At the outset, I ask readers to please bear with me. This is a very long post with many photographs. It is about a very special time in my life and a poignant story about a very special cat.
The year before he had rescued a feral kitten from a stream raging passed his house during a storm. When he asked Peter Connery, the Director General (Managing Director) of the mine permission to keep a cat, Peter said, on one condition, that he names the cat. He promptly christened him KathMandu; later shortened to Mandu.
Come on Meouw, my turn in the travel cage now!
A local vet inserted the micro-chip and administered the injection. I signed up with a pet travel company in Johannesburg, South Africa who sent me, via air freight, a specially designed cage. I was informed that when the time came, a company employee would wait for Mandu to at cargo arrivals. The State vet would also be present to check that all Mandu’s documentation was in order.
As the plane touched down in Johannesburg, I phoned the travel company employee. After introducing myself (and reminding him that Mandu would soon be in cargo arrivals;), I aksed what his name was. He told me he was Gideon and assured me that he was waiting for Mandu. A short while later Gideon phoned me and said that Mandu had been cleared by the state vet and he, Gideon was about to take him to their kennels across town. As I would not see Mandu until I collected him from the kennels the next morning Gideon held his phone to Mandu’s ear so that I could speak to him!
Everything went off well and by mid-morning the next day, Angus (who came to meet me in Johannesburg) and had collected Mandu and were soon on our way home to the Free State. Mandu quite happy in his harness
Back home I had to keep Mandu locked up in the larger part of my house. He simply hated my [eight] other cats. They, in turn, were suspicious of this “new” creature they could smell on the other side the closed door. I regularly took him out into the garden, but on a leash.
Six weeks later, my husband came home on break and decided Mandu should be allowed outside without restriction. Over time he and seven of the other cats met up, sometimes they fought each other, other times they merely tolerated each other.
Later though, he and Tigger , my oldest cat, eventually became firm friends.
Mandu walked on a leash as if born to it!
That first summer that I was home, I began in earnest, to revamp my garden. Mandu thrived in the garden. He spent every moment beside me and even when I came indoors, he’d lie stretched out on the garden bench or on the lawn watching the gardener. My husband dubbed him “Minister of Parks and Gardens”. Both John and David loved him and would call out to him as they worked near him. I took this photo at the end of March 2007. I lauged because Tigger waited so patiently until Mandu had had his fill of cookies.I didn't know at the time but this is the last photograph I have of Mandu
Easter Saturday, 7th April, 2007, Mandu came indoors at 5pm for his evening snack. I had put out a different variety of cat pellets for him. As I walked past him, I asked him how he liked the new cookies. (Of course, he didn’t answer, he didn’t even look up!)
A few minutes later I saw him lying on the office windowsill taking in the last rays of sunshine.
It was the last time I saw my cat alive.
When Mandu didn’t come in for breakfast on Sunday morning, I went outside to call him. No Mandu. He had always been a free spirit, (like most cats are,) and came and went at will through my bathroom window, so I was sure he’d be back later.
As I walked back into the house, my telephone rang. It was my neighbour, Praschant. An animal lover himself and knowing that I brought Mandu thousands of kilometres across the African continent, he immediately said to me: “Jo, I have very bad news for you, Mandu is hanging in the razor wire fence near my motor gate”
After three weeks of deep mourning for my precious Mandu, I decided to do something pro-active to shake myself out of my abject state of sorrow. Together John, David and I created a special Out of Africa garden behind my large pond where Mandu is buried.
This gave me closure on the death of our beloved cat, but I often sit quietly in the “Mandu garden” as my gardeners call it, and remember what a joy it was to have this feisty, furry lad in our lives.
Rest in peace, our precious West African kitty. One day we'll meet again at Rainbow Bridge.