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‘In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.’ Terry Pratchett.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

I think I may have mentioned in the past how much I have always loved cats.  I know I only (Only!!  Dear God please don’t tell my girls I said that!) have dogs these days but I was owned by cats long before I was owned by dogs.

My last lovely old cat, Cleo, passed away many years ago now.  She was 18.  She and her brother Jesse (who had passed away the year before) had been with me since they were tiny kittens.  Although I missed them both deeply, at that stage I also had two dogs, one of whom, Harry, came out of the womb hating cats.   Although he eventually learned to tolerate (under severe sufferance I might add) ‘his’ cats, he nevertheless continued to consider every other cat on the planet to be ‘fair game’ and nothing I ever said or did over his long, long life could disabuse him of this view.   Once Cleo passed I really felt that bringing another cat into the house might be pushing his patience a paw too far . . .

And even after Harry himself had wandered off over the Rainbow Bridge it was not very long before puppy Mabel made an appearance, followed closely by Maudie . . . and then Molly and . . .  well . . .  suddenly there were lots of little doggie feet coming and going and I found I had more than enough to keep me busy (and amused) without contemplating adding a cat to the mix.

But then a couple of months ago a new kitty-cat moved in next door and suddenly all those wonderful things I had loved and missed about my own dear cats came flooding back to me.  Their sparkly eyes and deafening purrs.  Their air of disdain and complete belief in their own superiority.  Their lovely squishy kitty-cat feet . . . 

Our new neighbour, Sable, is around 8 months old, soft and glossy and sleek and black . . .  and very, very cheeky (and we all know how I like critters with ‘attitude’.)  He’s very young yet and still getting his bearings but it won’t be long I think until he has the whole neighbourhood under his sway.  But, for now at least, he seems happily content to spend most of his days reclining regally on my garage roof, gazing benevolently down upon his new kingdom and all his adoring subjects.

Well—at least I am adoring.  Mabel, Maude and Molly may take a tad more convincing . . .

This is most definitely NOT a sketch of Sable.
It is however the only thing in my sketchbook that anything like resembles a catso for this story it will have to do . . .

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Did you know that there are over 300 words for love in canine?’ Gabriel Zevin.

When I arrive home after being out of the house all day I am always met at my front door by my small (but extremely loud) pack of fur children (I swear the whole neighbourhood knows when I get home).  Molly will run in circles barking at the top of her lungs.  Mabel will wriggle, grin her lop-sided grin and yip excitedly . . . and then there’s Maudie . . .

Maudie comes at me like a doggie-sunami, sweeping aside anything in her path (including her sisters).  She will shriek with excitement, hopping about on her back legs and waving her front paws wildly in the air, and then, quite suddenly, she will realise something is missing.  She will skid to a halt, do a complete about-face, and hurtle headlong back into the depths of the house in search of that missing something.  She’s forgotten to bring me her ‘Ball’ . . .

Ball is one of Maudie’s 300 words for love.  It is her comfort and joy.  (Think Linus and his blanket.)  She takes her ball to bed with her in the evening, and it is the first thing she looks for in the morning. She takes it outside to sit in the sun with her and it has its own special place beside her on the sofa in the evenings.  The only time I ever see her really upset is if Mabel steals it from her and refuses to give it back.  (This causes such a ruckus that I usually have to intervene on Maudie’s behalf.  Mabel can be a real little *&#% when she wants to be . . . )  

Unfortunately, Ball is now in imminent danger of being loved to death.  Comprised of some sort of dense squishy foam the constant and unyielding onslaught of Maudie-love (along with Mabel nibbling pieces off it occasionally just to stir her sister up) has seen it begin to disintegrate at an alarming rate.  It used to be the size of regular tennis ball, but has now shrunk to the size of a (weirdly shaped) golf ball. What happens when Ball crumbles completely and Maudie is left bereft doesn’t bear thinking about.  So for the last few months I have been quietly searching for some kind of replacement.  It has proved no easy task.

It’s not that Maudie doesn’t love a new toy—quite the opposite.  Every new thing I have brought home for her has been a joy and a delight.  For about five minutes. Then it has been gently discarded and rarely looked at again.  Nothing (so far) has come close to competing for her affections.  I was beginning to despair.  And then a couple of weeks ago I came across a site selling cat balls.  (That doesn’t quite sound right.  Perhaps I should have said ‘ balls for cats’ . . .  )

Anyway, these seemed to be about the same size as Ball is now and made of the same squishy material.  (I couldn’t get a green one but I thought (hoped) that she might be more concerned with the taste and texture than the colour.)  In fact, so convinced was I that these balls were exactly what I was looking for that I bought a bunch of them (6 balls for one dollar.  Woo Hoo!  ‘Hey big spender . . .’ )

When they finally arrived early this week I was so excited to show them to Maudie that I gave them a huge build up.  I worked her up into a frenzy of anticipation as I slowly undid the wrappings.  And she loved it. Her eyes grew wide and she yipped excitedly and pawed at the packet.  I held up one of the new balls and she launched herself at it, grabbed it and took off running.  She ran twice around the house in glee—yay—a new ball!  She threw it in the air and caught it and threw it again.  She took it outside and showed it her favourite sunny spot in the back garden.  She rolled it around in her mouth and chomped on it and even rumbled a warning at Mabel when she wandered too close.

Feeling very pleased with myself and confident I had at least found a contender I took myself off to do a couple of chores and make myself a nice cup of tea.  When I returned I found the living-room littered with shredded wrapping paper (I should have seen that coming) and a scattering of small, brightly coloured balls.

And there was Maudie—fast asleep and snoring happily on the couch . . .

. . . and nestled safely between her two front feet was . . . you guessed it . . . her old, decrepit, smelly, beloved Ball . . .

‘Maudie Maudie Maudie—go find me a ball . . . ‘

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons—for you are crunchy and good with ketchup.’ Anon.

I have always had a fascination with dragons.  Being a bit of a sci-fi and fantasy geek may have something to do with that, but also, from an arty perspective, even the scariest and meanest ones are usually quite beautiful to look at, and (if Smaug is anything to go by at least) they also have wonderful resonant, sexy Benedict Cumberbatchy voices . . .

dragonThis fascination is not mine alone.  Stories about dragons appear throughout history and almost every culture has their own mythology. Scholars say belief in dragons probably evolved independently in Europe, China, the Americas and possibly even Australia too.  (It is generally thought that these myths were first inspired by real creatures like dinosaurs, snakes, crocodiles and lizards. This may be true, but it doesn’t really explain where the fire-breathing and flying comes from—a little more artistic licence perhaps . . .)

IM000542.JPGI always thought it would be kind of cool to see a real dragon (from a distance at least)although I admit, because of all the mass destruction (the burning, the killing, the eating of whole populations—with or without ketchup) it is probably quite a good thing they aren’t really roaming our skies.  I shall have to be content observing some of their smaller (less murderous) descendants.

silly frogThat should be easy now as the summer is not far away and that means our local reptile population is slowly starting to reappear after the colder months. I am not at all happy about the impending reappearance of snakes (I really do not like snakes—nearly all of them here are deadly and that is good enough reason for me)—but I do not have the same horror about lizards.  A healthy respect yes, but not a horror.  Which is unusual really as I have a bit of a history of being spooked by lizards . . .

Years ago, one very hot Sunday afternoon, my two dogs (Harry and Frank), two cats (Jesse and Cleo) and I had taken to my bed for a long lazy afternoon siesta (as you do).  The blinds were drawn but the back door and windows were all wide open, trying to catch what little breeze there was. Somewhere in the middle of that afternoon nap I became aware I could hear an odd, undefinable sound.  Then there was a dull thump.  Someone was in the house . . .

blue_tongue-1030x688The dogs were up in a flash and by the time I got to my feet, still groggy with sleep, there were volleys of alarm barks coming from the kitchen.  The intruder turned out to be a very large (and now seriously frightened and pissed-off) blue tongue lizard who it seems, had come in through the back door looking for a free feed of cat food.  He was now puffed up to twice his usual size, had his mouth wide open, blue tongue flashing, and was hissing ferociously.

running-lizardAfter a short period of what can only be described as bedlam, I managed to remove all the dogs and cats from the kitchen (all locked in different rooms and howling their displeasure), entice the still very cranky lizard onto the end of the garden broom and very carefully (at broom’s length) walk him through the house, out of the back door and set him down gently on the vacant block of land behind the house.  I then turned and fled home as fast as I could—just in case he felt he needed to further vent his displeasure upon me.

That fellow turned out to be seriously ‘small fry’.  You know that saying ‘Be careful what you wish for’? Well, this week the girls and I had a close encounter with what is probably the nearest thing to a living dragon we are ever likely to come across.

monitorWalking past the swamp (remember the swamp?) we had stopped for a moment (waiting for Molly to pee—again) when, without fair warning, a huge monitor lizard (Godzilla-like proportions—swear to God) launched itself onto the path in front of us and then up the nearest tree, where he froze and turned to gaze (unblinkingly) down upon us.  (Trying to decide which of us looked tastiest no doubt.) After a shocked moment of silence the girls quickly decided that dealing with this critter was well above their pay grade and began retreating quickly back down the path (although still brave enough to hurl doggie-insults as they went).  I was more than happy to follow!

After giving ourselves a moment to restart our hearts we continued on our walk (deciding to go the ‘long way round’) and later met a gentleman who told me that this particular lizard is a long time local, well known in the area.  Apparently he can often be seen in the early mornings and late afternoons—perched high in a tree, overlooking the bush and the river, sitting atop a large (and presumably now abandoned) ant nest, which he seems to have made his home.

And now I wonder . . .

I wonder how many years he has been sitting there, watching us mere mortals wander up and down the river path, day after day. . .

I wonder what he thinks of us . . . I wonder if he thinks of us at all . . .

I wonder what is in that ant’s nest.  Do you think he guards a treasure in there?  Or maybe that’s where he keeps his wings . . .

smaugs-eye

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Silence is golden. Unless you own a parrot. Then it is highly suspicious.’ Anon.

birdfeedI’ve started feeding the local birds again, now that the winter has properly kicked in.  I know I don’t really need to.  Even in the very depths of winter here on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, it could never be considered a harsh environment and there’s still plenty of greenery about and food aplenty for all the birds and little critters.  But my magnolia tree has dropped all its leaves now and the bird feeders I hung there last winter (and promptly forgot about all spring and summer when the leaves grew out around them) have miraculously reappeared, and it seems such a shame to waste them.  The ceramic feeders are shaped like big shiny apples (one red and one green) and I like the way they look (from a distance at least) like real fruit hanging from the bare skeleton of the tree.

easternrosellaSo I filled up the feeders for the first time last Saturday.  It took just about half an hour for a pair of brightly coloured little parrots to lay claim to their new-found treasure.  I could see them from my kitchen window—one sitting proudly atop one ‘apple’ looking for all the world like he was planting a flag on Everest, while his mate hung perilously upside down from an overhanging branch, peering in at all the delicious delicacies on display inside the other.  “How sweet”, I thought.

black cockatooWell it was not quite so sweet the next day.  Word had obviously got out that there was free food for the taking and by mid morning there was a flock—an honest-to-God flock—of about fifty rosellas, rainbow lorikeets, and a single black cockatoo all screaming furiously at each other as they jostled for position on the magnolia tree.  I admit, the cockatoo was a surprise.  I see groups of them over at the park regularly but I have never seen one in my garden before.  As gorgeous as he was, quite honestly I’d prefer him to stay in the park—his earsplitting screeches were enough to make your eyes water.  (And your ears bleed.  I read somewhere that a cockatoo screech can reach 135 decibels.  I believe it.)

And my poor pretty little pair of treasure-finders had really no chance of protecting their claim against the hordes of interloping cousinsbut, bless them, they were giving it a good go. The shrieking, screaming and frantic wing-flapping (not to mention lots of pushing and shoving) went on for hours—or perhaps it just seemed that way to me . . .

birds(I did discover, quite by accident and, unfortunately, very late in the day, that if I said “Hey Maudie, where is your ball?  Go fetch me your ball” she would rocket out into the garden in search of it, which would send the whole birdie flock soaring skyward (howling their displeasure as they went).  Within moments peaceful silence would prevail once more.  It didn’t last of course.  As soon as Maudie was back inside the birds would start to regroup and the squabbling would start all over again, but a brief respite was better than none.  I wonder if I could hire her out as some sort of doggie-scarecrow?  She has no interest in the birds, but as long as you’re willing to play ball . . )

Anyway, after what seemed like a very long day, things eventually started to quieten down of their own accord as the birds (presumably all now fat and fed) began to wander off home to their nests and hidey-holes to rest their lungs and have a bit of a lie down. Phew.  If they didn’t need a lie-down, I sure did.  dog earsMy head was splitting and my ears were ringing.  (I can only imagine how the dogs felt.  Perhaps this is why I kept finding my bed in such disarray when I came home from work early this week. I have visions of the girls all trying to burrow deeply down into my pillows in an effort to block out the din.)

parrot-and-catI wonder if pet parrots are as loud as their wild counterparts?   I have never owned a parrot (actually I have never owned a bird at all)  but if their antics are anything like the ones I have been watching from my kitchen window they would not only be hilariously entertaining (and, as the quote above seems to suggest, quite mischievous)—but also extremely loud.  I am not sure I could handle it. (Although, perhaps if your parrot don’t have parroty-friends around to egg him on he is happy to live a quieter life?  Or will he just find something else to scream at instead—like the cat?)  I am sure they make fabulous pets for some, but perhaps not for us.  The girls and I like our peace and quiet.

Working towards the restoration of our quiet lives, we now seem to have hit on a plan which seems (so far) to be working for everyone.  I now only fill up the birdfeeders just before I leave for work. That way the feeding frenzy happens when I (and hopefully my neighbours) are all away for the day and well out of earshot.  I have piled extra blankets and pillows on my bed for the girls to hide under (and hopefully act as insulation) should the noise become too much for them.  And my first two sweet little birdy friends, who were so unceremoniously thrust aside by their big bully cousins, have now started appearing, just the two of them, late in the afternoon after everyone else has gone home, to pick quietly at the days leftoversand the tasty little bit of something special that I now put out just for them.spotty dog running

So, it’s all good.  And, if something does go slightly awry and I do happen to be home during the next ‘feeding time’, I also now have a sure-fire, no-fail, back-up plan
“Hey Maudie, Maudie, Maudie.  Where is your ball?  Go fetch me your ball . . . . “

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.’ Dr. Seuss.

When I went to see the movie Deadpool I knew even before I went in that I was going to like it.  And I was right.  It was fast, funny, violent, hilariously profane and starred Ryan Reynolds.  What’s not to like?

deadpoolSo I was happy.  I had fun.  But not nearly as much fun as the young man sitting four rows down on the left.  This guy was having a seriously good time.  At one point he was laughing so hard I thought they were going to have to carry him out on a stretcher.  And it wasn’t obnoxious laughter either—he was laughing in all the right places—he just seemed to be having so much more fun than everyone else.  And it was contagious.  I think I spent at least as much time laughing along with him as I did at the movie itself.

Which made me wonder—would I have found the movie as amusing if I had been sitting watching it on my own at home—or even if that young man hadn’t been in the audience?  Probably not.  A shame really, because I’d like to be able to laugh like that more often, and I’m not really sure why I don’t.

It’s not like I never find anything funny.  I giggle a lot.  And probably even smirk, chuckle, snicker, titter, and maybe even snort (very unladylike, I know) on a fairly regular basis—but that real full-on, from-the-gut, makes-your-eyes-water-and-leaves-you-gasping-for-breath belly laugh . . .  not so much.

fartBut the thing is, you don’t really ‘decide’ when you are going to laugh, do you?  Or what you are going to laugh at, or how hard you are going to laugh.  It just happens—and often at the most inopportune moments. I’ve just read a blog where a man told a story of when he and his brothers were at their mother’s funeral and their grandmother unexpectedly sent forth a very loud and unapologetic burp, sending the brothers into fits of ‘quiet hysterics’ . . .  (I guess they should be grateful granny didn’t fart—that might have sent the whole congregation into meltdown . . .)

But sometimes it doesn’t even take a granny-burp.  Sometimes there is no obvious reason to be laughing whatsoever, other than someone else is already laughing and you seem suddenly, and inexplicably, incapable of not joining in.

laughing-image-0182Scientists think this ‘contagion’ effect might be because laughter may have been a precursor to language and that our ancestors may have laughed to show they were friendly and meant no harm to others.  Consequently we are hard-wired to respond to laughter.  (I guess that is also why sitcoms still use the ‘laugh track’.  My advice, they should track down that young fellow that was at my cinema—he was a laugh track all on his own.)

And it seems that we humans don’t hold the exclusive rights to laughter either.  Experts (I always want to put that word in inverted commas, but I don’t want to offend anyone, so I won’t) believe that other animals laugh too, although, at this stage they seem to believe that apes and rats are the only others to do so.  The chimps and gorillas I get—closest living relatives and all that (and we all know someone who actually sounds like a chimp when they are laughing, don’t we?)

lauging ratThe rat thing is just a tad weirder.   Tickling‘ experiments done on rats (because why wouldn’t you want to do a tickling experiment on a rat?) discovered that when rats were being tickled, they produced high-pitched, ultrasonic vocalizations (chirps), and these sounds were only made when they were playing.  And, what is more, these rats actively went out of their way to get more tickles (as you do), further indicating that they were actually enjoying the process.  (These giggly rats also preferred to play with other ‘chirpers’, which stands to reason really—why spend time with the grumpy old codger in the corner when you could be having a chuckle-fest with the fun crowd?) 

dogrollingI was a little surprised though, to see that there appears to be no evidence that cats and dogs laugh.  As an owner of three incredibly silly and giggly dogs, I am absolutely convinced my girls spend the majority of their (awake) time laughing. (The same experts who did the rat experiments above would no doubt call this ‘anthropomorphizing.  I have one thing to say to that—have any of these experts ever owned a dog?)  

Grumpy-CatAndokay, sureI admit that you don’t often see cats rolling around on their backs, tongues hanging out, eyes rolling madly, while waving their legs in the air with gay abandon when something amuses them (behaviour far too uncouth for most cats)—but you can just tell from their expressions that they are laughing (hard) on the inside . . .

smiley dogsAnyway, I am not quite sure how I managed to get from Deadpool to tickling rats but the long and the short of this story is that I am planning another trip to the movies this weekend and I am kind of hoping that young man is going to be there again.

I am feeling in need of another really good belly-laugh . . .

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘From ghoulies and ghosties, and long-leggedy beasties, and things that go bump in the night . . .’ Scottish saying.

I like to go for long walks in the early morning. Girl-walking-dog-animated-gifThe very early morning, when it is still dark and quiet and cool and peaceful (and I am unlikely to come across anyone I have to stop and talk to).  I can stride out and let Mabel and Maude off their leads for a good run without me having to watch their every move.  (Well—I do still have to look out for kangaroos . . . and possums . . . and foxes . . .  and the occasional water rat.  If the girls see one of them before I do, what started out as a nice calm orderly constitutional turns into a mad free-for-all of epic proportions.)  

We have a usual route that we take every morning—out of the house to the end of the street, turn right on to the main road which runs alongside the river, up past the small row of shops and on to ‘Bunny’s Corner’ and back again.  The street lights are on and, although there aren’t many people about, lights are starting to come on in people’s homes, the newsagency and the baker are open, and early-shift workers are already dropping in to get their daily paper and expresso coffee hit.  The ducks are waddling drowsily around the park, the kookaburras are starting to chuckle throatily, and the songbirds are starting to test their daytime voices.  The world is starting to wake up.

I have been taking these early morning walks in the dark for many years now, and I have never been worried or frightened or creeped-out during all that time.  Except once.  ssshhLast weekend I watched an old episode of the X-files (the X-Files are back—yay!) and while watching that episode the memory of my one spooky encounter came flooding back.  I don’t think I’ve ever actually told anyone this story before, but, for all you X-Philers out there, I thought I’d share it with you now.  (Don’t tell anyone else though—they just wouldn’t understand . . .)

It was a couple of years ago.  I am pretty sure it was around 4.30am because my neighbour-across-the-road’s light came on just as I stepped out of my door—she was getting ready for her early nursing shift.  It was very dark as we headed towards the top of our street where a large pool of light gathered around the streetlight.   walking_cat_thin (1)As we walked I saw the silhouette of a large black cat move slowly into that light.  I remember thinking, ‘Perhaps it will move quietly away before the girls see it’, and I wrapped both leads around my hand one extra time, ready for the jolt that would inevitably come as soon as the cat was spotted.

As I watched, the cat stopped moving, slowly stood up on its back legs, fully erect, stretched its ‘arms’ above its head and then—the only word I can think of is ‘morphed’—into what looked like a small person (where the hell did its tail go?) and continued to walk, fully upright, along the street.

surprised-dogSeveral things then happened very quickly.  My jaw hit the floor. Maudie stopped dead in her tracks and started to rumble menacingly in her throat (‘Danger, Will Robinson!’)  Mabel ran behind me, whimpering, and dissolved into a puppy-puddle.  The ‘cat/person’ suddenly became aware of us, turned, looked directly at us for a second or two, then turned back the way it had come, dropped down on all fours again, morphed back into a cat and slunk quickly away into the darkness.

Now I know what you are thinking.  Well—I don’t, but I can imagine.  WTF?  Right?  Don’t worry, I know how it sounds . . .

I immediately started to rationalise the experience (Dana would have been proud).  Well—it had to be a trick of the light didn’t it?  Or I was still half asleep?  Cats sometimes walk on their hind legs (half way down the block)—don’t they?

By the time I had coaxed the dogs past the last few houses to the spot where the creature had vanished I was even more spooked.  Maudie was baring her teeth and all the fur was standing up along her back. She was sniffing the ground where the thing had been, but was all tense and tippy-toed, ready for flight. Mabel was desperately trying to drag me home.

There was nothing there of course—and no sign that anything out of the ordinary had ever been there.

itsbehindmeSo, I decided it had finally happened—I had definitely lost the plot.  ‘Shake it off, Sal—just keep walking.’  Well, I tried. But, I cannot begin to tell you how incredibly unnerving it is to be walking, alone in the dark, with your dogs growling warningly and looking back over their shoulders the whole time.  (OMG—is it following us??)  We didn’t get far before I gave in to the heebie-jeebies and turned back.  I was hard pressed to keep up with the girls as they bolted for home. (Mabel continues to hide from cats to this day.)

So, there you are.  My brush with the seriously freaky. Up until that point I had never experienced anything even approaching ‘supernatural’ (and I am sure many would say I still haven’t).  I have never seen a ghost, or heard voices, or been on the receiving end of any unexplained phenomena.  I have never ‘dabbled’ in the occult—unless you count reading Stephen King or Dean Koontz (‘Odd Thomas’ would not have batted an eyelid at my experience)—and I have never gone searching for faeries at the bottom of the garden.  (That doesn’t mean they aren’t there though. . . )

ghostI like to think I have an open mind.  Like Mulder, ‘I want to believe’.  I sincerely hope there are aliens watching us from afar (please make them friendly and not just wanting to eat our brains).  And how cool would it be if all the ‘ghoulies and ghosties, and long-leggedy beasties’ we’ve all been told tall-tales about actually existed?  (It would also be really cool if these ‘beasties’ didn’t creep up unexpectedly in the dark and frighten the bejesus out of me and my dogs, but there you are.  You can’t have everything.)

But did I really see something weird and wonderful that very early morning, or was it just all in my head?  I honestly don’t know.  I certainly haven’t experienced anything like it again.  But what I do know is this—when I relive the experience in my mind today, several years later, I still see, and feel, exactly what I saw and felt then.  It was a cat, then it was a person, then it was a cat.  And the hair still stands up on the back of my neck . . .  (cue the X-Files music . . . )

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘We’ve had cloning in the South for years. It’s called cousins.’ Robin Williams.

clonesdogLast weekend I watched an older sci-fi movie called ‘The 6th Day‘. The movie was set in the ‘very near future’ where DNA cloning had been perfected and become an ordinary accepted part of everyday life. Early on in the story the family dog, Oliver, died and the family discussed going to ‘RePet’ to have him cloned.

Fifteen years ago when this movie was released, pet cloning was still science fiction—but only just. The first real pet-clone was a cat, CC (‘Copycat’ or ‘Carbon Copy’ depending on which article you read) born in 2001. Today there are commercial companies around the world like ‘PerPETuate‘ and ‘myfriendagain‘ offering pet cloning services to ‘reunite you with your best friend’ (all at considerable cost of course—anywhere between $50,000 and $150,000).  As I watched the film, I also watched my three lovely girls as they pottered happily around me and wondered whether I (always supposing I ever had a spare $100,000 anyway) would ever consider cloning any of my pets after they had passed on.

It actually didn’t take all that much thinking about.  I have adored every one of my pets and grieved hard for them when they passed away, but cloning?  Nope, not for me.

clonesI do admit that the science of cloning fascinates me—I am a rabid sci-fi fan after all—but the ‘sci-fi’ science and the ‘actual’ science of today are two very different things.  In sci-fi movies the clones (people or animals) always seem to be exact copies, down to the tiniest detail. Their mannerisms, individual quirks and memories are the same as the original.  We don’t have human clones yet (and let’s not even go there, please) but today’s pet clones are advertised as being genetically-identical-but-not-exact replicas.  So it’s still a bit of a lottery.  You might indeed get a dog or cat that looks and acts almost exactly like the one you lost—but you also might not.

Apart from the fact that I believe that just because we can do something, it doesn’t mean we should (animal medical experimentation—a whole other conversation) I can see why creating a dog clone might be considered an option if you are trying to replicate genetically gifted animalssay search and rescue dogs or cancer smelling dogs.  But if, and it seems this is mostly the case, people are cloning their pets ‘to get their best friend back’ I can only feel that they are setting themselves up for major disappointment.  We are all, every one of us, the sum of our life experiences, the people we have met, the things we have done, the places we have been.  Surely our pets are the same?  And if this is true, how could a dog-clone, no matter how closely related to the original, possibly be the same as the dear friend you lost?

dog laughingA long time ago—in a galaxy far far away—I took Harry, my first dog, out to a friend’s farm where a crowd of us were meeting up for a barbecue.  After lunch we all decided to go for a ramble around the property.  Harry, who was only about 3 months old at the time, was having a ball. There were lots of friendly people around to give him pats.  He had been eating sausages all afternoon.  And, best of all, he was running with the big boys—the farm dogs, 3 large rough and tumble kelpies—who chased him, nipped him, rolled him over and over and played with him for hours.  He was in dog heaven.

And then we got to the dam. The dam was a vast crater dug into the paddock.  It had high, rough, earthen sides which were flattened along the top, and the water was dark, deep and muddy.  The farm dogs dived in right away and a few of us sat along the top of the dam to watch them swimming and splashing about. Harry desperately wanted to join them but he was nervous. He’d never seen that much water in one place before.  My friend asked me if Harry could swim and I said he hadn’t tried—there weren’t a lot of swimming spots where we lived.  Without missing a beat my ‘friend’ picked Harry up by the scruff of the neck and tossed him, unceremoniously, into the dam. I remember being horrified, appalled and so shocked I couldn’t speak.  All I saw was Harry sailing through the air and disappearing into the dark, murky water.

BloodhoundShakingOffWaterLeft_MedSeconds later he was up, and swimming for his life.  He made it to the edge of the dam, staggered out, shook himself vigorously and, without so much as backwards glance, took off after the other dogs who were now running up the steep banks to the top of the dam.  Once he reached the top he did one excited madcap circuit of the crater at full speed and then, with no hesitation at all, launched himself into space and into the water again. (I swear I aged 10 years that afternoon.)

Before long everyone watching was cheering him on and giving his soaring bellyflops ratings out of ten.  (It took him a while to work out that he could get into the water from the bottom of the dam as well, and he didn’t actually have to fly in from a great height).  Harry continued to toss himself haphazardly and delightedly into that dam for the rest of the afternoon and it was only exhaustion (mostly mine) that eventually stopped him.  On the drive home my lovely, muddy, filthy, smelly little boy slept like a stone, with his tongue hanging out and a huge smile on his face.

dogswimmingAlthough I don’t condone the action of hurling my puppy into a dam (the memory of it still makes me shudder) that was the day Harry began his life-long love affair with water.  From that day forth Harry would, at the slightest opportunity, fling himself exuberantly into any puddle, pond, fountain or river he came across.  He would even just stick his whole head in a bucket of water if that was all that was available.  Of course, not everyone we met over the next 19 years thought this as amusing or adorable as I did and I often had a lot of ‘splaining to do, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

'My Harry'

‘My Harry’

Would a Harry-clone have the same love for water that my original-Harry had?  Very possibly.  But the experiences Harry and I shared over the years can’t be so easily duplicated, and that’s what makes our dogs, and cats and other pets so dear to us. I have absolutely no doubt I would love a Harry-clone just as much as the original—I am a sucker for loving any and all dogs—but it wouldn’t be because he was a replica of ‘my’ Harry.  He couldn’t be, and I shouldn’t expect it of him.

So cloning?  Not for me.  I honestly don’t think you need a clone to mend a broken heart.  Grieve for the friend you have lost.  Remember all the funny, sad, exciting, ‘oh-my-god’ moments you had together, and, when you are ready, open up your heart and home to another (perhaps one of the many, many sad, lonely, neglected or abused dogs and cats already in the world) and, over time, they will mend your heart for you . . .

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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