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This is Sophie The Sofa Loaf.

When we first moved to France Rich we were ‘given’ Sophie by some people we had just met. In fact she was just brought to the place where Rich was working and left with him because someone’s wife had seen on my Facebook page that I loved cats! We were not given a name for her ;and the person who gave her to us had found her so they did not know her history, how old she was or anything. I suppose that you could say that good old serendipity looked out for Sophie on that day!

Rich could not just ‘let her go’ as he was told to do if he did not want her; so he brought her home to what was then a rental property we were staying in. The first thing I did was offer her some cat treats and it was only as she struggled to pick them up off the floor  that we realised that she had no teeth! I looked up why a cat would lose its teeth and established that for a younger cat it was likely to be stress related; and I knew that this poor little, determined cat had been through rough times.

We took her to the vets because she had a cough and also because in France they do not tend to have their cats neutered; and as we already had four other cats and Harley the Welshie at that time it was essential that no more kittens would be coming our way. The vet flipped her over and informed us that she was between six and eight years old and had been neutered! From that we assumed that she had been owned by English people, or a French person who had really loved her as a pet. Either way it meant that her story was incredibly sad because somewhere along the way she had lost the people she had loved.Over the months it became very clear that she had obviously been loved by someone in the past who had cuddled her because she would snuggle up on you, the closer to you skin the better and go to sleep; making her story all the more tragic.

There was another side to her though and she would swipe out with her razor sharp claws for no apparent reason, or at the slightest movement of your hands, especially if you moved your hands near her or raised them up near her;  again we could only assume that there had been times when someone had hit her and raised their hand to her.

When she first arrived all she did was eat and sleep on some sofa’s in a room that we did not use; I think she was literally exhausted; and hence the name Sophie The Sofa Loaf.

Now introducing a fully grown cat to four other adult cats and a Welshie is not easy and Sophie has never really been accepted into the fold. She would be so unpredictable and stressy that our cats just stopped trying to be nice to her; and sadly the two youngest started to pick on her. We do call her our ‘special needs’ cat because  she can be fine one moment and then biting you the next (with he gums) and has to be calmed down; add to that she doesn’t like change and becomes highly agitated we have had to accomodate her over the years.

Sadly in the first two years she lived with us our two youngest cats picked on her, and we would have to settle her down in a camp where she could see nothing else (the rocking chair with a blanket over it!). She drove me nuts at times, and would leap out from under the bed and attach herself to your leg; but Rich has always been so patient with her and she sits on his shoulder as he walks around the garden, and curles up on his belly at night.

Over time this kindness paid off and she started to calm down, and have her  own little quirky ways: Whenever we arrived back from shopping she would run out from wherever she was hiding to greet us, meowing her head off and we started to call her ‘Cat/Dog’; or you will find her sitting in the sink! Any sink, bathroom or kitchen; and sometimes when she is really relaxed she will look at you with her tongue hanging out of the side of her mouth, oblivious.

We have to hide any food (butter, cheese, chicken, and only recently my freshly cooked walnut tart!) from her; because she is a cow for climbing up to eat what she shouldn’t; but despite her eccentricity (her other name is Nitty Nutty Nora) I fell in love with this vulnerable little cat with such a sad story to tell.

Fast forward to yesterday: I decided that the Welshie’s needed a walk; I have spent so much time writing lately that they have been cooped up in our acre of garden, and despite catching the odd rat they were bored.

So off I went with what Rich and I affectionately call the ‘stunt kite’ (you try walking two welshies on the lead!) down our road; as we left the garden Sophie came running over and decided that she would come too!

Picture the scene: There I was walking down the road with  two Welshies and a cat in tow (see I told you:Cat/Dog!) I was laughing to myself as this little cat pranced along beside me and the Welshie terrors without a care in the world and thought to myself ‘the French must think I am mad!’

Now our lane is narrow and the French drive like madmen’; as we walked the postman came driving down the road towards us in his van; he smiled and waved and could see I had Sophie Loaf with me, so he slowed down because she decided that she was not going to move! Eventually she moved over to the side and the problem was over; or so I thought. But as postie drove back up the road Sophie decided she was going to sit in the road and front him! He did slow down but instead of moving over to the side Sophie decided to run, right in front of his van, and the French being the French he carried on driving terrifying her along the way. She started to run up the road in front of his van and  as she was running up the road away from me, our other neighbour came down the road in his van meaning Sophie was in trouble.

I was shouting at her to move to the side, the dogs were barking and she was terrified! She jumped into a field by a derelict house and both of the vans sped past; how they missed her I do not know.  I was confident that she had not been hit, confident that she would follow me back down the road to our house; as I had started to make my way back becasue  it had started to rain. I stopped intermittently and called and called her but Sophie did not come.

I put the dogs back in the house and went back out into the garden to call her, but there was no sign. By now it was pouring with rain and the wind was blowing up and I just hoped she could hear me calling her. I started to worry. ‘She’ll come back in a couple of hours” I said to myself, but by four o clock in the evening the dark was drawing in and there was still no sign of Sophie.

I decided to go drive back to where I had last seen her. I pulled up by the derelict house where she had been and called and called her through my car window, but there was still  no sign of her anywhere. I got out, wearing only my slippers, and looked in the ditch and the field where I had seen her jump into; and then I started to question: ‘surely the van didn’t hit her, I watched and she was okay. Wasn’t she?’

When Rich got home it was blowing a hooley, but he went back out to look for her with a torch; she loves him so much we thought she would respond to his voice. But there was still no sign. She did not come home for dinner and by the time I went to bed I had tears in my eyes for the little grey cat that had experienced so much hardship. Just when she was happy and coming for walks like a cat/dog it all seems to have been taken away from her.

I kept waking all through the night wondering  why hadn’t I gone back to check on her? Why had I assumed that she was okay? Why hadn’t I helped her? By the morning there was still no sign and it was still raining. So I got dressed and before Rich left for work we went down together to the place I had last seen her, by the fenced off derelict house; hoping that she had not died in a ditch on her own in the pouring rain.

I called her, Rich called her, but there was nothing. I started to cry and said ‘Poor Sophie, she just had a lovely life and now this, life is so cruel’. With that Rich climbed over the barb wire fence into the overgrown field calling her as he went; suddenly he came running back to say he could here her; she was in the derelict house!

Rich went back to the van to turn it off so we could hear clearly and there it was: Sophie’s loud meow answering us every time we called her. She was in an upstairs room in the boarded up house.

We were clearly trespassing because only recently they had replaced the fencing to stop people going on the land; but we did not care, we didn’t know if she was laying in there injured or what.  I called her and called her and you could hear that she was following the sound of my voice until she appeared at the ledge of the upstairs window. God knows what the French people in the house opposite were thinking: The mad English are now climbing all over the derelict house opposite in the pitch black with torches!

We through caution to the wind and Rich precariously climbed up on the wall by the steps and then up again hanging onto rusty bits of metal hanging out of the house, until he was about a foot below her ‘come on Soph, jump on daddy’s shoulder’ he said; and she did! There he was my six foot one husband climbing down a wall of very old French house, with a cat on his shoulder!!

Needless to say she was hugged, fed and given milk and cream. Now she is ensconced behind mummy as she tells you all her story. Love conquers everything if you let it, and I love this little, pain in the arse, cat!

Moisy

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