Les chiens renifleurs

I am back at school and, last week, we had the usual fire safety training. (You’d think it were as simple as “Get everyone out and dial 999” but it’s much more complicated than that, and we have to renew the training every year.)

One thing that absolutely blew our minds was finding out that there are fire investigation dogs who are able to identify whether or not a fire was started deliberately. My colleagues are all animal lovers* so the reaction was as one would imagine:

“Oh my goodness!”


“That’s so clever!”

“How do they do that?”

“Do you ask them to bark once for accident and twice for arson?”

*My colleagues’ pets include Winston the tabby cat, Luna the calico cat, Waltham the Dalmatian, Frida the Dachshund, Baby and Henry the parrots and a trio of feral foster kittens who haven’t yet been named because they’ve only just arrived.

Tony the fire training officer eventually said, “Right, that’s enough about the dogs. Can we move on now?” But we didn’t. And, during our coffee break, I was typing “fire investigation dogs” into Google and reading the results to a captivated staff room.

Not only can the dogs sniff out whether or not accelerant was used to start a fire, but they can also locate whereabouts on the site it was used, including across multiple rooms/floors and in unobtrusive locations. What unbelievably clever and helpful doggies. Whereas cats, I’m sure, wouldn’t be so obliging. It’s not that they can’t do clever things. They just don’t feel like it.

The fire investigation dogs were probably the second most important and talked-about part of the day, with the first being, erm, the fact that our school can’t fit cars, staff, students AND the fire engine into our tiny car park without trapping people in close proximity to the burning building. So we need to rethink our emergency assembly procedures.

Anyway, here is Simba, one of the fire investigation dogs who featured in our training (pictured here in his work uniform):

Good boy.

And here is Louis Catorze, who would probably start a fire on purpose if he knew that it would send big, strapping firemen rushing to us:

Bad boy.

Je m’occupe de Maman

Can cats feel love? If they could speak, I doubt very much that they would be able to agree on what love is – after all, humans don’t. But Louis Catorze, who is usually a confirmed non-giver of shits, shocked me senseless this weekend by showing a sweet side of him that I have never seen before. (Cat Daddy says he sees it all the time, when they have Boys’ Club together after I’ve gone to bed. Good for him/them.)

Yesterday morning I slipped and fell on the stairs. (Mum, if you’re reading this, don’t worry: I AM FINE.) To my utter astonishment, the first person on the scene was Louis Catorze, who came hurtling through the cat flap upon hearing my scream and hovered around me, sniffing and nuzzling. He then pitter-pattered upstairs to his daddy, and my first thought was, “Typical: even in my hour of need, he’d rather be with his favourite human.”

But it turned out that the little sausage had actually gone to get help. Cat Daddy had been awakened by my yelp but later told me that Louis Catorze had been bouncing around the bed, seeming agitated. This photo shows nothing more than an incidental yawn, but I like to think Louis Catorze is screaming, “Papaaaaaa! Au secooooooours!”


“How weird that he heard you from outside, and that he came to fetch me,” Cat Daddy said.

And not only that but, having successfully alerted his daddy, he also pitter-pattered back downstairs and hung around to see how I was.

So, whilst I don’t know whether cats can feel love, it seems that even thick ones are capable of thinking, “You may only be my second favourite human, but I still want you to be ok.”