9 lives - well lived

Juno's dad was a big, handsome, marmalade tomcat that sat in the driveway of our 'old house' in the centre of town. We used to give him milk when he came to the window, so he hung around the place - but never came inside to say hello. 

We also gave milk and treats to a feral black cat - we had called 'Blackie' . One night, she came came to our back door in huge distress. She was giving birth and one of the kittens had gotten stuck in the birth canal. Barry pulled out the dead kitten, and the others were born alive. I was always struck by the fact that although she was a wild cat, that in this moment of life or death for her and her kittens, she came to our door for help. 

After that night, she disappeared for a few weeks and we didn't really dwell on it. 

Some weeks later, my daughter Zoe, who was only around 3 at the time, brought in two tiny marmalade kittens from out the back. We named them Goldie and Blondie - because we decided they were girl cats (I am from Dublin!) ! After a few weeks when we had decided to keep them, Zoe and I brought them to the vet and he told us they were male ! This caused a major conversation. Firstly Zoe wanted to know what male meant  . . . and secondly they had girl's names ! 

We spent a few weeks giving it some thought. 

At that time we lived in a small cottage in the centre of town and across the road on a once vacant (and rather boggy) site, they had begun to construct a major development which would become Manor West Retail Park.  When it opened, it attracted huge volumes of traffic to what was before a much quieter road. One Saturday afternoon, there was a terrible accident. I knew something was wrong because all the wild cats living out the back (another story) came up to the window looking very distressed. Blondie had been run over by a car and Goldie was with him and saw everything.

That night, we named the survivor Juno. Not after the Sean O'Casey Play (Juno and the Paycock) or the Roman Goddess (more gender confusion) - but after my brother's band - Juno Falls. (If you have not heard of Juno Falls, their album Starlight Drive is a Masterpiece).

Having used up one of his lives, Juno never went near the road again and remained weary of cars for the rest of his long life. 

So why I am telling you all this.

Mostly because I want to remember - and I am afraid I might forget. Juno was such an important backdrop to our lives. Seemingly omnipresent, always there on the window ledge, in the airing cupboard and latterly in the tumble-dryer! There for 16 years -  from the beginning of my relationship, Zoe's formative years, moving house, a crumbling economy, tears and joy, sunshine and rain (lots of rain). 

Juno - the boss - oversees his lesser subjects Neo and Bella.

Juno - the boss - oversees his lesser subjects Neo and Bella.

Juno was our first pet. When we got our first dog - Jessie, a Doberman - they became great pals, sleeping and playing together. When Jessie died after 10 years, Juno really missed her. I decided to get another dog - and bought Neo (we call him a Setter Cavalier) home but Juno disliked him immediately. For 3 months he turned his back and left the room every time he saw me or Neo. It was like we had betrayed the memory of Jessie by bringing this happy-go-lucky cute looking puppy into the house. However, when Barry brought Bella - another Doberman - home a few months later, Juno welcomed her the moment she walked through the door. I used to think it was because Bella looked like Jessie, now I am not as sure.  Either way, Juno and Bella became pals. 

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Of course, it was not always cat milk and cuddles. If you are a cat owner - you know that cats are very independent, and they decide who to love and who to tolerate. I think I fell into the latter category, and was mostly given his attention because I was the one who doled out the food and poured the cat milk. Juno and I had our spats. I gave out to him for waking me up to let him in the window in the middle of the night, or for shedding all over the freshly washed clothes. But he made it up to me in his own way by bringing mice to the back door and actually eating a live shrew in front of me (fur, tail - everything but the liver and kidneys - clever cat!).  We understood each other and I knew my place !

Over the past year he began to slow down, and then one day, he had a major accident in the bedroom and we thought he had food poisoning. But it went on for weeks. One night he jumped up on the kitchen table and literally lay in front of me, as if to say, I am sick, help me. We brought him to the vet (and then another vet for a second opinion), cooked him organic chicken, got him extra special post op cat food, ... but deep down we all knew it was not food poisoning, but a tumour leaking into his stomach.

Lots of people told us to 'put him down'. Never. He remained stoic to the end, happy to spend evenings with us on the couch,  sit on the window ledge and look into the garden, where he now lies. 

Farewell Juno . . . and thank you for choosing to spend 16 years with us.

(A huge thank you to Karen, for being so very good to Juno)

Orla DiffilyJuno