Open Season


It is a long story about having a cat in the studio in Botswana’s Okavango delta. He was found in a village, being dragged along by his back leg. He was maybe six or eight weeks old, I am not a cat expert ager. When asked if we could keep a cat in camp? I reiterated that I was not a cat expert and was not sure if small cats spoke to big cats. I also recalled sneezing from cats as a boy. Needless to say, the costly kitten ended up at the vet that afternoon for injections and was introduced to the delta that afternoon. It heard lions and leopards. But did not see them as he was blind. His name was Askari (Swahili for ‘the guardian’ or ‘soldier’) which was his temperament for life. I have never loved an animal as I did Askari. He would climb the trees but couldn’t get down. He would climb the anthill near the waterhole but couldn’t see his way down, so lay in the sun like a starfish. He loved showering. He loved popcorn, sharing his salmon, muscles and tuna with his friend the porcupine way after his bedtime. He snored, he struggled to keep his water in its bowl. He lived the life of a king for those six months. Sadly, he loved the smell of the Land Cruiser too, as he enjoyed having his paws out the window, going on afternoon drives to the ant heap. One morning he ran to the wrong land cruiser, hearing the sound of an afternoon drive. It was my fault. After we buried him we drove to the antheap. We had never seen a cheetah in the delta before. But there was one. Lying on the antheap, and as we sat there watching, he rolled over to bathe in the sun like a starfish, saying ‘I can see now, and everything is going to be ok’.

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