Well, strictly speaking, the rabbit and the tortoise. We have a lovely conservatory. Oak framed, filled with light, perfect for summer dining as the sun sinks over the western horizon, a balmy breeze flowing in through the French doors, candles casting a gentle glow over the table.
That was the plan. The truth is it has become the world’s most luxurious animal hospital. It has housed chicks by the dozen, abandoned lambs, soggy rabbits, and a sick goat. It is also, for the nine months of the year that he’s awake, Tonka the tortoise’s home. Tonka doesn’t like outdoors. He likes his heat lamp, his sleeping box, and an occasional career around the walls scratching the paint off neatly at four inches above floor level. He can’t be bothered to eat, mainly because he’s only got one working eye and the other one is of limited use so he often misses his mouth when aiming for his dinner and after a while he just can’t be bothered trying any more. So he has to be fed by hand and this requires considerable skill. He only eats dandelions, and a mush we make up from dried grasses and herbs. You have to tempt him with a sludgy morsel, wait till he opens his mouth wide, then aim straight and chuck a mouthful of food in. For every five shots on target you get about three in his mouth if you’re lucky. Feeding him takes twice as long and is eight times as messy as feeding a weaning baby. Added to this – as he consumes his food and the energy courses through his system he gets increasingly aggressive. The consequence of this is several sharp tortoise bites for the feeder. Me. Come to think of it this is again very reminiscent of feeding my children when they were teething (although for the record I didn’t feed them dandelions).
Once fed, he rockets around the place banging into chair legs. It’s a tortoise sugar-high in action.
He now has a companion, in the form of Mopsy (don’t wince – she was named by Sarah – do I really need to say more?). Mopsy, in spite of being vaccinated against Myxomatosis still managed to catch it – presumably by fraternising with the local wild rabbit population when she oughtn’t to have been. Looking as though her number was probably up I drove Mopsy to the vet to do the kindest thing, but it was decided that a course of antibiotics might shift the secondary lung infection and that she stood a chance. The vet asked if I’d like to give the injections. Ha! I am not Sarah. I have absolutely no wish to treat animals with anything. In fact it makes me feel deeply unwell and close to fainting. I assured the vet that Sarah would rise to the challenge – loving nothing better than playing vet.
Back home Mopsy has taken up residence with Tonka while she convalesces. Tonka has taken to chasing her round the conservatory. If he catches up with her he gives her a bite on the bum. She’s taken to hopping up onto one of the dining chairs to escape his attentions. It certainly seems as though he’s trying to woo Mopsy. Not sure how that’s going to work out for him. Is he envisaging baby tortoises with fluffy shells? Poor thing. Having spent a life in solitude it seems that it’s a case of love the one you’re with.
I can only hope Mopsy gets well soon and returns to her sisters outside where she will regale them with tales of the randy, aggressive, speedy one-eyed tortoise she shared her recuperation with.
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