The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Cats, dogs and the healing power of laughter

Photo: Stone dog holding basket

Photo: Stone dog holding basket

When I first moved to the countryside 25 years ago, I was given two kittens. I had this harebrained idea that I’d call all my pets names from the shipping forecast areas. It seemed a nice and neat way to progress. Cat wise this was easy. I eventually settled on Finistere and Faeroe (the vet thought this is how Faro was spelt as I had no idea). Dogs would clearly be called Dogger, Fisher and possibly German Bight.

But when I bought my first Min Pin the dog names didn’t seem to suit this diminutive hero. Dogger and Fisher were shaggy dog names, more Spaniel than a Min Pin. Even though a Min Pin is a German Breed, the name German Bight seemed a bit too majestic and would have probably been shortened to Germ.

After a year of being called Nipperty he was eventually christened Fly after a favourite whippet that belonged to my father. Once named, he seemed to get his wings in an instant. Vague tussles with my two cats became a proper 24/7 job. They didn’t like this reorganising of the ranks and eventually one must have fought back. One evening I heard Fly weeping on the stairs. I got up to check what was going on. Fin was at the top and Faeroe was at the bottom. Fly was crouched on a step in the middle of the stairs unable to move up or down.

The cats had won. Like elephants, cats never forget. I’m sure some cats forgive but mine were clearly inexperienced souls. It was war. If Fly tripped out to the garden to have a pee they would close in a pincer movement on the home side of the cat flap. He was too big to kill but teasing him was a game that went on and on.

Fly travelled everywhere with me and would leave the little house with a sniff of pride. But cats are patient. On his return they would always remind him who was boss.

As the cats didn’t have the freedom of travelling in the car they were allowed to sleep upstairs. Fly’s role was to guard the house downstairs until dawn. Then he was allowed to spring upstairs and join us all in the human cat/dog basket. He always crept onto the foot of the bed whilst the cats curled around the pillows at the head.

When the alarm trilled the cats would spring into action, baying for their food. I tend to set my alarm clock half an hour early so that I can bask and doze. The cats didn’t like this at all and would scrabble around my hair, shrieking and pawing. One ghastly day I opened my mouth wide to shout ‘Shut up,’ and Fin put a paw in my mouth.

I was up in a nano second and in the bathroom reaching for the Listerene before I could say, ‘Was that a clean paw?’ ASBO Cats hadn’t been invented back then.

Fin remembered this battle-winning move. From then on the alarm would bleep and I’d open one eye to see a paw hovering. It had to be ventriloquist communication from then on. Fly always remained at the foot of the bed completely silent.

I remembered those old times this evening. Pamela had left a comment on my Millie post, pointing me in the direction of some superb cat and dog animations by Simon Tofield. I’d returned home after a stressful day, so sidelined the supper and immediately browsed to these mini animated movies. I laughed for a good fifteen minutes. Thanks Pamela, they really buoyed me up – it’s easy to forget that laughter is good medicine.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    That’s great, Pamela!

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