Most nights, I read to Jack and Lucy. Usuallywe sit together on the carpet in Jack’s room and read a book before bedtime. During the beginning of the story Mr. Orange pads through the door and leaps on top of Jack’s bunk, tucks his paws underneath him and swishes his tail whilst idly waiting for Jack to come to bed.
Mr. Orange is our 6-year old cat who is quite an extraordinary and tirelessly affectionate character. He is, as his name suggests, a ginger tom, picked up at the local SPCA. He spends most of his day sitting on the dining room table staring at the goldfish and occasionally drinking out its bowl. When I return home for the day, hands full of shopping bags, he leaps onto the kitchen counter and anxiously waits for me to empty them. When the last item is picked out of the first bag he leaps straight into the bag and lies down inside it waiting for me to then hang the shopping bag, cat inside, on a cupboard or door handle. There Mr. Orange will lie until some unfortunate dog or child decides to come and investigate whereupon he will initiate a nerve-racking game of tag with his impeccably maintained talons, shredding the bag, slash by slash until he literally falls out the bottom of it. Anyhow, he is ALWAYS on Jack’s bed by the second or third page of the story. Purring like a idling street bike
Around the middle of the story, this being your average story, Rupert walks in. He peers up at Mr. Orange and then, with a clatter of paws and a clutter of claws, he messily squeezes himself under Jack’s bottom bunk and lies there, misting up the floor with his breath and waiting for the cat to take his leap of faith.
Rupert is a bear of a dog. A 3-year old Alsatian/Husky mix, he has firmly placed himself as our family’s protector having been thoughtfully trained by my husband and unconditionally loved my me. Mr. OrangeIt is a comical obsession of his that I thought he would grow out of but am quite pleased he hasn’t. There is little funnier to watch than Rupert bravely snapping at Mr. Orange while the cat boxes the dog in the jowls with kung-fu precision. 3 times I have removed a claw from Rupert’s lip as a result of this cat and dog duel.
Long after the story has ended, the kids have gone to sleep, the sun has risen and they are up again. Lucy patter’s through from her room, clutching her mousy and makes a bee-line for Winnie’s cushion outside our bedroom. She kneels down, rests her head on the dog’s neck and weaves her satin-soft ears through her little fingers whilst cooing to her through her dummy.
Winnie is, quite simply, the very best dog ever to exist. One day, I will write a book on this dog’s story but for now, I will tell you that she is medium sized, mostly black with a ridge running up her neck. She was rescued by Chris and I 11 years ago when we were working as sailors in the Carribbean. How we got her home is a miracle and since then, she has been the most loyal of companions. She was with Chris and I long before we were married and for a time, she was the glue that kept us together. She goes absolutely EVERYWHERE with me. I have left her outside the supermarket for up to two hours, she is never on a leash, she never comes inside and not once in 11 years have I looked for her on my way out. She is an old friend and is rarely seen up before 9am.
Our animals are fundamental to the wholeness of our family. Chris and I believe that no family is complete without a dog. They offer a perspective on life that no human can match and the children are genuinely enriched by their presence.