25 July 2013

The last Slobbermouse

More than 20 years ago, when my sister was working as a banker in London, she came across a great discovery: cloth mice and fish stuffed with catnip at a shop in Covent Garden. Culpepper generally sold lotions, potpourri, and herbal concoctions and she just happened to stumble across the cat toys that were in a big barrel by the check-out counter.

After our beloved beagle Cindy died at 18, my family had switched to cats. We were too heartbroken and too in love with Cindy to ever think about getting another dog. Jeannie brought the catnip mice and fish home for our cats Peeve (our pet peeve...get it?) and Midnight  (an all white cat....their names really tell you all you need to know about my family). It would be impossible to overstate how crazy they went for them. They spent the whole Christmas gorked out of their minds on catnip, twisting around on their backs, rubbing all over the mice, and, in their drunken sailor stupor, totally soaking them with saliva. So we dubbed them Slobbermice (whether it was a mouse or fish didn’t matter). 

From that first Christmas, whenever one of us went to London, which was fairly frequently, we had the mandate to go to Culpepper and pick up a fresh stock of Slobbermice because Peevie and Midnight (and later Ming and Hobbes) needed a new fix before they got the feline equivalent of the DTs.  My sister and I also spread the joy to our cats and to our friends’ cats. The Slobbermice were completely flat and came in a variety of prints and paisleys, so they were the perfect gift to bring back. 

When my parents moved out of the house they’d lived in for 40 years, we found Slobbermice behind couches and elsewhere, along with some of those tiny, impossibly tight rubber bands from my braces when I was 11.

In February 2008, my sister and I went to London to scatter our mom’s ashes in the Thames. She loved London and we could think of no better place for her final resting place (or in this case, floating place).  But we were sad that we knew the minute we poured the ashes, we wouldn’t be able to see them anymore as the current would carry them away. Then we had a thought. What if we went to Culpepper, got a Slobbermouse, and threw it in the Thames with the ashes? We were staying near Covent Garden, so we went to Culpepper, picked one out in the pattern that we thought mom would like (we may have decided on a fish because, well, we were throwing it in water), went to the banks of the Thames, found a spot to pour the ashes (not as easy as you’d think), threw in the fish, and followed it down the river until it swept out beyond where we could see. It was strangely comforting to see the fish gently undulate out of sight. 

Somehow, fittingly and poetically, when I went to London last year, I stopped by Covent Garden and Culpepper was gone. It turns out it had closed shortly after our 2008 trip. 
Today, my sister and I stopped at Cat Care Veterinary Clinic in Morrisville to pick up food for her cats. Not only were three adorable kittens there for adoption and three resident cats for us to play with, there was a jar full of Slobbermice! They weren’t exactly the same as the ones at Culpepper, but they were close enough. They were made from different prints and stuffed with catnip just like the originals. but their ears and tails were different and they weren’t flat.  I bought $10 worth. 100% of the proceeds go to Safe Haven Cat Shelter & Clinic, a no-kill animal shelter in Raleigh with a small staff of only eight and more than 80 volunteers. Every Friday in August, they will spay and neuter feral cats for free. Aug. 2-4, adult cats will be free and kittens are only $15. On Sept. 15, Safe Haven will microchip your cat or dog for $10.

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