While the cat’s away . . .

CFT72W-WYAAK-GhI am pleased to be able to report a gradual but definite improvement in our dear Jeoffry. Despite having very few teeth left, and now a major impediment to use of his tongue thanks to the surgery required by his horrid abscess, he seems much more his old (old) self, with more of a spring in his step and more of an appetite overall.  His mouth must feel much less sore now, a week after his operation, for he is eating much more overnight (his preferred time for food consumption as NuNu and I well know; he disturbs our dreams with his chinkling as he jumps to the floor after digging in). Also, Jeoffry is now receiving daily infusions of a liquid nutrient called Oralade, which is like a chicken broth, delivered from the small syringe which comes in Barnaby’s arthritis medicine. This does require the services of both Eats No Vegetables and Kemo Sabe, cats being the uncooperative creatures they are, but wrapped in a towel from which there’s no escape at either end, he seems to settle into something like enjoyment of the nutritious broth.

Actually, the syringe we’re using for Jeoffry comes from my bottle of Loxicom, which the vet prescribed for me, after my recent acute orthopedic incident. All in all, the homestead has been a veritable hive of veterinary comings and goings, not to mention expense, about which of course we creatures know nothing. All we know is that no matter what the time or day, a wealth of kindly and well equipped professional men and women are ready and waiting to help us; we are so lucky.

On Monday I awoke with a terrific pain in my right leg, so acute that I could put no weight on it. Since then, no morning trundles along the beach, and on the first day no outings at all. Ghastly! Whether or not I have an elbow problem is to be assessed by a specialist but the X-ray doesn’t appear to show anything. The only thing that matters to me is that after a big pain-killing injection and a couple of hours’ treatment, I could happily walk again. I call it the laying on of hands! I am hopeful of a return to normal activity. The day I was in such pain I missed a wonderful meet-up with our two golden retrievers friends, Ben and Finn, who took the lovely picture up above. Let’s hope I can see them before they drive the long way home!

Returned – with thanks!

IMG_2736 So, here he is! Home, happy and delightfully hungry, after four days on a drip. Our beloved and very dear Jeoffry, minus a few more teeth and with a bit of a disability in using his tongue, is still able to hunker down over a delicious bowl of his favourite dish of meat and gravy. Animals are really remarkable, aren’t they? None of us knew where this emergency would end; we were without him for three nights, and thought of him in his transparent box, within a room empty of companions but occasionally visited by a caring nurse or vet, and him wondering where we – his family – had all gone to and why, in his hours of pain and fear, he had been abandoned.  But Barnaby tells me that, just as when he went away for his knee operation, and spent a night away from Kemo Sabe in terrible pain, he knew with complete and utter certainty that she would soon return, and that she was reaching out for him across the miles, strengthening his understanding that all must be for the best when the love between us is so strong. Jeoffry nuzzled us thoughtfully after he emerged from his cage. He then strolled out into and down the garden, greeting the new Pardiggles which are quadrupling in size in the pond, and saw that everything is thriving and happy he is home. The future none can tell, of course, but he is restored to the life of a cat nearly fifteen years old and we thank all the vets and nurses who rushed to his aid one quiet, unremarkable Sunday afternoon, and set him on the road to recovery right away.

Beloved Jeoffry

IMG_0215Every day when, first thing in the morning, we check on and clean up after Hammy Jo, we steel ourselves for the possibility that this will be the day when he fails to rustle in his nest. Jo is well past his first birthday, so every day is a bonus, as all past hamsters have shown us. Yet, today just as yesterday, there he was hale and hearty, ready for a few meal-worms before settling down to a day’s sleep, as is his routine.

Normally, Jeoffry’s comings and goings are never a cause for concern, particularly the older he gets. However, yesterday it was his health and well-being which placed him centre stage when he was rushed to the vet out of hours, his mouth bleeding and his demeanour depressed and fragile. Fortunately, the vet is always available and, even though it was a Sunday, Jeoffry was seen and operated on for the effects of a terribly corrosive abscess beneath a rotten remains of a tooth. The outcome, as I write, remains unclear and we are all very worried. He is currently on a drip, having now the difficulty of trying to eat and drink with a tongue which can’t work properly like it used to. Our dear friend, we all miss you, and look forward to hearing better news about your response to treatment tomorrow. Last night, as I slept on Boggis, Jeoffry was absent from his bed on the trunk, and there was no cat-flap noise at unthinkable hours. The place simply isn’t the same. It is awful.

Wonders of the deep and life’s whirlygig

Basking sharkOut within the sound between the islands, a basking shark takes his ease, pootling about, mouth open, as the summer calm and warmth persist unseasonably. Andrew took this photo from his boat, incredulous at the sight of such an infrequent visitor to our normally cold coastal waters. Our gentle, gigantic friend has been lurking around for a couple of weeks now, delighted with the tranquility no doubt and the prolific plankton. We are all thrilled to welcome him and enjoy his company; stay as long as you like, we call to him.

20140921_073201Within the horrid pool two crabs are feasting on limpets, the empty shells of their prey cast aside like so much litter. Their antics catch my attention in the dim morning light and I in turn catch Kemo Sabe’s with my focused pondering : anything lurking there is notable, so weird and harrowing an atmosphere pertains. The mutability of the horrid pool fascinates us both.  The residual water is refreshed by most high tides but, despite this, its depths change colour disturbingly:  sometimes an oily blue, mysterious as the night; sometimes a purple; occasionally clear and clean – as today – revealing the little monsters at their meal. An exciting homely diversion and rare sign of life in what is otherwise a deadly, despondent reservoir.  Then, on our afternoon tramp, we see that the whirligig of time has brought in his revenges. Instead of limpet shells, the crabs’ carcases are now detritus, the backs torn from the bodies, the flesh eaten, probably by one of the many herons hunting round the rocks these days. Such is life. Short and sweet. Sad, nevertheless.

A fatally injured cat, white, pale grey and perfect, lies dead in the middle of the road near the dunes as we drive down to begin our morning run. Its expression is peaceful once it is moved, as though sleeping, to the pavement. Nine lives lived. On the beach, not far from the horrid pool, a young puffin, left over from the exodus which has stripped him of his friends, hobbles disconsolately into the safety of the sea, where nature intended him to thrive. He could not leave with the others and he will not survive long, injured as he is. We pass by, without upsetting him, commending his little soul to the Great Spirit. The geese are returning, croaking maniacally, heralding crispness in the air which must perforce arrive some time soon. Life and death, big and small. On and on, round and round we go. Ordinary and extraordinary.


Here’s to you, O Rudgemeister!

IMG_1057An exceptional day this, as befits the birthday of our beloved bear, Barnaby Rudge. Routines have given way in the wake of recent turns of event, and we were left alone this morning after breakfast, to consider the journey we have all come on over recent months. Upstairs, much attention is being paid to the room vacated by Ten Blankets, and we could smell the new paint which nosey I alone have seen being applied and is a tranquil shade called Fawn. Wriggling round about the furniture, now clustered together as in Tutankamen’s  tomb, I can see the corners previously beyond my reach when diving for biscuit bits or snatching up torn tissues. How disturbing it is when somebody vacates one’s life; how the haunting goes on, even when the distance isn’t great. The perspective has changed such a lot, though: gone is the mark of the armchair against the wall; gone is the fluff behind the bed; gone the great bookcase with shaving impedimenta and ginger creams; gone the dressing table which held the towels. Round the edges, so much has altered and become clear while in the centre so much remains complex. IMG_1058Yet, despite all that, Barnaby is here – four years old today – and since my arrival, of course, no longer the youngest in the family, though I know that in a way he would still like to be; he shows impatience when others are embraced, slightly insecure lest he might be overlooked. Why, I cannot imagine: he is by far the most mature and low maintenance of the Dickens Dogs! Reliable; authoritative when needs must; protective, with a deep, manly bark; yet also soft as butter, pretty as a picture and other such cliches. Loved by all but devoted to only one: that’s our Barnaby. We raised a toast to him with our share of the local butcher’s steak pie – a little party to give thanks for his daily presence in our little lives. Bless you, sweet boy!

One of the gang

Jeoffry and his favourite, barnabyHere you see the love between two very different creatures: it’s the kind of snuggling that goes on every day in our house where dog and cat share time together, the one patiently absorbing the absolute devotion of the other. Jeoffry adores Barnaby and always has; he took to him immediately when, aged then eight, Barnaby was only seven weeks old himself and a little tiny soul. He wraps himself around Barnaby, paddling away with alternate feet as he once did his mother, drooling with pleasure which turns the end of his nose dark. When Jeoffry came to us as a litle lad, just six weeks old, two cats embraced him: Meryl, the ginger tabby, used to part Jeoffry’s hair and flatten it for him, as he relaxed next to her on the back of the sofa; grey and white Rosie, who generally disliked innovation, accepted him as an addition to the family and looked on proudly as he ranged wider then she ever would have either wanted or indeed dared. Though we’ve lately wondered whether we would like the sweet, chubby labrador I wrote about recently to join our gang, we’ve discounted the idea as he’s not at all good with cats.  A widely promulgated stereotype, none of us has any experience of it: obviously a manifestation of contempt for the particular if ever there was one!

DSC00821All of which makes me ponder on the ways in which families of dogs, cats and humans come and stay together, building a loving bastion which holds and protects us all in mutual joy, without a hint of malice anywhere to be found. As a young, small spaniel I am more likely to be pressed to the ground than my bigger brethren and more than usually aware of how to offer a playful greeting to an as yet unknown friend. Shapes and sizes vary, but we get to recognise them, anticipate their anger and avoid rubbing them up the wrong way, though sometimes it’s impossible, as trouble is simply what some aggressive things want – just like fighters on a Saturday night in the centre of Newcastle!  As gundogs, all of us love our humans even more than we love each other; our own kind of humanity and companionship gives us a head start in the family stakes. It doesn’t guarantee an easy ride, though, as is reflected in the story of a rather neglected and irritable golden retriever called Sebastian with whom Uncle Jonny once holidayed and whose unyielding jaws once sank into Uncle Tommy in a terrifying and wholly unprovoked attack. Whenever we hear, as recently happened again, of some brute of a dog savaging someone we know there’s sadness and cruelty in the air, hovering like a miasma over the events, and usually not that far in the past, either. Uncertainties are always a worry. Every Dickens Dog has been true blue, one hundred per cent reliable. Our breeding but more than anything else our puppyhoods and unbringing have been monitored and moulded with care; our humans know us through and through. Until I have known a dog for a very very long time under all kinds of circumstances I would always remain cautious as a little fellow and I’d advise any others thinking of getting a big beast, particularly a guarding type, to be very very careful indeed.  When it all goes wrong, it’s ghastly, just ghastly: the wrong dog is brought into the wrong home, with inexperienced and vulnerable people, for all the wrong reasons – if there are reasons at all. I feel so ashamed that dogs and humans can betray both each other and their own kind in such a frightening way.

Extra jellies 2

Jeoffry of the primulaThis has been a day of enormous dread: an unaccountable disappearance. How can cats bear to be alone so long?  Hours have gone by since I saw him last, when I was dozing through the night and he disappeared through the catflap I also use.  All prayers and ploys having come to nought, in the late afternoon I was summarily sent by no means seriously into the garden to find him, which being an obedient spaniel I promptly did.  He walked into the kitchen literally as the first missing cat flyer came out of the printer.   I followed him in and there were celebrations of a feasting kind, first for Jeoffry who had lamb and vegetables, then for everyone else – relief all round.

Where is he?

IMG_0215Jeoffry isn’t about this morning. Like us, he always wants his breakfast but  today none of us has seen him.  It is surprising how quickly one knows as if by some special sense that something is wrong, something not quite right about the cat’s routines – or rather the change in them. Jeoffry was born here on the Northumberland coast the day before the towers came down and now lives here again, after a lifetime in London.  He may have passed Jonny, who knows and sees everything, on his way to have fun, or he may have joined Jonny. Alarming for us all.