Tug’s interaction with other animals was fascinating. In most cases his confidence saw him through but on a few occasions he thought even faster than usual or, very rarely, abandoned his poise and ran for it.
The kitchen in our second garden flat overlooked an extensive garden at the back of the main house. There were three other garden flats and we had to walk around our immediate neighbour’s home to reach the back garden which was fenced off from the front half of the property. About half a dozen geese lived in the back and I admit to keeping a watchful eye on them whenever I went into the area to hang up washing, or for any other reason. Kimberley and Tug generally avoided the area like the plague, although both Kimberley and I enjoyed feeding the geese from the kitchen window.
Kimberley visited her dad on most Saturdays and on this particular afternoon I had the property to myself. With confidence induced by the solitude, I decided to make the most of a sunny day and took lunch, a book and a blanket over to a lush green patch in the middle of the lawn. Within minutes the whole goose family had assembled around the blanket and were surveying me and, more particularly, my lunch with great interest. Tug must have been watching this encounter as, maybe spurred on by my survival, he breezed over and sat on the blanket alongside me, before long lying down and assuming a relaxed pose.
By this time I had consumed my lunch and the geese, while remaining alert to any action on the food front, diverted their attention to the furry orange item on the blanket. His determination to maintain a cool facade proved to be his undoing. The nonchalant flicking of his tail fascinated the assembled throng. It would appear that potential food sources rank at the top of the check list of geese when confronted with anything out of the ordinary. The outstretched necks and intent gazes were soon followed by a number of random pecks at the enticing appendage. This was too much for the Master of All and that was probably the only time I ever witnessed him abandoning all dignity and rushing to safety.
On one of the other occasions when circumstances dropped him deeply in unchartered waters, he almost carried it off with supreme aplomb. This happened a couple of weeks after we moved into our present flat in Oak Park. Tyke (Staffie) and Tug had formed an uneasy truce as both had reputations to consider and could not be publicly seen to get along. This situation was amicably resolved to their mutual satisfaction by the cat speeding up and jogging along so the dog could trot along in pursuit a few metres behind whenever they realised someone had seen them in the same area at the same time. It suited the cat as he was seen to be able to escape the clutches of his predator, and it suited the dog because he felt obliged to at least look as if he was chasing cats.
Kimberley and I had arrived home and were in the driveway at the same time as the family. Tug and Tyke had apparently had a long day but, realising that they were cornered, gamely set off on the charade. Tug jog-trotted just ahead and, to add variety to a now-boring routine, deviated off the route and up a paperbark flat-crown tree that grew adjacent to our carport. As he hadn’t built up enough speed to get very high up it, he jumped a couple of metres up the trunk but on the lower less-used side that was under the roof. Exactly two seconds later, as Tyke jog-trotted up underneath him and pretended to look disappointed that Tug had yet again escaped, the significance of a paperbark tree became apparent to the cat. A sheet of the bark, defined exactly by the perimeter of his footprints, parted company with the rest of the tree and the cat descended backwards directly at the dog’s head. It was one of those frozen moments where you could see the think bubble above the cat’s head as well as the horror on the dog’s face as he realised he was about to be hit on the head by cat-and-glider and have his cover blown. His eyes scrunched up and his head recoiled in anticipation. The rest of us laughed so much that the two decided to give over the act and from then on got along remarkably well, with just occasional jousts to waylay derisive comments about their respective roles.