Wednesday 8 February 2023

A Life Full of Animals - part two



A Life Full of Animals – part two


Dominie and Jenna. Jenna could barely step over the threshold!

We have always been available to look after our adult children’s dogs. Taking care of Foxy, Gillian’s fox-red working Labrador puppy, made us realise how much we liked and missed Labradors, and so Jenna came into our lives from Shropshire. We asked for the biggest black bitch in the litter, as she would be living with Dalmatians, which are quite big dogs. Well, she had big paws and that’s as far as it went. She remained a little dog with big paws throughout her sixteen years.
 Playtime with Frodo

We didn’t know there were pheasant in the forest where we walk, until Jenna flushed them. She also chased deer and would disappear into the distance, so we put a cow bell on her, to hear when she was near and an electronic tracker, so that we could discover where she’d been. We think it was because she had Dalmatian companions, who don’t generally retrieve, although they can, and are built for long distance running, which she wasn’t. Once she had Labrador friends and relations she never disappeared again.

 Jenna with tracker 
Jenna was a very sociable dog. Whenever we were out walking and saw people in the distance she would always go to greet them, even if she had never seen them before. Once she had done that, she would be content to come back to us. She maintained that endearing habit almost to the end of her life.
Jenna and Gus
Her half-brother, Gus, four years her junior, pointed out to us the difference between dogs and bitches. We had always assumed that bitches were easier, even though we had had dogs as well as bitches. They are smaller than dogs, generally, Dominie being something of an exception. The Jack Russell and Dalmatian bitches were biddable and faithful, but Jenna, our first Labrador for nearly forty years, reminded us that this particular breed is different.
We had forgotten how independent they are. Jenna was friendly and loyal but inclined to follow her own path, which was actually never far from ours. Gus stayed close to heel and like Buddy Liver-Spots before him, spent much time and energy trying to keep his pack together. His most worrying times came when we had an extended family walk with several dogs. As the line of people lengthened, so he rushed back and forth from end to end, trying, so we thought, to chivvy the laggards to increase their pace, and the leaders to slow down.
Buster, left, and Bertie 
An exception to this rule was Buster, Bertie’s brother, who went to live with Gillian and her family in Dorset. They were beautiful fox-red working Labradors. While Bertie was a sensible, sober dog who never wanted to be found wanting in the behaviour stakes, or anywhere else, Buster was capricious. He enjoyed charging off in all directions. Bertie enjoyed greeting other dogs, but once introductions had been made, he was happy to return to us. He was a perfect gentleman with a wonderful smile. Gus’s smile showed just his front teeth but Bertie’s was full and wide and accompanied by snorts of pleasure.
Three days after Frodo died, Roxy was born in Shropshire, (all our Labradors have come from the same kennels in Shropshire, where the dogs are bred for temperament first and foremost) and it’s fanciful to think that some of his spirit was reborn in her, mainly because she is a counter-surfer, the only Labrador we’ve known to do this, although Gilbert is showing signs of following in her paw-steps. In every other respect, she’s her own dog, friend to all, human, canine or feline.

Jenna, Gus and Bertie all died within eleven months, which was heart-breaking. Gus and Bertie died in August and October last year so Roxy rapidly went from being the youngest to the only dog and she was really depressed. She had never known life without another dog and although the cats were company it wasn’t the same. So, in January this year, Gilbert came to live with us.
Gilbert soon after he arrived. He was smaller - that is, shorter than the cats
Now he is thirteen weeks old and growing apace. Herschel is gaining the ascendant, as cats do
At the time of writing, both cats have taken refuge from Gilbert inside the fire guard and are about to start taking lumps out of each other. A stern ‘No squabbling’ from me usually stops them in their tracks. Although they’re litter brothers, they are very different. Herschel is a standard Ocicat, spotted and striped and a third bigger than Jellicoe. Jellicoe is a classic tabby-patterned Ocicat, now known, bizarrely to my ears, as an Aztec. They are extremely affectionate and always in our company. Their brother, Isambard, died when he was seven.
Isambard, Jellicoe and Herschel
Our first two Ocicats, Winston and Monty, also died young. Monty was only three and Winston was six. Our vets did their best, but were puzzled. As one set of medications sorted out one problem it revealed another and it became a roundabout of symptoms and decline. They were stunning animals.
Winston and Monty  
We then had a couple of years without any cats until one day we were startled by a house mouse. I like mice, the pet variety, but didn’t want to encourage wild mice, so we did our research and acquired the three brothers ten years ago. Barry says they were his best ever birthday present.


Cat in a basket - Jellicoe
We haven’t had house mice since and Herschel regularly patrols the integral garage. I don’t think they’ve ever caught anything indoors but have certainly captured rats and mice in the garden. A foolhardy young squirrel met its end from Herschel and Jellicoe has killed a wood pigeon, which he dragged through the cat flap and deposited at the foot of the stairs. Happily, birds do not figure largely in the death statistics and, unlike the Burmese, they don’t trap frogs. They are not avid hunters and prefer to spend their time in the garden lounging in high places and looking beautiful.


  1. Your cats, past and present, are indeed beautiful! The photos of both canines and felines are wonderful.

  2. Thank you - bitter-sweet memories, but we're so glad we had them all.

  3. The mind boggles at the number. Can you add it up? How many dogs and how many cats?

    1. We have had 15 cats and 14 dogs in the course of more than 50 years, not counting the kittens and puppies (not many) who went to other homes.

  4. All your animals are so pretty. I have never seen fox-red labradors although I have seen different shades of the gold/yellow colours.

    1. Fox-red is actually the darkest yellow you can get. It became very popular in a few breeds, thought to be 'glamorous', to the detriment of dogs bred by irresponsible breeders. The Kennel Club doesn't recognise fox red as a distinct colour, not that I have much time for the KC. Some of their breed standards are appalling.

  5. beautiful dogs you have had. Loved our two dogs, too old to get any more now.

    1. Never too old . . . at least, that's what we tell ourselves. It's a different matter at 2:00 a.m. on a frosty morning!

  6. You've had some beautiful dogs and cats. Isn't it amazing how they all have their own personalities. We had a couple of dogs when I was growing up and then when we got married, we got a cat. We've now got a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Archie. One of my childhood dogs was a black labrador cross and he looked just like your Gus except longer legged.

  7. We never stop learning about our companion animals. We have sometimes a rather rudimentary understanding of them and their skills.

  8. Buddy Liver Spots. LOL I enjoyed readinga lla bout your sweet cats and dogs. They do leave paw prints on our hearts.

  9. They do, indeed. Photographs and video clips bring them back to our consciousness.

  10. Hi Janice - lovely post about your beloved animals ... they're all stunningly beautiful ... and obviously much loved. Great to see - thank you - Hilary

  11. Thank you, Hilary. As you can tell, they are a large part of our lives!


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