To celebrate the publication of Old Toffer’s Book of Consequential Dogs by Christopher Reid, illustrated by Elliot Elam, we asked some of our authors and staff whether they were cat people or dog people, and to write a little bit about their cat(s) or dog(s).
Claire Barker, author of Picklewitch and Jack
I am a dog person. I know this because when I see one on the street I immediately tell them how clever and special they are, even if they are murderous savages. My own dogs fall into this category. They are a delight with people but show them a rabbit and they lose their minds. I have two dogs; Sammy and Lulu. Sammy is a Border Terrier who lists amongst his interests ‘running away’ and ‘stealing Lulu’s dinner’. Lulu, a baffled soul if there ever was one, is a French Bulldog. She has an impressive vocal range which starts with snuffly pig-grunt and ends with screaming death-ray. You would have to hear it to believe it, but I recommend against it. I love them both madly. When it comes to dogs, Blaise Pascal was right – ‘the heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing.’
Emma Carroll, author of Secrets of a Sun King
I’m very definitely a dog person – I love their loyalty and endless good-temper. I’m the doting owner of two Jack Russell Terriers, officially named Bertie and Olive, though more often called Rat, Trum, Trummy, Tiny Eyes, Nubs, Princess, Petal Pie, etc., etc. If you say ‘Mr Bushy’ to Bertie, he looks up at the sky and whimpers. He knows it means SQUIRREL! He also recognises the sound of the Sainsbury’s delivery van. Olive is a very fast runner, who loves tummy tickles and licking people’s fingers. Her favourite pastime is lying on a blanket being hand-fed roast beef.
Francesca Simon, author of Hack and Whack
I am definitely a dog person. I love how playful and engaging dogs are; they are such a warm presence in a home. Having Louis (Loulou) has also reconnected me to my neighbourhood in a way I haven’t been since my son left primary school. My dog is a three year old Tibetan Spaniel, and well known in my street, mainly for sitting in the front window and barking furiously at any dogs who dare to stroll past. Louis loves me, but he loves artificial grass and doormats even more: he cannot walk past either without rolling around on them for minutes, growling his happiness.
Dan Papps, Faber Social Manager
I respect cats for their independence and general ‘don’t give a damn’ attitude, but I am a dog person as I am a natural attention seeker. I have a three-year-old Bedlington–Whippet named Billie. She is a ridiculous creature who looks like a muppet, grins when she sleeps, makes a noise like a harmonica when she is happy, and has an unhealthy obsession with ears and flip flops. She loves to peek around corners and is very particular about her bedtime. She also likes to gently lick the driver’s elbow when she is in a car and is the weirdest most wonderful dog I’ve met.
Swapna Haddow, author of Dave Pigeon
I’m definitely a dog person. Our gorgeous Mini Schnauzer goes by the name Archie but also responds to Archiebald, Archieboo, Archiekins, Archieschmoo and Archiepoo and Ouchie (during his mouthing stage). My favourite Archie story is when Archie broke the internet. He was going through a phase of eating all the mail. We installed a mail sack to save the post, however on the day my husband’s degree arrived, Archie broke into the mail sack, took the tasty looking degree and chewed it to smithereens. This, of course, went down like a lead balloon with said husband, who, ironically, had just graduated a degree in Digestive Diseases. I tweeted about the incident and it was picked up by a couple of newspapers. To this day, it is my most retweeted tweet.
Sheena Dempsey, illustrator of Dave Pigeon
I am a dog person. A dog’s devotion and unselfconscious neediness suits me very well. Ours is an ex-racing greyhound called Sandy (a.k.a. ‘Sandra’s Legacy’ if you go by her racing moniker) and my mission in life is to make her as comfortable as possible in her retirement and dotage. She sleeps on a luxurious pile of king-sized duvets folded on top of one another, like a canine version of The Princess and the Pea. At least one of these duvets is carried around from room to room for her throughout the day for snoozing, depending on whatever sun spot she is following. Occasionally she feels that a lightening of the household wallet is due to prove our love for her. One morning she mysteriously lost the use of her legs and gazed up at us pathetically, shaking all over, apparently unable to walk. In a terrible panic and imagining the worst (Early onset arthritis? Osteosarcoma? Paralysis?!) we carried her carefully down five flights of stairs into a waiting cab like an infirm queen, lining the boot of the cab with a king-sized duvet first, naturally, for the four minute drive to the vet. We offered soothing pats and words of reassurance from the back seat. Upon arrival, all symptoms melted away and she hopped out of the car and strolled into the surgery, unfazed. As we’d made the appointment we followed through and left three minutes later, £65 lighter, with some parting words of advice from the vet that the breed can sometimes be . . . ‘a bit precious’. She has several nicknames, all ridiculous: Sandy Pants, Dollface, Pooface, Baby Girl, Babba Girl, Little Lady, Dotey Girl, Dotey Face, Principessa.
Hannah Love, Faber Children’s Publicity Manager
I grew up as determined dog person, but living in London the preference for any kind of pet meant we decided to try a cat. Now I’ve been thoroughly converted by Pekkala (named for Serafina Pekkala from His Dark Materials) although she’s so dog like I feel like we got the best of both. Her nicknames are many, and none would be admitted by any self respecting cat: Fur Harpy, Purrmostat, The Night, Pumpkinface, KitKat and Queen of the Moles. She is an immediate mood booster in our house – a cuddly comfort on a bad day and a lot of laughter on a good. One of my favourite examples has to be the time she tried to defeat her great enemy, The Snow. We woke up to a light snowfall and Pekkala was determined it had No Business being in her garden. She tried to attack it and the resulting snow flurries were very entertaining to watch.
Emma Cheshire, Acting Senior Rights Manager
Having grown up with parents who absolutely refused to let us have any pets at all, I can categorically say that I am a cat and a dog person having daydreamed about having a happy, warm ball of fluff in my life for years now. We brought home a tiny tortoiseshell kitten this summer, swiftly named her Mabel and have fallen in love with the way she can strut about with unwavering confidence and then suddenly pass out spreadeagled on our laps for hours, purring with fierce abandon. At almost four months old, Mabel can sniff out all things dairy in seconds, loves to drown her toy mice in her water bowl, and can claw her way up your entire body to get to a piece of cooked chicken in about three seconds flat. She’s magnificent.
Ross Montgomery, author of Christmas Dinner of Souls
I’ve been a dog person all my life, and always wanted to have my own. The problem is, we don’t have the space or the time to take one for walks every day, so my girlfriend and I decided that a cat was the best solution. We went to Battersea Cats Home and got ‘paired’ with two suitable cats: Zeus (who savagely bit me) and Harvey, who was much more relaxed. In fact, he looked like a chilled-out surfer – he even had a furry goatee! We chose him, and decided to change his name to Fun Bobby – the perfect name for a laid-back party animal. Unfortunately, it turns out Fun Bobby is not laid back at all. He despises other cats with an all-consuming passion that takes up most of his day. He spends hours staring at other cats through the window, ferociously swiping at them under the door, and going out to start fights with every cat in the neighbourhood. As far as we can tell, he has lost every single one of these fights. We should have called him ‘Berserker Bob’.
Alex Bell, author of Explorers on Witch Mountain
Having owned and loved both, I would definitely say that I am a cat AND a dog person, but if I could only ever have one then it would have to be Siamese cats. We currently have two chocolate-point girls. An old one called Suki (also known as Big Bear) and our new baby, who joined the family last year. Her name is Misu but she has already amassed quite an impressive collection of nicknames, including Ninja-Boots, Weenus McBeanus and, most fittingly of all, Bossy Bootington la Petite. They are extremely naughty, just like the Siameses in Lady and the Tramp. My old cat, Suki, has been my best friend for thirteen years now and even helped me pick out my soon-to-be-husband. Having always been a very aloof cat who ran away from everyone but me, she snuggled right up to Neil the very first time she met him. As soon as Suki gave him her stamp of approval, I knew he was a keeper!
Chloe Daykin, author of The Boy Who Hit Play
In our house we are very much into CATS (though two of them are a lot like dogs). Iorek (named after armoured bear Iroek Byrinson in The Northern Lights), Bob (after Bob the talking mackerel in Fish Boy) and Twinkle who is a rescue cat and came with her name (ironically the same name as my first ever cat from Orlando the Marmalade Cat). Funny stories? Hmm. Mainly just lovely ones. They are intensely loving, floppy, pure vicious beasts with wonderful 6th sense and we can’t imagine life without them. Bob and Iorek trott along on any walk you fancy and Twinks hid in the cupboard under the stairs for the first week of her life and has never gone back in. Our old cats Pup and Pup Pup used to play sea eagle (I was the sea eagle, they were my seal pup prey) and cat hat (attach cat to head for brief warm head). I haven’t tried cat hat with any other cats. It was our special game.
T. S. Eliot’s original Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats was published in 1939 and has delighted poetry and cat lovers around the world. The idea for a collection of poetry about dogs came to Eliot himself, when in conversation with his driver, who gave him the highly promising phrase ‘consequential dogs’. Eliot, however, never found time to write it. The new collection from Christopher Reid – like Eliot, a former editor at Faber & Faber – offers a canine rejoinder to Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats and introduces characters such as Dobson the Dog Detective, Flo the Philosophical Foxhound, and Frazzlesprat, a dog who would really rather be a cat.