Digglum Bestiaruim ~ The Digglers' Crest

The Digglers

The Cat Who Walked Into My Life

One afternoon, early January 1986 a very young black cat came into the classroom and walked over to the milk crate on the floor by the door. The children stopped what they were doing and watched as the tiny cat tried to extract some milk from a bottle. It appeared to be so hungry that it was unaware of all attention it was receiving. The nursery assistant was in my class at the time and I asked if she would pop to the local shop and get some cat food. The cat was so hungry that it just swallowed the food and lapped all the milk that was put in a saucer. We wondered if the cat belonged to someone and I sent two children with a note round school to see if anyone owned it. No one seemed to own this black cat. The children asked if we could keep it. I replied that it wasn't practical and that it might belong to someone and would be missed. During story time the cat curled up on a beanbag and went to sleep. I didn't think my stories were that boring! The weather was bad, very cold and sleet was falling. The children were concerned about the cat being out and since it was still fast asleep on the beanbag, I gave in and said it could stay the night but they must not tell the caretaker.

As I entered the classroom the next morning, the cat was still on the beanbag and when it saw me it gave a yawn and stretched itself! It had another big bowl of cat food before the children came in. They were all eager to see the new addition to the class. When everyone had settled down and I had taken the register, we had a discussion as to what should be done about the cat. I'm sure they all wanted to keep it, however that was not an option. What would happen at weekends or holidays? Besides it may be someone's pet. It was decided that we would put notices in the local shops and the children drew pictures of the cat and two children wrote that we had found the cat and if it belonged to someone, they could come and collect it from school. No one came so we were stuck with the cat for another day. My classroom door was always kept open and therefore the cat was free to wander. A few times it went towards the door and on one occasion ventured outside but it came back very quickly. He had decided this was his new home. The children had now chosen a name for him - Sammy.

Sammy P's New Home

I was concerned that the children were becoming too attached to Sammy (short for Sammy P) and that his days at school were numbered, but what were we going to do with him? The children came up with the answer. They knew I had a smallholding and the suggestion was that he went up there. This was an option I had not considered. Perhaps he could. I had not thought of having cats, I only had my two horses. It was worth a try. The children were delighted when I agreed to the suggestion. It was settled, if no one claimed him, he could live with my horses. No one did claim him and at the end of the week, Sammy was put in a cat basket and taken to my smallholding. Sammy didn't seem to mind as long as he had a home. I was concerned there was no heat for him and it was very cold. The buildings on my smallholding were constructed out of stone and consisted of two large stables and two smaller rooms used as a kitchen and a feed room. Sammy would live in the kitchen and the feed room. Whilst I was there Sammy could go outside. There was a farm and four houses across the road. The people at the farm had several cats and a person who lived in one of the houses also had cats so there were plenty of playmates for Sammy. I purchased a calor gas heater for him.

Sadness Strikes

He spent several happy weeks and then a tragedy struck. One Saturday afternoon, I went up at teatime to bring my horses in from the field and give them their tea. I let Sammy out whilst I did this. I had brought him some steak little did I know he wasn't to eat it. By the time I had finished, Sammy had not come back. I waited a while and then decided to look for him. I walked up the drive towards the gate and spotted him across the road. He saw me and started to cross the road when a car came and knocked him down. I raced over to him but he died in my arms. I was mortified and uncontrollable with grief. How was I going to tell the children on Monday? The following day, I buried Sammy.

A New Chapter For The Digglers Begins

On Monday the children came into the classroom. The first question was always enquiring about Sammy. I got them all seated on the carpet and told them what had happened. It was one of the hardest things I had to do. Their faces said it all, most were in tears including myself. I then decided Sammy's death would not be in vain and that I could give a home to another cat. In our area was very active animal rescue charity and it was decided a new cat would come from there. At the end of the week I took two children with me to choose another cat. There were lots of cats to choose from and the children chose a Sammy look alike. However, I decided to have two, as they would be company for each other then perhaps they would not need to cross the road to visit the other cats. A female cat was chosen and they were placed in cat baskets and I set off for my smallholding. The children chose names for the cats. Of course the male cat they decided to call Sammy P (2) and they christened the female Poppet.

Sponsoring A Cat

The children I had taken to the animal rescue now wanted to help the other animals and they talked about raising money to buy food for them. We discussed how we could do this and they suggested making cakes and selling them. I enlisted the help of the nursery assistant, Margaret and it was decided that once a week we would have a baking day and the money we raised would go towards buying food for the rescue cats. When we had enough money, I took three children to the local supermarket where they chose and paid for tins of cat food. We then took it to the rescue centre and they were allowed to have a look round. Several of the cats couldn't be homed for various reasons mainly because they were feral and it was difficult to handle them. These were sponsor cats and people were encouraged to sponsor one of these cats and pay towards their upkeep. They were then provided with photographs of the cat, a history and regular bulletins on how they were doing. The children decided they would like to sponsor a cat. This was discussed with the rest of the class and they were all in agreement and the following week when I took two of the children down with some food, they chose a cat called Mandy. It wasn't long before we had a photograph of Mandy and her history pinned on the wall. The children wrote about the work they were doing in helping the rescue cats and of course there were photographs of Sammy P (2) and Poppet. The children continued their good work in helping the rescue cats all that academic year and when I had a new class the following September they wanted to continue.

The first Sammy P had achieved a lot of things. He had taught the children to become caring and knowledgeable in animal welfare. Other cats had benefited from a good home and pleasure and enjoyment had been given to many. I am sure that my pupils will have fond memories of the time spent in the company of animals.