Out with the Jont, in with the Leaf

I don’t think I’d ever posted an obituary on my journal, especially not for a pet, until Herschelle disappeared recently.

Well, here’s another one. It’s really sad too because poor little Jonty is most definitively dead.

He got mauled to death by one of the village dogs.

The dogs out here in the New Territories are mostly big dingo-looking things. It’s unfortunate to bring racism into Jonty’s tribute but the truth is that Chinese people here are not good at socialising their dogs. They pick up their poo with a tissue but they never walk them, they just let them run wild day and night. And they usually have four or five per house. In the time we’ve been living here, in the garden of the house four doors up, three of the dogs there KILLED one of the other dogs that lived there. We actually heard it (but didn’t realise the extent of it at the time but were informed by the SPCA people who attended later).

It’s the main reason why we got a fence and a gate on our property as soon as we moved in.

Jonty was never really a domesticated cat though. He always preferred to spend most of his time in neighbouring sheds. Here he was lucky enough to have a whole abandoned house two doors down. He’d jump out the window in the evening, bolt past Mr and Mrs Kong’s, leap our fence and scoff his dinner. If we were lucky we’d get to give him a quick pat before he departed as quickly as he’d come. A couple of times a week he’d come inside and let the kids play with him. Rufus really loved him. He’d pick him up in that terrible kid way, no doubt poking his kidney or other organs, but Jonty would let him carry him upstairs to play on our bed. Rufus would say, “Come on, Jonty boy! We’re best friends!”

Jonty went missing a few weeks ago, which wasn’t that unusual for him. But after a couple of nights I said to Joel that I was going to head over to the abandoned house to look for him. It was dark so Joel said he’d come too, and bring his handy torch. I am so thankful for this, because – due to my natural slow dawdle and Joel’s efficient stride – he reached the abandoned house before me and nearly stepped on Jonty’s body not far from the door. He’d obviously been ambushed coming out of the house one time. Joel said he was most certainly dead and by the state of him, it had been a quick death.

He died just off the path that we take when we walk to Sai Kung, which we do two or three times most days. I will now always be thankful for our disorganisation and tardiness – we must have caught taxis instead of walking those couple of days. The thought of Rufus/Zadie coming across his body (not to mention me) continues to distress me, and it didn’t even happen. As it was, just telling Rufus was our hardest parenting moment to date. We stuffed up a bit when Herschelle disappeared and told Ru that he’d just gone to live somewhere else. It wasn’t completely a lie – in fact I cling to a tiny hope that he is in fact happily living somewhere else – and at the time we thought it better than telling him Herschelle was probably dead, or lost. But since then he’s mentioned many times that Herschelle didn’t like living here any more and went to find a new home. We convinced him otherwise but now he often says “Chool will come back one day.” So this time we decided to go with the truth, not quite the whole truth and nothing but the whole truth but that’s just how we roll in our current novice parenting status. We planned to tell Rufus that Jonty was dead, but that he got hit by a car. We didn’t want him to be frightened of the dogs, since he’s around them all day. Plus – no disrespect to the memory of Jonty – we figured it was a good way to get an extra road safety lesson in. But it was important for us that he knew Jonty was actually dead. He seems to understand the concept and is pragmatic about finding dead butterflies/snakes on the path.

Well, we waited a few days until Saturday came along, a non-kinder day and also a day we could provide lots of distractions if necessary. We all sat down on our bed. I sat behind Rufus, holding him, because I knew I would cry and didn’t want him to see how upset I was. Indeed my tears started falling before Joel even started speaking. Rufus’s response was heartbreaking. Joel said watching your kid register the news, then the denial, then the pain, was almost too much to bear. Rufus kept saying, “No, he’s not dead! He’s not! I saw him! He’s not dead!” Then: “He’s at the vet! The vet will fix him!” And then the worst: “He’s not dead, I heard him miaow! After he got hit by the car, he miaowed and he’s not dead!” The denial was so desperate and tragic, I couldn’t stand it.

The next few mornings, Rufus woke up and asked matter-of-factly “Is Jonty still dead?” He seems much more accepting of it now and hasn’t really talked about it anymore, or seemed out of sorts. But I wonder how much he thinks about it in his own secret thinking time. It’s a big blow to lose your two pets within a couple of months of each other.


There isn’t as much to say about Jonty as there was for Chool. He wasn’t a sociable or hilarious cat. He could steno though:


And he was also incredibly sniffy. One night I told him off for something, and he flounced into the study, tipped over the bin, climbed in and slept there all night.


The most noteworthy thing about him was his complete gayness.


He had a loving affair with a previous cat, Billy, when we lived in Moonee Ponds.



He had many mannerisms which would have been considered extremely camp in a human. His nickname was Tiny Lord, or T-Lord. In the past when he’d disappeared for a few days we always teased him about the gay exploits he had undoubtedly got up to and the hundreds of gin fizzes he’d drunk.

Wouldn’t it be the best to be one of our pets?

Well, funny you should say that since, with unseemly philosophy when it comes to the natural order of things, we have now got A DOG. A dog is for life, not just for Christmas, and we intend to take this one back to Australia when we move back (because international pet relocations have worked so well for us so far). Actually we had already picked him out from the local pound before Jonty died. We’ve been waiting a long time for Zadie to get to a better age for having a dog and now she’s nearly 2, the time seems right. Our dog is a collie. He’s about 4, and was given up because his previous owners moved into a small apartment. He’s very well trained, and very tall. Naturally he will NOT roam the village disposing of local cats, nor do I ever intend to tend to his arsehole with any sort of tissue or toilet paper product.

In keeping with the tradition of naming pets after cricketers, Joel and I tossed around many great ideas, including Inzamam (after Inzamam-ul-Haq, but we would’ve called him Inzy for short) and V.V.S. (Laxman). But in the end Rufus decided he wanted to call the dog Basil Leaf and we couldn’t argue with that, having lied to him and broken his heart within the past two months. He’s a handsome boy and his trainedness is incredibly relieving. He never barks, and as long as he gets a few walks a day he just seems to sleep the rest of his time away on a rug. At the moment he’s getting about six walks a day because Rufus loves the responsibility, and I’m on my 28th attempt at losing the baby weight from Zadie, and Joel just likes walking dogs.

Here he is then:



I admit I don’t feel a great connection with him, which has surprised me. I love animals and this one is as loveable as any. Maybe it was too soon after the cats.

One thing I don’t love about him is that he seems to have an internal GPS that alerts him when he is at the furthest point from a “dog excreta collection bin” before taking a crap. There’s nothing like walking through packs of dogs in eight villages holding a plastic bag of steaming dog shit.

So, that’s Basil Leaf. May I not be writing an obituary here for him for at least 10 years.

Vale Jonty. I loved you, little mate, and if I’m honest I still cry in bed some nights. You were the softest, littlest, gayest cat I’ve ever had, and I never had to carry your shit around in a bag. I hope you’ve got a little umbrella in your heavenly gin fizz.



3 Comments Add yours

  1. Jared Smith says:

    This made me cry. 😦

    Poor Jonty & Poor Herschelle. Even poor Billy.

    Still I remember the fun times and being awoken at an incredibly early hour by Jonty scratching my feet poking out the end of my bed. Fun times!

    On another note, I had a cat when we were young called Basil and she lived to be a very old girl (until she ran off into the bush one time and simply never returned – probably because she lost a fight with a fox). She was a tough thing too, having delivered all sorts of violent native wildlife to our doorstep without so much as a scratch on her (never a fox though).

    Thankfully we have lots of photos and lots of great memories of all the boys. They will be remembered and always loved. 🙂

  2. Jenni says:

    This brought a mist to my eyes. But what a great photo montage to remember him by. I love the steno machine one (of course). May they rest in peace.

  3. Lisa B says:

    shit. i just had a little cry. basil leaf looks gorgeous though. but still…dogs are still good 🙂

    miss you!

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