…or so I kid myself. Cat people have a reputation for being slightly crazy…or at the very least eccentric. Thankfully, my mother and her brothers always had dogs as pets, when they were children, so it was a natural follow on for me and my brother to gravitate toward dogs first as our choice of pet.
Our first dog was a black and tan Manchester Terrier cross puppy that was given to us in the local park by another boy, whose mother had told him to get rid of it. My mother was pushing my brother in the baby buggy (known then, in England, as a push-chair), as I ran on ahead through the park. By the time mum had caught up to me I was busy fussing this cute little pup, and the boy quickly explained that if we wanted it we could have the pup. Me and my brother then pretty much bullied mum into letting us keep it. You know the thing…”please mum let us keep it”…..”No”….”Oh go on mum please”….”No”….”Oh PLEEEASE mum, we’ll be ever so good won’t we Dave” to which my brother nodded so hard his head fell off….Obviously it didn’t, I was just trying to emphasize how hard he was nodding – but, never mind. Eventually after so many pleases and no’s she could stand no further whining from us and gave in. And let’s face it this technique usually works – it’s been passed down through generations…probably in our DNA….we don’t want it to be passed down obviously. We don’t want our kids knowing that continuous whining is our kryptonite do we? No matter how hard we try to suppress it…it still squeezes through, generation to generation.
At the time, the pup was very young and we weren’t absolutely sure if it was male or female. Turn it upside down and everything’s so small…and at that age they all squat to pee. The lad thought it was male so we called it Timmy – after the dog in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books. Pretty soon it became clear that Timmy was actually a girl, so a quick name change was required and Lassie was decided on. Those of us old enough remember Lassie the collie dog in the movies….”What Lassie? Tommy fell down the well?”
She quickly became my dog and would follow me everywhere without a leash, although I also trained her on the leash and she quickly learned to heel…and not to tug and pull when we went for walks. She was a lovely, really lovely dog. Affectionate, well behaved. Unfortunately one day she, my mother, my brother and me were on our way home from my grandmothers and it started to rain. I had my bike with me so mum sent me off ahead to get home to shelter. The problem was that mum thought I’d stay on the same side of the busy road that they were on. But I decided to cross it as it would be a quicker way home. Mum was distracted, putting the rain cover over the push-chair, Lassie saw me disappear into the distance, ran across the road to try to catch up to me and was struck by a car. We’d probably had her about 2 years by that time and were all devastated at her untimely death. I never stopped blaming myself.
Next, after several years, came Bess. Bess was a brown and white Springer Spaniel who’s owner, a friend of my mothers, couldn’t keep her any longer as they already had another dog and the two did not get along. The lady insisted that Bess, who was about 18 months old, was a gentle, good natured dog and never did any damage or anything naughty. Pretty soon, after a few pairs of shoes had been destroyed and Bess also tried to eat a corner off the kitchen door, we came to the conclusion that we’d been had. After discussions with people “in the know” we were told that first thing is to move anything that the dog can chew, second thing is to smear the door with something pungent or spicy tasting to put the dog off and thirdly to not let the dog get bored.
Hiding the rest of the shoes, and applying Coleman’s Strong English Mustard liberally to what was left of the door, we thought would soon solved that problem. Turns out that our dog loved spicy food. Loved mustard. Could not get enough! Yum, yum, yum…loved it! Bring on the next course….chicken vindaloo perhaps? Fortunately she loved it so much that she stopped eating the door, just licked off the mustard…..and then squirted diarrhea all over the porch where we kept her. You would not believe how much of that stinky, yellow/green slime one medium sized dog has inside it…nor how far a medium sized dog can project it. Thank God she wasn’t a Great Dane or Saint Bernard….imagine it!
I don’t want to go on about it, but I will because I don’t think you can fully appreciate what a mess it was. You know those plastic squirty bottles that hot dog mustard comes in? Imagine a bottle 100 times the size and then picture a hippopotamus or an elephant leaping from a 12 metre diving board onto it. Actually that’s stupid, how would a hippo or elephant climb up there? Imagine it a hippo climbing a ladder…just not possible is it? OK, so imagine then that by some magical way, a hippo…..or elephant is up there on the 12 metre diving board. Maybe a crane – obviously the machine, not the bird….god imagine the bird flapping like mad trying to lift a hippo…just wouldn’t work would it….ridiculous….so a crane put it up there…or helicopter…perhaps, with a harness….then again hippos and elephants don’t have fingers so how would they unfasten the harness once they were up there? Hard work this. Whatever way it got there a very large animal is up there and leaps majestically into the air and plummets onto the squeezy bottle and well, you can guess the rest.
The porch was carpeted too….yes I know….not pretty! Not fully carpeted you understand we weren’t that posh! Just old rugs laid on top of a parquet floor. My dad years earlier had got hold of this old parquet flooring rescued from some wreck of a building or other and being a true Yorkshireman…never wanting to “chuck ‘owt out”….decided to re-lay it over the concrete flagstones in our porch. You know those little gaps between the slats of wood on a parquet floor? Particularly runny diarrhea can find it’s way into any little crack or crevice. There was no way that dad was going to let us destroy his handy-work so we lived with that particular cologne for years…and years. It’s the scent that keeps on giving.
After that, it became my job to take Bess for long….very long….walks to tire her (and me) out so that neither of us were capable of getting up to any mischief. She became a well loved family member. We spoiled that dog….to the point that she became diabetic. Mum would feed it ice cream for gods sake. So yes, she died of problems caused by diabetes.
Next came Baldrick. Named after the unkempt, slightly smelly, rather stupid character from the Blackadder TV series. And to be fair he did his best to live up to the name. Not a very high target to meet granted. But despite this he was still a lovely and loved pet.
Jumping several years and my brother-in-law ended up living at our house. I won’t go into the how, why and wherefores of it, but while me and my wife were overseas on an extended holiday, my brother-in-law and his son either allowed, or more likely encouraged, a couple of kittens from next door into our house.
Who doesn’t think cats, particularly little fluffy kittens are cute….I think it can be safely said that when it comes to a little pussy….we love ’em don’t we? By which I mean a small cat, a kitten.
Well, it turns out that, at that time, I was not like most people and I was annoyed, nay outraged, that our house minders had allowed felines through the door and into my hallowed space. Rather pathetically I tried to barricade the doorway so that the cats couldn’t get in. Of course as they got older and larger, leaping over my version of the Berlin Wall became like a game to them so, in the end I simply gave in, accepted their presence and – what do you know – the little buggers grew on me.
My wife didn’t have my built in aversion to cats, having owned a cat of her own when she was a child. Actually that sentence is ridiculous, as anyone knows who has a cat as a pet…..it’s the cat that owns you!
Anyhow, my wife soon named the 2 kittens – who were brother and sister and incidentally already had other names – Tiberius and Scarlet. The 2 kittens were inseparable during the daytime and were usually to be found in one another’s company, in a sunny spot in the garden. Although Scarlet would usually go back next door at the end of the day, Tiberius….or Tibs as I shortened his name to because I didn’t want to sound pretentious calling him in….”Tiberius, Oh Tiberius, where are you?” – made our home his in a very short time.
Tibs would come and go throughout the day, but at night time, he’d settle down on the couch and that would be the last we’d hear of him until early morning when he’d wander into our bedroom, jump up on to the bed and then settle down on my chest and push his face into mine, just to let me know that he loved me…..actually to tell me to get up and get him breakfast.
We became firm friends. He was my confidante and we had many a long discussion. Well I talked, he just looked aloof, but I’m pretty sure he was listening to every word. Then one evening in January at 10pm, for no apparent reason, he went out the front window and never returned.
Devastated doesn’t even come close to how I felt.
Oddly the very next morning Scarlet appeared meowing constantly, with a little bundle of fluff in tow. It was as though she was saying “I know Tibs is gone, but don’t be sad, I brought you a gift”. That little bundle of fluff became a regular visitor then a permanent guest when we became official carers for him. I would say owners, but we already know who owns whom when it comes to cats.
That was almost 3 years ago. Hector is my present confidante and my new owner. He rules the roost, as it were. He’s more of a night owl than Tibs was and is frequently in and out of the cat flap during the hours of darkness, announcing his arrival with a very loud “I’m here!” – or at least I swear that’s what it sounds like. He brings home “gifts” such as dried flower heads, the occasional rabbit…. or half a rabbit (always the bottom half, never the head)….and mice…sometimes dead but more often than not, very much alive. Hector, it would appear, has signed up for the mouse catch and release program. It seems to amuse him to watch me chase the mice around the house trying to catch them again. He thinks it’s great fun.
When he’s had his fun for the night, and a feed, he’ll jump up on the bed and spread out, so my feet are wedged down a narrow strip of bed so as not to upset his highness. He’ll have a scratch, groom himself and then purr himself to sleep….where as I’ll lay there uncomfortable, very much awake and developing a cramp in my crushed legs.
You’d think that this would piss me off….the constant meowing at odd hours of the night….the mouse hunting when still half asleep and bleary eyed…the demands of “feed me” at all hours…..the lack of sleep. Some would call me insane for putting up with it, but funnily enough if I don’t hear those middle of the night calls for attention I lay awake and worry….where is he, is he ok? Crazy or just a softy? I wouldn’t have it any other way. So, when I say I’m not really a cat person I guess what I mean to say is that I wasn’t, but now I most certainly am.