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Tue, Mar 03, 2009
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My cat repaired a broken friendship
by Jill Alphonso

PETS have been in the limelight lately.

Think of the Glenn Ong/Jamie Yeo split and their row over who gets the dog, a sweet-faced Jack Russell named Fudge.

And let’s not forget actor Mickey Rourke, who wore a pendant with a picture of his late chihuahua, Loki, to last week’s Oscars ceremony.

In the light of all this animal frenzy, I – at the risk of coming across as a crazy pet person – have decided to talk about how pets can affect a relationship.

Anyone who’s ever owned an animal with a partner can surely empathise with Ong and Yeo (they eventually decided that Fudge would stay with Yeo).

I know I can – my heart is still with Duncan, a shy tabby cat which lives with my ex-boyfriend and his wife in Seattle.

The ex and I dated nine years ago and, in our first year together, we adopted Duncan.

In the wake of our break-up two years later, we fought over furniture, bills and who would get to keep the car.

Not one bit of our split was amiable though, at the time, we pretended that it was. I’ll spare you the gory details, but I think we’d both agree that we behaved badly. It took years for us to rebuild a friendship.

Despite the rancour, we reached a unanimous decision on who’d keep Duncan: My ex, because he was moving into a large house with a garden. I was moving into a small apartment, and we both agreed that Duncan should get room to roam as his instincts dictate.

These days, the ex and I call each other once every six months or so to catch up. And the very first thing we’d talk about, after the obligatory “How are you?”, is Duncan. This is even though we really dislike people who talk incessantly about their pets to anyone who would listen.

Even when we were in the throes of thoroughly despising each other, the ex would call me whenever the cat was unwell or if the animal had done something funny.

Our resentment towards each other would disappear as we chuckled over the cat’s latest exploits. And the ex would tell me that, no matter what, I would always be Duncan’s co-owner.

Now that we’re truly friends, I’d listen raptly as he tells me how Duncan had become more affectionate as he got older. I’d demand to hear more about how his hunting skills are developing, because he had always been a rugged, outdoorsy type.

(The cat, that is, not the ex.) It’s because of Duncan – whom I still love wholeheartedly – that I am also able to love my ex, in spite of all the bitter words we had exchanged.

Not only is he someone who has fought hard for my friendship, but he is also the caretaker of our cat – a creature that has an inexplicable hold on me despite being so far away.

In a way, that little 5kg animal represents the life we three shared for a brief moment in time.

I know the ex tells me stories of Duncan because he honours the past we had together. And I see that in loving Duncan, he is indirectly also still loving and cherishing me. I thank him for all of that.

That reminds me, it’s time to make that phone call to see how they’re both doing.

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