The Incredible Life of Tia-pet, the Dominican Wonder-Cat

Tia-pet (1998-2014) was a lovely and lively Caribbean short hair domestic cat. Photo taken by (Aunty) Jenny Spencer in August 2011.

Tia-pet (1998-2014) was a lovely and lively Caribbean short-haired domestic cat. Photo taken by ‘Aunty’ Jenny Spencer in August 2011.

I am not aware of many cats that have lived out all nine lives on Dominica, but I can assure you that my dear little Tia-pet was

Tia was tiny when he found his first parents in a residential area north of Roseau early in 1998.

Tia was tiny when he’ found’ his first pet parents (Lorraine and Steven) in a residential area north of Roseau early in 1998. Photo by S or L Ricketts.

one of a select few felines in this category.  At the age of 16+ human years, he  departed this earth en route to “cat heaven.”  Since  my furry friend passed away at home on May 3, 2014, I feel as if I have the lost the greatest gift I ever received on

Aunty Susan Weeks painted this image of Tia in 2011 . it was based on a photo I had taken of him at play in 2010.

‘Aunty’ Susan Weeks painted this likeness of Tia in 2011 . It was based on a photo I had taken of him at play in 2010.

Dominica.  But I am oh so thankful for all the time we had together; his constant companionship amounted to another enduring and exceptional experience on the Nature Island!

When I made the final decision to move to Dominica, I first settled

at Springfield Plantation in August 1998.  There, I met a British/Dominican couple who had found a little kitten where they lived for some time before moving to the mountainous site to work on the property.  Although  a male, they had named him Tia when he was very tiny.  Lo and behold, they came to me after I had not been there for more than a month and informed me that they would be returning to the U.K.  As they could not take their animals with them, they asked me if I would be interested in adopting the young cat.  As I  was moving in to their little house, I found myself in the horns of a dilemma.  I reluctantly agreed, although I was not really interested, due to allergies and other plans. I figured he would just wander away to another home if I showed no interest. Well, you can see that never came to pass. I resisted and Tia persisted.  He would cry and cry until I let him in and as a very determined little critter, he simply wormed his way into my heart.

I always referred to Tia as being the 'King of the Kiity-Cats' on Dominica.  He sure had a regal look to me!

I always referred to Tia as being the ‘King of the Kitty-Cats’ on Dominica. He sure had a regal look to me!

Perhaps one of the strangest things, and the biggest blessing for me, was that I was NOT allergic to him.  For a while, I thought I had lost that allergy, but then I have proved that I still have it over the years with different cats both here and abroad. Go figure!

TTia as also known as Garfield after  a period of too much canned milk and kibble.  he was put on a strict diet by the vet!

Tia was also known as Garfield after a period of too much canned milk and kibble in his younger years. He was put on a strict diet by the vet!

Tia was a frisky critter and liked to jump from the counter to the fridge-top in his younger days.

Tia was a frisky critter and liked to jump from the counter to the fridge-top in his younger days. But even as he got older, he was always full of fun!

By the time I moved from Springfield, we were firm friends.  I could go on about his adventures and close calls, but suffice it to say that  Tia was one tough kitty.  He was never a cuddly, jump-on-your lap cat.  Instead, he delighted in very rough play.  I and others who dared came away with scratches, superficial bites and sore arms from playing with that cat for hours at a time.  And if he was hungry, or wanted in or out, it was hard to ignore that powerful yowl.

Tia loved to hunt - real critters or toy ones.  He was playful pussycat!

Tia loved to hunt – live animals or toy ones. He was a playful pussy cat!

Of course he was spoiled, but the pleasure was all mine.  He reciprocated with gifts from field forays: lizards, mice and little birds.  Sometimes there were other souvenirs from his outings: a number of vets treated Tia for cat bite abscesses .  Sometimes they were so large they had to be surgically removed.  Although Tia had been neutered when he was young, he remained a territorial type.  At all times of day and night ,I would hear the unforgettable piercing screams of two cats at war. Neighbours would sometimes tell me that my cat was giving their cat “blows.”  But then came the day when Tia could no longer hold his own and his opponent seemed to have the advantage.

When he was 12  years old, I decided it would be in his best interest to become an indoor cat, as he was starting to lose those feline battles.  The vet was worried that he would not adapt well, but Tia took it all in stride.  He still had access to protected porches and balconies and was able to content himself by hanging out in those locations with a view.  And of course, he would always still  play with anyone who dared!

While there were signs of slowing down which became increasingly obvious this past winter when he turned 16, he still jumped up on the porch balcony to check out the birds by day and the bats by night.  But one evening, I  let him out on the porch  alone while I did something else inside for a few minutes.  When I went to check on him, I could not find him.  I took a flashlight, looked down two flights below to the ground – and there he was – still moving.  I ran down, scooped him up and called Tia’s last vets, husband and wife team Dr. Ronnie George and Dr. Nausima Paul in extreme panic.  Fortunate for me, they had just finished their clinic and were on their way home, which is nearby.  They came right away and examined him.  There did not seem to be any obvious or serious injury, except for some sore muscles.  Without access to x-ray or ultra-sound, there was no way to know anything further.  However, from that point in late February, Tia rapidly declined, although he did hang on for some time.

This is the last photo of Tia, taken on February 27, 2014.  By then, he had already fallen off of the back porch and had to be helped onto the bed - but his spirit was still strong.

This is the last photo of Tia, taken on February 27, 2014. By then, he had already fallen off of the back porch and had to be helped onto the bed – but his spirit was still strong.

Those wonderful vets continued to check on him – frequently. They also  received a number of calls from Tia’s scared mummy as his behaviour changed and he seemed not himself over those last couple of months.  It was hard to watch him fail, but that rough cat definitely had the heart of lion, and I was sure to tell him so.  He did not seem to be in pain until the very last day.  I sensed that the end was near and stayed right beside him for many hours.  I am so thankful that I was there when he looked at me wide-eyed and then took his last breath.  I assured him that I loved him, and then he left for that great mouse-hunting field in the sky – “cat heaven” as my mother referred to that celestial abode when I was a little girl.

This whole sad event would have been much more devastating  had it not been for the calm and reassuring counsel of my Canadian friend Nancy from Springfield.  We spoke many times on Tia’s last day on earth.  After he departed, she kindly offered to bury him at Springfield the next morning.  I was  comforted by her generosity, as that beautiful mountain location means so much to me.  Tia had gone full circle and his remains now rest at the place where we first became a family.

It was sunny and lovely on Sunday May 3, 2014.  Nancy drove a distance to collect me so we could take Tia’s body for burial.  She allowed me to sob and cry and unleash my grief while she alone  prepared the ground with pick-axe and shovel.  I offered to help her, but she refused.  I was impressed with her strength and grateful that I could mourn freely.  Fortunately, it was a quiet day and no one else was on the property.  When Tia was placed in the earth by Nancy, we said a final good-bye and she tucked his toys all around him.  I placed some rosemary for remembrance over his towel-shrouded body.  Then we covered him with the damp  heavy clay earth, small stones and  finally larger ones.  I placed a bouquet of white  anthurium lilies and  we put some pretty potted  flowers on top of the grave.

Tia's final resting place at Springfield is in a peaceful spot surrounded by fruit trees.

Tia’s final resting place at Springfield is in a peaceful spot surrounded by fruit trees.

Tia's grave site has spectacular views at Springfield.

Tia’s grave site has spectacular views at Springfield.

Although I was extremely sad, I was content with the knowledge that he was at rest at one of the most beautiful places on earth.  I will miss him for as long as live, but I am extremely thankful to have had endless pleasure from the companionship of a little boy cat named Tia.  “Thank you for being in my life . I love you – forever and ever.”

THANK YOUs

As I think back over the 16 years that Tia was in my life, I am quite amazed at the number of people who have helped me with his care.  I am indebted to all of you and I thank

Neigbour Kristelle was Tia's best friend for many years.  After all, they were the same age!  She ehlped to take care of him many times for me.

Neighbour Kristelle was Tia’s best friend for years. After all, they were the same age! She helped to take care of him many times.

you for what you have done so that Tia could have the best quality of life possible for a cat.  God bless you!

Friends, neighbours and cat lovers:

Special thanks to Vernon Gordon and family, my former neighbours who looked after Tia often between 2004-11.  Their willing assistance and wonderful cat care enabled me to travel all over Dominica for my writing assignments, spend time in other Caribbean countries as well as  summers in Canada and leave quickly when my mother died.

Also to Ursula Joseph, my faithful  helper for 14+ years who was always there for Tia and even rescued him from a couple of scary situations (which gave her a fright).

Nancy Osler at Springfield helped me through the most difficult process of Tia’s imminent death, his burial at Springfield and the painful hours afterwards by being there for me and allowing me to freely grieve.

Liz Madisetti was on stand-by to take care of Tia this forthcoming summer, even though his health was failing.  She was completely willing  to pet sit, despite the uncertain circumstances.

Other caring pet-sitters over the years (also known as Tia’s ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles”) included: Eddie Shillingford, Tessia Butler, Dr. Patricia Rodney, Whitney Sommers, Malcolm, John, Peter, Dr. Caryl Lockhart, Susan and Alden Weeks, Jenny Spencer, Ben Tapley. (If I have forgotten anyone else, I’ll be sure to list you and soon as I remember!)

Veterinarians played a critical role in ensuring Tia’s good  health and well-being over his long cat life, and I have the utmost of respect and admiration for their compassionate work with all animals:

Dr. John Toussaint, Dr. J. Collin McIntyre, Dr. Caryl Lockhart, Dr. Reginald Thomas, Dr. Nausima Paul and Dr. Ronnie George were always available when Tia had an illness or an injury or was in need of a check-up.  I especially appreciate the many times that Dr. Reggie Thomas came to the house to examine Tia as  he became a senior cat.

Husband and wife veterinary team Dr. Ronnie George and Dr. Nausima Paul attend to Florence, beloved pet of Mark Steele at Beau Rive.    These wonderful vets can be contacted at their clinic (767) 440-8387 or by mobile at 277-4811/275-4935.

Husband and wife veterinary team Dr. Ronnie George and Dr. Nausima Paul attend to Florence, beloved pet of Mark Steele at Beau Rive. These wonderful vets can be contacted at their clinic (767) 440-8387 or by mobile at 277-4811/275-4935.

Finally, I am forever grateful to Dr. Nausima Paul and her husband Dr. Ronnie George who provided phenomenal geriatric and end-stage care.  They were basically on-call for the last two months of Tia’s life. Their support, guidance and interventions enabled me to better  understand this phase  and allow Tia to make a smoother transition to the hereafter.

To Tia’s first pet parents, Lorraine and Steven Ricketts: If you ever come upon this blog post, know that you gave me the greatest gift of my life in Dominica.  Heartfelt thanks.

Rest in peace, dear Tia-pet.

Footnote:  In June 2014, Lorraine, Tia’s first pet mummy contacted me out-of-the-blue by email and enquired about me and the little cat.  We had lost touch for several years and I had to give her the sad news of his passing straight away.  However, it was lovely to reconnect with her and to have shared the special gift of Tia-pet, the Dominican Wonder Cat!

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16 comments on “The Incredible Life of Tia-pet, the Dominican Wonder-Cat

  1. Karen says:

    sigh. love, k

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  2. We’re so sad to hear of Tia’s passing, Gwen. We know how much he meant to you and how difficult it’s been for you to lose him after all these years. Sending you our condolences from Bequia and thinking of you …
    Sue, Dennis, and the herd – Zoom, Emme, Griz, Patch

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  3. Corinne Mah says:

    Hello Gwen,

    So sorry to hear of Tia’s death but loved your tribute and marvel at his long life, thanks to you.

    Hope you are otherwise well.

    Love, Corinne

    sent from iPhone 250.589.8836 / please excuse autocorrect errors

    >

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    • gwendominica says:

      Thanks Corinne. I think it is accurate to say that Tia and I had a symbiotic relationship. He certainly was the joy of my life. I didn’t want him to suffer so I am glad he has gone to a better place. As for me, I’ve been doing the Chikungunya shuffle! More about that in the next post. I hope spring has arrived on the west coast and that you are doing well. XO

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  4. Laura Wagner says:

    What a moving blogpost. You truly honoured your furry friend with this. Sending lots of love and keeping an eye up to the sky in case I catch a glimpse of Tia in his happy hunting grounds.
    ~ Laura (with whom you lunched and chatted at Papilotte last year :))

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    • gwendominica says:

      Laura,I am touched by your thoughtfulness, even though you hardly know me (in person, that is!). How kind of you to respond. I sense that Tia is very happy in the great beyond and that he will always be with me in spirit. And I do have hundreds of pictures too! Warm regards from Tia’s mummy.

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  5. Jenny says:

    So sorry to hear your sad news. Tia was certainly a unique cat with a strong personality and I feel honoured to have shared fun times with him. He was very lucky to have you in his life.
    Big hugs, Jenny. xx

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    • gwendominica says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Jenny, for being one of Tia’s ‘aunties’ and for the lovely photos you took of him. They are wonderful souvenirs. I often think of your references to Tia giving you a playful “swat” – that gives me a chuckle every time. XO

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Beth says:

    I am so sorry about the lost of your beloved friend and best companion over the years Gwen. it is indeed a sad story that reminds me of a dog I loved and loved me over the years back in Israel. His name is Sol. I think we don’t want to lose them once we learned to love them because they loves us back unconditionally. I believe Tia had lived a wonderful life with you.. 🙂

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    • gwendominica says:

      Thanks for your expression of sympathy, Beth. I think you are exactly right – it is the unconditional love that is so precious. I could never forget my Tia-pet; our long-time close association was one of the most wonderful experiences of my entire life. I know that you understand that because of your own bond with Sol. XO

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  7. Alexx Pryjma says:

    What a touching story and beautiful friendship between you and Tia. Thank you for sharing this Gwen.

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    • gwendominica says:

      Thanks Alexx. I do appreciate your uncanny ability to communicate with animals. You assured me about Tia’s well-being and that I was not really dreaming when I heard two strong Tia-type ‘meows’ at different times one night not many days after he had passed on to the next life. I miss him terribly but I am comforted in knowing that he is happy wherever he is. And of course, true love never dies!

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  8. geros says:

    Tia was a great cat and we miss him.

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    • gwendominica says:

      Thanks Geramise. I will always be grateful to you and your family for taking such good care of Tia whenever I was away. I have special memories of Kristelle playing with Tia. I always told her that Tia thought of her as a kitten. When they played together, she would laugh and giggle and Tia would make happy-cat noises. I really smile when I think of those times. We will forever hold Tia in our hearts.

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