RIP Ashanti, my golden girl

There is a corner of our Henley on Klip garden that will be forever in my heart.

Early one morning we found our golden girl stiff and cold, with ice in her fluffy coat and plumed tail. There was no indication of how or why she died. She is gone.

Her name was Abena Ashanti, Tuesday’s Girl Child. She was a Maine Coon, a miniature lioness with golden eyes, remote, regal, always graceful. Not a people cat, she walked alone, or watched from the sidelines, deigning to accept my passing caress as long as I did not trespass on her space.

I like to think that she was happy here in Henley. In Johannesburg, she had a tame, suburban garden with trees to climb and roofs to scale, even sitting on top of the chimney. Here it is wilder, rougher and she could test her hunting skills, often bringing home mice and birds.

We would find her sitting quietly under a bush, or outside the gate watching the world go by, ready to dart home to safety. Her fluffy coat, patterned in shades of orange, cream, caramel, gold, brown and black, was not ideal for Henley. In blackjack season she often arrived encased in an armour of tightly woven spiky seeds and protested loudly when we tried to help her. The shorter fluff of our Henley-bred kittens seems to discard them.

I miss her. I miss her silent presence, her great golden eyes, her feline stalk. Why do we do it; give away our hearts knowing that there is only heartbreak to come?

So short a time we have with them, but as I look back over the years and remember the dogs, cats and even rats that I have known and loved, I would not have missed any of them for the world.

Each enriched my life immeasurably, each different, each special, each with their own little quirks and personality.

With dogs, the relationship is unconditional. They are there for you always, without question, their only desire is to share your life.

With cats, you have to earn it.

I always had dogs as a child; cats came later, when I was an adult. I possibly still don’t speak “cat” very well, but they tend to be forgiving.

Well, sometimes. Abena Ashanti never forgave those who grabbed and hugged her, which was hard when she was so big, soft, fluffy and beautiful; so eminently huggable. She demanded homage and respect, not cuddles.

Our relationship was one of mutual respect and consideration. I was honoured when she deigned to meet me halfway. Some cats are like that.

Obviously I prefer the easier members of the fraternity, those who don’t mind a passing cuddle, a quick hug, those who come to talk, to sit on your lap, to play with your computer mouse, to climb your notice board, to demand their dinner three times a day and as often as possible in between.

Even so, it’s a mark of acceptance when a cat curls up in your lap; a gesture of belonging when they bounce all over you with four sharp little paws in the middle of the night or knead your blanket to shreds while purring like a generator. I appreciate the honour.

Ashanti has gone. I look at the rest of my furry family, dogs and cats, and I know that the day will come when I will mourn again, but still they are worth it, every moment of every day that I have them to love.

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