Belinda, my neighbour, had asked me if Mr Blake would care to visit. Perhaps he would like to make the acqaintance of her household, she said, which currently numbered fourteen: ten cats, two dogs, herself and her human friend. That would be good, I said. Mr Blake needs 'socialisation' as part of his fostering program.
Belinda used to be a chef but gave her career up to work with animals. (A funny line is sticking out there like a neon light.) Anyway, Belinda now works at an animal shelter and brings her work home. They were there when we visited.
Our little street is on a gentle hill and we're at the top. We strolled down the hill and in at Belinda's gate. Creak. Up the path towards three steps leading to the front door. On the middle step was what vaguely resembled a cat but could more correctly be described as a pugnacious face in the middle of an otherwise featureless ragged dirty grey furball. We came near and the eyes swivelled but the furball stayed planted to the step. Mr Blake looked interested but not as interested as if the furball had shown actual identifying features; maybe ears, maybe limbs, maybe a tail. Then all of a sudden the furball was gone from the step without appearing to have taken any effort, like a leaf flying off in the wind.
We knocked on the door and were greeted by Belinda and two boundy dogs. Several cats hung behind her like shy children. One of the dogs, a small whippet, rushed out and leapt joyfully at Mr Blake as if he were a long lost uncle.
Come in, said Belinda. We came in. The lounge was all polished timber and 'fifties furniture and gilt mirrors and coffee tables and ashtrays. At one end of the room was a dining table and on the dining table sat the largest cat I've ever seen. Not fat, just large. It had a face as pugnacious as the furball on the front step but it had long black and white hair that made it seem even bigger. The cat was sitting on the table purring like a refrigerator but then it saw Mr Blake and Mr Blake saw the cat and it stopped purring and stood up. Mr Blake stared at the cat for the entire time we were there. Its eyes never deviated from the cat on the dining table and the cat never moved an inch.
This was good. Sometimes they start drooling and salivating and sometimes they get all hyper and start dancing around and sometimes they just bark their heads off. Mr Blake just stood there. It was even better because while the face-off was happening, Joey, the small whippet, who looked like a baby kangaroo, hence the name, was still leaping about Mr Blake and licking him all over but mostly around the face and all but climbing on his back for joy.
Meanwhile Belinda and her human friend were admiring Mr Blake, who is tall and handsome and has a shining jet black coat with a white chest and white toes. After being used to a small whippet, a large greyhound this size looks like a horse has walked into your house. Although in that house I wouldn't have been surprised had a horse poked its face around the kitchen door.
Later we said our goodbyes and thank yous and come agains and Mr Blake came home and had a nice sleep on his bed, the one that used to be Goldie's and Billy's before that.