THE BEST OF PET TALES

Read­ers’ sto­ries are com­piled in a new book, says Life edi­tor Anne Cuth­bert­son

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Front Page -

The Hon­ourable Han­nah

Many years ago on the oc­ca­sion of her visit to Jersey, the late Queen El­iz­a­beth the Queen Mother had lunch with us and af­ter­wards con­sented to a pho­to­graph in the gar­den. Jemima, now ma­ture, was al­lowed in the

Sto­ries of ev­ery­day do­mes­tic pets were never deemed im­por­tant enough to be told in print. A dog, cat or chicken had to per­form a head­line-grab­bing feat – or be owned by a celebrity hat de­signer – to make the pa­pers. There were pet health col­umns and prob­lem pages, but no tales of lovable rogues, great sur­vivors, hunters and gath­er­ers, timid souls or dearly de­parted friends. With this in mind, the Life sec­tion launched the Pet Tales col­umn in 2010: a light, af­fec­tion­ate col­umn to re­veal the foibles, funny turns and un­bri­dled joy of pets. And who bet­ter to write the col­umn than our read­ers. We have re­ceived more than a thou­sand read­ers’ en­tries to date and this week we wel­come the pub­li­ca­tion of Charm­ers and Rogues, the first edited com­pi­la­tion of Pet Tales. With a fore­word by pre­sen­ter and Sun­day Tele­graph colum­nist Ben Fogle, it is a pick of the best 90 sto­ries. The edit­ing of Pet Tales has al­ways been kept to a min­i­mum be­cause th­ese are sto­ries from the heart, and beau­ti­fully writ­ten. Be­low, are a few of our favourites, with the chap­ter head­ings un­der which they ap­pear. I would like to take the op­por­tu­nity to thank the read­ers of Life for their en­tries and for the plea­sure their sto­ries have given. Keep send­ing them in.

LOVABLE ROGUES

Billy Bob, puppy preschool fail­ure Hav­ing been a stoutly cats-only fam­ily, the hur­ri­cane-like ar­rival of Billy Bob, the golden cocker spaniel, came a as a col­lec­tive shock. Ev­i­dence of Billy Bob’s ca­pac­ity to de­ploy “shock and awe” tac­tics with­out warn­ing came on his first day at “puppy preschool”. A dozen pups of vary­ing shapes and sizes fid­geted as own­ers sat in a semi­cir­cle try­ing in vain to ex­ert a mod­icum of con­trol. Billy Bob ap­peared to be above it all and adopted a strangely pas­sive, seated Bud­dha pose. He then ru­ined it by rugby tack­ling the pad­dling pool in the cen­tre, nois­ily de­posit­ing the contents of his blad­der into it. He failed preschool but did re­ceive a cer­tifi­cate, al­beit with­out a sched­ule of train­ing events. Gor­don McDowall photo, while the two young labradors were shut in the house. Or so we thought. As we stood ready in front of the cam­era, out from the house rushed Han­nah, who seated her­self ador­ingly at the Queen Mother’s feet. Then, at the very mo­ment the shut­ter clicked, Han­nah landed a very wet and loving kiss on the Queen Mother’s right hand. Be­fore I could do any­thing to re­pair the dam­age, the Queen Mother bent over and wiped her hand on Han­nah’s head. “Thank you, dear,” she said, “but do you mind hav­ing it back?” Sir Peter White­ley

ES­CAPE ARTISTS

Mad­cap Martha One evening our kit­ten Martha failed to ap­pear for sup­per and, putting my ear to the floor, I could hear a faint mew­ing. Ev­ery two hours I called, in the hope she would come out. In the morn­ing, we rang the fire bri­gade. Six strong fire­men ap­peared, to the sur­prise of the neigh­bours, with saws and crow­bars.Their heat-seek­ing cam­era found Martha be­tween the bath­room and a bed­room. Out came the fur­ni­ture, up came the car­pet and a hole was cut in the floor­boards, but there was a joist be­tween her and the hole. Then a shout: “She’s gone!” No im­age on the cam­era. There is a void be­hind the lava­tory, which goes through to the room be­low. We rushed down­stairs, and there was an im­age on the cam­era. Min­utes later, with care­ful use of a small saw, there she was, curled around the soil pipe. Sheila Brad­bury Inca “Inca was my shadow: loyal, funny, naughty and loving. She brought light and laugh­ter to my life. De­spite my long ab­sences over the years, she was al­ways there. Tail wag­ging, happy to see me. Never up­set, an­noyed or an­gry. When her tired body fi­nally failed, I lay on the floor and wept un­con­trol­lably into her thick fur.” Ben Fogle

GREAT SUR­VIVORS

Henri the duck Henri (she should have been called Hen­ri­etta we later dis­cov­ered) was saved from cer­tain death when we bought her at a Brit­tany mar­ket while on hol­i­day. When we had all the le­gal doc­u­ments for her in­ter­na­tional travel, we es­corted her home by ferry to Eng­land. She hated the other ducks we in­tro­duced to her for com­pany (and who had to live else­where). She bossed the dogs around, and even the horses if they were in the same field. She tol­er­ated hu­man com­pany, and if she felt par­tic­u­larly af­fec­tion­ate she would jump on your back and al­low her­self to be car­ried back to bar­racks for the night. She ruled the house­hold for nine years un­til she suc­cumbed to pneu­mo­nia. She never laid an egg, tried to fly or con­sort with a drake. Henri was a won­der­ful duck, and to this day is sorely missed. Katy Fletcher

PET THER­A­PISTS

Dex­ter, cocker spaniel We all now re­alise why Dex­ter came into our lives. In those first days of grief and shock, he gave us rou­tine. We felt like shut­ting our­selves away, but we had to walk him and face peo­ple. When­ever any­one vis­ited to of­fer their con­do­lences, he broke down any awk­ward­ness. Peo­ple would be strug­gling to find words of com­fort and the ice would be bro­ken by a spaniel hump­ing their leg! He would sneak up­stairs but, poignantly, would not en­ter my daugh­ter’s bed­room – just lie out­side her open door. Two years later, and he ac­com­pa­nies us to our nearby church­yard ev­ery day and sits qui­etly by her grave. Gil­lian McGrath Rosie, choco­late lab, comforter We are bonded by the dif­fi­cult times in our lives. Hers was be­ing aban­doned as a puppy and left on the streets as a stray, and mine cop­ing with a hus­band serv­ing in three wars: Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. In eight years of mar­riage, we have spent many months apart, and it is Rosie’s friend­ship that helps to fill the void of his ab­sence. When I am up­set, she rests her head on my knee to tell me I am

not alone. When I anx­iously watch the news, she does too, ears pricked to the sounds of gun­shots. In 2003, when a Tor­nado GR4 was shot down by a pa­triot mis­sile and I didn’t know if it was my hus­band or not, she never left my side. Susie Buchanan

PAM­PERED CHARM­ERS

Marmaduke, surf dude Marmaduke is a very so­cia­ble cat, and loves noth­ing bet­ter than join­ing in. Three months af­ter he moved in we held a house-warm­ing party. How would he cope? When we tracked him down in the mid­dle of the party he was on the lawn, be­tween two of our friends, wear­ing my sun­hat. Corn­wall is his favourite des­ti­na­tion as we stay by the sea, so he can go rock-pool­ing, eat fish and chips and in­dulge his pas­sion for surf­ing. You think we’re jok­ing. Janette Dol­lam­ore

ODD COU­PLES AND DE­VOTED PAIR­INGS

Bess and Frank, old mar­ried cou­ple Did we re­alise what hav­ing a Spinone en­tailed? The an­swers were yes, yes and yes. We ar­ranged a meet­ing point. A car pulled up, and out stepped the most hand­some, enor­mous hulk called Frank. He has filled our lives with his gen­tle na­ture, and loves com­pany. And Bess? Well, she took his toys, took his food and slept in his bed. But Frank let her, and moved his bed to be near. Then Frank de­vel­oped a nasty ear in­fec­tion. Even­tu­ally, he had to have both ear canals re­moved. He was left deaf, with a facial paral­y­sis, and has had to ad­just to a world of signs and vi­bra­tions. Bess has come to the res­cue. She is Frank’s ears, and they are in­sep­a­ra­ble. With her help, Frank func­tions fine, and barks for her if she is ever out of sight. Anne Evans

TIMID SOULS

Mr Darcy, cock­erel, ladies man He ar­rived with aplomb. Young, beau­ti­ful and mag­nif­i­cent, he strut­ted around our gar­den with sus­pi­cion, won­der­ing if it would com­pare favourably with his pre­vi­ous home, as his black, brown and white feath­ers glis­tened in the sun­shine. Dorothy, Doris, Dusty and Daphne watched from un­der the rose­mary bush as he pecked and scratched as real men do. At last, he spied the ladies. He seemed to quiver, as if un­sure that he could deal with the ad­vanc­ing army of lib­er­ated, self-suf­fi­cient fe­males ap­proach­ing pur­pose­fully. Dorothy, the head in the peck­ing or­der, made the first move by fly­ing to­wards him in what ap­peared to be an at­tack. The oth­ers fol­lowed. Hav­ing heard how de­mand­ing a cock­erel could be, we feared feath­ers would be fly­ing. How­ever, Mr Darcy al­lowed a re­spectable week or two be­fore ex­press­ing his man­hood, which from that mo­ment on he did non-stop – and with gusto. Liz Lee

JOY GIVERS

Tina, the bear I have had many won­der­ful dogs, but Tina the bear was quite ex­cep­tional. Likes: Honey, beer, baths Dis­likes: Thun­der­storms Finest Hour: De­stroy­ing the fridge Sir Peter White­ley BUY ON­LINE ‘Charm­ers and Rogues: Ex­tra­or­di­nary Pet Tales from Or­di­nary Homes’ (Con­sta­ble Robin­son), edited by Anne Cuth­bert­son, is avail­able from Tele­graph Books Di­rect for £12.99. To or­der go to books. tele­graph.co.uk or call 0844 8711514

Lovable: clock­wise from top, Marmaduke, the Hon­ourable Han­nah, Henri, Dex­ter, Martha, Inca. Be­low: Billy Bob

Loyal: from left, Rosie, Tina, Bess and Frank and Mr Darcy

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