Alison AplinThe heartache of pet ownership

Reading the eclectic diversity of articles by GardenDrum authors about gardens and gardening, it has become pretty evident to me that a lot of true gardeners are also great animal lovers. It seems an automatic impulse or desire in us that we graduate froma love of plants to all creatures as well.

One of the big joys of of my gardening life has been the relationship of my animals and me as we spend time together in the garden. Our pets are currently Archibald our big black Labrador of 7 years, Jerome our tabby and Mildred [Milly] the tortoiseshell at only 7 months. They delight in us being in the garden with them as much as we enjoy their company. To me, it is all part of gardening. Some of their antics can be truly hilarious.

Four weeks ago, Jerome disappeared. He is a very large superbly marked tabby of 20 months and is desexed; he had never wandered before. I have been frantic with grief about him. One conjurs up all sorts of horrid thoughts during the middle of the night, rendering one spent and exhausted in the morning.

Jerome’s emaciated body

On Monday this week, I was phoned by the local vet to say that Jerome had been found and taken to the Veterinary Surgery. I was warned that he was not in a good way. What an understatement this proved to be!

Jerome visibly dehydrated

Jerome was emaciated and dehydrated – his eyes were like saucers, and shrunken into the back of his bony head. His hind quarters had clearly visible bones with only skin covering them – his muscle tone has all gone. But it was his front foot that was the biggest horror. Instead of a foot he now has a crushed and mangled mess of visible bone shard and bare, red, suppurating flesh. His foot had oh too obviously been shattered in a rabbit trap.

The mangled foot

Jerome was too sick to operate on. The foot is gutted, but also is the whole limb, because for 4 weeks he has been trying to walk on this foot, finding it too painful and so has held it up to walk on 3 legs. The limb now has severe contractures and will never mend. It has to be removed tomorrow.

While awaiting surgery, we have him home; he gets many small amounts of his favourite food – chuck steak. He is also drinking well and looks so much better after only 3 days with TLC. But when he is asleep which he seems to have difficulty doing, his shaking is akin to a fit, they are so fierce. I can only assume that he is reliving the shocking experience of being left in a rabbit trap in severe pain. This will take him a long time to recover from mentally. The body will repair, but the mental anguish is obviously going to last for some time.

Our darling boy follows me everywhere that he can. He sits at my feet as I write this. I know that I will do everything in my power to help him get through this ordeal, the best being to shower him with love and patience as he gets beyond this experience.

I have written a letter to the editor of the local paper about this illegal practice. I have also contacted the local shire ranger who is going to try to find the culprit. He is, like me, horrified that anyone would still be doing this to animals.

There is a saying that ‘people who are cruel to animals have a real capacity to be cruel to humans’. Unfortunately there are still too many people who seem oblivious to this adage and practice it without a care in the world. Fortunately I believe that Karma will eventually catch up with them. It gives me some respite.

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Alison Aplin

About Alison Aplin

Alison is a passionate, multi award winning sustainable landscape designer, Horticulturist and arborist. She has been the owner and designer of 2 Ecotourism gardens that have both won significant awards. Her writing is based on knowledge, empirical learning which is essential to sustainable ethic, and a questioning mind leading to much research. Her articles are often controversial - with a disclaimer that she is responsible for the written matter, and not Garden Drum. A deeply caring person about the natural environment, Alison's writing endeavours to explain why sustainable landscapes are so important. Without people like her, they will be lost and gardens will become merely concrete

17 thoughts on “The heartache of pet ownership

  1. What a terrible time for you and poor Jerome! Our pets really do become an integral part of our garden. It’s hard to believe that someone in the 21st century is still using illegal rabbit traps. You’d think everyone in Australia would be beyond such animal cruelty. I hope he makes a good recovery as a 3-legged cat!

  2. Thank you Catherine – I appreciate your concern. Tim our son is now calling our precious boy ‘Tripod’! He is such a stoic cat, I’m sure that he will be fine.

  3. Heart wrenching story for us pet lovers. We brought our two cats from Auckland (one being a bengal very similar looking to Jerome) and were fearful of all the natural predators in our bushland never mind our own kind! He is lucky to have his life and a clearly very caring mother. My best wishes to you both.

    • Thank you Matt for your very caring response. Jerome is special I will admit.
      He is currently terrorising both Archibald and Milly because he wants to go outside, but caution says not yet – especially with a helmet on his head!

  4. this made me cry. How lucky is Jerome. And how tough are cats! Give him a pat for me please. I hope the operation goes well. Knowing cats, you’ll probably find that once he is himself again, he’ll be climbing trees. Tripod is a great name!

    • Another cat lover! Jerome is already climbing onto the table and sitting on top of the newspaper whenever he can, so will assume that he wont look back from here.
      Thanks Anne for your warm comment.

  5. So sorry to hear of Jerome’s ordeal. Hope he makes full recovery.I’ve just lost my two 16 yr old cats
    and I really miss them following me around the garden.

    • Oh Lois I am so sorry to hear about your 2 cats. It is gut-wrenching when you lose them. Our tabby before Jerome was 18 years old when we had to euthanase him thru ill health. I commiserate with you.
      Jerome is a survivor and will be fine with only 3 legs and he is young enough to get over it well.
      Dare I suggest getting another cat? It was recommended to me and it really does help to stop that heartache. Jerome and Mildred are both from the RSPCA and are great cats.

  6. So very sad to hear about Jerome’s shocking ordeal, Alison. Hoping under your loving care he makes a good recovery and manages a three-legged life without too much discomfort. Animals are very adaptable, so am sure he will. What a fine looking boy he is! No wonder he is so beloved.

    We have always had animals here on our acreage, but with the loss of two pets , cat and dog, from ticks in the past few years, despite vigilance and preventative treatment, we are loathe to commit our heart again. A solution is keeping them inside always, but it seems against nature to keep animals off the land, especially when we have so much of it.

    • Jerome is a cat with attitude! For all that he is now a 3 legged variety, he is still master of the house – and I love him dearly for it.
      Animals give great joy to many humans. I cannot imagine a life without them, so really feel for you and your decision not to have any more.

    • I have seen on TV that one of the flea treatments also gets ticks. Hope this helps you decide to get a new pet. Gardening without the director (our pets) is no fun. My cat Ms. Fluff loves to watch me do all the hard work while she streches, thinking what an exhausting day she has had in her chair.
      Cheers Sandi

  7. Tearing up after this story. So sad. But I’m sure he’s getting lots of love and attention. My elderly mother has two cats and they’re a joy. Such wonderful companionship for her.

    • Thank you Ambra for your sincerity.
      Jerome is managing well with 3 legs. Further down the track, when his hair grows over after the surgery, I will post a picture of him in his new 3 legged mode.

  8. I do wish Jerome Tripod well; I’m so pleased he was found and returned to his loving home.
    Just a little word or warning about his losing a front leg.. ensure that there are no open water sites that he can get into because he will have difficulty getting out of ponds etc with just one front leg. Keep an eye on him, give him a well-belled collar and don’t leave him alone outdoors.

    • I totally heed your warning Phileppa. But dear Jerome is a wilful soul who cannot be controlled – this is how he got into this position if the first instance.
      He climbs again, chases Milly the other cat for dominance, drinks water out of our pond and so on. All still with stitches in situ. We never leave him out when we aren’t at home tho – this is the one area of control that I insist on.

  9. I do hope Jerome Tripod is doing well, love the name Tripod. I hope you catch the rotten person who set the trap. Perhaps you could set it on their fingers and see how they like it.

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