So we’re preparing, and now it’s time for the animals to prepare. The Basil, a mighty and fearsome hunter trapped in a cat’s body, had to go for his microchip this morning. It’s the equivalent of an ASBO tag to him. For 13 years, he’s been collarless, ownerless, address-less: a perfect hobo. Now he’s got a permanent address and can be returned to me, wherever he chooses to wander. He isn’t going to like this, morally speaking. He’s an outdoor man by nature, untamed by society (though he only eats the finest cuts of fish or chicken, and he is partial to a comfy sofa) and now he can be returned, should he disappear. He can be tracked. It doesn’t sit well with this animal who tried to impale himself on a branch when I put a collar on him 10 years ago. It was as if to say: “Look! Do you see what your collar has done to me??! I’m going to strangle myself to death undertaking daring escapades involving trees!”
I meekly removed the collar and he’s never been collared since. A collar means subservience, entrapment, servitude. And it wasn’t for him. So the ASBO tag can’t be to his liking, really. But then, little of this will be… the rabies shot (which may or may not work), the blood test, the vet runs, the long journey, ending up living with a dog.
The Basil has been to the vet three times in his long life. Once because he had an abscess, the next because he was growling at his food, and the final time because he needed his teeth sorting out. I got looks from the vet as if to say I were a terrible pet-keeper because I hadn’t brushed his teeth. I felt awfully negligent, but then I would rather be negligent than savaged. Either way, those teeth weren’t getting brushed, with or without my bloodshed. Last time he left the vet, he was seven teeth the fewer, though it doesn’t seem to have impaired his ability to savage. This time, I was made to feel like a negligent owner – nay, brutal animal sadist, for taking a ‘geriatric cat to France to live out his latter years in warmth and sun, surrounded by rats and field mice… (And let’s forget about Molly for a minute)… and I object to this ‘geriatric’ word anyway… My nana’s 80 and she’s just got back from trolling round Barcelona with her sister… having spent the summer driving ‘the girls’ (average age, 78) around France. One man’s 80 is not another man’s. Likewise, Basil might be 14 (that’s 80 in cat years informed my vet) but he’s a long way off pissing himself and needing his food liquidising.
So I’m kind of hoping he forgives me for the long journey and the injections and the ASBO tag. I’m kind of hoping the pay-off of the rats galore, an acre of land and several outbuildings will be to his liking. I’m assuming he’ll be able to rule the manor in the style he sees fit. Though I’m terrified he’ll disappear and take issue with the Molly Dog, or that he’ll enjoy it so much he won’t come in.
I can see it now. The Basil will be in the barn with Steve, both of them coming in to be fed and petted from time to time, and I’ll be in the house shuddering with Molly Dog, begging them not to take a bed into the barn for fear we’ll never see them.
The Molly Dog has learned a new trick of late. It’s to shudder horrendously when we’re eating or when she is left without Steve. It’s entirely psychological, and somewhat pathetic. If anyone saw it, they’d either laugh or report us to the RSPCA. I’m hoping the former. It doesn’t work, this shivering. She shivered all the way through last night’s risotto and few morsels came her way. So Molly and I can stay shivering in the house whilst the men-folk enjoy the best the barn has to offer, foraging and hunting.
Though my vet (not my lovely normal vet, but some stranger!) expressed a lot of concern about taking The Basil abroad as she said he’s geriatric. As if he’d rather live out his final days in Daubhill, Bolton, in the rain, the hail, the wind and the cold, having to put up with several young upstarts including next door’s cat, Jasmine, who terrorises him! Morally, I feel I can justify the journey, knowing that he’ll love it when he gets there, even though he might hate me forever for taking him. I’m sure he’ll be fine in the barn with Steve. Geriatric indeed!
Molly Dog is a different beast altogether. She’s two years old and a complete lush. She loves car journeys and new places, and she’ll love the space. Plus, dogs forgive you instantly for anything. It’s only cats that hold grudges. You could beat Molly with a stick, and if you then said ‘Come here, girl!’ she’d run to you like you were still her best friend. Basil still refuses to go near my mum, and she only brought him here on a journey of twenty minutes some 13 years ago. He looks at her with disgust and scuttles away hurriedly, with complete disdain as if my mother had once cast aspersions about his Queen. You can throw a pill to Molly and she’ll swallow it without a fuss (similarly with stones, pebbles, small toys, plastic pirates, water chestnuts and so on) but you have to cajole The Basil by tricking him and pretending there’s no good reason at all for you to be giving him a fine cut of tuna, just that you love him.
I don’t know why I personify my beasts so. I guess it’s just that thing where they’ve got so much personality, it’s hard not to think of them in human terms. Basil is definitely cut from the Rum Tum Tugger pattern; Molly, probably, from Tigger.
How these two will get along, I don’t know. Molly’s stayed here a couple of nights, and Basil’s generally stayed out of the way, but I can’t help thinking he’ll be stopping out in the barn a whole lot once he sees he’s been forced to have a new housemate of the canine variety. Heaven forbid Molly tries to play with him. He’ll be wearing her nose as a new hat.
Anyway, pet passports are being sorted, inoculations arranged, microchips implanted, channel-crossings arranged and belongings packed. It’s more ‘go’ than ‘not go’ although I suspect my brother’s advice of ‘keep your nerve!’ will be much required over the coming year or so.