This photo of our Ginger Monster was taken in January 2004 as we were packing to move from the flat in Epworth to Oak Park. Sir packed himself frequently in various locations, sometimes inside, sometimes on top but, having made two earlier moves in his toddler years, he was quite capable of checking contents – and ensuring his own travel voucher.
His poor nose had taken a hammering from the sun and he had had a rodent ulcer cut from it in his youth. It was one of the very few hassles he ever had with his health and it was ironic that it was later a compromise of his immune system that lead to his premature death.
On the more positive side, the move to Oak Park extended the opportunity to be appointed as one of Tug’s agents to countless more breathless applicants. Kimberley remained his primary agent but the group came to include numerous dogs, a fish and a selection of monkeys were in training at the time of Tug’s demise.
Our neighbours have a female Jack Russel who has had three litters of puppies. She is almost entirely white with a couple of brown patches. This is relevant because the only pup to stay on from her first litter is a bit taller, more slightly built – and pitch black. He looks like a tiny Labrador. His name is Chocolate (‘Nunu’ when he’s on our property) and he is an absolute gem, very eager to please and willing to learn. His only regular shortcoming is a memory lapse related specifically to keeping out of the cat bowl. None of the second litter stayed on, and two white females were kept from the third and final litter. Although their mother and brother are smooth-haired, both of these girls have wire hair. There the similarity ends. One is tall and scraggly, a real little tomboy whom we have named Dixie – she is perpetually in trouble with others and tends to be a bit of a loner. She is also my favourite. Both she and her brother climb like monkeys and have been seen at head height on wire fences. Her little sister is half her size and has beetle eyebrows which give her an endearingly anxious expression. We call her Peanut.
Tug referred to them collectively as “The Dominoes” – ‘if you smack one, they all fall down’.
He had no problem at all in controlling them – and was frequently required to exercise it. They retained their conviction that he smelt like a cat, despite his distinctly non-feline behaviour. This led to frequent attempts to ambush or pursue him. He simply stared them down.
Albert is the Jack Russel who belongs to our landlords. We were a bit concerned about how he and Tug would get along as he, unsurprisingly, did not like cats and Tug had been resident on the property for a couple of years when Albert moved in. On the first day after Albert’s arrival, his owner Pam came to me in a rather perplexed state. Albert was apparently desperately upset because all his attempts to charge at or chase Tug were thwarted by the refusal of Sir to budge an inch from where he was sitting. This untypical reaction had wrecked all Albert’s pre-conditioning and he had had to accept at the end of a long day that one cannot chase something that refuses to move.
Possibly the most surprising of Tug’s agents was our first Siamese Fighter fish, Hakkaludi. He was stunning electric blue and a character of note. Each evening Tug would come in and recline on a packing box that was parked in front of the cupboard that held the fishtank. Once he was suitably relaxed, on his side at full stretch, Hakkaludi would start the scheduled performance. Like a miniature dolphin, he would jump out of the water and flip over backwards, swim up and down shimmering his generous fins, and generally show off for the benefit of the cat. We were simply the taggers on. The cat appeared to enjoy the show and regularly watched with a smile of satisfaction.
We were priveleged to live in this community.