Sue Limb: It’s so hard to get inside an animal’s head - except in certain restaurants in France
15:03 21 September 2015
I fear the fly eggs will hatch inside the dog and come buzzing out of his bottom on some inconveniently elegant occasion
God’s set us a few impossible tasks in his time, but this takes the cake: “Let us make man in our image… and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”
It was just the same when my daughter wanted a gerbil. She pestered me non-stop for 18 months, but when we got the damn thing, I was the one who had to have dominion over it.
Frankly, this summer has been one long ordeal by livestock. The minute I turn my back, there’s some kind of trouble. The flies lay their eggs in the dog’s bowl. I suppose fly eggs are fairly innocuous, compared to some of the things he eats when outdoors – the more rotten and stinking the better. But I fear they will hatch inside him and come buzzing out of his bottom on some inconveniently elegant occasion.
I’ve always deplored the tendency of animals to eat one another, not nicely grilled with herbs and garlic, but on the hoof and screaming. I avert my gaze from the David Attenborough programme when the whale chomps the seal. How I long to be able to save that seal! If I really had dominion over the animals I’d give that whale a rap over the knuckles, and no mistake. But seeing creatures devour one another on TV is a picnic compared to having it happen in your own back yard.
In early summer there’s usually a vixen about, and when she takes a hen you know she has hungry cubs waiting back home. And fox cubs are cute. But within a few weeks she’ll have reared a group of ruthless killing machines – a bit like an ISIS cell. Why can’t foxes be vegetarians? Eh, God? If I had dominion over them I’d make those foxes eat plankton. But then I’d probably start feeling sorry for the plankton.
I’m not going to mention hunting. See? I haven’t mentioned it. The gamekeeper ‘takes care of’ the foxes – well, if you want free range eggs, somebody has to keep numbers down. Whilst waiting for the hens to go in and the gamekeeper to appear at dusk, I have been standing guard in the yard. At one stage I thought I might deter the foxes by hanging a radio on the wall, with Radio 4 blaring out: The Archers followed by Front Row, so the fox would hear voices and keep away. The farmer does take a keen interest in contemporary culture, of course, but would the fox believe he could be discussing Mike Leigh and Yves St Laurent? It’s so hard to get inside an animal’s head – except in certain restaurants in France.
And then there was the continuing battle with the mice. I tried peppermint oil and an electronic device which emits a high frequency noise which, it claims, deters rodents. Yet still they frolicked on my hearthrug. I can shout “Get ‘im!” to my dog when he’s ratting in the barns, but I don’t want to witness a murder in my own sitting room, halfway through my bedtime cocoa. So if he glimpses a mouse I have to shout “Leave!” It must be really confusing. And it’s unmistakably Bad Dominion.
Inevitably the mice have had babies. And the baby mice stumble about looking cute. With some species, you can wait till they grow up and stop looking cute, and then you can kill them – sorry, bring in somebody else to deal with them. The trouble with mice is they never stop looking cute. You have to think of them as rats who have shrunk in the hot wash. With a heavy heart, I started to set traps. And then miraculously, they disappeared. Did they somehow know, O Lord? I need clarification here.
It’s no help when animals are vegetarians. I swear I can hear my lettuces screaming in the dead of night as the slugs approach. It’s no use: I give up. I shall never get into heaven by Having Dominion. Next week: I attempt to Love my Neighbour. I think that might be even more of a challenge.