12 July 2010
Butch to the Rescue
The sun shone directly on the pond, making it glisten like the sparkling water that comes from the outside tap. Ginger was pawing at a thick clump of weeds near the water while I lay there dreaming of dinner. Liver was on the menu for our boss and his Missus; I could smell the bloody meat as soon as the butcher delivered the week’s rations but you can bet we wouldn’t get a look in.
Feeling something brush past me I twisted my head to see what it was. A tiny field mouse darted away. I didn’t mind, the farm’s big enough for all of us. Ginger saw it too but he was too busy to give chase. The new household addition, Marmalade the cat, was dozing on the branch of a nearby Beech tree, oblivious to what went on around him.
It struck me that I should see what was grabbing Ginger’s interest. Brushing a bluebottle off my nose, I slowly stretched out my legs, breathed in the scents of wildflowers, yawned, then rolled over, gazed at the sky for a minute, then got to my feet and ambled to the water’s edge. Ginger was painstakingly trying to drag out a pink rag that was snagged on a twig. It was of no interest to me so I left him to it and went back to my favourite sunbathing spot among the ferns from where I could see the farmhouse door.
Chicken Fingers was stacking wood chunks on the wheelbarrow beside the door. He was always doing something in readiness for winter months. I once heard him explain the situation over a glass of beer at the Rose and Crown. ‘Always be prepared,’ he told his drinking mate. ‘There’s no set date for winter lately.’ I didn’t take much notice at the time but I remember the need to curl up in front of a blazing fire when it turned cold.
The kitchen door opened wide and Missus came out to inspect the Boss’s progress, hands on hips, dominant style. He wouldn’t like that. He was Boss after all. I saw his chest heave in a deep sigh. That must be why he abandoned the job and decided to do something different. Bending to pick up a couple of twigs from behind the old milk churn, he headed towards the pond. Hopefully eyeing the stick, I waited. Although it was hot I didn’t mind a few chases in the field.
Ginger was still pawing the rag which had now fallen in the water. I despair of him sometimes; he seems so anti-playtime. I’m surprised the water rats didn’t tell him to buzz off. Chicken Fingers surprised me by going to investigate instead of coming straight to me with the sticks. I could see a bit of prompting was necessary. Hurriedly I left the soft ferns and went over to nudge his leg.
‘Okay, Butch, I know you’re there! Race you to the field.’
Well that was a joke. He couldn’t run fast enough to beat me, but I stayed back. It was no good running off to the field and then having to run back again. I knew his tricks. He would call me to him and then throw the stick, which meant I was doing twice the run when one would do. Well, three times if you count having to take it back for him to throw again. I decided to hang fire until he was ready. But Chicken Fingers didn’t wait until he reached the field. Throwing the first stick as hard as he could he said, ‘All right Butch, fetch that one.’
I sped off in the direction of the flying stick, saw it coming down near the Hawthorn hedge. I raced, even in that heat I could run as fast as a bird. Skidding to a halt on the grass, I plunged into the hedge, started to search.
Agitatedly, I hunted again, beneath branches and beyond in the clusters of prickly Gorse.
I lay down in frustration, not once moving my sights off the hedge. That is, until I heard a sort of chewing sound coming from the other side. Belly close to the ground, I tracked the noise around the bush, across a narrow beaten track. Beneath the wide Oak lay Jack, the sheepdog from the next farm, and he was gnawing at my stick. I snarled, and was about to stick up for my rights when there was sudden pandemonium coming from the house. By the amount of screams I felt sure the hens had been let loose in there. Ginger must have thought the same. He abandoned his task, yapped a few times, and broke into a lolloping run.
It was like one of those comic films Chicken Fingers watches on television. He was running towards the house, while Ginger darted excitedly in and round and between his legs. Chicken Fingers fell to the ground, Missus shot out of the kitchen door as if she’d been fired from a canon, while I desperately tried to keep up.
Red in the face and shaking, Missus screeched into the boss’s arms. It was scary. I’d never seen her touch him before let alone smash her chest against his. Ginger took one look, then turned tail and ran round the back of the house, but I felt a bit braver and anyway I was worried for the boss’s safety.
Chicken Fingers told me later that the upset was caused by a mouse in the house and that the no-good Marmalade cat had been missing from duty. Well, Ginger and I knew where he was: up in the Beech tree, out of harm’s way.
I twitched my nose, foreseeing trouble.
Missus dislikes cats but she hates mice even more, consequently Ginger and I have to put up with the rather wild looking feline. He’s one of the laziest animals you ever saw until a rodent comes near, then he’s up and away as fast as a lightning strike. Yes. He can certainly move when he wants to. I heard a whisper round the farm that he didn’t like mice either. Well, hard luck, if he thinks we’re taking over mouse hunting duties he’s very much mistaken.
I think it was Ginger and me staring at Marmalade up the Beech tree that alerted Missus’ suspicions. Holding her apron close, she belted up to the tree, tilting her head to look up. Her fists came up as well, clenched, like they were ready to pummel the daylights out of the cat if she could get at him. Rustling leaves told me that Marmalade had shifted a bit higher. It was the first inkling I had that there was a degree of good sense in that furry head.
Missus isn’t a cruel woman; it’s just that she doesn’t understand animals. She thinks we’re all there to do certain jobs. Only Ginger has it worked out; his handsome features absolutely melt her heart. My job is to help Chicken Fingers, otherwise known as Gaffer. His fat fingers tasted of chicken when I first made licking contact at the dogs’ home, that’s why I called him Chicken Fingers and it sort of stuck. Now, there’s Marmalade, the recent addition to the farm, whose job is or should be to remove all sign of mice from the vicinity. If he’s any brains, right now he’ll keep out of the way.
Gaffer managed to calm his wife and led her back to the house, having established that the mouse was well and truly out of the way. I tagged on behind to check out the territory but stayed outside on instruction. I spotted straight away that Ginger was missing.
It wasn’t too long before Gaffer decided a walk was on the cards. He came out with my lead and collar and I sat still while he put them on. I knew I wouldn’t be on the lead for long, just as soon as we were away from the lanes he would give me free rein. We were at the woods that embraced the pond before I gained some freedom and then of course I ran amok. While Gaffer lowered his great bulk onto a fallen tree, I ran off to chase pigeons, rabbits and squirrels for the sheer pleasure of it.
Without realising I edged nearer to the water but Gaffer’s shrill whistle made me slow down, an order I almost decided to ignore. Somewhat breathlessly I turned to check Gaffers direction and saw him hurrying towards the duck pond. I ran to catch up.
Ginger was lying down and writhing in agony. I couldn’t imagine why but Gaffer was on to it. By the time I got there he was removing an ugly looking mousetrap from Ginger’s paw. I snapped at the paw, trying to help, but was ordered to keep away.
Gaffer told me to go and fetch the Missus, so I ran over to the farmhouse as quick as I could. Something told me that it was urgent.
Missus was standing at the oven, stirring something that smelled very appetising. After a few investigative sniffs round the cooker I tugged her apron strings, hung on until she paid attention. Only then did I let go and run towards the door.
‘Soppy dog,’ she said as she turned back to the cooker.
I tried again, this time grabbing a mouthful of skirt and tugging for all I was worth.
‘Get off, you stupid dog.’
I whined and headed for the door, then stopped and looked back. Missus stood there looking mystified so I barked a couple of times and pretended to go out of the door. Obviously she had more wisdom than I gave credit for because she followed me. I kept up the stopping and barking routine until we got within sight of the pond. That’s when she saw her beloved Ginger lying on the ground, his paw mercifully freed from the trap. Gaffer’s hands were on him, soothing, telling him everything was going to be all right. I sincerely hoped so, I just couldn’t imagine Ginger not being all right.
Well the upshot of all this was that Missus and Gaffer carried Ginger back to the house, where the vet was summoned. He examined the injured paw and declared that nothing was broken. I didn’t know you could break a paw; it made me check that mine were okay. They were, so I went across to Ginger and lay by his side, leaning into him to show how much I cared about his welfare.
Gaffer had a go at Missus. Seems it was her hatred of mice that caused her to leave traps. Gaffer made her fetch all the others, ten in total, scattered around the farm. Missus looked upset to have been found out, but I reckon it was more because she’d brought harm to her beloved Ginger.
My buddy was soon up and running and he and I had the pleasure of bossing it over the newcomers to the farm: two moggies, a lean black and white and a huge tabby. Dear old Marmalade was now forced to pay more attention to duty instead of ducking out the minute he saw a mouse.