Many of you already know how much Russell loved his little dog, Callie. But she was not his first love; that honour goes to a small rather bad-tempered pet called Harry the Hamster.
Harry was a Christmas present for Russell when he was about eight or nine years old; he turned out to be at best unfriendly, and at worst, downright vicious. He was prone to escaping from his cage but could usually be lured back by the prospect of a good meal. Sadly, in true hamster fashion he didn’t last long. One evening we found him very dead at the bottom of the cage. As you can imagine, this was very traumatic, compounded by the fact that John was away on business, and nothing that I could say made things any better. So to save the day, Granny had to be called over to help. After a couple of hours, everything calmed down and a funeral was arranged for the next day, to take place in Granny’s garden. (We were in the process of trying to move house, and I didn’t relish the prospect of exhuming a dead hamster to move with us!).
The problem now facing us was that Russell had no pet to look after. SJ had decreed that Matey, our very old black cat, belonged to her, and she was definitely NOT going to share; so the only was forward was to get another pet. We decided that another cat would be the best option, mainly because it was likely to live longer than the hamster, and hopefully would be more friendly.
There was only one option for the new cat’s name – it had to be called Mouzer; and the reason for this goes back to a holiday in Cornwall a few years earlier.
When SJ was about four years old we bought her a book called The Mousehole Cat. It was full of lovely pictures and told the story of a cat belonging to Tom, an old fisherman who lived in the village of Mousehole in Cornwall. The cat’s name was Mouzer. This became a favourite story for bedtime for many years – if anyone reading this has young children, its well worth trying to get a copy, they will love the story (and so will you).
In the summer of that year, we went on holiday to Cornwall, and of course, the one place that Russell and SJ wanted to visit was the fishing village of Mousehole – maybe Mouzer the cat would still be there. Luckily, the village lived up to their expectations; it looked just like the pictures in the book, even though it was bucketing down with rain all day. We had to park the car outside the village and walk down a steep hill to the harbour. The village was built around the bay; lots of tiny stone cottages and a small beach. The little harbour was beautiful with the stone walls almost meeting in an attempt to keep the boats safe from winter storms. We also saw a few cats, but we didn’t see Mouzer; she was probably out on a fishing boat with Tom.
What we did find, however, was a shop selling mice! Large mice, small mice, families of mice, made of wood, pottery, metal, plastic – every kind of mouse that you could possibly imagine. It was here that Russell spent almost all of his holiday money, he bought a small metal mouse that could be hung on a chain, which he gave to me to say thank you for a lovely holiday. Of course, I still have that mouse.
So, because of that story book, the happy holiday in Cornwall and the visit to Mousehole, the only name considered for our new pet was Mouzer.
Mouzer ticked all the right boxes: she was friendly, didn’t bite or scratch and lived for many years. After she died, Russell buried her in our back garden, I’m sure he loved her just as much as Harry, but possibly not quite as much as Callie. The only thing that Mouzer didn’t do was live up to her name – to my knowledge; she never caught a single mouse!