Spooky Halloween tails
There’s a distinct chill in the evening air and a small black cat with electric green eyes noiselessly crosses my path………..
This could be the start of a Halloween spooktacular story or, for me, just another day at the office. Tales of possessed pets and haunted dog houses have always been the stuff of legend around this Halloween month so here is my homage to them.
The Hound of the Baskervilles is a crime novel written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the detective Sherlock Holmes, set largely on Dartmoor in Devon, England. It tells the story of an attempted murder inspired by the legend of a fearsome, diabolical hound of supernatural origin.
I’m pretty sure I have met the hound of the Baskervilles on occasion during the course of my veterinary career – ferocious snapping jaws encased by blood-tinged drool at the mere thought of a nail trim. No juicy treat in the world would convince this untamed beast that there is nothing to fear. I must admit that since altering my practice to a mobile, at-home service, the incidents of these encounters has reduced dramatically, although not totally.
Cats too can, on occasion, be the stuff of nightmares. They have an arsenal of weapons and are not afraid to use them especially when a deworming tablet is heading towards them.
I did hear a spooky tale of a plumber who was working in a lady’s house the other day. He casually stated that he had let the cat in and it had run upstairs. The lady looked shocked but asked if he saw what colour it was. "Yes," he replied, being a bit of a cat fancier himself. "It was a blue point Siamese with a purple collar." The lady turned white and shakily told him her beloved pet, who matched his description, had passed away two weeks earlier. The ghost cat was never seen again.
I had my own ghostly encounter as a child when out riding my pony down the country lanes in England with my horsey friends. We came across on old derelict house just off a lane we had not been down before. There was a lovely stretch of green verge which was perfect for a good canter and we eagerly set off. As we approached the old house with not a care in the world, the horses suddenly jammed on their brakes and nearly sent their young riders flying through the air. Not one of the three otherwise sturdy steeds would proceed. They refused to pass the house and danced and spun until we reluctantly turned for home. On our return to the stables, we retold of our mishap and the older riders calmly declared that the derelict house was haunted and the horses could sense it. Needless to say, it frightened the life out of us kids and we opted for a different path from then on.
Many years later, I studied veterinary medicine at Edinburgh University in Scotland, and came across the story of Greyfriars Bobby which has stuck with me ever since.
In 1850 a gardener called John Gray joined the Edinburgh Police Force as a night watchman. To keep him company through the long winter nights John took on a partner, a diminutive Skye terrier, his "watchdog" called Bobby. Together, John and Bobby became a familiar sight trudging through the old cobbled streets of Edinburgh. Through thick and thin, winter and summer, they were faithful friends.
John eventually died of tuberculosis on February 15, 1858 and was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Bobby soon touched the hearts of the local residents when he refused to leave his master’s grave, even in the worst weather conditions.
The gardener and keeper of Greyfriars tried on many occasions to evict Bobby from the Kirkyard. In the end he gave up and provided a shelter for Bobby by placing sacking beneath two tablestones at the side of John Gray’s grave.
Bobby’s fame spread throughout Edinburgh. It is reported that almost on a daily basis the crowds would gather at the entrance of the Kirkyard waiting for the one o’clock gun that would signal the appearance of Bobby leaving the grave for his midday meal.
The kind folk of Edinburgh took good care of Bobby, but still he remained loyal to his master. For fourteen years the dead man’s faithful dog kept constant watch and guard over the grave until his own death in 1872. Bobby’s own headstone reads “Greyfriars Bobby. Died January 14, 1872 aged 16 years. Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.”
Lucy Richardson graduated from Edinburgh University in 2005. She started CedarTree Vets in August 2012 with her husband Mark. They live at the practice with their two children, Ray and Stella, and their dog, two cats and two guinea pigs. Dr Lucy is also the FEI national head veterinarian for Bermuda
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