the side of his dishes.

Just before 11 I picked him up and put him into one of his favourite positions – the Parrot. With his front paws over my shoulder he would stay for sometime, when it suited him, purring away as his tummy was rubbed.

He felt like a bag of bones but he still looked a handsome cat. With his white whiskers and one white eyebrow, obviously inherited from his white mother Fiona. If he had been human, he would surely have been a Colonel in the Raj.
I carried him into the lounge and laid back in my big chair. He has always been a fidgety cat, unable to sit or stay still even when he was on a lap. Now he laid in the same position, purring into my right ear as my head rested against his fur for what I knew would be the last time.

He dozed and I sat there, perfectly happy to stay for hours, or even days, rather than hear the knock on the door.

All too soon it came.

Barely able to speak to Jim, our nice vet, I handed him over and we laid him on the kitchen floor. We talked over him and I again called Laura. We all had to accept that, even if he did last another day, two at the most, it would be a time of increasing indignity and possible suffering. We took the unbearable decision.

Jim gave him a small sedative and I said that I would take him to the bench outside which Laura had just bought in memory of Jasper’s mum Fiona, who had died less than four months previously.

I had had no experience of losing a pet until then and the fact that I was trying to support Laura seemed to make it less agonising than it was today. I suppose that, as I work in the house and that Jasper hardly ever went outside to Laura’s office, I had become very close to him. He had become my mate for the past 18 months. We had spent plenty of that time alone together during the day and evening. Fiona, who slept on our bed was, in her last few months, our night-time pal.

As I was about to carry him out Laura called and stayed on the line for the next sad few minutes.

I put on my scruffy old Barbour and picked him up. I thought afterwards that perhaps I should have worn something better He might have been saying “couldn’t he wear something a bit smarter for my last few minutes? Bit of reverence would have been nice”.

He was in a loose Parrot position and now sedated. I rubbed my face in his fur but he didn’t respond. I thanked him for all the fun and love and said he’d been a great cat. Laura told him she loved him down the ‘phone as Jim gently cut away a little fur from his right leg and, just as gently, injected him. He didn’t feel any different as Jim put his stethoscope to his little chest. Then he said quietly “He’s gone.”

I said the same to Laura. “I’m still holding him though,” I said. Down the line Laura asked if he was cold. “No. He still feels like Jaspie. I’m rubbing my face in his fur.”

“Does he smell nice?”

I said he did.

Jim took him from me and laid him on the seat. I found an old blanket and took it back. I rubbed his head for the last time and said goodbye to him. We wrapped him up and put him in the back of Jim’s Range Rover. 

Hardly able to speak once more I asked Jim if he thought that he had missed Fiona. He said he thought he was more human oriented. It was a shrewd observation.

Although I had always preferred dogs these two had made more or a cat lover as well. While I was probably more into Fiona when they arrived two years ago from their Fulham home, I had become especially close to Jasper as the time went by. Often he would do what you told him and certainly understood “No” even if he tried it on again 30 seconds later. And when I’d been cross with him he would soon be back with me letting me know that he still loved me even if it appeared that I’d stopped loving him.

All the love he had received from Laura, her family and friends over his 18 years had made him the cat he was. Nobody had ever been anything but kind to him every day of his life. Thus he loved people.

When friends came round he would always be with us, sitting in the middle as if he wanted to join in the conversation. When workmen were in the house for a month at the start of the year he was with them, joining them for lunch or sitting on a Workmate in the middle of whatever room they were working in.

They were all good blokes but we were glad when they’d gone. I think he missed them.

If someone sat down there was every chance he would be on their lap. The most remarkable instance was when Ian, a local computer wizard, came round to look at my laptop. I left him to it and when I walked back into my office he was working away with Jasper on his lap.

I immediately apologised but Ian said it was not a problem and carried on working. Recently when I recounted the story to his colleague, George, he was amazed. “Ian doesn’t like cats,” he said.

I gave Jim back some old food for the animal charity and then he drove off. I couldn’t watch him go up the track. I went back into the house, shut myself in the lounge and wept for him.

When I recovered I tried in vain to concentrate at my desk. I started to worry about myself. My chest was tight and almost painful. Maybe it was genuine heartache

Sue took up his litter tray and I again spoke to Laura. I told her I had just found the little ball I had bought for him the previous Christmas. Despite his age he had shown some interest in it. Let’s face it, he had never grown up. Until three weeks ago he was an18-year-old kitten. I gave it to Sue for her young cat. Laura told me not to throw all his things away but to put them in the garage. “Let me do something for him,” she said tearfully.

How much he had impacted on our life struck me very soon. With elderly cats you don’t leave every room open just in case. Suddenly we had no need to shut the doors.

Old bread for the birds could be thrown on the ground again. Jasper had developed a late-in-life taste for bread.

There was no need to hide my travel bags from him. Laura was convinced he got upset when he saw them and I had at least partly gone along with it.

The burglar alarm man who had just arrived for a regular service need no longer set the beams on “pet position”.
Now, just before I went out and when I thought I had dealt with everything, I came across his fresh fish and an unfinished tin of his special food in the fridge.

Eventually I left for a dinner at Swindon Town and looked back through the window in the front door. Yesterday he would have been looking at me. Now there was nothing. Nor would he be there to greet me as he always did when I came home, leading me straight to the kitchen for some grub.

Before I left my hotel I called Laura who was preparing for the Lady Ratlings Christmas party. Talking to her again made me feel emotional and I had another little weep when we finished.

I met up with Mike Sullivan, Swindon’s commercial manager who used to work at Crystal Palace, and Tommy Docherty. With my nickname there was no point in talking about my day and expecting sympathy. To them it would just be a laugh.

I went well at the dinner and it took my mind off things for a few hours.

Back in my hotel room I looked at Jasper’s picture. Wisely or unwisely I had put him up on my screensaver. Once when I had carried him into my office in his parrot position and sat down, still holding him and expecting him to jump off onto my desk, he instead climbed up and stood behind my head on my shoulders. Sue quickly took a picture of him. I thought, as I looked at his picture, how privileged I had been to have the total trust of an animal.

Now no more would he be startling me by jumping up onto my lap or my desk telling me it was time for yet another feed.

No more would he sit in the middle of my desk, right on the papers I was working on.

No more would he kick the pens around my desk.

No more would he flick his little paw at me reminding me, as if I needed it, that he was there and would appreciate a bit of fuss. If you ignored him too long he could give you a whack in the face.

No more would he bend his head down as I rubbed my nose in the fur on his crown.

No more would he pull a thread in a brand new sweater.

No more would he jump on me as I laid in my big chair watching the football , completely blocking the screen from view. Telling him that there would be food at half-time had no effect. He wanted it “Now!”

Christmas would be hard as last year both cats were there in the kitchen for hours on end, unable to leave the smell of the turkey, which they knew they would be getting eventually.

Come summer he would no longer be lying on the big round garden table or being kicked off it a dozen times when he tried to get at our lunch.

No more would I return from a ‘phone call to find him dragging half my sandwich across that table.

No more would he be on the patio, lying on his back in the sun, warming his tummy and with one back leg stuck straight up in a ridiculous position as if he was trying to get better FM reception in our valley.

No more would he walk the entire length of Laura on her sunbed culminating with a lick on the tip of her nose.

No more would he walk round the garden with me, or flick at my trousers while I walked backwards teasing him as he followed me down the lawn trying to get at me.

A week after Fiona died Laura, who had coped pretty well with the loss of her soulmate, was outside with me sweeping up some of my pruning. Suddenly she was in tears.

“I hope she’s alright,” she said.


“I hope she’s alright. I’ve spent so much of my life wondering if she’s alright when she’s not been with me that I can’t stop worrying if she’s alright.”

I sort of understood then and expressed the hope that she was now with my father who had died nearly two years ago. It broke my heart to see her so sad. She was clearly hurting so much despite a brave face. For nearly 20 years the cats had been one of the big loves of her life. Her babies.

Since I met Laura over 13 years ago I have grown increasingly fond of the cats and felt a sense of ownership especially over the last two years. Every ‘phone call between us has always included a “how are the pusscats?” sometimes before we even asked about each other. Over the last three weeks Jasper has been a particular worry for me. A few months earlier when he had had a similar stomach problem we had got him better and he soon put weight back on. I had been hoping and praying that we might do the same this time.

How much I shall miss him. How many times will I involuntarily look for him in his special places and feel the pain of realisation that he’s not there? How much I hope there is an afterlife and that he is with old friends who will love him as much as we did.

Now I understand completely what Laura was feeling just a few months back. Losing Fiona was hard enough. This seems unbearable..

Fiona, Jaspie, wherever you are, I hope you’re alright.

Grumpy old goalies


Bob 'The Cat' Bevan