What’s in a name? A pet by any other name…

Originally written March 2013

Mammy-Monster (self-confessed crazy cat lady) has a new kitten, a tiny ball of ginger cuteness who steals my heart even though I’m technically a dog-person more than a cat lady. The name of this new kitten is still up for debate, Jasmine wanting to call it Jelly-Tot but it’s now looking like it will permanently be called Monkey. This may seem odd but the other cats in the house hold are equally wonderfully named:

Beast (Now in cat heaven. NB: cat heaven is one level up from rat heaven and one below dog heaven, this facilitates the fun of chasing without the risk of astral injury – This was important philosophical discussions over breakfast)

Pig or ‘Pork-Chop’ (Also residing in the aforementioned cat heaven)

Jess (Rescue cat who came with her name)

Chicken (Er…)

Starfish, ‘Fish’ or ‘Stumpy McStump’ – Mr Williams (a tiny kitten with giant fish eyes who has actually only got three legs which makes the name starfish even more ironic).

Ebony-Grace or ‘Gracie’ (black rescue kitten, all limbs accounted for)

Monkey (The new tiny tiny ginger kitten with razor sharp claws & jaws of death… The kitten formally known as Jelly-Tot)

Bearing this in mind and for those of you who know us, you’re probably thinking that Bramble is rather a vanilla name (Though admittedly her full name is ‘Bramble Bonecrusher (Captain Colon) Williams’ following too much to wine and an interesting walk home from the pub) and Poppy, who is affectionately known Poppy-Fantastic, came with her name when she arrived.

(When she was going through her chewing phase… it was Bramzilla or Beelzepup! Her teeth were like needles)

The reason for Bramble’s vanilla name is that we learnt an important lesson that you should never call your animal something you would be embarrassed to call out in public.

A couple of years ago we were living in a tiny one bedroom flat in Cardiff and had 2 pet rats who were called BINKY (after DEATH’s horse in Discworld) and Cowpat as he had a cow print pattern. We thought this was hilarious and was a real conversation starter until they both developed chest infections… Hilarious names quickly lose their appeal when you’re sitting in a crowded vets surgery with sneezy rodents waiting for a nurse to call out BINKY or Cowpat Williams… Though the receptionist did inform us she had a rat called Winky… (Keep it clean, it apparently only had one eye!)

binkcowThey both survived that particular round of illnesses with the help of TLC and anti-biotics. Beautiful Scandinavian vet-lady promised us ‘rats are curious things and will happily take oral anti-biotics from a syringe – I want to see her evidence!! She obviously has never met my boys, they may have been curious but they became highly skilled ninjas at avoiding medicine time.

If you haven’t ever been around domestic rats, the only comparison I can make is that they have the temperament of dogs, very intelligent, can learn tricks, can differentiate between people and love cuddles. They like to hide so would sit under my pony tail and peer out or come with me to the co-op nestled in my hood.

Alas rats only live from 1.5 years to 3 years… When we lost Cowpat I was heart broken, we weren’t expecting it, we took him to the vets as I’d noticed he was covered in bumps, it turned out to be tumours and he had to be put to sleep.

So after we said our goodbyes, I sat teary in the waiting room whilst Mr Williams settled our account. One by one the nurses came over ‘I’m very sorry for your loss, Cowpat was a lovely rat’. Through my sadness I smiled and the crowded waiting room raised its eyebrows, went quiet and tried to suppress giggles and hidden smiles, I held it together for the first condolence but found it hard to suppress a giggle with the next 2, snot filled and leaking as I was, my boy was already making me laugh.

We bought home Cowpat to bury in the garden, at this point we’d only just moved in to a house near Merthyr Tydfil, the garden actually wasteland that was where a demolished old chapel stood, there was a thunderstorm, torrential rain and hail – it was also December and pitch black. Undeterred I sent Mr Williams out to dig a hole, but the ground was too rocky from fallen stone, I stood in the kitchen door, hysterically holding a dead rat in my arms.  Adament we shouldn’t have a deceased rodent in the kitchen, the ever-patient Mr Williams ventured out into the lightening with a pickaxe like some kind of 70’s horror film.

When this didn’t work, I went out myself – crying, digging at the ground and cut my hand.  So I was dragged back into the kitchen, covered in mud, snot and blood, soaked to the skin and looking at an agitated, wet muddy Mr Williams and holding a pickaxe like a Welsh Igor.

‘We will have to wait until tomorrow’ he told me

‘We need to bury him tonight, he’d want that’

‘Why would he want that? He was a rat, he’s dead, he’s not going to mind!’

‘He needs to be buried before sunrise’

‘Isn’t that Buddhists?’

Dramatic crying

‘You’re being ridiculous’

We compromised and decided to get up early the next morning but again its December and it was just as dark at 6am than it is at 9pm at night so Cowpat remained in the kitchen until the next evening and Mr Williams buried him when he returned home from work.

That evening was a Friday and the kids appeared after school, we broke the news to them and they asked if we could have a funeral. Mr Williams got out the remote control helicopter for a military flypast, I played the last post on a kazoo (this actually happened – it would have sounded better on a recorder but I can only play Lord of the Dance and as we’re Pagan and Cowpat was apparently Buddhist… that didn’t seem appropriate) and Jasmine laid flowers on the grave (except it was December so she laid some ivy which she pulled off the wall). BINKY sat in my hood and mourned with dignity at the loss of his brother. As weird as it was, it a moving family moment and we looked over into the mountains and discussed rat heaven (being below both cat and dog heaven). Once the ceremony was over, we turned to find the old lady next door watching us over the wall with a look of interest (oh dear, what a way to impress the new neighbour). We explained that we had buried a pet to which she replied ‘I have all my animals on my mantelpiece so they can be put in my coffin with me’ (we hoped that they were ashes.. not some collection macabre taxidermy) and with that she handed the kids sweets to cheer them up. Me and Mr Williams wondered how many people like us there was in the world.


As we later found out, our street was a plethora of wonderfully brilliant people.

BINKY never did get over the loss of his brother and developed a tumour on the side of his face a few months later. Pre-empting what we both thought was coming, Mr Williams dug a hole in daylight before we left for the vets. Surprising the vet was optimistic and suggested trying antibiotics for a couple of weeks so BINKY came back home with us. The next day he was nestled in my hood as I was putting the bins out, and climbed onto my shoulder once he knew he’d got out of the heavy lifting.

WHAT’S THAT FOR? he said looking at the hole in the ground by his brother’s grave. I looked sheepish and pretended I didn’t hear his psychic question. I moved a pot of herbs into it and tried to act innocent.

BINKY was put to sleep 2 weeks later and lay next to his brother. He also had military honours but this time to a rousing chorus of Land of our Fathers (I couldn’t find the kazoo).



Poppy’s story: The lights are on… but no-ones home

The lights are on… but no-ones home.

So we have two dogs, Bramble who we’ve had since she was 5 weeks old (too young we know but hers is a story to save for another day) and Poppy, who came to us from a friend 6 months ago and has settled into our home like she’d always been here.

Bramble and Poppy are sisters in all ways except blood… both the same age (a year and a half) and are never separated.  Bramble loves to play, to catch balls, do tricks and herd the children. Poppy loves… well Poppy just loves.


She loves everything, she’s all waggy tails, happiness and butterflies but that’s it… You look into her eyes and the lights are on… and no-ones home. We joke that her mind is full of butterflies because when we walk her in the mountains, all she does is chase butterflies with a deranged look of wonderment on her face. Imagine a hairy dolphin leaping out of high grass dramatically , slightly wonky eyed, mouth open, tail wagging, beaming and transmitting psychically to the world ‘La la la la la la la!’

Poppy chasing butterflies

She also sleeps upside down… all the time… with her feet in the air. (I used to have a goldfish called Gloop who’s swim bladder went and he slept upside down.. for a week until I realised he was dead…)


But Poppy is very much alive, sometimes she wakes up, realises she has feet, wags her tail at her them and goes back to sleep…

Poppy Sleeps upside-down

During the last visit to the vet (which was for a case of harvest mites, nothing serious) we’d summoned up the courage to ask about Poppy and her ‘special ways’, its a hard conversation to have especially when your dog is sitting on the table, looking in the opposite direction to everyone else, staring happily at a blank wall wagging her tail.. singing herself.

So we asked, I got a bit tongue tied..

It started ‘We love Poppy, but…’

I panicked, so did the vet – it sounds like we were about to ask for euthanasia! Aagh!

‘Can a dog be a bit…. well…. special?’ I stammered

‘Special as in?’ the vet looked a little less worried but just as bemused…

‘Stupid’ Mr Williams stated, straight to the point.

After an embarrassing description… The vet smiled and assured us that it was just her ‘character’ Poppy was just ‘that kind of dog’. Poppy looked up at me like a demented pixie, tail wagging and fell off the table..

Some dogs are just special

So yesterday Poppy disappeared, this is not unusual, Poppy is a canine Houdini, during the first week she had got over a six foot fence, over my neighbours roof and tottered her way to the sweet shop (unfortunately she did this whilst wearing a pair of star-wars socks and a tesco carrier bag (she had cut her foot on a previous escape attempt and the vet has told us to keep it clean, the socks were to stop her licking it and the bag was to keep it dry… ) This was particularly embarrassing as when a lovely goth teen appeared at the back door holding Poppy (who was ecstatic at this new adventure) the carrier bag in now tatters and bright blue socks hanging off. ‘Is this yours?’ she asked holding out psycho-pop.  Poppy and my eyes met momentarily, her tongue was hanging out and appeared to be covered in wine gums (other confectionery is available)… I considered denying it but the tag around her neck gave me away… Poppy lept into my arms, sneezed and wagged her tail. ‘Yes’ I sighed ‘She’s ours… all ours’.

A few days after this one of our lovely neighbours knocked on the door. ‘Mum said to tell you that Poppy is stuck in the tree’…

Oh of course she is! Where else would she be!

Poppy is a tree

I ran into the garden just as neighbour-dad had climbed up a ladder, crossed their roof & pulled her from the tree. The next hour of that Saturday morning was spent trying to coax a demented spaniel off a corrugated iron roof (*cue Benny Hill music*). Once again, our eyes met in a moment of knowing, her eyes bright as my neighbour carried her down a ladder in a fireman’s lift.  She spoke to me psychically ‘Did you see that? I was a butterfly!’

So Poppy was missing, I was sure she was in the house, even she couldn’t beam through a wall… well I was fairly sure she couldn’t but you never knew with her. Bramble sat up and looked at me, it had been an hour and it was unusual for her not to be lying upside somewhere obvious wagging her tail. I looked in the usual places, on the window sill, staring at her favourite wall, under the throws on the sofa where she likes to make a coccoon to meditate in (upside-down of course) but she was no where to be seen. I started to get worried! I checked upstairs in the kids rooms (she likes to eating tissues under the bunk bed) but she had just vanished. Poppy had gone! I’m sure she wasn’t clever enough to manipulate the laws of physics…

I sat on the stairs and Bramble trotted over excitedly like she wanted to tell me something… I laughed ‘What’s that Skippy? Timmy’s stuck down a well?’ She gave me a look of distaste and I felt old, of course she had no idea who Skippy was – she wasn’t even 2. I followed her into the kitchen to find the kitchen curtains twisted up into a long rope with a suspiciously dog shaped bulge at the bottom. I panicked!

Where's Poppy

I’d seen ‘999 Emergency’ and memories of news reports of tragic accidents came to mind! Oh god… Poor Poppy! She’d been in there for an hour! I untangled the curtain as quickly as I could and Poppy came spinning out of the bottom grinning blissfully, tail wagging and that stupid look on her face! ‘Did you see that? I was a curtain!


La la la la la!’