My family life was always a bit like a camp out at the zoo – pets everywhere and an air of mild chaos kept just under control. My dad loved animals and what he loved he loved with his whole heart.
There was the time a hamster chewed its way out of its carry box in the car, went AWOL and gradually ate its way through the car’s electronics over the following month. Each time something else stopped, the windows that wouldn’t drop, the lighting suddenly not responsive, we took it as a positive sign our fluffy friend was live, well and thriving.
I’ve also never been allowed to forget the time when, at the tender age of about 8, I attacked my father. Driving through twisty country lanes he’d hit a pheasant despite his best efforts to swerve, only to have me launch myself at him in a fury from the back seat in punishment for his bird murder. As you may guess, I inherited his sympathy for our furred and feathered friends. I still count amongst my unique skills the ability to catch a chipmunk doing the wall of death at high speed – amazing the things you can do with a tea towel!
Dad always had the impulse to rescue those who were down and out, and that impulse was not restricted to humans. At times our home felt like a halfway house for the displaced, despite pitched opposition and protests from my mum. He had a soft heart but a stubborn will which made him almost impossible to oppose.
Just a few of the refugees included two incontinent and utterly ill tempered Yorkshire terriers who had been threatened with destruction, a parrot whose mimicry of manly tones had put him on the wrong side of a divorce, the hamster that showed up looking rather muddled in a humane mouse trap, and a snake necked turtle found in a puddle on a welsh mountain, chilly and a long way from home. If you’ve never heard of this particular beastie, don’t be embarrassed, nor had we! Just take my assurances that they are some of the ugliest creatures to splash on the face of the earth. Only their mothers could love them.
In my mind, it takes true greatness of spirit to offer a welcome and affection to a snake necked turtle that is down on its luck..