Posting days: Sunday and Wednesday and, sometimes, maybe, extra ‘news flashes’
Sunday November 5th 2017
Hairy One’s response to this year’s barrages of noisy fireworks gets me reminiscing about bonfire nights past.
When her owner dies, my first dog, border collie Feather, is turned out of the house onto the busy streets of Handsworth. Young, and in her first season, she is chased around the streets and across the roads day and night by ardent would be lovers. Terrified, she is loose for about a week before Ray (Holly Trees Kennels and Rescue Centre) eventually manages to catch her.
Not surprisingly, Feather has a phobia about headlights and torches. On bonfire night she is beside herself. She paces around the house, panting and heaving. Nothing will calm her, and we worry that she would have a heart attack.
Rush, Feather’s successor, is also a border collie. Her previous owner was taken to court for cruelty to his dogs, and, unsurprisingly, she is petrified of virtually everything. Faced with November 5th, she behaves almost identically to Feather.
Little Ellie is cherished as a puppy and grows into a very confident alpha female. On her first bonfire night, her owner models absolute calm. The puppy training book predicts that when puppy hears the first bang, it will look at its person to see how it should respond.
Sure enough, puppy looks up at human. Human yawns, stretches and calmly turns over the next page of her book. Little Ellie watches closely, yawns too, then goes back to sleep.
Strangely, for no apparent reason, when she is four years old, Ellie suddenly becomes afraid of fireworks. At the first hint of a bang, she trembles so violently that her bed rocks.
By this time she is living with me. Fortunately, she finds her own solution. She dives over to the futon and packs herself in tightly behind me. After about twenty minutes, the shudders begin to subside and she sleeps.
A little cat called Mini is so distraught when the fireworks come that she hides away in all kinds of strange places. Sometimes it takes hours to find the poor little creature. Once she hides inside the t.v. cabinet. On another occasion, having searched for hours, we suddenly spot a little black tail hanging from the inside of the top of a rolled up carpet. Since the carpet roll is vertical, it appears that the poor little cat has spent the night upside down.
It’s seven p.m. on November 4th 2017, and Isis hasn’t been out for a pee since she returned from an energetic hour bouncing around in the lane at the back of our house. That was three o’clock, so I lead her to the back door.
This is her third firework season. Previously, she has shown no sign of noticing the bangs, so I am surprised in the late afternoon to see her beautiful ears twitching. She doesn’t appear to be frightened, just surprised and a little apprehensive. Obviously, some of the sounds are within her very limited hearing range.
But when I take her into the garden her demeanour changes. She stiffens. She is clearly scared. She doesn’t like what she smells, and two or three times she pounces on something ‘suspicious’. I do my best to persuade her, but there’s no way she’s peeing in this dangerous place. When I let go of her collar, she shoots through the kitchen door and disappears into the house.
O.K so that’s her sorted. This evening, I let her out before the fireworks begin and she’s fine. She snoozes happily through the evening, oblivious to all the bangs.
There’s Daisy cat, our lodger, to think about too, of course, and her requirements are very different.
Years ago when she was very young, she lived here with me for a few months before joining Polymath in Wales.
When kitty’s first bonfire night comes round, I am so busy settling poor Ellie that I forget Daisy. Suddenly, at about seven o’clock, when the fireworks are going full throttle, I suddenly realise that Daisy is still outside.
Oh my god! I’ve never moved faster. Tearing open the kitchen door, I shoot into the garden to rescue the poor, terrified little cat. What a dreadful thing to do. How could I?
I peer around, but all I can see or hear are showers of fireworks.
“Daisy! Daisy!” I shriek frantically.
I am answered by a faint mew.
Then, as my eyes become accustomed to the dark, I see a shape on the roof of my neighbour’s outhouse. Suddenly, a shower of bright fireworks erupts close by, lighting up the shape. I see that the shape has a little round head. The head is swivelling, and two turquoise eyes are wide with fascination.
Daisy is watching the fireworks.
She is not in the slightest bit grateful when I grab her and haul her in.
Now I have a routine. Once I have taken Isis into the garden, I hurry upstairs to make sure that the bedroom light is off and the blinds wide open so that Daisy, who is seated expectantly on my pillow, facing the window, has a perfect view of the fireworks.
It takes all sorts.
Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or www.dogwatchuk.co.uk