It’s often said that our pets, in particular cats, have a whole secret life that we know nothing about. We see what our cats do when we’re at home with them and they remain in the house, but if they are outdoor going cats, you have no idea what they get up to or where they go.

Biggles used to sit on the gatepost at the bottom of the back garden each morning and each afternoon at certain times, because a man would walk by with his dog. The dog was elderly – like his owner – and the two of them would take their time as they walked slowly up the alleyway behind all the gardens en route to the local park.

The old man would stop and have a chat with Biggles and they’d pass a few minutes of idle pleasantries while the dog sniffed at various things of interest and perhaps he’d walk a few yards ahead so that he could spend longer sniffing something else that took his fancy.

This little interlude took place twice a day for many months – unknown to me and I would have been none the wiser had I not been working in my back garden one afternoon, when the old man and his dog came by.

He saw me and asked where my big old ginger cat was, as he hadn’t seen him for a few days. Unable to help the tears that readily came, I told him that Biggles had been run over the previous Saturday.

Tears welled in his eyes as he told me how much he looked forward to seeing Biggles – or ‘Ginge’, as he called him, not knowing his name – each time he walked his dog past our back garden. He said Biggles would always be there, in the same spot, each day, twice a day no matter what the weather conditions were like, and a look of recognition would light his face as the man neared.

While the man stroked and petted Biggles, he, in his turn, would pirouette daintily on the gatepost so that all parts of his body were accessible to the old man’s big warm hands.

Biggles purred and dribbled and would push his head into those big old hands, while the dog would amble along, sniffing this and that, leaving them to their mutual adoration of each other.

For a little while, there was a vacancy on the gatepost but one morning I chanced to look out the window and I saw Billy sitting there. Soon the old man came along and he stopped to chat with Billy, and stroke and pet him. Billy preened and purred and arched his back in pure delight. The old man continued on his way happier for having had his daily dose of feline friendship.

Billy filled the gatepost vacancy and continued Biggles’ job, interacting with the old man twice a day for several months. Wherever he was in the house, at the appointed times, he would get up and go out into the garden to sit and wait on the gatepost for his new friend.

One Friday, I realised that Billy hadn’t been outside to keep his appointments, and I wondered why. A few days later I bumped into the man when I was at my local shops. I asked how he was and where his dog was, and this time, tears came to his eyes.

He said that on the previous Friday, he’d come down stairs in the morning to find his old dog has passed away in the night. Billy, having the psychic ability that most of our pets have, knew this and didn’t go out. 

I saw the old man a few times after that, but then I heard that he, too, had passed away not long after his beloved companion had died. I know that first Biggles, and then Billy, both made a huge impact on his life. And through them I met a lovely old man (and his dog) who was a great joy to speak to on the few occasions I did see him.

It’s easy to think our pets just interact with us and therefore, it is a surprise when we find out that they have their own social engagements diary with dates marked in which don’t actually concern us. Never underestimate your cat or dog’s ability to affect the life of someone else in a way that we could never begin to imagine.  Cats instinctively know when someone is lonely, sad, or upset, and respond in their own way which lifts our mood.

That old man lived with his dog and he loved his dog, but he looked forward to seeing Biggles, and then Billy twice a day because they liked to see him and spend time with him. We all need to feel valued and loved – and sometimes we need to take a lesson from our pets to put that into perspective.


Pauline Dewberry 2004

My thanks to Laura Dumm for the great picture of Biggles. To see more of Laura's wonderful cartoons, and that of her husband, Gary Dumm, go to


In the Middle of a World...

"In the middle of a world that has always been a bit mad, the cat walks with confidence."

Roseanne Anderson

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