Ready-made family


Written by Robyn Clifton and professional photography by Lindsay Young Photography

It all started one morning while I was scrolling through Facebook and spotted two animals – Gracie and Cleo – looking for a new home. The picture of the most beautiful dog and cat cuddling together stole my heart and the fact that they couldn’t be separated just added to their appeal.

Cuddle buddies

I absolutely adore cats and would have 10 of them if I could. Our beloved Buzz passed away last year and we miss him so much. But, to be honest, we were all enjoying the temporary quiet and calmness of life without a dog. Of course, a house is not a home without one, but I was definitely not serious about looking for a new dog right then and definitely didn’t want a puppy – ever!

But those faces! My husband, Tim, was overseas and I sent him the pic. Yes to the dog, no to the cat was the response – huh!

I must have been the first person to email Animal Welfare Society Phillippi (AWS); I missed their closing time on Sunday and couldn’t wait to get to them on Monday. I phoned ahead and emailed to make sure AWS did not to send this precious pair to another home. I took my “crazy” friend, Lindsay, with me; she is a regular foster mom and her house is an absolute farmyard of cats, dogs, birds, fish and children.

A big surprise

On Monday, at 09h00 on the dot, we arrived only to be advised that there was a bit of an issue. The dog – a fluffy girl named Gracie – had unexpectedly had puppies during the night! She’d shown no signs of pregnancy and they were as shocked as I was.

Well, I didn’t know what to do, as I wasn’t ready for that. Lindsay persuaded me to go in and have a look. The first thing we noticed was how friendly and calm Gracie was; she was just so happy to see us and so proud of her baby (which looked like a little piglet). Sadly, the other poor little pup we could see wasn’t going to make it. It was half the size and very weak. Cleo the cat was just as calm as her doggy best friend.

That instant I decided we could not possibly leave them there. Discussions were happening about the puppy – fostering, etc. How on earth could we separate mom and babe? Never! Lindsay was very reassuring that she would be godmother and would help whenever needed. She already had a whelping box for me and was actually itching for me to let the family move in with her. Not a chance. They’d already crept into my heart.

But, as much as I wanted to scoop them up and take them home straight away, Cleo was to be spayed and the vet wanted to check Gracie out to make sure there weren’t any more pups and no infection. So the friends had to stay there.

Family first

Now, my husband was still overseas. My children were thrilled, naturally! My son is at boarding school and I had to send him constant updates. All our friends were so keen, so much so that I created a WhatsApp group with hourly updates. I think I may have become a bit over the top…

Christine at AWS was amazing and she was so helpful.

By Thursday we could fetch our little ready-made family. It was all happening a bit fast now. Tim was arriving back from the US – how was I going to fetch him at the airport, my daughter from school, hide all the blankets, cat box, dog box, food, and get him to AWS without him knowing?

My daughter and I agreed we would surprise Tim; my son insisted we get it all on video. The story: Well, apparently there was a new teashop in Philippi and we just had to try it out! Tim had no idea, although he was a bit sceptical about the location of this new teashop. When he saw the sign he said, “Ah, you’ve got the dog!”

Well, sorry dear, no… not quite. Everyone was sworn to secrecy, even AWS’s Christine. As Gracie was still in the hospital wing, we saw Cleo first; Tim wasn’t too impressed as he hadn’t really wanted to adopt a cat. Then we went to see Gracie. When Tim saw the puppy, he couldn’t believe it. But, luckily, he is a big softie and fell for the pup straight away.

Best friends forever

The first night was quite rough as I slept in the TV lounge with them. I honestly didn’t know how much noise a newborn pup could make. The second night I decided Gracie was a very capable mum and I was back in my own bed!

Isn’t it strange: Cleo went straight to Tim and sat cuddled up next to him… and he was smitten.

I just cannot believe how a cat, a dog and a puppy can be so close. Cleo doesn’t climb into their whelping box but sits close by, keeping a kitty eye on her friend and her baby. She and Gracie are so close; they play and love each other so much.  

It has been four weeks already and Puppy is growing fast. He is a real fluff ball and is playing, barking, growling and sleeping. Cleo is definitely his second mom and pulls him under her tummy and cuddles him. It is the sweetest thing I have ever seen.

When he was tiny he had this definite ridge on his back and Tim thought he was going to be a Ridgeback or some big, tough dog. Alas for Tim, I think he is going to be a Maltese Poodle-type – a very handsome and tough one. 

As for the other cats? Our queen of the house, Lulubelle, is quite happy to have this new family, although our other two cats have decided this new dog is far too happy and playful for them. Oreo, our black-and-white kitty, comes in and out and I have to keep her separate to Gracie. Biscuit, our biggest, toughest cat, has turned into a complete ninny; she is with our kind neighbour at the moment. I’m sure they will all settle soon. We are planning on taking Gracie to training, as she needs a little bit of discipline. She must be quite young still as she loves to play and chew hockey shin pads and steal food!

But now I have to stop writing… I think I hear Puppy is awake…

Christine Leonard, Kennel Manager at AWS PHILIPPI, shares…

Have you ever known a cat and dog to pine for each other when separated?

The cat and dog pair was brought in by their owner in a crate. Instead of jumping out, the cat just sat with her friend. We could immediately see the love they have for each other. When we took them up separately for their vaccinations they cried for each other. The minute we put them back together they settled down. 

It is not a usual occurrence at an animal welfare to have a dog and cat handed in together that are so in love with each other, so this was a new experience for us as well. We decided to keep them together and get them homed together. 

We then put the plea out on Facebook and it took off: our phones rang off the hook from people enquiring to adopt them or to just find out how they are.

Of all the enquiries, Robyn was the only person who came through to meet them and she fell madly in love with them. 

When we came in on the Monday morning we were totally surprised to find that the dog (who is now called Gracie) had given birth to two puppies overnight. She’d shown no signs at all! Sadly, one of the pups didn’t make it but the other did well. Gracie is a good mommy and when we took her up for sterilising, all she was worried about was her pup. When we put the puppy back with her she was cleaning him and cuddling him.

We are so happy about this adoption and what a wonderful home they’ve found – together.