I thought I’d talk a little bit about history. The Help’s history. Ancient history in fact 🙂 BD (before digital) so all the photos are rather blurry.
I mentioned some time ago that it might be interesting to find out a little bit about the furkids that shaped her. She has told me that she always loved animals. Almost any kind of animal but particularly dogs, cats and horses.
Growing up her family seem to have had quite a few dogs. Kips, Patch, Cindy, Boozy, Heath & Wilson (bulldog brothers named after the politicians of the day!), so as soon as she left home and was by herself one of the first things she wanted was a dog. As a child she had lived with a German Shepherd, mixed breeds, spaniels, boxers, and bulldogs and she didn’t have a particular breed in mind. She just wanted a dog, a companion.
She was living in England in the middle of the countryside without neighbours and surrounded by fields. It would be good to have a dog for security as well as company.
The Internet was a mere twinkle in a Scientists eye so she had to rely on phoning the RSPCA and watching the advertisements in the paper until she found a dog she felt she could rescue and offer a good home to.
Looking back it was done so carelessly. She was young – very young – she tells me 🙂
She saw and ad in the local paper and phoned the then owner and made a time to go and see the dog on offer. A young de-sexed Irish Red Setter.
She was very excited driving to the house. She turned up in her little car and parked outside a large stone manor house. A middle-aged man came out of the house and whistled for the dog who ran willingly over from some far corner of a huge and manicured garden. Jason (the dog’s name) was definitely about to come down in the world!
The Help was immediately smitten. Jason seemed friendly and The Help is a pushover so she wasn’t going to drive away without him. She couldn’t get a good reason for the re-homing from the owners and she was too young to push. All she knew was that here was a dog who was unwanted. He had a lovely soft expression in his eyes and a desire to please. She might not be able to give him a manor house and rolling lawns, but she could give him a loving home where he belonged and so straight away she said she would have him. She sensed the relief of those around her.
No-one asked anything about her. They didn’t ask what sort of a home she was going to provide or if she was at home during the day. She just took him. No one ever followed up to find out how he was. They were rid of a burden and The Help found her companion.
Happily for Jason, he had a great home. He was an Irish Red Setter who had clearly never really been looked after. He had a dry and staring coat which no amount of oil and conditioners could improve but he was loving and good natured and The Help never did understand why he was being passed around.
He slept in her bedroom and for the first week he woke her every morning at 5.00am by pulling the duvet off her bed! Clever as that might have been, she trained him NOT to do that as soon as she could!
He loved roaming the fields which surrounded the house and they went on long walks. He wasn’t much of a guard dog but he was company. At that time The Help used to ride a lot and Jason loved running with her. Oddly enough she had a chestnut horse so they matched but she assures me that had nothing to do with her getting him. I wonder……
The roads she rode along were mainly quiet which was a good thing because occasionally Jason would suddenly decide to lie down in the middle of the road for a quick rest. When I think about how crazy she is about me and the roads I wonder that she took him out like that. She would never let me off leash near a road. Maybe I’m just special 🙂
One thing which was a problem was the car. He used to behave as if he was being taken to the slaughterhouse every time he got into a vehicle and was only happy when he was sitting on the front seat passenger or the driver! As you can imagine this was a problem. At that time harnesses for dogs in cars were not as common as today and as The Help only had a small mini a partition wasn’t practical. However, they didn’t crash!
This did settle down a little as he got older and nothing awful happened to him. I don’t like the car either and having heard this story I am beginning to wonder if the problem doesn’t lie with The Help and not me after all. I’ll give more thought to that.
Shortly after Jason came to live with The Help she realised that she had other pets in the house who had not been invited. Mice.
Now The Help doesn’t mind mice. She thinks they’re cute, but she does prefer that they are not running over her food and living in the oven!
So she had the bright idea of getting a cat. A local farmer had some kittens and said she could have one so she got Dee. She asked the farmer when the kitten might
catch chase mice and was told not for many months, but she hoped that the smell of a cat in the house would deter them.
At about this time she met The Boss who was quite amused by her menagerie and loved animals himself which was a good thing because otherwise the relationship wouldn’t have worked.
On the first night of having Dee, The Help was woken up by terrible screams. Thinking the kitten had been somehow injured she grabbed a torch and went running out into the dark. Being the country there were no street lights or other illumination. She could find nothing and the screams had stopped. Heart pounding she went back to bed planning on finding the kitten if she could in the morning. She didn’t sleep. She was sure the poor thing was hurt.
As she opened the front door that morning she tripped over the remains of a rabbit! That’s right, a rabbit. This small kitten who was not yet meant to chase mice had torn a rabbit to pieces. The Help was a little disconcerted and very upset about the rabbit but she couldn’t believe at first that the kitten had done this. Perhaps a weasel or stoat had killed the rabbit and the kitten had just brought home some of the spoils.
This answer satisfied her that day but the same thing happened the next night and from then on various pieces of torn up bunnies could be found dotted around the garden. Meanwhile Dee seemed to have made a deal with the mice that they could stay in the kitchen with her blessing!
The Help had bought a litter tray and all the usual things that one gets for a cat and was a little surprised when Dee refused to use the litter tray at all. Everything she had read about cats had described them as fastidious clean creatures who would not soil there own area. Dee seemed determined to break all stereotypes.
She preferred the carpet to any other means of toileting and no amount of scolding, treats or bribes could get her to go outside or use the tray. It was as if the outdoors was her place and the indoors just a giant bathroom to her!
A red flag was raised when Dee developed another ‘cute’ trait.
The lounge and kitchen were separated by a few steps with a guard rail. Dee quickly discovered that if she sat on the top rail by the top step anyone walking through from the lounge was a target. She would hurl herself at them and then claw all the way down their body. The Boss suffered badly from this game of Dee’s and it became a war of stealth for The Help and The Boss to make it into the kitchen without bleeding claw marks on their arms or legs.
Dee was not interested in cuddles and would fight if The Help picked her up. It began to dawn on The Help that something was wrong (doh!). Was the cat crazy? Could you have a feral kitten? She didn’t know, but as she patched up more wounds and swept the remains of another poor rabbit from the doorstep she began to feel that Dee was not really working out.
Not being equipped to deal with a problem kitten she was fortunate in living in the country. Farmers were always wanting or willing to have another cat to keep down the rats or vermin in their barns and the cats had a great time. It seemed that it would be an ideal life for Dee. The life she had been born into really. It was with relief that she took Dee around to a local farm and The Help could once more walk around her home unmolested!
This still left the problem of the mice in the house so once again The Help thought about getting a kitten but this time she wouldn’t go to the local farmers, she would go to the RSPCA. They always had kittens needing a home.
Taking a small box in the car she drove to the local shelter. She was taken into the cat house and told that there were dozens of kittens to choose from. Third cage in and a huge ginger cat threw himself at the bars miaowing and clutching onto her hands. She talked to him for a while wasting precious minutes. She knew there were boarders in there as well and this fellow was obviously there whilst his family was on holiday. He was sleek, beautiful and obviously loved. He was gorgeous.
Eventually she tore herself away and looked at some of the kittens, she could hear the cat shouting after her and went back several times to talk to him. No kitten particularly grabbed her fancy and she realised she was looking to see if there was a ginger one because of the boarder.
The lady came back in to see which she had chosen. The Help had to confess that she hadn’t managed to choose a kitten yet and had been distracted by the ginger tom.
‘Oh, he’s looking for a home too.’ she was told.
Apparently he was not as loved as she had thought. He was the product of a broken home, the husband had taken the dog, the wife the kids and no-one had room for the cat any more. They didn’t even know his name or age in the RSPCA. He had just been dropped in. I suppose it could have been worse. It was good for The Help.
Needless to say the little box The Help had taken with her wasn’t much use on the homeward journey. The big ginger tom ran around the car and then settled in the front seat purring. He had come home and he knew it!
The first thing The Help had to do was find a name for him. For some reason all the usual cat names of the time did not sound dignified enough for this proud guy. Eventually she chose Chaucer being a fellow red-head!
So Chaucer joined the happy home and he and Jason and the horse got on famously. Sometimes The Help would go out into the garden and see Chaucer swinging from the horse’s tail who didn’t seem to mind at all 🙂
Chaucer loved going for walks too and sometimes had to be shut in the house for his own safety!
In the evenings when The Help would return from work she would hear the vocal cat screaming as he came racing to greet her bounding through the long grass of the neighbouring fields. He would be visible on the up-jump and then disappear again. It is a memory she always carries with her.
The first time The Boss met Chaucer, the cat bounded onto his lap, put his paws on his shoulders, pressed his nose against The Boss’ nose and purred. For a moment The Boss was rigid waiting for the cat to turn on him (Dee’s influence lived on), but as the minutes passed and Chaucer’s purrs increased The Boss realised that he had been accepted. That was one of the cat’s favourite positions.
A couple of years after meeting The Boss and getting married a new chapter began. The Help and The Boss got a job overseas for a year. Chaucer was to stay with The Help’s parents and Jason with The Boss’ best friend who had always wanted a dog, loved Jason and loved hiking.
When the year was up and they returned Jason, who was getting older, was so happy and settled they didn’t have the heart to wrench him away again. He lived on for many years hiking the local hills with his new master, loved and happy and The Help never did understand why he had ended up in that newspaper ‘Free To A Good Home’ but she is pleased he did and that she was able to write a happy ending to what could have been a tragedy.
Chaucer came back to live with them after that year away. They picked him up from a local kennel after the twelve month separation. The Help was driving the car and he immediately sat on The Boss’s lap, pressed noses and purred so loudly the car felt like it was vibrating. He hadn’t forgotten them.
He stayed with them as their first son was born and until he grew old. Always a handsome and dignified cat who loved laps, cuddles and who had chosen The Help as his new home on that day in the RSPCA shelter.
Love from Zena, the Chronicler Princess