So you know that (not always apocryphal) story people tell about having a tomcat or a dog for years and years and years- something called Tiger or Rover or Leon or Dasher. Then they tell you about how it goes missing one day.
The owner/couple/family search(es) high and low, desperately worried and anxious for their four-legged family member. Little Timothy is beside himself. There’s a vigil in the front room and neighbours pop by to offer pre-emptive condolences. Hours, days pass and then they happen upon the animal in some unlikely spot right under their noses – behind the shed, in the shed, whatever. Only it isn’t an animal now; it’s a whole new family, and it turns out they’ve made a fairly serious error in naming their pet.
There they are, five new puppies/kittens to take care of and one messed-up, deeply gender-confused parent. After all, if you’d been known as Butch your whole life you would probably have started believing it yourself. You might even have begun to explain that secret yearning to be called Lady or Princess to yourself as some sort of psychological disorder.
But no, you were right all along – just as you suspected when you were getting to know Bronco, the dog from next door. Now, he was the real deal, as you can testify from first-hand experience.
Well, we’ve had something like that, only not along gender lines.
Yesterday the animal shelter bunch turned up to (finally) hand over Valentín’s European pet passport. It was the last step in what they have been referring to as the “monitoring” process. We’ve been quite impatient about it as we’ve just wanted the whole thing to be settled, and I’ve had the additional anxiety of knowing that were anyone to deem us unsuitable as cat parents and try to take the little chap away from K, there would likely be quite a scene.
I don’t mean “awkward” scene; I mean “crime” scene.
S.W.A.T. team, forensics, the lot.
I was expecting somebody with a clipboard. What we got was a very young woman and what I can only assume was her (unintroduced) boyfriend. What a thrilling Saturday morning for him. Once invited, they bustled in noisily and Valentín naturally made his way (very quickly) to under the bed upstairs, staying there for the duration of the visit (not long).
That was it for the inspection. Fortunately there didn’t seem to be any kind of issue with handing over the passport and once we had it in our hands we ushered them out, unceremoniously I think it would be fair to say. Yes, thank you, bye bye. Now we no longer need fear that anyone will take him away from us and nor, I suppose, can we hope that someone will.
As soon as they’re gone I sit down and leaf through it, taken aback by how stressed I’ve been about this and glad that it’s over. They make them look just like real passports and I search for a mugshot of Valentín inside, but there isn’t one – just the dates and rubber stamps that confirm he’s had his rabies jab, tapeworm treatment, leukaemia vaccine and so on. He has a chip in the left-hand side of his neck.
They really seem to be on the ball, these people. All i’s dotted and t’s crossed. I read through the list of his characteristics: Common European, name Valentín, sex male. Coat, atigrada (tiger) and we even get a date of birth for him – the first of September, and honour he will share with Nicu Ceaușescu – son of the infamous dictator – and Gloria Estefan of Miami Sound Machine fame.
Characteristic No.2 is Especie, or species, and it isn’t in English of course though the word looks somewhat familiar – canina. Something doesn’t seem quite right and I look it up to be sure. The online translator confirms my worst fears.
It would appear that, officially, we have adopted a dog. K, ever the pragmatist and imbued with a profound Franconian pessimism, begins to worry immediately.
“What if we need to travel with him?” she asks. “They’ll never believe he’s a dog. Look at him!” she says, her head shaking.
He does look awfully like a cat. On the other hand this would explain his insatiable penchant for playing fetch.
“I’d imagine they’d be sensible about it,” I try to reassure her. “Common European refers to cats, and they could hardly expect to see a tiger coat on a dog. They’d understand it’s just a typo, I’m sure.”
“Except for the Germans, of course” I tease.
“They’ll never get their heads round this. We can probably take him anywhere, but never Germany” I conclude, throwing a crumpled receipt across the patio for the umpteenth time and watching as Valentín trots off to fetch it.
I shake my head sadly.
Then duck to avoid K’s manual disciplinary measure.
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