Being woken in the early hours by what sounded like the entire contents of one coconut tree falling on the roof above me, is not the kind of awakening anyone would choose, but the thunderous bumps and thumps were proof that the mongoose family that has chosen to make its home in the space under the roof of my host’s house, were waking up and enjoying their daily dose of furious gymnastics before starting their work for the day; hunting and killing any snakes or rats lurking in the garden before they could enter the house. They would be gone for the entire day, returning at dusk to climb up the wall of the building, via a banana tree, to get back through their entrance hole to sleep off their daytime exertions. Hearing their noisy wrestling matches has reminded me of Rikki- Ticki-Tavi and Kipling’s Just So Stories and what a lot we can learn from animals.
My grandson, like everyone in the family, is a walkover where animals are concerned, so when one of his birds, he keeps pigeons and doves, was being systematically bullied and persecuted by its fellows, it was taken into the house where it quickly became domesticated (as far as birds can be) and accepted by the elderly dog, another rescued refugee, to such an extent, that soon pigeon was taking a daily bath in the dog’s drinking bowl. When it became apparent that dog didn’t mind, grandson decided that providing an extra water bowl, exclusively for the daily ablutions, might be worth a try. It’s worked, as pictures put on Facebook by my grandson have proved.
This reminded me of a stray kitten I found in the middle of a dirt track almost twenty years ago when I was living in Cyprus. I braked hard when I saw in the car headlights, something move in the road. It turned out to be an un-weaned kitten, perhaps it had wandered away from its mother, but more likely had been dumped by the side of the road, as so many unwanted puppies and kittens were. Picking it up, I quickly dropped it in the lap of my passenger and took it home. We cleaned it up and dribbled warm milk into its mouth, then put it in one of my carrying baskets ( I already had several cats), and hoped it would sleep; it didn’t, but howled all night in the basket by the side of my bed.
All three of my rescue dogs slept on the floor around my bed. The smallest and fiercest, a Cypriot hunting dog called Perdy, although spayed, was fascinated by this latest arrival and was even attempting to lick the kitten through the grill of the basket. Holding my breath I tried opening the door of the basket, and before I could stop her, the wee kitten was snuggling up to Perdy and suckling her empty teats while the dog began a frenzied licking of the tiny body. With peace and quiet restored, we all fell asleep.
When I awoke, I saw one bedraggled kitten that had obviously been licked for hours by one would be canine mum, but who was now hungry and wanting rather more than Perdy could offer. Later, having taken the tiny creature to the vet, I was told that dog’s instinctive licking had saved the kitten’s life as it needed the constant stimulation of her tongue to help it to keep warm; as well as helping with its circulation, the constant licking aided digestion by encouraging the body to expel waste. What had appeared to me to be a near drowning with excessive maternal love, had in fact been a life saving instinct to preserve. Sufficient to say that from day one, Kittypuss was the recipient of canine devotion par excellence from all three dogs, including Rambo the giant German Shepherd.