Allow me to be clearer. At a most un-dogly hour the other morning, I was awakened from my gentle (and impossibly handsome) slumbers by an appalling cacophony. Apparently, the chain of events began with the afore-mentioned early bird apprehending the unfortunate early worm.
Last weekend heralded the Vernal Equinox; the beginning of Spring. I find that, in my road at least, this occurrence apparently marks "The Emergence of the Cats". This is an event, more infernal than vernal, when those cats too cowardly to venture out of doors during the cold Winter months decide that it's warm enough outside for them once again - and so out they come. I thought it had been pleasantly quiet of late.
Now the place is once again awash with felines - the faction with bells on their collars and their bell-less counterparts are, as before, at loggerwhiskers.
The recalcitrant Peaches has been about all Winter, of course; just the other day I heard him shouting filth at some poor innocent and, a few weeks ago, I noticed that little Archie, the young Jack Russell from three doors away, came home from his early-morning walk in tears after having received a thorough "Peach-ing".
I was secretly pleased to see my former kitten protégée Zac (though now a kitten no longer, but a full-grown tomcat) and his two siblings, Milo and Sophie, out enjoying the sunshine - although I carefully avoided the notice of their mother, Chloe. If you were reading this blog a year ago you will know why...
I digress. I return to the matter at paw (the wrenching of my sweet self from dreamy slumber).
The blackbird who had succeeded in claiming his pre-dawn worm became subject to a barrage of feline harassment. They could not reach him, but they could most certainly shout at him. The bird was a feisty one; he chirruped beakfuls of cheek back to them from the safety of his branch. I heard a tell-tale muffled thud, pattering of feet, and the opening and closing clicks of a little door from the neighbouring house, which heralded Starsky's entrance into the mêlée. He barked loudly at them all to shut up which, naturally, only served to increase their derisive shouts. It descended into a racket, in which individual voices could not be distinguished, of Starsky shouting at the cats, the cats shouting at the bird and the bird tweeting furiously back at them all - his anger only increasing when the shouting caused him to drop his worm into the hedge.
I thought about going outside and putting a stop to the verbal fisticuffs. But it was dark and cold outside. I settled instead for shoving my head under the pillow and hoping I snored loudly enough to block out the noise of the affray.
I really hate cats.
I turn first to the new resident in our block - Pebble. He was a little Staffordshire Bull Terrier/Something else with wiry fur cross, entirely black save for a single white diamond-shaped patch on the middle of the top of his head. He was in the pen next to Kipper, which had formerly been occupied by Plum, the eccentric Jack Russell. Pebble had only been in the shelter for one day and night but he had already become excessively attached to Kipper. I couldn't blame him - poor Pebble was in desperate need of a friend and Kipper was the ideal comfort for a dog with a tormented mind.
Kipper told me of Pebble's sad case a day or so later as we walked together (after the stitches had been removed from my now-empty 'nad-sack) around the exercise field.
"Poor s*d." he sighed. "He'd been with his owners for about a year. Then, out of the blue, three days ago, they all piled into the car and took Pebble out to one of the local country parks."
"Sounds nice." I responded, "What, did he get lost?"
"Huhff," snorted Kipper, "Worse than that. They stopped the car, one of them got out, and threw a stick for Pebble to chase. As he went off after it, the person just got straight back into the car and they drove off. There wasn't a trace of them to be sniffed when Pebble brought the stick back."
"B*st*rds!" I gasped, shocked at the appalling cruelty of this incident.
"Yes." nodded Kipper. "One of the park's Rangers saw what happened though, picked up poor Pebble and drove off after the car. He caught up with them and followed them all the way home; miles and miles, apparently. When he knocked at their front door, they denied ever having owned a dog! Evil b*st*rds..."
"So the Ranger brought him here?"
"Yeah, well what else could he do? Poor Peb's in one big mess of a state."
"I can imagine."
"The really sad thing," frowned Kipper, "Is that, every night before he gets off to sleep, he asks me when his family is coming to collect him. He just can't accept the fact that he was deliberately abandoned, poor s*d."
I tutted and shook my head. Kipper and I continued the rest of our walk in silence, each of us musing (and not for the first time) on the cruelty of some humans.
After that conversation, I made a point of chatting to Pebble and helping Kipper to ensure that he was included in our group discussions and songs. Although somewhat hesitant, Pebble was a very affable little chap. Always friendly, often eloquent and with a surprisingly light and beautiful singing bark. Alas, however, whatever pleasurable events or chats had occurred during the day, or in the course of our lights-out conversations, it would always end the same for poor Pebble. We would all be settling quietly into our baskets - and then would come the plaintive little voice:
"Are they coming to collect me tomorrow, Kipper?"
"I'm sorry, Pebble, no. I don't believe they are."
"Oh. Well, they might. Night-night Kipper, night-night everyone."
It seldom varied. Sometimes Pebble would confidently assert instead of questioning.
"They're coming to fetch me tomorrow, Kipper. I know they are."
"You mustn't get your hopes up Pebble. I don't expect that'll happen."
"They DEFINITELY are. They'll come and get me tomorrow, I know it. Goodnight."
But they never did come to get him. Poor Pebble - his steadfast faith in the family that cruelly dumped him was almost heartbreaking. Pebble was not in any way feeble-minded. He just couldn't get over what had happened to him.