This is a book of ten short stories some of which have won prizes in competitions and been published in anthogies.
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The old black cat had long been the resident pet when the pup arrived. She disdainfully ignored the boisterous newcomer who bounded through the rooms, skidded on the kitchen floor, knocked over lamps, pulled towels from their rails, stole people’s socks, chewed up slippers, left puddles on the floor, yapped at visitors and generally made a nuisance of himself.
The cat, however, moved elegantly aside, stealthily slipped behind curtains, wisely watched from window-sills, lazily stretched and performed her ablutions in the morning sun, daintily lapped her milk and nibbled her food, and ingratiatingly rubbed herself against people’s legs, all the while purring suggestively to demonstrate her superiority over the infantile behaviour of the pup.
But the pup wanted to be friends. Galloping up to the cat, he would prop to a halt and wait expectantly, head resting on paws, tongue lolling, bottom in air and tail wagging enthusiastically. The cat ignored him. The pup whined pathetically, yapped a couple of times and wriggled his rear end. The cat sat unmoved. She remained aloof. If the pup became too persistent, a single swift slash of an extended claw would send him yelping out the door while the cat settled herself more comfortably and wrapped her tail around her legs. This was her domain. She was not about to be ousted by any upstart pup.
The pup grew. He quietened. He learned to respond to commands such as ‘get down’, ‘shut up’ and ‘go outside’. He grinned delightedly and wagged his tail when they said ‘good dog’ but slunk away, tail between his legs, when they scolded him with ‘bad dog’.
Slowly, a subtle friendship grew; little more than a slight tolerance on the cat’s part, coupled with a healthy respect from the dog’s side. In winter, they settled themselves on the rug beside the fire and went to sleep, neither appearing to notice their closeness. Gradually, as the nights grew colder, the space between them lessened until the cat was curled up against the dog’s belly, her head resting on his paws. During the day they shared a patch of sunlight in the garden.
The cat was ageing now. Her hearing was less keen, vision blurred and movements slow and painful. Yet she retained her dignity even as she allowed the dog to nibble away her fleas and lick the top of her head. Only very occasionally would she reward him with a throaty purr, a soft mewing sound or a sliding of her body against his legs.
The dog was taken for walks with people. He chased balls or sticks, endlessly returning them, tail wagging, mouth grinning and eyes pleading for them to be thrown yet again. He was taken to the river and allowed to swim, frolicking with his people and letting the children hold onto his tail or ride astride his back. Emerging from the water, dripping wet, he would vigorously shake himself showering everybody with a flying water spray.
With maturity, the dog took on a responsible role, guarding the house, refusing to allow strangers through the gate but greeting known visitors with yelps of delight and bounding energy. Also, he watched the old cat very protectively. He guarded her from stray cats which came into the yard to steal her food or milk. He chased away some little boys who were poking sticks at her through the fence. Once, he even killed a mouse for her, carried it fussily by the tail, obviously loathing its smell, and dropped it in front of her. The cat was not amused. She sniffed at the offering and removed herself to a shady spot at the other end of the garden, the sun now being too warm for her.
One day the cat was missing. The dog searched the house and garden while the people called her incessantly, opening cupboard doors and shining torches underneath beds.
All to no avail. The cat was nowhere to be found. The people accepted the inevitable. She must have gone away to die.
The dog did not know about death. He continued to search for his friend, wandering around sniffing at her favourite chair, the beds, the back door mat, her food and drink bowls and her special places in the garden. He whined, hung his tail and looked sorrowfully at his people for comfort.
‘Poor old boy,’ one of them said. ‘Never mind. We’ll get you a kitten.’