Until recently I hadn’t spent all that much of my life around animals. My parents had two cats, consecutively – Scrap, who was a black adopted stray, evidently much loved, and Sandy. Scrap died when I was about four, so my memories of him are almost entirely vicarious; and Sandy was a fat ginger neutered tom for whom I can’t remember ever feeling a scrap of affection. (It was reciprocal, I’m sure.) Then there were two dogs, again consecutive, both called Trixie, both Pembrokeshire corgis. Trixie I died after only a few months in the family, and was immediately replaced by Trixie II. I’d guess this was around 1953, when corgis had suddenly become quite fashionable. I had to take this dog for walks, which worried me. My fears were justified, because on one occasion a local male mongrel took advantage on my watch, fortunately without outcome. I think Trixie II was ‘done’ shortly after this incident, thus becoming as fat and lethargic as Sandy the cat.
Much later, I had two German shepherds, or Alsatians as the British public were trained to call them during WWII. Again, these were consecutive. The first was too friendly for his own good, wanting to socialise boisterously with every dog or human he encountered, which didn’t always work the other way. He died of a mysterious virus at about two years, and was replaced with his temperamental opposite, a shy, nervous creature who was hard to get to know. I loved him, but he scared me – not for myself, but for other people. He was lucky to get away with some transgressions.
So my early experience of animals wasn’t particularly special. Recently, though, all that has changed, so over the next few posts I’ll tell you about some of my new friends, acquaintances and, dare I say, potential adversaries.
To kick off with, then, cattle. Or bullocks, to be exact – although I’m told that one of the seven is in fact still a bull: I haven’t attempted to verify this yet. As readers of Z's blog will know well, they visit the meadow every summer. They’re placid creatures, but naturally inquisitive, and they don’t play to human rules, as I found when I incautiously went too close to one, just trying to be friendly, and he decided that my jacket looked like a tasty morsel.
They’re not stupid, though. The other day, we found that they’d managed to remove the galvanised cover on the header tank of their water trough and hide it somewhere in the field. This was the first move in a cunning plan. They then unscrewed the ball from the ballcock, thereby causing the tank to overflow onto the surrounding ground and form a nice muddy lake, from which they were able to drink without having to raise their heads from their other important business, eating grass.