Lilac and Lime

Contrasts in colour, contrasts in life – Mary Bruce

Archive for Animal people

Good Old Timers

Reaching fifty last year has not bothered me one bit, in advance, at the time, or since. But watching Daisy, our Staffie, ageing as we look is getting to me.

Last year the lady who works with our vet warned that fifteen is an extremely good age for this breed of dog and that vague symptoms I’d noticed were indicative of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Until then Kimberley and I had been unaware that this could affect animals.

Although Daisy’s appetite remains unaffected, her muscle tone deteriorated and this combined with occasionally sunken eyes makes her look gaunt and malnourished. Changes in her behaviour have been the most obvious indication that all is not well. She sometimes seems to forget where she is and spends ages standing in corners, apparently quite content but just standing. She also wants to be as close as possible, particularly to me. When it happens during the morning rush, or while I’m busy up and down the length of the kitchen preparing a meal or washing dishes, it becomes extremely frustrating. Last week I tried to avoid walking on her and accidentally picked up a roasting pan that had just come out of the oven instead of the adjacent dish. Yelling was an instinctive reaction to the pain but all it did was leave me feeling lousy – and with a red hand.

Possibly the hardest new habit to cope with is her nocturnal restlessness. She sleeps soundlessly during the day and evening, at the most acrobatic angles at times as she adjusts to her location, usually on a cushion alongside the freezer. I hate closing her out of my bedroom as that’s where she wants to be when I’m there, but I’m losing track of how many times I’ve had to function on a minimum of sleep after she’s had a disturbed night. Up and down she’ll pace, down the passage and back, around the bedroom, up and over a packet of clothing awaiting disposal, bump into the bed, and then a cupboard door, before going back down the passage. And then rustle around in a pile of shoes for an hour or two before she’ll settle down. Twice now she’s bumped the bathroom door and been closed inside until we found her in the morning – fast asleep at last.

She hasn’t become incontinent like most dogs I know of, odd drips or ‘leaks’. In fact, I’m not even sure that she is incontinent. On occasional nights her bladder just loses all sense of moderation or fair play and she’ll lose what looks like litres of urine. It doesn’t smell but the sheer volume indicates that it has to be from her bladder. She’s always been a meticulously clean little dog and we’ve often been amused by the hours she spent ‘house-keeping’ her kennel.

She has become stubborn about going out on her pre-bedtime “pee break”. In fact, these days I more often than not have to push her out of the door, although it is only going to be for five or ten minutes. Even a matter of a few months ago, she and Storm and I would go for a short walk around the garden ; she’d break first and do her bit which immediately prompted Storm to rush up and do his bigger-and-better-bit on top of it. Cool, then we’d all go back inside and prepare for bed with beaming bladders.

The most worrying aspect at the moment is that, after a lifetime of communal living and navigating parking lots of sectional title developments, she has become completely car-unsavvy. Thankfully our two fellow tenants are very understanding and keep their eyes peeled for her when they’re in their cars. She and I have developed a routine and I know to watch out for her next to my door when I drive out of the garage in the morning, and she stands behind the car on my righthand side so I can see her when I reverse in at the end of the day.

The distrust of cats that marked her earlier life has been replaced by acceptance and even fondness for Kirby and they are often seen parked off on the lawn next to each other. On cold evenings he even gets away with curling up next to her on her cushion. One particularly cold night we found him curled up halfway on top of her.

Fortunately there is no question about her quality of life. Her appetite remains keen, some days her eyes are as bright and shiny as they’ve ever been, she is in no discomfort that we can discern ; and so we all adapt as she goes through changes we can do nothing to alleviate.

Right now I’m screaming inside.

The only light side I can see is telling colleagues on the mornings after broken nights that I’m grey and haggard because my dog’s getting old. I’m only fifty, she’s almost fifteen.

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Debarking up the wrong tree

For years I’ve been hard put to decide whether I’m more of a cat or dog person. In the end I’ve decided that I don’t need to make a choice. If forced to make a decision, Kimberley is a cat person. We have both been owned by cats, manipulated by them and trained by them. In the case of Tug, Kimberley moaned, resisted, grumbled, and did what Tug required anyway. He was known to the neighbourhood dogs as ‘Sir’ for good reason.

Following in the footsteps of such a strong-minded free-thinker was never going to be easy and in Kirby we couldn’t have asked for a greater contrast. Both were ginger males (neutered – I’m divorced, remember). That is the full sum of their similarities. Where Tug was the feline puppet master, Kirby isn’t convinced that he is a cat. Where Tug would have surveyed and instructed dogs, Kirby joins in their revelries. Tug was a Friskies man ; Kirby is a diehard Whiskas fan. Tug liked meat-flavoured cat food ; Kirby likes meat, and poultry, and fish. Tug would eat any respectable leftovers ; Kirby views them with undying suspicion and rarely eats any.

It’s been a joy to watch Kirby developing. He was two years old when he came to live with us. The SPCA had been told his previous owner handed him in because he was scared of dogs. Whatever the real problem may have been, he is as scared of dogs as I am – somewhere near not at all. But he had not a flea’s worth of an idea of what cats do or how they think. Either he was separated from his mother at birth or she just abdicated her responsibilities. Despite the long line of cats in my history, I’ve never before felt obliged to teach one to be a cat.

He still stands on his head to clean under his arms and tummy and lays his limbs out in such complex manoeuvres that it’s a wonder we haven’t had to take him to the vet to be unknotted. The thought of bringing the appendage to his face to be cleaned doesn’t occur to him and he takes his head to whichever body part is facing ablution.

Kimberley had been devastated by Tug’s premature death and we tried to incorporate his memory into everyday life. It became a bit of a family joke that he had left post-its for Kirby explaining what would be required of him.

Anyway at some stage, whether he read the relevant post-it or not, it was borne on Kirby that birds and cats should not mix. They should not even share the same gardens. His lips started twitching when he watched them and I was afraid that I’d have to discourage him from catching birds as I’d had to do with other cats in the past. Then a little birdie showed me the true state of affairs ; actually it was a whole flock of them.

The cat started practising how to stalk. At first he didn’t realise he wasn’t supposed to be visible so he’d duck his head down and march along, bottom high in the air, to the bemusement of the assorted birdlife. After a while he became a bit more refined and would hide behind grass stalks before progressing to small bushes. This was complicated by his dislike of walking on grass, so he two-stepped between the blades as he progressed.

Rather than flying away, the birds actually started flying in to watch the matinees. I’m seriously considering the need for a supplement to Roberts’ bird books ; there was more bird laughter heard in our garden than has ever been recorded in one location. I’ve never had to deter him because it’s a bit like a rhino stalking a butterfly. When it’s not his own lack of instinct working against his endeavours, circumstances contrive to mess the plot. A few days ago he had a dove in his sights and was happily stalking it in the driveway near the gates. He had got within about a metre and a half and I was wondering if at last the time for intervention had come when Storm, our self-donated Jack Russel who actually belongs to the neighbour, heard someone in the road. This he always takes as a personal affront and took off like a missile. Both the cat and bird screamed as they scattered and Storm still has no idea what he did to jeopardise the friendship.

Not so long ago, Kirby was spotted leering up on one of numerous hadedahs to frequent our garden. I’m not sure if it’s the hoarse one that sounds like an old-fashioned pull-rope lawnmower being started, but the poor thing had a mangled left foot and could only hobble. As Kirby got closer it turned around and surveyed him with an unamused eyeball. By this time he was only a metre away and had realised that it was bigger close up than expected. On this occasion the laughter was all human as he tried to chum up to it and explain that he was just in the neighbourhood before rather uncomfortably moving away to look at the adjacent hedge as if that had been his objective all along.

In some ways, his stalking methods remind me of Wallace, a half-Siamese character of note. Wally is deserving of numerous blog posts all to himself but one incident is very relevant to this post. The difference is that Wally was only a few months old and busy developing his feline skills as fast as he could. Early one morning something in the front garden attracted my attention and it took a while to work out what he was doing. Once again the subject was a hadedah but Wally had already passed the Need for Invisibility lesson and resolved this problem by approaching it backwards, looking over his should to keep on course. Nothing looks down its nose like a disbelieving hadedah. The fact that it could have turned him into a sosatie with one flick of its beak didn’t deter him at all.

One area in which we have taken a clear hand is teaching Kirby to climb trees. Doesn’t matter what the neighbours thought because we don’t live there anymore. Until we took this decision his theory was that he should run like the wind straight at the tree and something would happen at Ground Zero to convert his progress by 90 degrees. Surprisingly, these attempts haven’t left him looking like something between a Boxer and a Shar Pei. We would hold him up against a Fiddlewood tree, parallel to the trunk about a metre from the ground, slowly loosening our grip and hoping he would discover a use for his claws other than sharpening the stump we kept for his entertainment on the verandah. This had no affect at all so after our move we started the next seimester using an Erythrina tree. The method was modified by placing him at head height in a fork in the branches and stepping back. He had to go up or down and either would be significant progress. This seriously affronted him but he had little choice. Then, about a month ago, we were sitting outside one evening enjoying the cool part of the day when he suddenly got the wind in his fur and took off across the garden and up the tree all by himself. His devoted companion, the Jack Russel, took off after him in order not to miss any action and was rewarded for his efforts a short while later by being used as a landing mat when the cat rather inelegantly descended. It matters not, he climbed a tree by himself.

One of his funniest quirks is his distrust of mattresses. He has accepted the benign nature of mine and occasionally entrusts his wellbeing to it. Kimberley’s bed too. But he hates the spare bed and walks on it as if it’s going to swallow him. He will perform all types of manoeuvres to stay on the narrow headboard rather than shortcut across the bedcover.

He is one of the most affectionate animals I’ve known and it will be rather sad if he does ever become The Compleat Catt.

“Early to bed, early to rise . . .

. . . makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”

So went the saying in one of the earliest books I can remember reading. I honestly cannot remember if I went to bed early last Thursday night but given the pattern of recent days it would be surprising if I hadn’t. It would also have been one of the really rare evenings I took a sleeping tablet, which accounted for being wide awake at 3am ; they do that : knock me out like a light and leave me stranded a few hours later at an hour that is of no earthly use to most people in my time zone.

After having tossed and turned for a while, gone onto Twitter and chirped about my lack of sleep-lus, 5am seemed an excellent time to take Daisy for a walk. No birds were up, my thought frenzy had set off an alarm up the road and made one dog bark, and I’d awoken with a very logical solution to a work-related problem. Being early autumn it was still darkish but light enough not to alarm the patrolling security guards. Having made the decision but being on the experienced side of 40, it took a minute or two for my body to actually move itself out of bed. This accomplished, the hard work began.

Firstly the cat recognised a deviation from his normal routine and embraced it. While I was dressing, he bounced round and round the little hallway on all fours, “pick me, pick me”. This wasn’t actually presumptuous or unrealistic in view of the disbelieving and sustained silence that came from under my bed. As a very final last ultimate non-negotiable serious warning, I wafted Daisy’s harness and lead in the general direction of somewhere below the bed. This finally had the desired effect and the nostrils drew the rest of her from her lair.

By then all the disturbance from the animals and none at all from me had awoken the cat’s erstwhile sleeping partner, the (teenage) Sleeping Bruce. An Eyeball that managed to be belligerent and not much awake at the same time came out from under the pillow and informed me that its door was to be closed immediately as it wished to continue sleeping. Coming upon such an articulate and communicative bodypart at that time of morning was more than I’d hoped for so I took the gap to explain that there was no point in closing the door as it would be needed to restrain the cat if he decided to accompany us as he often does. The Eyeball was in no mood to take prisoners so I closed the door hurriedly and escorted Daisy out of the front door. Long before we even reached the gate, the four-legged pogo-cat was ahead of us emitting delighted signals. Not having any reason to fear an Eyeball through a glass window, I banged on it (the window) and conveyed the news that he would have to be restrained, be it by door or window. The Eyeball stayed under the pillow this time but must have taken some cognisance of the one-sided conversation as an arm was dispatched to open the window. Kirby is a very big cat. Well, Kirby is a reasonably-sized cat with very big feet. The burglar-bars are average. Kirby didn’t fit immediately or easily through these. Having undeliberately been accompanied by the cat on a few walks there was no choice but to turn him sideways and post all the bodyparts that remained on the outside of the burglar-bars through to the inside in whatever order came about. Had the Eyeball deigned to join in the activity, it would undoubtedly have witnessed an apparition with some semblance to a tortured and distorted child at a sweetshop window as he was contorted through the available space and into Eyeball territory.

Cat posted, Daisy and I set off to walk on the other side of the gate. We had hardly reached the next property when two guys somewhere around my age (in their prime, no need to say more) came striding along (phhhhht, not jogging – cover blown), arms swinging energetically and bobbing up and down in synchronised fraudulent rhythm. Fortunately I used to be a morning person when I was still young and caught on immediately. My arms picked up the rhythm like two bemused pendulums and I hissed at Daisy to get into routine so we would look like we’d also been at it for hours and not just one property-length. They managed to greet me audibly and it was extremely satisfying to return the salutation without sounding one bit out of breath.

By then of course, there were equal numbers of joggers/walkers and dogs starting to wake up. It was quite interesting exposure to a sector of our community I don’t normally meet. Interesting too that others think like me – rarely, so it’s of no immediate concern. On the return trip a guy slowly caught up with me followed closely by a wheezing little dog that would have been overshadowed by the cat if he had come along. This was so easy to deal with that I came close to snorting into my armpit – slow Daisy down so she could inspect the plants/lampposts/fire hydrants and pretend to wait patiently. Obviously the man-and-beast soon overtook us and we consoled each other on the trials of having to exercise elderly animals at a slower pace.

I don’t know if there are enough bones in Africa to pay Daisy off and keep her in bed at 5am now. Hell hath no fury like an indignant Staffie . . .

That wasn’t enough to make me particularly healthy, I am most assuredly none the wealthier for my walk ; I am however infinitely wiser. We all know where I am now to be found at 5am.

And so they grow

Despite the long pause since my last post, life on the home front has not been uneventful. Kimberley will be seventeen in a matter of weeks and is finally acknowledging an interest in guys, well, one in particular. Of more concern is that it is reciprocated – by the owner of an eyeball with a wicked twinkle of note – the reason I liked him on acquaintance and the reason that I now sweat little rubber bullets from time to time.

Kirby has undergone a character transformation – no longer the quiet, almost invisible, shadow of his first months with us. He now holds loud conversations while motivating for his next meal, during the preparation of his next meal, and occasionally on greeting. He loves Daisy to bits – I’ve given up laughing when, on cooler evenings, he comes through to join us all and tries to snuggle up to her. The sight of the Rolling White Eyeball while she tries to deal with her friendly feline half-sibling’s overtures of friendship and the built-in Staffie urge to eat cats all at the same time became too much for me. She’s finally discovered the merits of having a warm furry being curled up against the bits that aren’t covered by her polar fleece jacket so the eyeball now just does a little cursory white flicker so we all understand that this is extremely unnatural. Like that worries Kirby, or any of us for that matter!

Kirby has also decided to befriend the four Jack Russels next door. As that fence now has an electrified wire, fortunately above his normal reach, the dogs are rarely seen off their property – a relief as they have been a hazard on the road for years. The smallest ran under the wheels of my car as I pulled off some months ago – I had seen her, stopped and then moved forward slowly once she should have been out of the way. Fortunately she only had a bit of bruising to show for the experience but I still go cold at the thought and, until the electrification of the fence, she still ran in the road as often as not.

Kirby sustains this friendship by curling up and napping on a section of soft grass with his back against the fence in an area frequented by the dogs. They have decided to, officially at least, ignore him, possibly for the same reason as Daisy : preserving their sanity as well as their reputations. On the other hand, it may be the result of an inbuilt suspicion that any cat that is such an easy target has to be bait which is to be ignored until they’ve worked out what the trap is.

Interestingly, he has also started developing a Swiss Army nose like Daisy’s. Daisy uses hers to pry the door open when there’s only a chink and she wishes it to become a Staffie-permitting portal. Kirby uses his for a similar purpose : to open the bedroom window more widely if the wind has narrowed the usual space. Coming through, ready or not.

And Kirby is now referred to by Kimberley as The Kirbett – no problem with that on his part. Although nothing has rattled his devotion to munchies as his primary food source, he has become rather partial to tinned food. The budget doesn’t permit an unlimited amount of this secondary diet and he has taken to explaining very lucidly when he would like some more of the latter (note : not in lieu of the former, but also). Other than that, he remains a conservative but still voracious eater – very suspicious of before rejecting a piece of pork sausage, looked with interest at spaghetti on my plate but declined it when given some in his own bowl – and I’m now hoping to persuade him to eat egg occasionally. The reason for this is a bald patch above his tail which doesn’t seem to be causing him any discomfort but I’d like to improve the overall quality of his coat without resorting to chemical supplements, if possible.

Now I’ll have to contend with two pairs of rolling white eyeballs for a while.

The trials of a dedicated dog

Butch was a young adult when he came to live with us. I’m not entirely sure of the circumstances but understand that an aversion to the local postman had something to do with his departure from Durban. We were living at Botha’s Hill at the time and Butch made numerous moves with us before finally dying as an old man while running back through the plantations at Ferncliffe to be at home with Mom.

There are lots of memories associated with him, all of them overshadowed by his complete devotion to Mom.

He came to us with a number of established and intriguing quirks which he never lost. One was his refusal to set one foot out of the gateway onto the verge, although there was no gate to prevent him from doing so. Another was his behaviour whenever he was given a bone ; instead of being demolished as one would logically have expected, he was observed to take these trophies to a clearing in a nearby shrubbery and then retreat behind one of the bushes. The reason soon became obvious : the poor dog next door could see and smell an apparently unaccompanied bone and it consequently wouldn’t be long before it appeared next to the bait. There inevitably followed a scaled down World War.

Butch was generally known to the family as “Squeaky” because of the tendency of his vocal chords to give out when he was particularly pleased to welcome us back from any outing. He would circle and show his delight openly, but could only produce a sequence of squeaks from the sound department.

Although Mom was always his primary person, he had a deep affection for us – which we sometimes simply didn’t deserve. It wasn’t that we were lacking in feeling or affection for him, it was simply the way things sometimes turned out.

It came out a couple of weeks ago that none of us has forgotten one of poor Squeaky’s bathtimes. We had a big galvanised tin bath that was used for the ceremonial removal of fleas, dirt and dryness from our dogs. It was half-filled with jugs of hot and cold water and then the victim was assisted into the torture tub. They stood while we poured water over them, rubbed in the shampoo and then sat down while we washed it all off again. On this occasion Butch didn’t sit down. So we assisted by pushing his rear into the required position. He returned immediately to the upright position. So we instructed him to ‘Sit’, which he wouldn’t do. Once again we assisted him and he shot back to full leg stretch even faster than before. It was only on the third attempt that we realised that what was to us pleasantly warm water was much warmer to his unaccustomed regions. And he still loved us afterwards although he probably qualified to have his thoughts washed out with soap too at the time.

And then there were the ten days Mom spent in hospital recovering from surgery. We visited each afternoon and, having since had stitches myself, I only now realise what we must have put Mom through on this day. Dad has recently taken to adamantly denying the story, saying the food was hot, but the rest of us clearly remember it differently. The night before the visit in question, Dad had made ‘white sauce’ to go with supper. I am not sure why it didn’t appear on the table but something must have been wrong because it found its way en masse into Butch’s bowl. Much to the eternal delight of the family line, Butch, ever keen to use up scraps, sped up to the bowl – and then stood and barked at it. He never ate it, even when we had stopped laughing enough to check again. Hot pot? maybe not.

Neighbourhood Watch

Tug

Tug

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.

A gaggle agog

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.