Dom Joly: A gangsta’s paradise

Dom Joly's cat, Roo

Dom Joly's cat, Roo - Credit: Archant

The dogs have learned that if you do what my cat Roo says, a relatively normal existence is possible

The Cotswolds are a surprisingly dangerous place for cats and dogs. Many hidden dangers lurk beneath its outwardly idyllic appearance. My cat, Roo, knows all about it. He, like all cats, has nine lives and he’s already had to use most of them.

I adopted Roo having encountered him in my vet’s practice in Cheltenham. My flat-coat retriever, Oscar, had been sideswiped by a van and I’d taken him in for a check-up. Oscar was fine but took the opportunity for a general pampering from the admiring nursing staff (he is very handsome). While I was waiting for Oscar, a large and equally handsome cat tried to hook onto my jacket from within his cage. Our eyes met and I was smitten. It turned out that Roo (for it was he) had been shot in the back leg in what laughably passes for the ‘hood’ in Cheltenham. He was now recovering and needed a new home.

I didn’t hesitate and told the vets that I would look after him from now on. It didn’t take him long to assert his ‘gangsta’ status. My three dogs were terrified of him and our two other cats soon fled home to start a new life in the village. Roo, to put it mildly, is an Alpha Male. The dogs have learned that if you do what he says, a relatively normal existence is possible. Roo was hit by a car about three months ago and lost an eye and got pretty badly battered. When he was recovering back in the vets they joked that he was probably standing in the middle of the road daring cars to “come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.” He’s one tough puddy cat and we joke with the vets that they should just put a big photo of Roo up outside the clinic with the words “Keeping this cat alive for the last five years.”

Dogs do not have the benefit of nine lives and are forced to tread a little more carefully. Our eldest black lab, Huxley nearly drowned in the River Coln when he was a fearless young pup. The river was running fast and he spotted a stick that he assumed needed to be retrieved (this is his life’s work). Huxley is a good swimmer but he was swept away and under a small bridge that was chokka’ full of debris. He got stuck under the bridge, he couldn’t go through or swim out and was desperately keeping his head above water. I dived in and just about managed to pull him out. I got him onto the bank but found it tricky to climb out myself. Huxley didn’t hesitate and grabbed my lapel with his teeth and helped me out. We have had a special bond ever since. I like to think that he knows that I saved his life and he is fairly confident that he saved mine.

His lifesaving abilities came in useful again this week. I was walking home up the Winchcombe Valley when our young black lab Fitzgerald hurled himself into a thick boggy pond that was more mud than water. Fitz got stuck and started to panic. I hesitated but Huxley didn’t. He launched himself into the bog, grabbed Fitz’s collar and started tugging him to shore. I waded in and helped Huxley get Fitz out.

Staggering home, we must have looked like monsters from the deep. Huxley led the way proudly while Fitz ambled along sheepishly, even forgetting to chase the odd pheasant (this is his life’s work). Oscar, who if I’m honest, is not the smartest of hounds didn’t appear to have even noticed our adventures.

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As we reached the gate, everyone waited patiently while I tapped in the code. Huxley was clearly looking forward to a hero’s welcome but it was not to be. The gate opened to reveal a fearsome looking one-eyed cat sitting on the drive just daring any of my dogs to attempt to pass him. I eventually had to pick up Roo and distract him with some illicit tuna while the hounds slunk quietly into the house. Gangstas, it seems, have no truck with heroes…


This article by Dom Joly is from the November 2014 issue of Cotswold Life

For more from Dom, follow him on Twitter: @domjoly