Humans. What's that all about, then? Discuss.
If I was to be ushered into a room containing the finest minds in history, this is the question I would put to them.
Never has there been a species to cause such joy, and yet such bafflement, to the rest of us. And I include hedgehogs and squirrels in that statement. I shall take two recent examples to illustrate my point.
The first is that most noble of the species: my partner's mother. As you may have gleaned from my recent postings, my partner and I have not been entirely well at present - neither physically nor financially. A week or two ago, things became a little too much for my beleaguered partner. Whilst at her place of work, my partner had a rather difficult conversation with her bank (who were convinced that having only £22 per month to live on did "not constitute hardship"). After this happy dialogue, my partner telephoned her mother and burst into tears. Mother consoled daughter, and the day continued without further incident. That evening, when my partner and I returned home, we were astonished to discover that the said parent had visited - and COMPLETELY sorted out our garden! Weeds - of which there were a great many - were all gone. The invasive elder shrub in the corner had been sawn down and removed. The climbing rose had been trained across its fence properly, and new pots of plants had been thoughtfully sited on our patio. My partner and I were both astounded and cheered by this most generous act, and wept fresh tears - these being ones of humble gratitude and delight.
A few days later, my partner's mother arrived on our doorstep with a box containing packets of bulbs, and we had an enjoyable afternoon planting them in our borders. Come the Spring, all being well, our eyes should be enchanted with rows of colourful crocuses, daffodils, tulips and bluebells. New rose bushes have also been ordered and should be with us shortly.
Alas, during this afternoon of horticulture, my partner's mother uncovered the horde of dead, decaying and decayed little beasts from behind the acer tree, all of which had been left (and were STILL being left on a regular basis) as love-tokens from Chloe, mother to the kittens opposite, and source of several different kinds of terror to me. From the look on my partner's mother's face, I could tell that she thought we had been indoctrinated into some kind of sinister cult, one which revolved around the ritual sacrifice of small hedgerow birds and mammals. I endeavoured to explain the tiny corpses, as my partner's mother wordlessly reburied them, shaking her head. Unfortunately, Chloe meandered past (as she is wont to casually do on a regular basis, whenever I am in my garden), just as I was drawing my explanations to a close. When my partner and her mother took a break in their work for a cup of tea, Chloe jumped the fence (uninvited, I might add) into my garden and glared at me with a pained expression.
"Jasper, my love," she asked, "Don't you like those sweet little delicacies?"
I had been rumbled. I knew I would have to think fast.
"Dear lady," I replied, my thoughts racing, "Dear lady. Don't mistake me. I DO love such treats. I have delighted in finding those little morsels, each more appetising than the last. It is just... It is just... A-ha! It is just that I have an incredibly delicate stomach. 'Tis so fragile that I must keep a constant vigilance over what I consume, lest I die."
"Oh, my love!" cried Chloe.
"I allow myself," I continued, "Only the most frugal of diets. Some boiled rice. Maybe some poached white fish. A little boiled chicken. Perhaps some soft-boiled egg or steamed broccoli as a special indulgent treat..." I assumed my best 'pained holy martyr' expression and gazed wistfully into the distance.
"Oh, my poor, poor love." mewed Chloe, full of compassion, "There shall be no more torments left for you!" (Wahey!) "But," she continued, "I have such soft paws - would you like me to rub your poor belly for you?"
"NO!!!" I barked, a little more suddenly and harshly than I intended. Chloe may have soft paws - but sheathed within them were a set of the sharpest, cruellest claws known to dogkind (I had experienced their effects first-paw in the unfortunate rat-induced event of a few months ago), and the idea of these claws being anywhere near my belly - and therefore the immediate vicinity of my most prized treasure; my own, dear, 'Little Jasper' - was as alarming as it was sickening. The cat jumped at my sudden riposte. "Er, no, thank you, dear lady." I added, in a softer tone. "I should fear, lest any unpleasant germs pass from me, via your delicate paws, to your trio of charming kittens." I bowed politely, as Chloe purred and nodded, tripping out of my garden after a smile and a wink at me, as my partner and her mother returned to the business of bulb-planting.
But I see I have digressed far from my point. What I wished to convey above was the especial pleasure and delight conveyed from one human to another with a seemingly simple gesture, inspired by nothing but love and a desire to comfort.
Which leads me to examine an individual at the opposite end of this spectrum. And this time, a feline is more directly involved.
I refer to a cat from around the corner. This is a beast so evil that even Torquemada would quail before him. My partner and I are forced to walk past this creature every evening as we take our daily exercise. He sits at the end of our road, waiting for his partner to return from work. "Ahhhh, how sweet." I hear you think. But no. Be not deceived. For this monster is a sick demon from the very bowels of Hell. Every dog (and most of the cats) unfortunate enough to have to walk past this beast is subjected to slurs and insults of the foulest kind, delivered in language that would shame a navvy suffering from Tourette's. These barbs are always delivered in the lowest tones, inaudible to humans but all too clear to we dogs and cats that must suffer. No human will defend us helpless creatures from this scion of wickedness, as they hear and see nothing. I have witnessed grown, muscular cats from the locality running away in tears following a verbal battering from the potty-mouthed puss. The cat has thick fur of the blackest shade, and I doubt not that his soul is just as dark.
Now then. Not long ago, there came the time when my partner and I were (as usual) departing for our walk. I was girding my loins to stride dogfully past The Evil One, when a nice-looking, unassuming, older-middle-aged lady bid us good evening. My partner, never having met this neighbour before, stopped for a brief, sociable chat. It immediately transpired that this lady was the unlikely owner of the feline bastion of filth that poisoned our ears. And what do you think the nice lady had named her cat? Can you guess? Sooty? Nosferatu? Adolf? Oh no. 'Twas far worse.
Keep in your mind the image of this cat - fur black as night; mouth fouler than a hippo's cesspit; surely the living representative of Satan on this Earth.
The name of this cat is "Peaches".
For goodness' sake.
As long as I live, I will never understand what transpires within the human psyche. On the one paw, such loving and thoughtful kindness. On the other, a person who looks at the hellish black-coated demon-cat described above - and names it 'Peaches'.
For goodness' sake.