I was vaguely aware during my earlier years that he fell somewhere between my baby brother and the goldfish in the pecking order of things.
He ate from the same silver dish for seventeen years, mostly cat food in a blue tin from Sainsbury's. He used to sit in the middle of the go cart ramp when we wanted to use it. One day he ate Fishy. When he disappeared for three days I cried every day. I still remember the day he came home vividly, Dad bursting excitedly into the living room holding him under his arm.
When we moved home my parents transported him in a porcelain waste paper bin that smelt of cigarette stubs. When we moved again Dad thought that at thirteen 'the shock would kill him'. The next day he dragged a squirrel through the cat flap.
He weaved his way into the fabric of our life with a soft gentle charm.
When he died we knew we had not only lost a pet but an irreplaceable part of our little family unit. A little piece of our history.
As in the photo, he may always have been on the periphery but he was never out of the picture.
Recently I've been thinking about fledgling vets. You'll probably have been qualified around three months now.
When I think back to some of the useless exam questions I had during my finals like:
'What is the ideal colour of an egg yolk?'
'Describe the surgical treatment for chylothorax?'
and 'How would you design housing for 100 farrowing sows?'
None of which have proved any use in the real world, I realise now that I was totally unprepared for life in practice. It would have been far more useful for example to have been asked the following:
'There is a sixty five kilo Rottweiler growling outside your consulting room door, the owner wishes you to examine it's ears. You have the following at your disposal, a fifty kilo seventeen year old trainee nurse, a dog catcher and some ketamine. Describe how you would use these to complete the task safely.'
'Jeffery, the ten year old domestic short hair has been anorexic for 2 weeks and he is jaundiced. The owner has twenty pounds in her purse and doesn't get her benefits until next week. List the charity organisations that you might be able to contact for extra funds and how you feel the owners financial situation might alter the prognosis?'
'You have been up all night performing your first caesarian and have had no sleep, describe the methods by which you will keep yourself awake during the next twelve hour shift?'
Sometimes I wonder whether it should be the examiners at vet schools and not just the students who should be doing a bit of 'seeing practice' during their holidays....