I don’t know what is the best bit about sharing one’s life with animals. I don’t know whether it is their soft fur or feathers, whether it is their voices, their bodies, their looks, their anti-stress properties or what else. While I cannot write for the whole world of animal lovers I can speak for myself. The best bit about owning animals is their goofiness. I have seen birds, horses, dogs, cats and fish displaying various degrees of goofiness (not necessarily proportionate to their sizes either), and when I think of my dog William, a meek smile and a resigned head-shake are automatic reactions to his symmetrically spotted face materialising itself before my very eyes.
I have had William for nine years and, good grief, he has given me enough goofs to fill an encyclopedia. From falling off a balcony to eating horse poo, William is one hell of a dal. Two of his favourite, life-defying stunts involve the patio doors that open onto the back garden. These have been the scene of the crime on more than one occasion. One day early on in our history at this address, when the lounge was not a lounge at all, but a semi-empty room with a table and a chair where I would occasionally sit to do some writing, William had gone out through the back door which, from the kitchen leads to the garden via a porch. I was observing him running around and sniffing the grass, feeling one with nature and, strangely for me I must admit, I was at peace with the world.
I waved at him through the glass, lifting my hand high above my head so that he could really see me. I even smiled knowing well that a smile invites particularly intelligent pets to respond to their owners. And he did respond. He immediately sprinted towards the house, quickening his pace as he reached the three steps that lead up to the door where I was sitting. For a nano-micron of a split second, I wondered why he had sped up, but even that fleeting thought came an instant too late. Next thing I knew, he was buckling backwards, his pink tongue clasped between his lips and only miraculously un-severed by his teeth upon impact on the glass. I wanted to jump to my feet flabbergasted at what I saw; instead I jumped to my feet, slid the door open and run to his rescue, ready to perform a doggie mouth-to-mouth. His head still in one elongated piece, he shook the impact off, looked at me as if he had just seen me for the first time, and went back to sniffing the grass, if only a tad wearily so for a while.
It is no fallacy that the killer always returns to the scene of the crime. In order to ensure no more potential head-butts into the treble-glazing, later that summer I kept the doors wide open, with only the metal blind pulled down in order to provide some shade. One afternoon, I let William out through the back door as per usual. It was above the swooshing and clattering of the washing up that I snapped back to life via a mighty crash from the lounge. I don’t know what I thought exactly if not that a piece of ceiling had finally given in and collapsed.
But it was not plaster that I found when I entered the room; it was a dog trapped between the crumpled slats of the blind, head and front paws through, rest of body somewhere at the back, suspended in mid-air. Unpicking the mess was not easy and became increasingly less easy on all of the subsequent occasions when he made his way back into the house through this most unorthodox entryway, slats snapping back to their righteous shape with less oomph with every crash.
I eventually got rid of the blind and the sliding doors; French doors with Georgian bars (and no blind) have provided much safer for William. So much safer in fact that he now darts pass them to paw hard on the back door even when I am standing right there calling him in, door wide open, gusts of November rain lashing into the lounge behind me.
I was recently delighted to discover that it is not just my dog that lives, should we say, in his own world. Cats too have their glorious moments of idiocy. Listen to this:
"Finally he nodded off to sleep and his head dropped forward so that the top of his head faced the bars of the fire.
At least, that's how it looked from where we were sitting. I think his fur must have been actually touching the bars.
We really weren’t paying that much attention. Lorraine had just said ‘Can you smell something burning?’ when suddenly, with a noise like a great puff of air, Brum’s whole head burst into flames.
It’s hard to explain the impact of seeing something like that. You just don't expect a cat’s head to do that. It was like he’d beed thinking too hard and his brain had just given up and exploded.
Luckily the bathroom is next to the lounge and there was a full tub of cooling water in there. Brum had gone mad and I just grabbed him, run full blast into the bathroom and thrust his head under the water.
He went off with a great his of steam. He seemed so stunned that he forgot to attack me for a moment."
This Brum cat has skimmed new heights of health and safety that even William has yet to reach. Now consider this, it will sound familiar:
"One summer day, Brum came sprinting from dustbin to fence to flat roof in an amazingly agile way (‘amazingly agile’ had he been a moose) and didn’t break stride at all upon spotting me at the window and heading straight for me.
I didn’t register alarm at first. I do seem to remember that in the last moments before impact I wondered why Brum appeared to be rapidly gaining pace. Only as he connected did I realise he has no intention of stopping. [...] The window simply disintegrated. I jumped backwards in shock as glass rained down around me. The noise was deafening - glass shattered and smashed everywhere; the room was instantly transformed into a sea of broken shards.
When the thundering pandemonium subsided, a lone cat stood picturesquely bordered by an empty wooden window frame."
Tempted to read more? I am not surprised. A Cat Called Birmingham and You Can Take The Cat Out Of Slough... both by the excellent Chris Pascoe. Enjoy.