March 14th 2008 and my mum [Sheila] and I went to do our usual Friday afternoon shift at the pens.  Both our pets had recently died, my cat Trouve at 20 years and our second boxer Baraka at 12 so we had resolved to stay pet free for a whole year . Less stress, hassle, heartache and worry we said, and each vowed to stop the other giving in!

I was making my way along the sheds, cleaning , feeding and of course stroking, the residents when I became aware I hadn’t seen Sheila for some time. I called out and heard her call from the end shed “Come and see this.”  I opened the door of the shed and was shocked to see the CPL had taken in a poor battered fox cub!  Then I realised that propped up against Sheila’s arms was a sorry excuse for a cat, a bedraggled, bald, bashed up ginger lad who’d been christened Bagpuss.

We petted him, Sheila gently brushed him and we encouraged him to eat up fresh chicken , in what became daily visits. Then we started visiting at least twice a day, watching as he scooped food off the floor with his paws as his mouth seemed sore. We discovered he had been found in a bad way trying to get food in the countryside and also that everyone was noting how good natured he was. We found ourselves trying to get a better name for him, and offered to take him to the vets for his check, and we also realised that we wanted desperately to take him home...before someone else did, because leaving him in the pens was getting harder and harder.  We called him Sable d’Or because what little hair he had was golden and orange like the sands of a desert.

I phoned Carol and explained we would like to take him, depending on his bloods, though most things weren’t a problem as he would be an indoor cat. In the meantime we had taken him for an initial check and he had travelled happily in the carrier and in the car, but when we were walking back to the car a large lorry passed on the road and poor “ Sabi”as he was now known was so scared he had an accident. At the pens we bathed him and towelled him and cuddled him and he stole our hearts.

At that point he had a bad ear, a damaged eye, broken teeth, a damaged sounding palate, singed looking stumps of whiskers, very little fur, and seemed old.  Having decided to make him ours he was booked in to Bridge vet, our CPL vet, but also where Trouve had been looked after. He needed to have his blood checked and be neutered. Our fear was that his results would be bad. However Mr Adams met us with much worse news,  x rays showed that Sabi’s wheezy breathing was due to badly damaged lungs, he had only a tiny lung capacity and the prognosis was poor. He would succumb to infection easily and had little chance of long term survival. Indeed he would probably only live for weeks. “Don’t take him, there are many other cats you could give a home to, “ advised Mr Adams.  “We will see how well he comes round, and he isn’t in pain but as soon as he gets ill we will do the kind thing and let him go. Best to let the CPL keep him until then.”  Shocked we asked if we could see him. On reaching his cage we called his name and he raised his head and opened his eyes.  “That’s the first he’s responded Mr Adams said, he knows you” [ wrong thing to say !!]

We left him there and went outside where my mum said “well that’s it, we will let the CPL foster him until the end.”  “ Oh no “ said I [ who’d resisted all the way ] we can’t do that, he is our cat now, he’s coming home and at least he can have his last wee while in comfort and be cared for in a home.”

And so Sabi, a CPL bed bowls and toys came home, and was left for the evening in a quiet dark room in peace and quiet.  Half an hour later a ginger head appeared around the lounge door, soon settled down into Sheila’s arms and gazed up into her face..and went on to take over the house.

Weeks later we gave up and bought his own things, several infections and rapid recoveries later we stopped trying to get him to rest and just let him sprint up and down the hall, several months later we started taking turns to try and wear him out so we could watch tv in peace. Along the way we explained to a bemused vet that the wriggling, squirming heavy ginger lump of glossy fur I was desperately trying to hold still had been at death’s door which was why we tended to be over anxious.  Sheila started collecting the fur she combed from him for the birds to build nests with, I discovered he had developed teeth when he left a perfect bite mark in my arm, we realised he had huge healthy whiskers , and we could no longer find which wardrobe he’d opened and climbed into simply by listening for his Darth Vader breathing.

June 2010 and Sable d’Or is a character and a half,  has even found a voice, and each evening kills his toy kitten and howls to brag about it.  He cries to be played with, and if ignored causes havoc until his demands are met. 

Thanks to the first lady who reported him as a stray, the staff at Bridge vet, [sorry he now spits at you Mr Adams], all the volunteers at the pens who cared for him and to fate which brought him to us he is a bundle of ginger energy and fun who likes to settle on a lap and still gazes lovingly up into Sheila’s face often enough to be forgiven all his naughtiness!

Wendy and Sheila