Those of you who have been following my stories about my dog Jamie will know that he was a stray from the Dogs & Cats Home. I think he had been on the road for some time before being taken to the shelter.
Shortly after I gave him a home I came to suspect how he came to be a stray – he was a born escapologist! The smallest gaps under the fence had to be boarded up and great care had to be exercised when opening the outside doors. Any excuse and whoooooooooooosh, he would be off. Happy to return in his own time. As we lived by the river (tidal) he would usually announce his return by the smell – he had been paddling in the mud and needed a bath.
I was frequently late when meeting friends as I had to try and get Jamie back before I could go out. My friends were very tolerant.
One day he disappeared and, despite my best efforts, there was no trace of him. He had vanished. I walked down to the riverside, calling and whistling him the while. No scruffy black and white object hurtled toward me with glee. I walked the streets, knocked on doors. By evening I was out with a torch, searching the gutters for his inert body. No Jamie. I had already phoned the police and the vet. Heavy-eyed and heavy-hearted I eventually went to bed.
Early in the morning the phone rang – it was a man from Plymouth who said his young son had found Jamie and would I like to come and collect him. Would I??????????? My car tore over the Tamar Bridge (the barrier between Cornwall where I lived and Plymouth where Jamie was) and I found my way to the address the man had given. Jamie was pleased to see me. The boy said he had found him wandering, obviously lost, and had taken him home. The father said that his son had very much hoped that I wasn`t going to want Jamie back. I then explained that I didn`t purposely turn him out to wander. Jamie had been given the best part of the family`s roast beef for his dinner and was feeling pleased with himself. He curled up on the sofa with the young boy.
I thanked the family and the boy – who then asked whether he could come and visit Jamie sometimes – I was more than happy for that to be and gave him my address.
I popped Jamie in the car and drove him home. Cuddling him I noticed the state of his paws – they were covered in congealed tar. There were extensive roadworks taking place over the river in Plymouth and he must have wandered through the wet tarmac. I carefully cut the longest hair away from his pads but could not, for the life of me, think how to remove the tar between his pads. I then phoned my friend, Dick, who used to be an animal trainer and knew all there was to know about animals. `Butter` was Dick`s cheerful reply to my query. OK – out came the butter and Jamie sat there patiently while I worked the butter into the tar and gently eased it from his paws.
Now I`ve heard that if you want to stop a new cat from straying, you should butter his paws – but ……
As a sequel to this story – I moved house – still in Cornwall. It was a fisherman`s cottage with a front door that opened right onto the street. Shortly after moving in, I opened the front door to answer a caller and – yes – Jamie shot out running hell for leather across the village square. I yelled after him (that usually had no effect) but, to my astonishment, he ground to an immediate halt and turned around to come back into the house.
Yes – at long last he had learned that there is no place like home!