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U3A Writing: Big Cats

John Ricketts, who served as a headmaster in Africa, tells of the day that his dog Samson was confronted by the big cats.

Samson was a silly dog. In human terms, his I.Q. would have been in the region of 65. But like many humans who are not very bright, he had one talent which few could rival. This talent was the ability to use scent to follow a trail.

The time that stands out in my memory was when the circus came to town. The big top was erected on the village green and the animals were in cages or enclosures round it. We had some shopping to do and, to make certain that Samson could not get out to cause trouble, as he always did in unusual situations, we shut him up in our bedroom.

We walked down to the shops holding Mark and Tom by the hands and pushing Peter in his pram. We did our bit of shopping, calling into three or four of the shops. Then we walked over the village green to where the circus was encamped. While I bought tickets for the performance, Elizabeth let the children look at the clowns, who were fooling about to draw the crowds, and at the big cats who were in their cages and at the Indian elephants who were in their enclosure.

At about that time someone opened the door to our bedroom and Samson escaped. I happened to glance at our house and I saw him dart through the legs of Paul Makondo and run down towards the shops. He ran with his nose to the ground obviously following our scents. We watched him enter one shop after another just as we had done. He traced our path along the row of shops and then turned towards the circus.

He came on fast at a good trot until he got within ten yards of the cages which held the big cats. He stopped as if he had run into a big wall. His tail which had been held up like a military pennant suddenly dropped and he bolted with his tail between his legs to our back door through which he disappeared. When we got back to the house we found him crouched beneath the bed.

When we left the country a year or so later we did not think it would be fair to bring Samson with us. He had always been used to having the wide open spaces to run in and here in England he would have been imprisoned in quarantine for six months, and then always on a leash and never free. We felt that he would have been very unhappy. We knew a framer who had a few dogs and who was willing to take Sampson. He settled down well at his new home and soon found his place high up in the pecking order. The unfortunate end of the story is that about six months after we left, a leopard broke into the compound where the dogs were kept and killed them all including Samson.

Maybe Samson was wise to fear the smell of big cats.


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