Goose came into my life 4 years ago during my first period English class. I was living in a tiny village in rural South Africa teaching English at the time, and word had quickly gotten out that I was looking for a cat. Granted, I had never really interacted with cats, given that I had grown up in a dog family, but I was lonely and far from home and missing the companionship of an animal. I traveled too much to realistically adopt a dog.
Enter Goose. Goose was maybe 5 weeks old when he was dropped onto my lap during story time, and I would be lying if I said that I was prepared for his arrival. That night I couldn’t sleep, because I was utterly terrified that I would roll over in my sleep and squish him. I had no cat supplies, so we made do with a carboard tray and rice as litter. His first dinner was tuna from the tuck shop down the street and plain scrambled egg.
He was perfect. We immediately fell in love with him.
I was immediately obsessed with this tiny orange creature. Goose became a regular fixture in my classroom, and I would often use him to show my students how to treat animals with kindness and respect. In an environment where a vast majority of the community struggles daily just meeting their basic needs, it can be difficult to prioritize the welfare of animals. In Zulu culture cats are seen as bad luck and a symbol of withcraft—needless to say, it was always interesting explaining why I had a cat living in my house with me.
Goose made everything manageable; I was no longer alone. When the bats slipped in at night and flew around our head, he would wake me up. When the noise of the rain on the tin roof scared him, we would shelter under the covers together. It didn’t matter that I had to hitchhike to the nearest town to take him to his vet appointments, or that I often had to skip getting groceries for myself so that I could carry his litter home—we were a team, me and Goose against the world.