Last week I drove down to Normandy with the children and our dog for a week of country life with the parents and S3.
To give you a little context, I will mention two e-mail exchanges before we set of.
1. From mother: an article about a women being trampled to death by cows, whilst walking her dog, followed by a note wondering whether it might be better to leave our dog at home, as the cows were out.
2. From S2, an e-mail asking my dog not to chase her cat, (who would also be staying while we were there. – S2 would not be there.)
In hindsight, these were signs I did not read. To the first I answered it was too short notice to arrange it, and I was not worried about the cows. To the second, I answered in lightness that her cat should not chase my dog either.
All the above does nothing to explain why, on arriving (it must have been the seven hour drive) I let the dog walk free – just across the field, to the house, before we would- I vaguely supposed - gently assimilate dog with cats, in a controlled program, or whatever.
I was not thinking obviously.
It took less than a minute. We stood and watched as the dog picked up speed like the roadrunner, whizzing into the bushes and before we realized what was happening, there were two cats up two different trees. The ginger tom was eight meters up a tree in the donkey field, which was truly impressive for a flat cat on a diet. And the other cat chose less wisely and ended up on a bendy branch at the back of the house, back paws dangling and the front paws brought together in prayer, as she swayed in the wind.
(spot the cat)
After the dog had been caught and caged, it became obvious we had a problem. S2’s cat, the tom, Karmel was very high. But still, we thought our biggest problem, if worst came to worse, would be getting the fire truck down into the field.
Firemen don’t rescue cats anymore. Did you know that? We looked it up on internet.
The other cat was soon rescued with a cunning rope operation.
S3 showed extreme patience and sang to Karmel, the tomcat, shaking the food tin and calling his name at the bottom of the tree. This got him – we cheered at this news - to slide down about five meters, backside first, gripping onto the trunk with his claws; another amazing feat for an interior cat. He halted on a branch two meters from the ground, stopped in his sliding track by the donkeys, by this time grouped together under the tree.
We left Karmel where he was to have dinner, all elated by his ability to get down by himself, convinced our cat/dog adventure was over.
But the tomcat got out of the tree and disappeared into the dusk.
He did not return in the morning.
Or the next.
Bali was now no longer our pet dog, he was “the cat-chaser-beast” and was expected to keep himself very quiet. Spontaneously, I drank large glasses of red wine, but it did not stop the restless tossing at night. In the morning we stalked the fields calling Karmel’s name, but there was no movement in the bushes.
We kept the spirits up, telling each other stories about cats that stayed away for days and returned, as if nothing had happened.The weather was good, conditions were optimal.
But then someone would just slip in a comment like:
“Karmel is like S2’s baby.”
“I am sure it will be alright, but it would be really awful if he did not return.”
Someone would mutter “oh God” under their breath. And sigh audibly.
“Have we lost all cat’s now?” a cry would suddenly come from upstairs.
I am glad I am not you".
We went to the annual brocante, we ate crepes in Dieppe, but it was not a normal week in Normandy.
The tension was tight, and getting tighter and I, as the owner of the cat-chaser-beast, felt particularly bad about the situation.
When do you tell someone their beloved pet has gone?
We waited until after S2’s job interview, fervently hoping we would not have to, but after four days, S2 had to be told.
“Why didn’t you keep him on a leash” she asked. This was good question.
S2 dropped everything and came down. She was cheerful, but said she would be very (I heard: very, very) upset if Karmel did not return.
And then cat-chaser beast decided to make matters worse by barking at the owner of the missing cat. He did it twice. It was no accident. I think this was when he was upgraded to cat-chaser-freak-beast.
I decided take the cat-chaser-freak-beast out of the equation and drive to Brussels for a few days, leaving the children behind. Maybe the cat would return. I was not hopeful, but wanted to give it every possible opportunity.
And yes, miracles do happen, at 1.30 am of the night I left with the cat-chaser-freak-beast, the cat did in fact return, scratching at the door, as if he had not been gone for five days, making us all look like fools calling out his name, as he hid in the undergrowth near the house.
He is doing fine, thank you.
The next day, to celebrate, I booked the extra long Jari Mari east-meets-west massage, to knuckle and thumb all tension out of me, in the knowledge that a family rift had been avoided.
Happy summer to you all!