My mother-in-law was married for over fifty years, and when her husband died, she was bereft. My son Jack took a month off school and moved in with her in her house in South East London.
Mum valiantly tried to pick her life up. She remained cheerful for her family, keeping up a brave front. Then her dog died.
It seemed that she had no more reason to get out every morning for a long walk in the park. It wasn’t sensible to get another dog, as she was over 80 years old by then, so she went to the pet shelter and got herself an old black cat.
The cat, Laika, was (is) a nasty cat. Laika never came whenever Mum called her, and she often scratched Mum when Mum was slow with her food. She fought with the neighborhood cats and killed birds and squirrels. She wrecked the sofa with her vicious claws, though Mum bought her a scratching post.
But Mum never gave up on Laika.
We had suggested many times to her to return Laika to the pet shelter and maybe get a tamer cat.
“No,” Mum said. “She reminded me of my old cat Satan.” Yeah, the name does say something, doesn’t it?
“And we don’t get rid of someone just because she is too much trouble, do we?” Mum said defiantly. “That wasn’t how I was brought up.”
Sadly, Mum sank into dementia very quickly, to the extent that she was unable to care for herself, let alone Laika. My daughter Kat, honouring her grandmother’s words, refused to send Laika back to the pet shelter.
Kat took Laika home to London, to the flat she shared with her brother, Jack. They both worked all day, and it was not unusual for them to come home to a wrecked home. Being used to living in a house with access to a beautiful garden, Laika did not like being locked up in a London flat.
In summer, when we were home, we would take Laika with us to our other son’s house in Southampton. “Laika’s summer holidays!” We would say cheerfully, despite the fact that it typically took us a lot of time and trickery to get her into the cat traveling box.
Then Kat and Jack moved to a garden flat. They thought Laika liked it better at the new place, but one day, Laika ran away from home.
Jack and Kat’s boyfriend roamed the neighborhood looking for Laika. Late at night, Kat’s boyfriend came home triumphantly, carrying Laika in his arms.
“That’s not Laika,” Kat said immediately.
“How do you know?” He asked.
“Well, for starters, she hasn’t scratched you.”
It wasn’t Laika after all. They kept an eye out for her, sad that perhaps she had been run over.
Then one day, Laika came back. She was wearing a collar! It meant that someone had given her a home! She looked well-fed and fine.
I think Kat was secretly relieved.
Laika still comes to visit Kat and Jack – she leaves shit on their doorstep each time she visits, as if to stick her finger up at the Perry family who kidnapped her from her happy house in the suburbs to live in a small flat in London.
Our last photo of Laika at the end of summer, ready for transportation back to London from her summer house in Southampton: