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--- Animals Behaving Typically ---

"Cat fight!"

"What!" I sprang from my pillow, engaging automatic pilot on the way down, one leg in a pair of jeans, the other still asleep.

What the hell was happening?

"Cat fight!" screamed Shelagh once more from some dark place on the other side of the bed.

An awake eye peered at the clock - 1:35 - the middle of the night. That's why it was so dark.

I staggered across the room in search of slippers ... or the light switch ... or possibly the window. Brain was not quite sure. Legs were even less so. Especially the solitary one, half-buried in a pair of jeans.

I fell down. It seemed a sensible course of action. And it gave Brain an extra few seconds to arrive at an explanation.

Something about a cat fight?

A strange yowling noise burst in through the open window. Oh my God! Now I remembered. The Black Cat! Both our cats had been injured in fights, Guinny had had to have stitches, Gally had limped for a week.

I stopped struggling with the trousers, threw them off and staggered arms out-stretched through the gloom towards the bedroom door. Which immediately flew back and met me halfway - Shelagh had got there first.

Closely followed by Gypsy.

I was somewhere in between. Dazed, confused, half-asleep and under attack from a playful puppy. A predicament lent a considerable piquancy when it's pitch black and your clothes are on the other side of the room.

I grabbed my dressing gown from the back of the bedroom door and stumbled into the hallway, trying to fight off Gypsy, get dressed and find a light switch all at the same time.

And then there was light. At least for a short while - our hall light being on a timer carefully designed to extinguish itself ten seconds before you really needed it to. Like when you're desperately trying to unlock the front door and find your shoes at the same time.

And there's nothing quite so unexpected in a dark hallway as a cold nose slipping under your dressing gown as you bend over in search of shoes.

I screamed.

Gypsy barked.

Strange nocturnal noises wafted in through the cat flap.

Whereupon I was admonished - told to stop playing with the puppy and go save our cats!

As if I was trying to do anything else.

Gypsy continued to bark and boldly go places where noses hadn't and shouldn't have gone before. I struggled with the door, it opened, I fell out, Gypsy's lead was thrust into my hand, plaintive yowling drifted in from my right ... and then we were off. Man and dog sprinting across the fields towards the sounds of battle.

"It's coming from over here!" I shouted over my shoulder as I plunged through the stubble of last year's maize crop.

"Is it Gally?" shouted Shelagh.