On either side of my Fathers pergola (ooer) in my parents back garden there are two stones both with three-letter words painted on them, ‘BOZ’ and ‘RIP’. You could be forgiven for thinking it is a monument to one creature by the name of Boz but it in fact commemorates two of our pets, Boz, a dog and Rip, a cat and it always amuses me, in the way a gravestone shouldn’t, that Rips name doubles as his epitaph, a clean functionality I admire.
Rip was so named as the first thing he did as half-wild kitten emerging from a traumatised cardboard box was to rip my brother’s hand open. He didn’t calm down much after that violent start either. I was not as attached to Rip and Boz as I was to our earlier pets for we kids were all grown and gone by the time they arrived. Boz I think my Mother named after James Bosley, Samuel Johnson’s biographer or maybe it was the Bosley in Charlies Angels….
I was always afraid of dogs and me and Boz got off to a bad start when he first arrived. I was an art student and had saved up for months to buy a Christmas packet of 20 cigarettes. Boz made short work of them however and I found myself in the pub trying to light mangled stubs. But I became fond of him eventually.
The first pet I remember, over in the UK, was a ginger cat, Noddy, along with some rabbits I think and then in Ireland a Noddy 2, who disappeared occasionally to woo lady cats and fight. After returning from one of his over long missions he found he had been supplanted by two young girl cats, Smokey and Judy, and soon after, on an Autumn evening, his old battle-scarred body was found in someones garden. My father told the neighbour who phoned to dispose of Noddy but when I heard of this, after the fact, I kicked up a big fuss and, at least in latter years, our pets were buried in the garden.
Smokey I know is buried in the corner under our current cats house near a guinea pig we laid to rest in a Rice Krispie Box many moons ago. Judy I hope is there but I am afraid to ask. I lived in Dublin when she was put down, with cancer, and my parents couldn’t bear to tell me her fate for months.
Boz came after Judy but before Smokey died as did Rip. Smokey died victim of her second serious car accident. The first had mangled her back legs but she had made a great recovery.
It is a story in our family that, one day, after a visitor, a lady with a wooden leg had departed, my uncle who was staying with us, had Smokey on his lap as he asked my father about the accident that had resulted in the lady’s limp. My father, misunderstanding, started to tell of Smokeys ordeal and my uncle was horrified to hear that the accident had happened at our gate and the victim had dragged herself mewling up the driveway to be prayed over by my enthusiastically Christian Dad.
But the second accident did for her, and curse the bastard who ran her down, again at our gate, and so Rip, still a kitten, was the only cat left standing, for the time being at least, all claws and teeth and a big square head. Of all our pets, my parents I think were most attached to Boz and Rip as they had more time at that point.
Boz was put down at 14 with breathing difficulties and I am not sure about Rip though he probably died of apoplexy around the grand old age of 12….
The current cat is called Muffin and I am not sure if anyone likes her very much. She is a nervy, shallow thing who thinks she is more attractive than she is. She makes a big show of being afraid of everyone and takes about 10 years to decide whether to come in through the door. If she was a person she would be a failed actress. I know if I survive to see her gravestone it will, like Rips, make me smile. “That’s not a Muffin”, I will think, “..that’s a stone!”