Molly: The True Story of the Amazing Dog Who Rescues Cats by Colin Butcher tells the heartwarming story of the man-and-dog team behind the United Kingdom Pet Detective Agency. But Colin's story of finding Molly starts at a much younger age, when his beloved cat Mitzy was lost – and his dog Gemini was the only one who could find her.
Keep reading for an excerpt from Molly.
Throughout my childhood, a procession of pets passed through the Butcher household, including a variety of dogs, cats, hamsters and mice (the latter were smuggled into the house without my parents’ knowledge and hidden in my sock drawer, where they used to escape with annoying frequency). My mum and dad developed a serious soft spot for shih-tzus, and I’d often return home from school to discover another cute golden-coated puppy bounding around the back garden, picked up that afternoon from our local branch of the RSPCA. My parents always took on rescue dogs – for them, it was a matter of principle – and would never visit specialist breeders or pet shops.
“Every dog deserves a second chance,” Mum would say, scooping up the latest addition to our family and giving him an affectionate nuzzle.
One such pooch was Gemini, a silver and white shih-tzu who was so clever that he was able to recognize all the names of his favourite toys when we called them out. He also got on famously with our resident cat, Mitzy, a confident and incredibly affectionate two-year-old tortoiseshell, and these furry friends would often snuggle up together in Gemini’s fleecy dog bed. Mitzy was an adorable little thing, with sage-green eyes and a distinctive snow-white coat splodged with black and orange. In between her many naps – like most cats, she slept for up to sixteen hours a day – she had a habit of following me around the house, miaowing for my attention and beseeching me to play with her. I was more than happy to oblige; she clearly favoured me over my three siblings, and Mum and Dad were often too busy restoring our old Victorian house to have the time to run up and down the stairs with a catnip mouse.
On a wintry Saturday in November, however, Mitzy vanished into thin air. We thought it strange that she’d not surfaced for her lunch – she loved her food and had a plump little belly to show for it – and when there was still no sign of her the next morning, our fears began to mount. David and I organized the family search party, scouring our back garden, rummaging through hedgerows and, when that came to nothing, knocking on neighbours’ doors. We spent an entire Sunday evening drawing MISSING CAT posters with our coloured pencils then attached them to lamp posts and tree trunks.
“Don’t worry, boys, she’ll probably return of her own accord,” said my mother, but as the hours turned into days – and the outdoor temperatures plummeted – my hope waned. Gemini seemed to sense the grey cloud over our household, too; our dog appeared more stressed and anxious than usual, running haphazardly around the house, stopping occasionally to scratch, whimper and look up at us dolefully.
“Poor Gemini,” I lamented, giving him a big bear-hug. “He’s missing Mitzy as much as we are.”
The following Thursday, almost a week after our cat had gone AWOL, the family were sitting in the lounge watching Top of the Pops, my sister Lynn’s favourite programme. Gemini was crouched in the corner, whining and pawing at the carpet.
“I wish he’d stop doing that,” grumbled my mum. “We only laid that a month ago and it’s already threadbare.”
As a long-haired leather-clad woman belted out her latest chart-topper, I became distracted by a sudden noise from across the room.
“Hey, I’m sure I just heard a miaow,” I said, sitting bolt upright. “Turn the volume down, Dad.”
We all listened intently for a couple of minutes, but heard nothing.
“It was probably Suzi Quatro hitting a high note,” grinned Dad, whacking the sound back up.
Moments later another loud, distinctive miaow emanated from the corner of the lounge and a light bulb went off in my head. Our clever shih-tzu, with his superior scenting and hearing skills, was indicating that our cat was down below, hence the constant moaning and scratching. The poor dog had probably been trying to alert us for days and we just hadn’t read the signs.
“MITZY’S UNDER THE FLOORBOARDS!” I screeched, dashing over to the corner. “That’s why Gemini’s been acting so weird.”
Mum sprang up from the sofa, put her hands on her hips and glared at my father.
“This is your fault, you silly sod,” she hissed.
“What d’you mean?” replied my startled dad.
“You took up the kitchen floor last weekend, didn’t you? The cat must’ve sneaked in when you weren’t looking.”
My father had indeed been replacing some crumbling water pipes the previous weekend, and Mitzy had evidently slipped in before he’d nailed the floorboards back down.
“But I hardly moved from the kitchen,” said Dad somewhat sheepishly. “And surely I would have noticed her –”
“Clearly not, Geoff,” responded my mum indignantly.
“You’d better go and get your toolbox. That poor little thing needs to see the light of day.”
Chaos ensued for the next hour as we heard an agitated Mitzy scampering off in different directions, her subterranean movements being closely tracked by Gemini, his ears pointing north, his snout pointing south. My father, armed with a claw hammer, ripped back carpets and wrenched up floorboards as David and I poked torches through the gaps, cajoling our cat with cries of ‘Mitzy, ch‑ch‑ch . . . Mitzy, ch‑ch‑ch . . .’ As all this unfolded, Mum cradled my baby brother Rian in her arms, watching on with horror as her house was torn apart.
A growling Gemini then indicated that Mitzy had reached a cul‑de‑sac beneath the downstairs loo. As our dog corkscrewed around in excitement, Dad carefully jimmied up a floorboard and, after a few tense moments, out crept a befuddled, bedraggled little cat, encrusted with dirt and grime and sporting a noticeably slimmer tummy. Rian’s gleeful yelp of delight, followed by a peal of laughter, said it all. Gemini had found Mitzy and our grey cloud had lifted.
The whole experience made a lasting impression on me. Watching my brainy dog find my beloved cat was one of the most amazing things I’d ever seen and, unbeknownst to me, had imprinted a grand idea on to my psyche. It would take another four decades before I was able to fully explore its true potential.
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