Remembering Khymer


“What breed is he?” People often asked when they saw Khymer out with my mother and me on Takapuna beach. Suggestions included blue heeler, collie, German Shepherd, Staffordshire terrier, and even Dutch barge dog. But we never knew the details of his ancestry, exactly how old he was, or how he got his name. A member of our New Zealand family had rescued him from an abusive situation when he was young. He grew up into a fine dog; friendly, strong and handsome.

I had the privilege of walking Khymer almost every week since I met him nine years ago. He loved these walks, whatever the weather. He would bark at the top of his voice when I arrived to pick him up, pull me along the road at top speed until we got to the beach, then bark again until I started throwing the ball for him to retrieve. His favourite trick was swimming out to sea, dropping the ball, and waiting for me to wade in waist-deep and get it, so I had to wear special clothing when going out with Khymer.


We had many adventures in our early years together, but he gradually became more sedate. His eyesight and hearing were not so good, and he developed arthritis. He stopped swimming in the sea. But he loved his walks as much as always, even up to last week when I had to bring him home early because he seemed so tired. As if suspecting what was to come, I took a photo of him before I left.


A few days later I got the message – he had been bleeding from the bowel, was weak and in pain, and the decision to euthanise him that morning had been made. Given his age – at least sixteen, maybe more – everyone agreed that it would be pointless and unkind to do anything else. I arrived at the house just in time to join the tearful family gathered round his bed. When he saw me he barked and wagged his tail. I did not go with him to the vet, but have been told that his last minutes were very peaceful. Though thankful that his suffering is over, I shall miss our weekly walks so much. This is how I will remember Khymer:



When cats go missing


This is Magic looking wary and subdued after being rescued from 48 hours’ imprisonment in a neighbour’s basement.



And here is “little Leo” pictured three months ago as a new rescue foster kitten. He disappeared for several hours on his second day here, prompting a frantic search of the house and neighbourhood until he was found still in his own room – hiding up the chimney.


Wellbeing for Writers

I’m pleased to announce that my little ebook Wellbeing for Writers is now available from Amazon Kindle, Smashwords and other online sites.

Born out of my long experience as a part-time author alongside former careers in psychological medicine, life coaching and Bach flower therapy, this is a guide about how to maximise the satisfactions and minimise the frustrations which often arise while writing, publishing and marketing a book. Topics include structuring the process, finding inspiration, maintaining physical and mental health, coping with criticism, aligning personal values with writing, and more.

While mainly focused on the psychology of authorship, it also includes plenty of tips about the basic practicalities.

Most of the content is available for free on this blog … but for a nominal cost you can read it combined in one volume, rearranged in a logical order, and revised and updated throughout.

Please have a look on Amazon or Smashwords, and forward this to any of the aspiring authors among your circle of contacts.



Lost and found: how to search for a missing cat

Magic and Leo both went outside last Saturday evening. When I called them back at bedtime, Leo came in but Magic did not. I lay awake most of the night, listening for any sound of her presence, and getting up several times to look around the garden and the street without success. There followed two days of intensive searching. Although I did not have the same intuitive feeling which told me that Felix had died, after a second night had passed I had to face the fact that I might never see her again or know what had happened. Many friends and neighbours gave practical help and sent messages of support. And then came a phone call telling me she had been found locked up in the basement of a nearby house! She is now safely home – very hungry, in good shape physically, but emotionally less confident and more clingy than before. Leo was delighted to see her.

I think I did most of the right things, but I’ve now drawn up a checklist for what to do if a cat goes missing:

1. Be prepared in advance. Have your cat microchipped (yes, I’d done that) – consider a collar with a name tag (I’m thinking about that one) – take a series of photos of her from different angles, and update them as she grows up (this is very important, but I realised I had not taken any recent photos of Magic on her own since she was a young kitten).

2. Check your own property thoroughly, both inside and out – cats can easily get shut into cupboards or outbuildings – and check surrounding streets.

3. Contact your immediate neighbours to ask if the cat is trapped somewhere on their property – this is a very common scenario, as in Magic’s case.

4. Make up a flyer which includes the best photo, your address and phone number, a description of the cat and the date she was lost. Display copies outside your own house and in nearby streets, and at your local veterinary clinic, and consider a mailbox drop.

5. Alert all your other neighbours by text or email, including the photo, or calling at their houses. Ask them to look in their garages or sheds.

6. Post an online appeal: Facebook, local animal registers (here in New Zealand Petsonthenet), neighbourhood websites.

7. Phone local agencies: SPCA, Animal Control, veterinary clinics.

8. Worry won’t help so do your best to keep calm and look after yourself. Visualise your cat being well looked after somewhere and coming back home in good shape.

9. If and when your cat returns or you discover what has happened to her, remember to take down the flyers, inform all the above agencies and individuals what the outcome has been, and thank the people who have helped in the search.

Cats, eyesight and ageing

I recently read the report of a study suggesting that cat owners, in contrast to dog owners, have a raised risk of developing glaucoma due to an autoimmune response triggered by their pets. I don’t think this should cause too much alarm, because the study was only a preliminary one and the effect was small. But it was of some concern to me because a few years ago I was diagnosed with high intra-ocular pressure, which can progress to glaucoma.

My immediate reaction to reading it was “I’m not going to give up my cats.” My husband challenged me “Are you saying that you would rather go blind?” Logically the answer should have been obvious, because going blind is among the worst fates I can imagine. Yet I did not know what to say, which made me wonder if I care too much about the cats.

Concern for companion animals can affect many of the decisions which may have to be made in the case of their owners’ declining health or advancing age. After adopting Magic and Leo it was a bit of a shock to realise that I should probably not get any more kittens in case I die before they do, even though I belong to Auckland SPCA’s “Circle” program which provides for this eventuality. I wouldn’t want to move into an apartment without a safe outdoor space for cats to play, or enter a retirement home where cats were not allowed. And though I sometimes wonder about returning to live in England for my declining years, I wouldn’t want to put my cats through the stress of relocation – even though when we once brought two other cats from England to New Zealand they did not seem too upset by the long flight.
Maybe it is misguided to let cat-related considerations carry too much weight when making major life choices. And I can’t predict how I would actually feel if and when one of these situations arises in future. Meanwhile I am happy to be still fit and well, and living in a house with a large garden which is ideal for cats.

Turning a blog into a book

Having covered quite a wide selection of topics on this blog, I decided to combine some of the posts into a short ebook.

Turning a blog into a book would be quite an easy project for a writer who had started off with that aim in mind, and planned out the topics of the posts in advance. A non-fiction example is the cookery blog which formed the basis of the book Julie and Julia, and of the film with the same name. The method can also be used for fiction, as the modern equivalent of the Victorian fashion of serialising the chapters of a novel in a magazine before publishing it as a whole. It gives the writer the option of making changes to the book as it develops, in response to comments from readers.

The contents of this blog were not planned out in advance, and if I had used one of the paid services which can handle the technical aspects of “booking a blog”, the result would have been a hopeless muddle. My posts were written in random order rather than in any logical sequence, and there was some overlap of content between them. Adapting them into a book involved a great deal more editing than I expected. But I have finished it now and I hope the resulting ebook, called Wellbeing for Writers, will be published this week.