Happy Fifth Anniversary to Mara!

My little muse and constant companion

Just tapping out a quick post at the end of an unexpectedly hectic weekend to note that it was five years ago today that we adopted our cat, Mara. It feels like we’ve been through quite a lot together in a relatively short length of time from moving out of the little, rented flat we lived in when we adopted her to our own house, nursing her back to health after cancer and having her tail amputated – and again last month when she suddenly became unwell, to the arrival of our daughter earlier this year. Throughout everything, Mara has shown such resilience and courage, and her trust in us has never wavered. Mara really is a very special cat, and I’m so grateful to be able to spoil her a little bit more than normal today.

Unfortunately, Mara is still a bit unsure and scared about the battery-powered, revolving butterfly toy we bought her (she seems to prefer her feathery wand toys) but she was much more enthusiastic about the roast chicken we gave her as a special treat.

We’ve spent most of the weekend isolating at home after our 8-month-old daughter came down with what we suspected was just the common cold but as she had a cough we thought we’d better get tested, and her two bottom teeth decided to make their appearence this weekend as well. No sooner had we received the negative test result than my husband took himself off to bed to nurse his own cold. I’ve had my hands full this weekend, but nevertheless, very grateful to celebrate Mara’s fifth anniversary with us. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

4 Years 11 Months 9 Days…

Recovering at home, September 2020

Relieved and grateful to have reached the end of what has felt like the longest week for our little family. It started ordinarily enough taking my 7 month old daughter to a Baby Sensory class on Monday and visiting my parents on Tuesday, but in the very early hours of Wednesday morning, our cat Mara suddenly became unwell with vomiting and diarrhoea, by dawn she was off her food, lethargic and hiding under our bed.

We took her to the vet who ran a series of tests but couldn’t find anything wrong, apart from a very low white blood cell count, and I spent the rest of the day handfeeding her chicken but by the evening she was no better and refusing to eat again. We took her back to the vet on Thursday morning and they kept her in overnight to give her fluids and an antiemetic by IV, as well as antibiotics and an appetite stimulant, and her condition was stable enough for her to return home on Friday evening. We’re still not sure what caused her sudden illness – an infection, gastroentiritis or even a severe food intolerance are all possibilities – and she’s still not back to full health but I’m so relieved that she’s eating, cuddling, purring and even playing a little bit, which are all encouraging signs that she’s recovering.

Me and Mara, January 2016

I was planning to share a post next month to mark the fifth anniversary of the date we adopted Mara, but this week has reminded not to take anything or anyone for granted, so I’m sharing a little Mara update today four years, eleven months and nine days after we adopted her. I always knew adopting an adult rescue cat meant there was a chance she might not be with us very long (Mara is somewhere between 10 and 14 years old now) but I won’t ever regret choosing Mara because she’s been such an affectionate, playful and constant companion, and so gentle and patient with our baby daughter too.

Mara and our daughter, August 2020

For such a small animal, she’s an enormous presence in our home from whining for food (at all hours!), scampering around when she wants to play, chirruping as she greets us at the front door, purring and padding at the foot of our bed as she settles down for the night, sunbathing on the windowsills during the summer and stretching out in front of the fire in the winter.

I’m so thankful to the vets for their diagnosis and treatment options, as well as for pet insurance (which has paid for itself again and again), but most of all, I’m grateful for Mara, who has always been so much more than a pet, bringing so much love, affection and joy to our lives. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

Making Friends

It feels like life is on hold as the lockdown continues in our country, yet the last few months have been a whirlwind for us since our daughter was born, and our once quiet, peaceful home is now more lively and full than ever.

It’s been a huge transition for us, but wanted to share a little update on how our cat Mara is adjusting. We adopted Mara four and a half years ago, and it’s honestly hard to remember life before she joined our family because so many of our decisions and daily routines revolve around her. We’re very much “til death do us part” pet owners and re-homing Mara was never an option we were willing to consider when I found out I was pregnant. Fortunately, Mara has a gentle temperament and she’s much more likely to flee to a safe, quiet location than to scratch or bite.

 

Mara’s a creature of habit and routine, most of which were thrown into chaos and disorder by the arrival of our baby daughter. I did worry that Mara thought she’d been replaced at first but my husband and I are very conscious of making sure Mara gets some time and attention every day to play with her, brush her, pet and cuddle her, giving her a few extra treats (including the cat-grass we grow, much to my father-in-law’s amusement) and encouraging her to sit on our laps when we’re not holding the baby.

We were initially worried that Mara might climb into the bedside crib with our daughter, but she usually gives it a wide berth due to the unpredictable and noisy occupant. We’re lucky that our daughter generally sleeps well, and Mara still chooses to sleep at the bottom of our bed most nights.

So far introductions have all been supervised, and most of their interactions have been limited to Mara peering into the crib when the wee one is sleeping, and giving her a tentative sniff when we hold them close enough to see each other. For her part, our daughter isn’t quite sure what to make of Mara either, but usually studies the feline member of our family with a combination of wide eyes and furrowed brows. Little by little, they’re becoming more confident and curious about one another, and I’m hopeful that they’ll become friends as time goes by. Hope everyone is safe and well, have a lovely week. X

Happy Anniversary to Mara

It’s been far too long since I last wrote about Mara, and as it’s just a week shy of four years since we adopted her from the Scottish SPCA, it seemed fitting to share a wee post about our beloved pet cat today.

Mara bookcase

I’ve often wondered what Mara’s life was like before she came to us, what she looked like as a kitten and how she got the scar on her nose, but she settled in with us so quickly, establishing her own little routines that it’s hard to remember what life was like before we adopted her.

Caring for Mara has provided a grounding consistency to our daily life, and in return she’s been a constant source of affection and companionship. Mara can still be shy and skittish around strangers, but she actively seeks out our attention and company, from rushing to the front door to greet us when we return from work to following us around the house as we go about our chores and squeezing herself into the smallest gaps to snuggle up close.

Much has changed since the newly-wed couple just back from their honeymoon adopted a squeaky, tabby and white cat from the rescue shelter – we’ve moved house, we’ve both changed jobs (and the whole direction of our careers), and just as significantly Mara herself survived cancer. We’re now preparing for another significant change, but so far Mara seems oblivious to my pregnancy. I’m not sure how she’ll react to having a noisy, little human infant in her midst but we couldn’t have imagined a more gentle, playful and cuddly family pet (such a contrast to the rough and tumble cats my husband and I had growing up!) and we hope Mara will take this latest shift in our little family’s dynamic in her stride.

Happy anniversary to Mara, and wishing everyone else a lovely week. X

The Giant Lanterns of China

One of my highlights of 2018 was visiting the Giant Lanterns of China at Edinburgh Zoo for Chinese New Year, and I was thrilled when I found out they were putting on another show this year. This time around the theme was Myths and Legends, and I loved the clash of Scottish and Chinese mythology, like the Loch Ness Monster tangling with a Chinese water dragon.

Nessie and Dragon

There were a few lanterns recycled from the previous event but I was impressed by how much thought and effort had been made to ensure it was every bit as original and memorable as the first, and I thought it was even better than the previous year.

Aside from all the fantastical creatures, there was also a section displaying extinct animals alongside currently endangered species, providing a pertinent reminder that we must act now to prevent species from disappearing in our lifetime due to climate change, hunting and loss of habitat.

Living in Scotland, we’re no strangers to inclement weather, but when it started snowing, it only made the experience seem more magical as we meandered between the gorgeous lanterns with cold hands wrapped around hot drinks, and it was a wonderful way to spend a wintry evening in February. Have a lovely week! X

Review of ‘Finding Gobi’ by Dion Leonard

Finding_Gobi

I can’t remember when I first heard about the ultra-marathon runner from Edinburgh who bonded with a stray dog he found while competing in a race across the Gobi desert in China, but I was delighted when I found out he’d written a book about their story.

Something that struck me right from the start is that it was the little dog who chose Dion out of a hundred other runners, not the other way around. Mile after mile, the scruffy stray he names Gobi keeps pace with Dion, and little by little he starts to enjoy her company as she gallops along beside him, at times Gobi’s presence helps him push through the pain, exhaustion and boredom of long distance running. A real turning point in their relationship comes when Dion stops to carry Gobi across a river that is too deep and fast flowing for her to cross, even though he knows it will cost him time and probably his position in the race too. By the time he crosses the finish line, seven days and 155 miles later, Dion has resolved to bring her back to the UK with him.

Roughly the first third of Finding Gobi focuses on the ultra-marathon, and the rest describes all the challenges of trying to bring Gobi back to the UK. I don’t want to spoil it, but this story ends happily and their reunion and eventual return to the UK is that much sweeter for all the obstacles and setbacks they faced along the way.

Dion, a bit of a loner by nature with a fair bit of emotional baggage from his childhood and adolescence, is humbled by the outpouring of generosity and support from friends and strangers alike who donate money to the crowd-funding campaign he starts or give up their time to help him directly. It is Dion’s commitment to bringing Gobi home that drives the campaign, but it’s the kindness of people from all over the world who make it possible, and in turn make this story so heart-warming and memorable.

Although my own furry, four-legged companion is of the feline variety, there were so many aspects of this story that resonated with me. Human relationships can often be complex, yet our animal companions offer us their love and trust unconditionally, and no matter how we may see ourselves they accept us just as we are. Yet even more than that, Finding Gobi demonstrates that somehow animals also have the ability to bring out our very best qualities – from commitment and co-operation to kindness and compassion.

Have a lovely week. X

Happy Chinese New Year!

 

As it was Chinese New Year at the weekend, my hubby and I decided to visit the Giant Lanterns of China that have been on display at Edinburgh Zoo over the winter.

As darkness fell over the city, we wandered along the mile long circuit marveling at over 450 handcrafted silk lanterns illuminating the zoo. The beautiful displays featured elements from Chinese culture as well as various animals, birds and insects to be found in the zoo (though all of the real animals were kept inside overnight).

As with any outdoor event in Scotland, we were glad it was a dry evening, especially when we stopped to watch a twenty minute performance by Chinese acrobats who impressed the audience with their feats of strength and balance.

It was a wonderful way to spend a winter evening while learning a little bit about Chinese mythology and some of the conservation work that the zoo does. Have a lovely week. X

ChineseNewYear6

Review of ‘The World According to Bob’ by James Bowen

TheWorldAccordingtoBobandMara

A Street Cat Named Bob was the first book I reviewed this year, and it seems fitting that the sequel The World According to Bob should be the last. This picks up where the first book finished, James is a recovering addict, struggling to make ends meet by selling the Big Issue magazine and living in a London tower-block with Bob, the stray cat he adopted in the previous book.

Both books really capture the unconditional love, trust, loyalty and affection that can exist between people and animals, and how healing and transformative those bonds can be. Taking care of Bob gives James a sense of purpose, routine and responsibility, it’s his reason to get out of bed in the morning, to work hard and stay sober.

James isn’t proud of his past, and although he describes his difficult childhood shuttling between divorced parents in England and Australia, and his failed attempts to become a musician that ultimately resulted in him becoming homeless and addicted to heroin in London, he doesn’t blame anyone else for his choices.

James’ humanity comes across throughout the book as he understands the desperation that leads people in a similar situation to his own resorting to intimidation, violence, theft and addiction to numb their pain and shame. When his own fortunes start to change, James sees it as part of his duty and purpose to raise awareness of the harsh realities of those rough-sleeping, battling addictions and trying to eke out a living working on the streets.

James doesn’t have much by most people’s standards, and yet he is grateful for everything he does have, and his gratitude extends to all the people that believed in him and helped him when he needed it most from the Blue Cross vets who treated Bob whenever he was sick or injured to the Big Issue organisation, his parents, friends and the publishers who gave him the opportunity to share his story. Above all, James is grateful to the little cat that changed his life and inspired him to become the very best version of himself. I don’t usually read autobiographies but I found both of James Bowen’s books thoroughly heart-warming and inspiring. Have a lovely week. X

A very special anniversary… ❤️

Maranniversary1

Just a quick post to mark that it was two years ago today that we adopted our cat Mara from the SSPCA. As Mara is a rescue cat we don’t know when her birthday is or even how old she is but we like to celebrate the day we adopted her, and this is a very special anniversary as we weren’t sure that she would even still be here to celebrate it at all.

Back in January when our vet diagnosed the lump we’d found on her tail as a mast cell tumour, they had warned us that she might only have six to twelve months left. The vets amputated her tail to give her the best chance of survival, but the next six months were full of blood tests, ultrasound scans, x-rays and fine needle aspirates to ensure the cancer had not originated or spread elsewhere. It was a relief for all of us in July when the oncology department at the small animal hospital finally gave us the all clear, and we’re so grateful to all the vets who have helped us.

We all still miss that fluffy, tabby tail crooked like a question mark when she walked around, thrashing from side to side when she played or curling round our wrists when she was asleep, but nowhere near as much as we’d miss Mara if we hadn’t found the lump in time. Mara has been so brave and resilient throughout it all, she made a full recovery and adapted with no continence issues or loss of balance and mobility, and she is still every bit as affectionate, mischievous and curious as the day we adopted her.

Back then, we were newly-weds just back from our honeymoon, when we visited the rehoming centre to look for a potential new addition to our little family. I still remember seeing the tabby and white cat pressed up against the door of her enclosure and rearing up on her hind legs to let us stroke her when we went in to say hello. Bringing her home, we were almost as nervous as we were excited, as she was the first pet either my husband or I had had since leaving our family homes, and it seemed like such a big responsibility, yet Mara easily settled in with us, quickly becoming the centre of our world and the beating heart of our home. Now, two years later we are happy to have an excuse to spoil her a little more than usual today – even if she steadfastly refuses to let me take a photo of her wearing a party hat. Have a lovely week.

A Postcard from Argyll

Seals1

Over the last few years as part of our effort to simplify our lives and downsize our possessions, my husband and I have eschewed buying gifts for each other in favour of treating each other to experiences instead. This year for my birthday, my husband whisked me off to the Argyll coast for a little adventure together.

We traveled to the Isle of Seil about 20 miles south of Oban as my husband had booked a wildlife spotting trip by speedboat for us. We were provided with waterproof trousers and jackets, as well as a life-jacket and binoculars by our guides before boarding our vessel. Skimming along the waves in a speedboat turned out to be a thrilling albeit turbulent way to travel, and we were very grateful for our waterproofs by the end!

The tour lasted two hours and took us from Easdale, past the lighthouse on Fladda, before passing round Luing and Scarba.

We saw grey and common seals on Luing and Scarba. I’d only ever seen seals in sea-life centres or aquariums before this so it was lovely to see them wild and in their natural habitat, and they were not at all bothered by our presence. The seals were one of the highlights of the trip for me and I could happily have spent the whole day watching them laze on the rocks and splashing in the water.

The porpoises that sometimes visit the area were too shy to show themselves on the day we visited, but there were wild goats, as well as red and fallow deer grazing on Luing. Our sharp-eyed guides also pointed out a female hen harrier among the trees on Scarba, though she was a bit too far away for me to snap a photo of, but it was still wonderful to see such a rare bird of prey.

The final part of our speedboat journey took us to the Corryvreckan whirlpool which lies between Scarba and the tip of Jura. Local legends state that it was an old witch washing her plaid that created the whirlpool. This part of the experience probably wasn’t much fun for anyone prone to seasickness but it definitely impressed upon me the raw power of the Atlantic Ocean, and the skill of our skipper.

Back on dry land, we stopped to admire the Clachan Bridge, also known as the Bridge over the Atlantic, which connects the Isle of Seil to mainland Scotland. At first glance, it looks like a bridge over a river, but closer inspection reveals seaweed clinging to the rocks at the water’s edge and a narrow section of the Atlantic Ocean flowing between the two banks.

The nearby pub is called the Tigh na Truish Inn (or the House of Trousers) because defiant islanders used the inn to change out of their kilts into trousers before travelling over the bridge to Scotland, where the wearing of kilts and clan tartans had been outlawed following the Jackobite’s defeat at Culloden.

We stopped in Oban for something to eat, and as it’s been several years since we last visited, wandered up to McCaig’s Tower, which offers a view (Scottish weather permitting!) of the harbour below and the islands of Kerrara, Lismore and Mull in the distance.

I often lament that I live in a beautiful country with fascinating landscapes, wildlife and history but have explored so little of it, so it was a lovely birthday adventure and an experience that already stands out in my memory. Have a lovely week.