Domino is a small black and white female cat. She’s lived with us for almost a year. Before that she lived with Ivor Sutton, in a 1930s bungalow in the wilds of Staffordshire, just below Biddulph Moor. She was Ivor’s sole companion. In those days she was very thin, as Ivor didn’t feed himself or his cat adequately.
I’ve never lived with a cat, and I think she’s exceptional – but then so was Ivor.
'What will I do if I die?' He used to ask me. 'What will happen to my Domino?'
'I’ll have her,' I said once, without a second thought.
In September 2012, Ivor collapsed in his house. He was found by his friend, Jacky, and taken to hospital. Domino was rescued by a neighbour, and spent the next seven weeks in a shed, because she mustn’t mix
with the other cats.
Ivor hated hospital. He tried to escape, and broke his hip. He had guards on his room. He didn’t get better, and was finally moved to a Care Home, where he died after a week.
Domino went to Home for Strays – a remarkable place in Leek, run by Pat Wood, who seems to have a kind of celebrity status. We found Domino in a cage in a back room, presided over by the marvellous Pat – who 'never lets an animal down.'
I was famous as a small child for being able to clear my grandmother’s farmyard of cats just because I loved them so much. They’d scarper as soon as I arrived – their eyes staring at me from the hawthorn hedge. The cat my parents bought me when my sister was born, also did a runner after a few weeks of being over-loved by a three year old.
Domino, unlike any cat I’ve met, tolerates all my attention, strokes, and cuddles as if she were a baby. She seems to like Derbyshire, and has grown plump and sleek. When the dog gets attention she stares at her intently, then reaches up and boxes her snout with soft paws. She comes to help me work, sitting beside me when I write.
What does she think about? What’s it like to be a cat? What could she tell me about Ivor, and her days in the bungalow? She had a litter of kittens but they all died. She slept on Ivor’s bed in the one room he lived in. She had acres of land to explore when he let her out. Whenever we visited she’d climb onto my knee and chew my hand. 'Don’t bite, Tricia,' Ivor would say. 'Don’t bite her, Domino.'
She’s always hungry. Sometimes I mistake her cupboard love for the real thing, but she’s always off once her bowl has been filled.
Searching for stories about Ivor, I put a letter in the Leek and Congleton newspapers this week. Already three old men have phoned, passing on fragments of story. Some details add up, some don’t – Ivor
told many more Tall Tales, than I realised. '
We know so little, and then they’ve gone, and it’s too late to ask,' said one of the old men.
Sometimes I see a flicker of Ivor's spirit in his cat. Or think I do.
If only Domino could speak, I wonder what she’d tell me of the long lonely nights she spent beside him?