Shira Fox and Jessie

Princess, Jessie and Me - A Journal

Three months on

Skip forward three months, and Princess is twice the size she was and almost as big as Jessie. They do most things together, napping next to each other, and eating together.

They play in intervals. Princess wraps her arms around Jessie's neck and pretends to bite her and Jessie wrestles Princess tail wagging and smiles on her face. Then they chase each other around the house, Princess jumping in front of Jessie to tease her then jumping away again just as quick. They were so gentle with each other and knew not to hurt each other. The gorgeous large house plant mum was so proud of growing for three years was destroyed in two days. But Princess couldn't help herself and loved playing in the branches.

When mum went out for short periods, they were left together in the living room. They had never shown any aggression towards each other, and Princess had plenty of hiding places. Mum thought they just lay next to each other on the couch when she was out. The neighbours said there wasn't a sound and they were both yawning when mum got home. Jessie taught Princess in one day that if she came too close to her food, she would growl and air snap. Princess then pounced away and within a day had learnt her lesson. She was a smart cat.

The three of them cuddled in bed every night. Until that gentle tap-tap early in the morning. Often the pets' mum had terrible nightmares and would toss and turn at night, sometimes waking up in a complete panic. Jessie squeezed in against her legs at those times, inviting her to put her arms and legs around her.

Long before Princess was born, they had a terrible first two years of Jessie's life. Jessie was attacked by a big dog in the dog park and developed anxiety. The dog literally went in for the kill, and a big man had to pull the dog off her with its mouth around her stomach. For months she would bark all day and night. Every shadow let alone another dog terrified her. Her mum was a nervous wreck, she couldn't walk Jessie, and they fed off each other's anxiety. She had even thought of rehoming the puppy, thinking she wasn't skilled enough to raise her to be a happy dog.

Two years of sweat and tears for both Jessie and her mum and Jessie was now three and had totally chilled out. Her mum was also in a much better place and could walk Jessie with confidence, feeling safe with the little dog by her side. Jessie wasn't fazed by anything and rarely barked. The time was right for a little friend. Calicos are supposed to be good luck. In Japan, they are a symbol of wealth.

Princess would change her and Jessie's lives for the good. Princess's cheerfulness pulled her mum out of depression and solved the co-dependent relationship she and Jessie had developed. She even received an unexpected cash payment, and every week she seemed to hear some good news. The pets' mum just felt so much more content and somehow safe in her home. She had been lucky being a first-time cat mum and Princess had been the easiest kitten. There was no biting or scratching, no accidents outside the litter box, very playful and cuddly.

A week later, her sister, Mim, called. She had adopted a 15-year-old cat named Evie and was in love. She worked a lot and wanted a cat that could chill and sleep when she was out. She was proud her home would be a cat retirement home.

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Sometimes looking at Princess it dawned on her, it was a major responsibility. Twenty years of care and love for the animal. You had to be there for them, put them first always day after day, your house had to be a safe space. This was a big risk for someone who had suffered with mental health and always thought she would die young.

She believed that someone was looking over her, and some things are meant to be. Princess was meant to be. Everything happened for a reason and at exactly the right time. Princess and Jessie wouldn't have been tossed into her life if she couldn't handle it.

But sometimes when their mum was tired and couldn't walk Jessie, she thought of herself as selfish. Was she going to be able to live up to her own very high expectations? She promised to herself that if the pets were healthy and happy, she would be too. Still, who was she to be the guardian of two living, breathing, feeling beings?

'On the other hand', she told herself, 'Princess had been a stray.' No one had wanted her. She was one of the hundreds of homeless and hopeless kittens and may have been put to sleep if she hadn't taken her. It had been a good deed to give a needy kitten a loving home.

'No one knew what would happen in the future,' she told herself. 'You can't live as if you're going to fall dead any day.' For all she knew, she would live to be 101 years old. Especially when you are young and healthy, being scared your pets might outlive you is mad. She had a whole new outlook on life with Princess. And Jessie had a new reason to be excited. The pets' mum had enough love to give to two animals and possibly a partner and in the future maybe even a bigger family. Or perhaps they would stay cocooned in their small unit, just the three of them forever.

Princess is now almost six months old, and she is not a little kitten anymore. Unlike her housemates, she had never known any trauma in her life. She at least wasn't affected by anything in her past, and she was the most confident, relaxed, well behaved, loving cat.

What would happen in the next twenty years with Princess and Jessie? Already, in the three months since Princess came to live with them, their whole world had changed.

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The next three months brought real struggles to mine and my pets' wellbeing. I plan to journal my journey with mental health every three months for the entire lives of the pets. Or until our lives get so stable that it is too boring to write and read. Let's hope for that!

© 2020 Shira Fox

Princess, Jessie and Me - A Journal is my first attempt at writing a story. I have been living for the last year as a recluse with my pets, Jessie and Princess, a dog and kitten, and wanted to reach out to the outside world because I think it’s just amazing how the pets relate to each other and relate to me with my struggles. I find it really interesting how animals instinctively support their family and are so in touch emotionally with each other and their human. I want to write a story every three months about our life together and the people and other animals in it.

Shira Fox

Shira studied visual art in Rotterdam and still paints and draws. She worked for a long time in aged care and loved it but the work took its toll. Shira is currently recovering from a mental illness at home with her pets. Her goal is to write a story every three months about life with her pets, and the people and other animals in it.