Like Cats And Dogs – Episode 01

“Yes, yes, we’ll be there soon, Jessica – no need for all that noise. What a racket! It’s enough to give a girl earache.”

Cally chanced a glance into the back seat and saw two amber eyes staring earnestly at her through the bars of the cat carrier.

“You don’t like being in the car, do you, sweet girl? Not long now . . .”

Cally had just picked up the tortoiseshell tabby from her anxious owners, who were about to embark on a family holiday to Madeira and fussing about sending Jessica on her own “holiday” to Cally’s Cats’ Hotel.

Not that it was the cat’s first time. She was a regular and Cally knew to drive at no more than 28 mph while transporting her, if she wanted to keep the cat’s protests to a minimum.

“One more corner and then the half-mile straight, and then we’ll get you settled in your pen. I’ve had the heating on for
you . . .” Cally had been speaking in a low, sing-song voice that she hoped was calming, but her voice trailed off. “What have we here, Jess?”

She peered ahead to where two men were standing at the junction, both wearing hard hats, muddy green wellies and high-visibility jackets. Parked at the side of the road was a green Range-Rover, also muddy.

One of the men was consulting a clipboard and both were looking up and down the roads that converged at the T-junction.

A half-mile along the road to the left was Cally’s Cats’ Hotel. A half-mile to the right was a building site that had gradually been transformed from an old and neglected dairy farm into a dog kennels capable of boarding 30 dogs long-term, with spacious runs, an exercise yard, an office and a number of treatment rooms. As at the Cats’ Hotel, there would be on-site accommodation for its owner, too.

Cally knew all this because she had paid very close attention to every detail of the planning application when it had first appeared in the local paper, and then at every stage of the planning process since. Of course, she had objected.

“Whoever heard of a dog kennels less than a mile from a cattery?” she’d protested to her mother. “My poor cats will be driven demented by all that barking!”

But although she had protested as vociferously as she knew how, the planning application had been approved, and now the redevelopment of the site was almost complete.

She felt herself scowling as she neared the two men, and although they gave her a cheerful wave she ignored them and sped round the corner with a spray of gravel from the road’s edge. They were bound to have something to do with the kennels.

She was still scowling as her mobile phone rang in its holder on the dashboard. She glanced at the display and saw the caller identified as Mum. A quick press of a button on the steering wheel and they were connected.

“Hi, Mum! I’m in the car – can I call you back? Give me ten minutes to get home and get a cat settled . . . Yes, Jessica – you know, the Turners’ tabby. Yes, she’s yowled the whole way as usual. Poor thing does get very indignant about being shut up in her carrier.

“I’m just pulling in now. I’ll phone you back in a few minutes.”

Cally turned in through the gateway and felt the usual pride at the board announcing Cally’s Cats’ Hotel with its cute cartoon of two cats lounging on a bed.

The wooden five-bar gate stood permanently open to allow access to a long gravel driveway. It wound between shrubby borders until it reached a car parking area beside a shed that Cally used as office and reception, and the little bungalow that had become her home.

Beyond that were four long runs, with each run housing 12 cabins. Around the secure runs wove a network of paths and gardens so that her cats could enjoy the sense of being outdoors.

At the moment she was half-full, with cats coming and going all the time. Bookings had been steadily rising since she’d opened for business 18 months earlier, and the fact that much of her new custom was thanks to word of mouth recommendations was especially satisfying. It beat any kind of advertising hands down.

The thought of the new kennels damaging her precious business was almost more than she could bear.

Cally had loved cats since she could remember. There had always been numerous felines around the village and if any so much as suggested they might be a stray, Cally had scooped them up and taken them home.

Fortunately the neighbourhood had been very understanding of the countless phone calls of apology her mum had made her make.

With both her parents out working long hours in their estate agency business, she and her brother had known they were right in saying it wouldn’t be fair to have pets that might not get proper care.

But while Craig had accepted it happily enough, Cally had never given up her dream of caring for cats who needed rescuing.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.