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Thursday, May 28, 2009


While I was staying in Mbandaka, I met this little fellow:

Gaston, a chimp from Congo

His name is Gaston, and he was staying at the same place as I did.

Gaston, a chimp from Congo

Although I must admit that my room was slightly more comfortable. And more spatious too.

Gaston, a chimp from Congo

He was staying at the procure of the archbishop of Mbandaka, after being 'rescued'. This means that he was bought from a trader, but of course that's exactly what keeps the trade in baby chimps and baby bonobos going. Hunting, catching and selling chimpansees and bonobos is 'highly illegal' in Congo, which means that you have to avoid the cops or you may have to bribe them.

Gaston, a chimp from Congo

The sad part is that to catch these baby/infant chimps, they have to kill the mother. Gaston is still a young animal, but when he's fullgrown, he'll be able to tear that cage apart like a house of cards.

Gaston, a chimp from Congo

There's nothing really much for him to do all day long in that little cage, except for eating. As you can imagine, his diet is not really adapted to his needs, although the staff of the center are quite fond of him and regularly offer him food.

Gaston, a chimp from Congo

He spends a lot of time sucking on a piece of bone.

Gaston, a chimp from Congo

All in all, his food was almost as fresh as ours...

Gaston, a chimp from Congo

As you can imagine, it's a pretty miserable life. The chances that he'll ever get out are slim. I talked to his caretaker, and he said that he would be released into the wild when he would be old enough. Problem is, he won't know how to feed himself even if he does regain his freedom. One stormy night, his old cage blew over and broke apart. But Gaston didn't run away. He was lured back into another cage with a bit of food.

Gaston, a chimp from Congo

To try to cheer him up, I made him some toys. My brother works with bonobos in the zoo, so I tried to create something similar to what I saw there, something that might keep him busy for a couple of hours. Here you see the Chimp Amusement Device Mk II (the Mk I was just an empty water bottle). You can see the hole in the cap, which is just big enough to get one of the nuts out that are inside the bottle.

Gaston was very happy when I offered it to him. It captured his imagination for at least five whole seconds. Then he understood that it was not immediately edible, and that he'd have to work a bit to get the peanuts out. So he discarded it on the floor of his cage.

Well, at least I tried.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hi Baby, Bye Baby

We got a long awaited phone call from my sister on Saturday. She had just given birth to a healthy baby boy. Champagne! Fireworks! A general pardon to all convicted criminals!

Ibe is a healthy baby boy, weighing a heft 3.7 kilos and measuring 52 cm dry off the hook. Sis was feeling fine but tired, after a morning in the bath tub to alleviate the pain and three hours in the delivery room. So we promised to come over to the hospital the next day.

But first we had to drive to the Brussels region, to our little filly Hearty. As you may remember, we brought her to a foal day-and-night care centre, to play with other horses and to become a well behaved horse. And she was doing very well at school indeed. But after much tossing and turning and soul searching and pondering and some thinking too, we had to take the tough and inevitable decision to sell her.

It's not only that keeping two horses is weighing hard on our family budget. We also find we hardly have the time to visit the both of them as we should. And it doesn't look as if we'll have much more time in the years to come. We'll manage with Julia, but it wouldn't be fair towards Hearty. A young foal needs a lot of care and attention and training. Mrs.B (and I) just won't have the time for it.

So with pain in our hearts with took our goodbyes from Hearty, whom we sold to a very nice family with three little children but with more time and money than we have.

The donkeys in the meadow next to her stable gave her a blaring loud farewell tribute, as she stepped into the family's horse trailer like a good little girl. A little while later we drove off to see little Ibe.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Claws O’ Death

It was a grizzly scene we discovered Saturday evening, when we returned from the Saint-Nicolas party at my sister’s. The murder scene was covered in streaks of blood. The poor victim lay in the middle of the back hallway which gives access to the garden. His glassy, staring eyes looked accusingly to the glass ceiling and the dark skies beyond.

Why, oh why? Why was this innocent life taken?

I waded through the plumes to get to the poor pigeon. Its chest was ripped open and it was obvious its killer had been eating it. No doubt our unexpected return had caught the villain in his savage act.

We interrogated the usual suspects. One of them had a white feather sticking to its mouth, but any judge would see that as circumstantial evidence. There was nothing we could do but cleaning up the dried blood from our floor.

Two days later, I went shopping. When I returned, I found another hapless victim on the very spot where we’d found the first dove. It’s attacker had started to undress the corpse, but I had frightened him before he could start his meal. This time, there were clear claw marks.

Incredibly, the murderer walked in only moments later, as if nothing had happened. I was just in the kitchen to fetch a broom, when I heard the cat flap. When I entered, I saw Snijeg licking the body of his prey.

Fuck the justice system’, I muttered. I wasn’t going to let this creep escape just because he has a good lawyer. I took revenge for the poor pigeon. A couple of swift blows from the broom later, the killer cat shot out of the cat flap like a Tomahawk missile out of its launch tube.

I buried the pigeon in the anonymous mass grave, known as the garbage bin.

Posted by Bart at 9:14 PM
Edited on: Tuesday, December 09, 2008 9:20 PM
Categories: Animal Farm

Monday, March 24, 2008

Attack Of The Ladybugs

As I may have mentioned, my mother-in-law comes over once a month to babysit Wolf for a day or two. When she sleeps over, she uses or old bedroom on the second floor. Now that ours is finished, we don't visit that room that often anymore. At least not often enough to notice any insect plagues.

I must admit I could hardly hide a smile when my MIL reported a 'plague of ladybugs'. She woke up during the night because of the bugs running over her face. Surely she must be exagerating, I thought. I mean, how many ladybugs could there be? Three, four tops?

Four hundred was a more accurate guess. I've never seen anything like this. Luckily, by the time I went up there they were all dead. Presumably, trying to survive by nibbling on my MIL's face didn't become them. I can only guess what chemicals are in the face mask she smears on every evening. It was like the mythological ladybug graveyard, where old ladybugs go to die when they feel there end is near.

I went around with the hoover, now the place is spotless again. Get it? Spotless?

Oh, bugger off.

Posted by Bart at 9:12 PM
Categories: Animal Farm

Monday, November 12, 2007

Where’s My Mommy?

Saturday was the big day for Julia and her filly. Now that little Hearty was doing better, it was time to separate her from her mother. A horse riding centre is not the best place for a foal to grow up. Standing in a box all day is no good, they have to be able to run around and play. And that is exactly what she’ll do at the place we brought here this weekend. She’ll have plenty of friends to play with, and big meadows to run around.

Separating a foal from its mother is not that easy. Last time Julia thought we were taking her baby girl away from her, she nearly climb over the 2-meter-high metal fence of her box. We both transported them in a van to Hearty’s new address, near Brussels. Then mother and daughter were led to an empty stable. So far so good, they were very pleased with the premises once they discovered the fodder and fresh hay we’d put in there to bribe them.

Then came the difficult part.

We took Julia out of the stable and shut the door right behind her to trap the filly. Mrs.B quickly led her back to the van. Julia got more and more worried, she kept calling her daughter. She stepped in the van all right, but then she started to move back. With all the available man and woman power – I was unable to help because I was holding Wolf – Julia was pushed into the van again and the loading ramp was quickly closed behind her. The jeep drove off immediately, while Julia did her best to break down the sides, kick out the ramp or blow off the roof of the van. Luckily, she did calm down after a short while.

We would follow with our car, but Mrs.B had to feed Wolf first. This also gave us the opportunity to check on Hearty before we left. She was doing all right, the owner of the horse centre had put a pony in her stable so she wouldn’t feel alone. They became friends instantly, although it’s not sure the friendship will last because Hearty insisted on trying to drink milk from her new – male – friend. She’s been gradually eating more and more solid food over the last couple of weeks. She’ll miss her mother’s milk during the next few days, but then she’ll be ok with a diet of hay, straw and horse fodder.

When we arrived in the horse riding centre, Julia had already arrived and she was standing in her box again. She still was calling for her daughter, and when Mrs.B approached she got very excited. So we left her there to calm down. In a couple of days she’ll be ok, and then Mrs.B can finally start riding again.

Posted by Bart at 9:11 PM
Categories: Animal Farm

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Near Death Experience

You might gather from the title that the diarrhoea got out of hand, but this time it wasn't mommy, daddy or little Wolf that got a nasty bug. This time it was Hearty, Julia's foal, that got into serious trouble.

Yesterday morning, the owner of the horse stables were Julia and Hearty are staying, called us up to say that the little filly had a severe case of horse colic. Now colic is no laughing matter for a horse, in fact it is one of the most common causes of death. Horses are beautiful creatures, but under the bonnet their design is not all that great. Their intestines are quite delicate, and it doesn't take them much to get in trouble.

Mrs.B drove over to Heartie and Julia, while I stayed behind and tried to stuff mashed potatoes in Wolf's mouth. K, the owner of the stables, had already called in a vet. He couldn't locate the obstruction, it's much more difficult with young horses. To make things more difficult, Hearty rolled about in pain and kicked with her four hooves to anything in range.

In the end, the vet gave her medication that should work within two hours. If it didn't, Hearty'd be in big trouble and the only option would be to drive her to the horse clinic for emergency surgery. But even with surgery, her future would look bleak.

Filly Hearty and mother Julia

So two hours later, we drove back to the stables. Unfortunately, Hearty was not feeling better. In fact, she looked dreadful, lying on her back, rolling over and over in pain. Her eyes were bulging, she was covered in sweat and dirt. This foal was staring death right in the face.

It took us a lot of time and effort to find someone with a trailer to drive her to the horse clinic. Then it took four strong men and a strong lass to Hearty out of the stable and through the paddock to the waiting trailer on the road. Meanwhile, I tried to calm down the frenzied mother and succeeded in pursuading her not to leave her stable over the – six feet high – door. Once she was near her filly again she allowed the team to carry Hearty out.

We managed to cram mother and daughter into the horse trailer, Hearty even stayed on her four feet – more or less. An even bigger surprise awaited us when we arrived and we opened the loading door. She was not only standing up, but she'd also managed to turn around in the trailer. She even managed to wobble inside on her own power.

But any optimism was too soon. The vet did an endoscopy and said that the blockage in her intestines was severe. We had two options: let her undergo major surgery with a very hefty price tag and uncertain outcome, or just let her have a drip with medication to ease the pain and hope for the best. We didn't have the money for the surgery, and we knew that her chances would be very very slim with only the medication to help her.

We had no choice, we left her in the capable hands of the staff of the horse clinic who gave her the medication drip. They'd call us if things took a turn for the worse again, and in that case they'd have to put Hearty down.

When we arrived back home, the call hadn't come. An hour later, the phone did ring, but it was a friend asking how the horses were. Then another friend called, but by the end of the evening no word from the clinic. We took the phone up to the bedroom, but all remained quiet until the next morning.

Then Mrs.B called and she got the good news that Hearty was better. She was up and running around as if nothing ever happened. But we were not out of the danger zone yet. She hadn't eaten yet, and when she did we'd have to wait to see whether she really was ok. There was a very real danger that she had permanent damage to her lower intestines, because they'd been cut off for so long.

But again our little sturdy filly proved her worth and strength. So she's all healty now. Tomorrow we can go and get her at the clinic. She won't return to her old stable, instead she'll go to a breeding centre were young horses can grow up in groups of other foals of their own age. She'll leave her mother and learn how a horse should behave from other horses. It's like a primary school for foals. Julia will move back to her old horse riding centre, where they have an indoor paddock so Mrs.B doesn't freeze in the winter. It is a bit sad though that we have to leave the good people of the stables were they stayed for the last couple of weeks in such a way. They really did a tremendous job helping us out and saving Hearty. I must drive by one of these days and drop a couple of bottles of wine or something.

Posted by Bart at 8:44 PM
Categories: Animal Farm

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Mole In Da House

It's not everyday you meet one of these fellas in your house.

Very dead mole on our terrace - culprits believed to be of the feline disposition

Unless you once foolishly decided to share your living space with two cats. Both of which did their very best to look innocent.

But they have the same effect on the local eco-system as a nuclear missile. It just takes them a bit longer.

Posted by Bart at 6:33 PM
Categories: Animal Farm

Friday, October 05, 2007

Foaling Around

We moved Julia and her foal yesterday evening. They couldn’t stay on the meadow they’d been grazing for the last couple of weeks (Julia grazes, the foal fools around and annoys its mother).

Jack, a friend of ours and Mrs.B’s horse jumping trainer, lend us a hand and his truck – it’s difficult to cram a horse in your car, let alone two. He was late because of traffic jams and after he’d picked me up we got to enjoy two more of those. There used to be a time when there were barely any traffic jams in the late evening or during the weekends, but now it seems everyone drives three cars at a time.

This waiting and staring at the back of another lorry gave me ample time to imagine how on earth we were going to catch a young horse on a big meadow and stuff her into the truck. Normally with an adult horse, you put on the halter and lead it by the rope on the truck. But a foal doesn’t know about halters, ropes, trucks, dangerously high ramps or cooperating with humans in any form.

First hoorah: they didn’t hide on the other side of the dark field, but came over to greet us at the fence. Second hoorah: the foal didn’t scramble when I put the halter on her mother but stayed close to her. It took four adults to lead Julia to the truck and drive the foal without any lead to the back of the truck. Then Jack and I grabbed her behind her hind legs and around her body and pushed/lifted her on the ramp while the anxious mother stood half on the ramp and half in the truck. Somehow we got her in without anyone getting kicked by the foal or an angry mother. And surprisingly quickly too, the whole operation had taken us barely ten minutes.

So off to the new stables, as fast as the old truck would go. That’s not very fast, and Jack had to be careful that he didn’t create a giant heap of minced meat by turning or braking to abruptly.

An hour later we arrived at our destination. Getting Julia and her daughter off again took some effort. This time I held the big mare while Jack and Kirsten, the owner of the stables, tried to coax the little mare off. Diplomacy didn’t work, so in the end they practically had to lift her off the truck and off the ramp onto the street. I had my hands more than full with Julia, who was getting fed up with humans manhandling her baby. But in a matter of minutes the two of them where safely in their new stable. First order of the day for Julia: picking a fight with the new neighbour. Just that he’d know she’s the boss and nobody touches her food and baby (in that order).

Julia will stay there for a couple of weeks, until we find stables with indoor riding facilities and jumping equipment. For the filly, it’s time to part from her mother. This weekend she’ll be weaned and go to a special farm where she can grow up with lots of other foals and get all strong and learn some social skills. A stable is not a good place to grow up for a foal.

Posted by Bart at 8:56 PM
Categories: Animal Farm

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


That poor, poor creature.

It’s sad. It’s really sad.

What a horrible way to go.

It’s at times like this that you realise that Animal Rights groups are there for a reason.

Outrageous, really!

Go see for yourself at Steph’s blog.

I cried my eyes out.

Posted by Bart at 8:37 PM
Categories: Animal Farm

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Asimov's Cat

This is so true... On Defective Yeti, a blog that you should visit more often.

Posted by Bart at 10:05 PM
Categories: Animal Farm

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Of Mice And Men

Macka, our tiger-striped cat, has discovered a new prey. Up till now, both our cats have had a fascination for all things flying. Despite our prediction that our pampered flat-cats would run away in terror when approached by so much as a sparrow, they’ve developed into real serial killers since we’ve moved to our new house-with-garden-and-park-across-the-street. They’ve been dragging in crows and pigeons and we suspect they’ve got their mark set on the herons in the fortress’ moat.

The other day, Macka brought in the limp body of a new victim: a mouse. Since we’ve put them on a diet to prevent them from barfing all over the carpet (to no avail I might add), he’s been trying to bribe us into feeding him. He’s never been as cuddly as he was the last couple of weeks. Since that obviously didn’t work, he’s trying a new approach.

Being modern and well informed cat owners, of course we didn’t punish him for his gesture. Instead we thanked him and praised him and gave him lots of cuddles. Maybe we overdid it. I don’t know. Because a couple of days later he walked in again with a mouse. Only this time it was well alive.

He let it go in the middle of the living room, and a bit to his amazement his pray veered off and hid into the incredibly tiny space between the carpet and the board at the bottom of the wall. Neither Macka nor myself could reach it there, so I pulled back the carpet. Probably the most stupid thing to do in such a situation, because the mouse shrieked and dove right under the carpet.

So now we had a living mouse in the middle of the carpet. Eventually I could chase it out of its hiding place, but in the blink of an eye it raced across the room, hid briefly behind the loudspeaker and then nested itself under the lamp. He got away because Macka was not really helping. He thought we were playing a great game. In some frustration, I grabbed him by the back of his neck and threw him into the kitchen.

Unfortunately, the base of the lamp was hollow, and I could only see its tail sticking out when I lifted the – bloody heavy – thing. I tried shaking it into the plastic cup I’d gotten out of the kitchen, but the little critter jumped out and hid under the wicker basket between the chimney and the closet.

Just great, if it’d get behind the closet we’d never get it out of the house. But suddenly it careened off again. In a reflex I brought down my cup to catch it. And I succeeded! Partially. The cup’s rim landed squarely on the mouse’s back and broke it. End of mouse.

This time I was anything but diplomatic about Macka’s gift. Bad cat! Bad!

Posted by Bart at 10:03 PM
Categories: Animal Farm

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

It’s A Girl

No, Mrs Bart didn’t give birth to a hermaphrodite, nor was there an administrative error on the part of the hospital. Mrs. B. wasn’t the only pregnant lady in our family, remember?

That’s right, Julia – my wife’s horse for those just tuning in – has given birth to a beautiful baby girl foal. Mother and daughter are doing rather well, but not all’s how it should be. The little girl is rather weak and skinny and can’t stand up on her own. That’s bad, because she needs to drink every fifteen minutes or so. Baby horses drink up to thirty litres of milk per day. To make things worse, Julia hasn’t exactly been the perfect mother. She accepts the foal sure enough, but she doesn’t let it drink. She turns around every time the poor little thing finally manages to get to her mother’s teats – with some assistance of G., the horse breeder.

The old man’s been amazing, he helped Julia deliver in the middle of the night. Without him, the foal wouldn’t have stood a chance to survive. And then he helped the little girl up her feet every twenty minutes or so and shoved her under her mother. Even when last mentioned mother blatantly refused to cooperate and even bit him in the arm at one point!

Thanks to his love and care, Julia is now accepting that her foal drinks and doesn’t have to be forced to stand still (although G. still needs to hold her steady). He reckons that tomorrow or the day after at the latest mother and daughter should be doing fine. The first 24 hours are the most critical, and we could see for ourselves that they were improving all the time. Tomorrow we go back, Wolf liked the change of air and all the horsies because he suckled his mother almost dry.

Posted by Bart at 8:40 PM
Edited on: Wednesday, June 06, 2007 8:44 PM
Categories: Animal Farm

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Room With A Poo

One of our cats has diarrhoea, the problem is we don’t know which one. The last couple of days we found piles of vomit too. That just happens from time to time. But now it’s really getting serious.

This morning I entered the cats room and I almost stepped in an apocalyptic landscape of green, watery pools and droplets of poo around their climbing post. One of them had obviously been sleeping on the ‘upper terrace’ while he had suddenly experienced a very acute attack of the runnings. There was slimy green poo on the top level of the climbing post, another pool on the terrace below, a couple of droplets one level down and a big pool at the foot of the climbing post. There was also a spray of droplets that had flown in the direction of the coat hanger, luckily the pressure was not high enough to reach our coats and the wall underneath.

Still, it cost me the better part of half an hour to clean it all up. And then I had to make sandwiches for lunch. Very nice!

My love duck is taking the two of them to the vet’s this evening, he can sort out which one has rocket-poo and which one is innocent. If he doesn’t prescribe anything, I still got a couple of wine-corks from when we had visitors a week ago.

Posted by Bart at 9:02 PM
Categories: Animal Farm

Friday, January 05, 2007

Piss Puss

I took a bath this morning, to scrape away the layers of sweat, grease and dead micro-organisms. Macka, our tiger-striped cat accompanied me in the ‘bathroom’, or rather that corner in the kitchen where our mini-tub stands. I separated it from the rest of the kitchen with some pieces of cardboard and old curtains from our previous living room, so now we can at least warm it up to above freezing point.

Anyway, halfway through my cleaning process, I noticed that the little mat next to the little bath was very wet. That’s not very abnormal because when I sit in the bath, I can add just about a litre and a half of water before it’s filled to the rim. So occasionally I do splash a bit on the ground.

When I got out to dry myself, I couldn’t avoid standing on the wet and cold mat. But then I noticed a strange smell. As you know I’ve got a serious cold so smelling is not my fort right now. However when I lifted the mat to hang it over the side of the bath the conclusion was inevitable. Macka had pissed on the carpet.

And I had been standing in it for ten minutes, barefoot.

Posted by Bart at 1:04 PM
Edited on: Friday, January 05, 2007 1:05 PM
Categories: Animal Farm

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Cat Flap

It’s weekend, so I cruise the house in ridiculous shorts, a T-shirt that’s so old it has more holes than textile and a very wrong print on the front, a hammer in my left hand and a screwdriver in my right. My mission for the day is to install a cat flap. Our cats can roam freely since a couple of weeks, and as long as it’s summer we just left the door wide open. But now the evening chill enters the house, not to mention a gazillion mosquitoes.

Buying a cat flap isn’t as easy as it used to be. You have your ordinary flap, then one price-category up there’s the windproof flap, followed by the windproof flap with a button that allows you to decide whether the cats can only get in, get out, get in and out or stay locked inside. Towards the top of the range there is the cat flap that only opens if your cat carries a small magnet on its collar. And for the wealthy cat owner there are the cat flaps with infra-red digital entry codes so that only your cat gets in and not that ridiculous – not to say common – cat from the neighbours that doesn’t even have a pedigree. We settled on the not-quite-top-of-the-range model that works with a magnet to keep other cats out and give ours free access if and when we allow them. It also has this gizmo that’s supposed to show you if your cat is indoors our outdoors.

The instructions were clear and simple, basically you have to cut a hole in the door and then attach both sides of the frame to the inside and outside of the door. Ready is cheese (klaar is kees*), as we say here. Only the first step gave me a lot of trouble: measure the height of your cats body above the ground.

I chased Snijeg trough the house for half an hour with my measuring tape in hand. It didn’t help that I fumbled and stumbled in the beginning and then it got worse because he took refuge on the stairs and then onto the attic. It’s a jungle of boxes and junk, so I tried to lure him out by pretending I wasn’t interested in him anymore and that I just wanted to play with the packing paper in the boxes. Curiosity killed the cat – he came out of his hiding place – but it didn’t get him measured up. He ran back downstairs with me and the measuring tape in hot pursuit.

He was long gone by the time Mr. Super Athlete entered the kitchen, but there was Macka, completely unaware of my evil plans. It took him only two seconds to figure them out, so he too scrambled for the open garden door and left me not as much as his shadow to measure.

So I made a rough estimate. It worked out fine.

* translation may not be completely correct

Posted by Bart at 8:51 PM
Edited on: Saturday, September 30, 2006 8:52 PM
Categories: Animal Farm, Home Improvement

Friday, September 22, 2006

Tweety Bird

After the torrential rains of August, September has been quite nice. This week we had some pretty high temperatures, so I opened up the window of our office/magma chamber to cool off and to pretend I was walking outside and didn’t have to work at all.

Suddenly, my total concentration and focus on my work was broken by a little bird flying trough the open window into our office. It flew around a bit, and then tried to get out again. But it missed the open window and bumped its head on the glass pane next to it. Surprised and shaken, it flew to the lamp to recover and understand what the hell had happened.

It was right above me and I could see it was a Great Tit (no cheap comments please, surf to if you can’t control yourself). It waited a bit and then flew to the window, this time without banging its head into it. Instead it examined this annoying human made barrier until it found the open window again and scurried off.

Leaving the big ugly bird to stew in its cage.

Posted by Bart at 8:01 PM
Categories: Animal Farm

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Julia, my wife’s horse, had colic yesterday. Colic is a bit more serious for a horse than for a baby, mostly because they can die in a matter of hours because of it (horses that is, not babies). Horses’ intestines are not all that well designed and they can easily have an obstruction. Spring is the most dangerous time, when the horses go out on the meadows for the first time. During winter, they get only hay, straw and dried food, so they just love the young juicy green grass. They love it so much that they just eat too much at a time, and especially when the grass is too long they can get bowel obstructions that cause extreme pain: colic.

So the owner of the stables called my wife, and she called the vet. He showed up terribly late and by that time my wife almost got colicky. She was not amused that Julia had to wait that long, especially because our sweet mare is expecting a foal. But he escaped strangulation on the spot by giving Julia an injection and telling my precious one to walk here around for thirty minutes. Enough time for him to escape through the back entrance.

When I woke up this morning, my tummy ached too. I felt like I had to throw up the whole time, which is unfair because I didn’t drink a single drop of alcohol yesterday. It feels like Julia has passed on her disease to me. So I stayed home today from work, trying to rest while man next door is drilling holes in the brick walls of the extension they added to their house a couple of months ago. So yet again, my suffering knows no bounds.

If it doesn’t get better by tomorrow, I will call Julia’s vet.

Posted by Bart at 3:18 PM
Categories: Animal Farm

Monday, September 18, 2006

Constructive Inter-Species Dialogue

The long version

And what the hell do you think you’re doing?


Don’t play innocent with me! I’ve caught you red-pawed. You where scratching the wall paper again.

Oh that! I just thought… you know, I’d make it a bit comfy.

That’s very expensive wall paper you know. It took me ages to prepare the wall. We’re working our ass off to make it a bit homely, and you two rip everything to shreds.

Hang on, that’s not fair! You got to choose the wall paper, and the paint. We didn’t have any say in this. How can we express your individuality? You humans seem to think you own the place…

Well, we do have to cough up a nice sum of money for it FOR THE NEXT 25 YEARS!

Yes, but we live here too, you know. Look at the doorbell, it just says you two live here. We’re not mentioned there.

How would you know, you’re not supposed to go to the front of the house, remember?

Err, yes. I have this from a reliable source. The point is, you’ve marked out your territory for all to see, but how about us? We also want to express that we live here. And for a cat that means that we have to scratch things.

Oh, I don’t mind that you scratch things. How about that very tall, lumbering and expensive scratching post that we bought you last year? You know, the one you’re sitting on.

Oh please, you don’t expect us to express our individuality by means of mass produced consumer goods! It’s like giving a colouring book to a graffiti artist!

Then go mark your territory outside, artist! There’s a full 25 metres of hedge waiting for you to explore your individuality.

And get resin stains all over my fur? You must be joking!

The short version

Snijeg! Godammit!

(futile attempt to hit a cat scrambling out at full speed)

That’s right, you better stay outside where I can’t get you!

Posted by Bart at 7:19 PM
Categories: Animal Farm

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Cats On The Loose

Sunday was the big day for our two man-eating tigers, Macka (pronounced Match-ka) and Snijeg. After a year in prison they were given early parole. They were born in the wild, but their mother disappeared mysteriously so a friend of mine took them home and managed to persuade us to adopt them. That meant they would live their lives confined to the walls of our second floor apartment.

But when it became clear earlier this year that we would have to find another place, it wasn’t before long that we decided to find a house with a garden. Not just for the cats’ sake, we want also want our children to enjoy playing out in the garden. The bonus for us will be that we won’t have to take them to the park every couple of days to keep their ADHD in check.

Macka and Snijeg had to remain indoors for the first couple of weeks, to get them accustomed to their new surroundings. At first their territory was limited to the kitchen, living room and the small space next to the kitchen that has no official name yet and where we installed various things that didn’t find another place yet, including the washing machine. Last week we allowed them to run havoc in the hallway and on the stairs to the first and second floor, after I had carefully tucked away the telephone and internet cables. One of their favourite hobbies, apart from ripping the new wall paper to shreds, is chewing on thin cables like the ones that hook up a stereo, telephone, computer or any other very expensive device.

And now the last magical gate has opened. The last couple of weeks they have been mystified by the garden door. They were allowed a view onto the world beyond, through the fly door which they surprisingly didn’t shred to pieces.

Snijeg (the white one) was the first out. Despite being fond of water, Macka didn’t like the rain. But he soon followed. With their behinds close to the ground and their heads bobbing up and down, they sniffed their way onto the terrace and later into the garden. They loved the shrubbery that borders our garden, but they were a bit apprehensive of that strange green blanket that covers most of the garden. The lawn was wet, but Snijeg quickly discovered that it was soft and fun. Best of all, you can chew on it, just like the plants in the living room! Slowly they worked their way through the whole garden. Snijeg eagerly followed a couple of young doves that were fighting in a tree close buy. Whether he wanted to make new friends or he was thinking about lunch I do not know.

Posted by Bart at 8:56 PM
Categories: Animal Farm

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Of Cats and Men

Cats and men/women have been living together for thousands of years. When prehistoric men first took a cat in his home, the cat couldn’t do much wrong since everything was made of stone, including cups and vases – which weighed about a quarter of a tonne, and the cave’s walls. People didn’t move around a lot either, because there were only so many caves around.

Nowadays, moving from one house to another creates a whole new set of problems. Both people and cats want to make themselves at home in the new house. People do this by making everything nice, for instance by putting wallpaper on the walls. Cats do this by marking their new territory, for instance by scratching the new wallpaper of the walls. People use the opportunity to install an impressive audio and video system, including digital TV, surround sound and linking up everything in one giant media centre. Cats make themselves cosy by chewing up every cable they can find.

So this weekend I spent most of my time making everything cat-proof. The computer now has its own room, which is strictly off limits to our feline devils. I tucked away the internet, stereo and telephone cables safely away, even if that meant I had to drill holes in every wall in the house. And in the mean time I kicked their little buts every time I caught them looking at the wallpaper. Not that there is much left of it, especially in the dining room where we put the most expensive wallpaper. Those were also the last rolls available, so reparation will be impossible. I wonder how Macka and Snijeg know all this.

Posted by Bart at 9:42 PM
Categories: Animal Farm

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