By any measure Rag was a large cat, his head fluffy and round, his tail bushy and long and, when lying down with his front and back legs stretched out as far as they could go, he took on the proportions of a panther.
‘He’s so long, if he could stand up straight he’d be as big as a tree’ said Martha, laughing at her own exaggeration and spreading her arms wide to underline the shear enormity of his size.
It was early afternoon; the sun still high in the sky, and Rag was soaking up the sunshine stretched out on the garden wall in his giant-cat pose. The children were at school and Mrs Durrell had filled the Land Rover with her sweet-smelling herbal soaps and hand creams to sell at the local farmer’s market, leaving Rag in charge while she was gone. All was peaceful and quiet; the only sound floating through the soft summer breeze was the buzz of a bumblebee in his life-long search for nectar. Rag gave a contented sigh and closed his eyes.
Crack! Screech! Bang! Woof! Woof! Woof!
Rag flew into the air and then hastily descended into flowerbed below where he found Muffin, who had retreated into the safety of his prickly ball.
Rufus continued barking for what felt like a good minute or two, until the voice of Mrs Christie could be heard from next door, calling out soothing words of comfort in order to calm him.
Muffin’s little nose and one soft brown eye peeked out from under the prickly mass and gave Rag a look of alarm and puzzlement. ‘What was THAT’?
THAT turned out to be a branch of a large oak tree, inhabiting the Durrell’s garden with part of the top branches leaning over Mr Farrell’s property. The previous couple of days had been particularly blustery, the wind blowing in gusts from the west, bringing with it showers as well as high winds. It had been too much for this particular long and curved branch, and it had split from the trunk of the tree and landed on top of Rufus’s dog house. The kennel was nowhere to be seen, covered under a mass of twigs and leaves. Fortunately Rufus had been lying on the patio in the shade of the house, so remained uninjured and not a little flustered.
The commotion had attracted quite some interest from Mrs Christie’s rabbits, who had lined up against her garden fence to take measure of the situation and Bertie the ram who poked his head through the hedge to see what all the excitement was about. Rag and Muffin also overcame their fear, enough to make their way to the fence to take stock of the situation. Mr Farrell had gone golfing for the day so was blissfully unaware of the calamity at home. Rufus, having got over the initial shock, was now attempting to reach his home, poking his nose through the twigs and leaves and frantically digging with his front paws.
‘I have an idea’ said Philomena watching mud and leaves fly through the air, ‘why don’t we rabbits dig a tunnel for Rufus to get to his house’? Without waiting for a response, Edith and Rosie followed Philomena under the fence and they quickly set to work digging in the direction of Rufus’s kennel, disappearing into the ground in front of the onlookers.
Ernest, who had just made an appearance in time to see the rabbits vanish, was informed of the proceedings by Muffin and, without a moment’s hesitation, followed the others to lend a helping hand. Waiting in silence Rufus, Muffin, Rag, Lilly and Bertie stared expectantly at the hole left by the rabbits and listened to the sounds of scuffling and scratching that came from beneath their feet. After what felt like a considerable period of time, Lilly suddenly gave a little yelp of alarm before jumping backwards as the ground started to give way beneath her feet. And then out popped Edith quickly followed by Ernest, Philomena and Rosie.
‘Oh dear’ laughed Ernest eyeing the opening of the tunnel only a jump away, ‘I think we may have gone in a circle’.
Lilly immediately joined in the rabbits’ laughter quickly followed by the other animals, and it was this merry gathering that greeted Mr Farrell when he arrived home just moments later. A little surprised Mr. Farrell saw what had occurred then rushed into the shed, pulled on his gardening gloves and set to work pulling the damaged branch away from the top of Rufus’s house.
Apart from a broken plank on the roof of the kennel, the rest of his home was completely intact. Mr Farrell gave his dog a gentle pat on the head informing him that in one two three it would be fixed and that all would be well.
That evening Mr Farrell explained what had happened to his neighbor and without a moment to loose, Jim Durrell immediately set about sawing and sanding a plank of wood ready to fix to the kennel roof to make it as good as new.
Seeing his home restored to its old self, Rufus wagged his tail and whined softly in contentment. It had been an eventful day.