Loesje, 1996-2014 Photo: Jozien Keijzer
By no means a feral cat, Loesje knew the rules of the wild.
Savvy outside, loveable inside, she was the Queen.
She died this fall at the ripe old cat age of 18-and-a-half.
Let me tell you her life story:
On a fair morning in May 1996, my husband Don, our 4-year-old son, Alexander, and I — living temporarily in a holiday trailer on the Takhini River Road — knew it was not the time to take on a pet. An old beater drove up to our trailer. In the back window were three kittens.
Yes, you guessed it, a man got out of the car and asked if we wanted one. They had been born close to his cabin, further down the road. We had never discussed having one, but I loved cats.
As the two men talked men's talk, Alexander and I checked out the kittens, all very friendly and gorgeous.
“ It is not going to be the pure white one. It is to be the black calico with the orange nose stripe,” I said.
I knew Don, being practical would not want a cat. But I do know the ways of men talking and striking a deal. I instructed Alexander to be quiet till the right moment. After letting the men talk and bond Alexander and I popped the question and it was uniformly decided we are adopting one cat.
Loesje, 1996-2014 Photo: Jozien Keijzer
We name her Loesje (pronunciation Lousia).
We do not want to leave her home alone, so she just goes with us everywhere we go. Ours is an outdoor life, especially in summer. At night she comes into the trailer with us and sleeps on my head. I teach her not to, but Alexander does not stop her, and often let her sleep in his bed all through her life.
In those early years she came on many camping trips with us. She is a cat, not a dog. Cats are more private animals, although they do not venture too far. Usually they do not come when you call them. Somehow, before moving on we would always find her again, or she would come back to us.
people we met on the way took delight in her, commenting on her beauty.
On hikes, she came too. Early on we would carry her; later she bounced ahead or would follow us. On one hike, when she was half-a-year-old, I noticed she had not returned in the evening. In the dark evening of fall I called and called, but no Loesje. I figured she would be home later.
In the morning, still no Loesje.
I retraced my steps from the previous day and found her in a thick spruce forest half a kilometre from the house, sitting up straight, waiting patiently, exactly in the spot that I last saw her.
We live in the bush and we know there are wild cat-eaters out there. When a dog came in the yard she would climb up the tallest, most spindly poplar tree to the farthest point. We had to call in the fire brigade, for which we served as firemen ourselves on several occasions.
I am sure this was the same canny way she stayed out of trouble when coming across carnivorous wildlife. Inside, she would be our alarm-bell for even a moose. Excited, she would stand at the window, tail fluffed-up.
Her first winter my worry was -30°C weather.
I was sure she had frozen the tips of her ears. Her ears were always greyish-white as far as I can remember. Many evenings I called for her to come in early but she always came on her own time. Even at 18, she enjoyed a particularly wild night-life, yet always came home safe and sound.
She was an extremely good purrer, but she was not a particularly good birder, though she would watch big robins feeding in the grass for hours. She never brought me a mouse, but I know she did catch them.
She remained slender, small, and looked and behaved like a young cat for most of her life.
We do have another cat still alive; her name is Bubbles. Bubbles and Loesje never really liked each other, but in Loesje's last week, Bubbles, who is also 18 and still very healthy, shiny, slender, and playful, was very respectful to Loesje. Very well-behaved the whole week, Bubbles is now back to normal.
Loesje only grew old two years ago, and recently died a peaceful death, choosing to be very close to us her last five days. We cared for her the best we could, and one night she died in her sleep in her favorite basket by the wood stove.
She never had kittens herself, which I feel bad about because I wonder if there are still cats such as Loesje and Bubbles: very savvy outside and lovable indoors?