Tug’s fearlessness almost knew no bounds.
Our first garden flat was situated on a steep hillside on a side street that ran parallel to a main road and taxi route, making ours the road less travelled. This accounted for the fact that a herd of about a dozen Nguni cattle frequently made use of our thoroughfare to amble down the hillside towards the Botanic Gardens.
Not long after Tug moved in, I was surprised one Saturday afternoon to see a little ginger body come hurtling through the front door and disappear under a tall bookshelf. This was the first time he’d ever shown a lack of self-assurance. A glance out of the door showed that about eight of the cattle had wandered right up the driveway and were grazing around the car a couple of metres away from the flat. Sometime later he re-appeared and walked confidently out of the door back into the garden.
Being curious as to the change of attitude, I was rewarded with the sight of a confident young kitten striding down the driveway, arms swinging from the shoulder – about two metres behind the cattle who were by now ambling back into the road. Every inch the herdboy escorting them from the property.
Two huge Dobermans lived at the house across the road. I used to go to the postbox at the end of our driveway to collect the early morning newspaper, always accompanied by Tug who would wind himself around my ankles and be very affectionate. It was puzzling that every morning, the two Dobermans would squeeze themselves up against their gate, one with his arms around the post, and whimper like babies whenever we appeared. This from two fierce watchdogs was a total mystery.
One day our landlady provided the answer quite accidentally. She came over to chat and told us how amused she was to regularly see Tug (still a very young cat) climb the loquat tree on the Dobermans’ verge, walk out along a branch until he was over their garden, and crouch down extendinging his paws to them. No wonder they dribbled at sight of him.
The second occasion I saw him totally nonplussed was shortly after we moved into the garden flat in Epworth. The family had a Jack Russel and a Labrador ; the move was enlived by Tess (Labrador) running at top speed through our front door and almost immediately out of the kitchen door in pursuit of what appeared to be a whirling Catherine Wheel. Tess had a grin from earlobe to earlobe but was very puzzled on arriving in the back garden sans Catherine Wheel. Having by now grown accustomed to the exploits of our Ginger Fiend, I was already in pursuit to see where he had gone. While Tess huffed and fuffed under the hedges, Tug sat diametrically opposite her behind a circular herb garden – cleaning his face.
A stark contrast to the look on the still shiny clean angelic face when, three days after we arrived, the family took on an adult Great Dane. Tug happened to be facing me when Big Boy (Great Dane) ambled around the side of the garage and up the driveway towards our flat. It is no exaggeration at all to say that Tug’s jaw dropped completely while his head roved up and down as if the sight before him was too much to be taken in just by swivelling his eyeballs. It didn’t matter at all that English didn’t feature in his vocab – total disbelief was written all over.
All four of them rattled along extremely well together over the following four years, probably helped not a little by the discovery on the part of the dogs that cats travel with their own food bowls – a source of hitherto unexpected treats for anyone prepared to take on the owner.