The Feral Beast: A story of three pets - the White House one, the missing one and an oversized Gromit


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The Independent Online

He is already the most powerful dog in the world, codenamed by White House officials as Dotus (Dog Of The United States). Now, I can reveal that Bo, the Obamas' Portuguese water dog, has relations in high places in Britain.

A cousin called Caesar has been acquired by the Christie family of Glyndebourne, and is top dog at the world-famous opera house. Caesar belongs to Gus Christie, 49, and his opera singer wife, Danielle de Niese, 34. She says she likes to keep fit by taking Caesar on walks, and describes him as "delicious".

"Gus and I love walking him in the bluebell wood or around the grounds together," she says.

The Obamas were given Bo in 2009, as a gift from Senator Ted Kennedy, who owns another of Bo's relations, Cappy, short for Captain Courageous. Bo was named after Bo Diddley.

Cam speak

Samantha Cameron may look like a vision of calm, all flowing Zara dresses and beatific smiles. But for readers of The Guardian, she has been portrayed as a gabbling airhead by a parody column. Sam Cam's diary, "as seen by Catherine Bennett", is a weekly gush of breathless text speak and abbreviations, notable for its lack of punctuation.

Now, an internet posting by what appears to be the real Sam Cam suggests Bennett may have got her spot on. In a message on the Just Giving website, "Samantha Cameron" writes: "Love Dave, Sam, Nance, El and Flo xx". To translate: Dave is the Prime Minister, Nance is Nancy, and El is a shortening of Elwen, Arthur's middle name, by which he is actually known.

The message appears on a page set up by Flora Astor, Sam Cam's half-sister, to raise money for Bletchley Park. It's in memory of Astor's grandmother, Sarah Baring, who served there for three years during the war. Donations have been made by various members of the Astor family, totalling more than £1,500.

"Samantha Cameron" keeps the size of her donation secret, but from totting up the other donations we know she gave a very generous £150. If only we could see her Facebook page.

Alexei's missing Wilf

Wilf Mbanga has gone missing. Not the campaigning journalist who fled Zimbabwe, but Alexei Sayle's cat, who shares the same name. The comedian is distraught at the loss of his three-year-old mog, who escaped from his London home two weeks ago.

"Wilf Mbanga is a giant, stripy cat with long hair and a very fluffy tail," he tells his local paper. "He has not really gone out before and he doesn't really have a sense of direction. He is chipped though, so we're hoping that might help."

Sayle, who is currently on tour and is soon heading to Edinburgh, explains the unusual name: "We just liked the name Wilf Mbanga. And he sounded like a good man. The real Wilf Mbanga also lives here so I'm hoping people don't get confused and start looking for him."

The real Wilf Mbanga, who founded The Zimbabwean but now lives in Britain, says he is tickled to have a cat named after him. But he won't be joining the search for Wilf. As he told the Camden New Journal: "I am allergic to cats."

They're lowering the bar

Much popping of stiff collars at the Inns of Court recently after two single American women published a list of the 21 hottest male barristers. The Tumblr Your Barrister Boyfriend rated some of the country's top silks by their looks. Author and former officer Patrick Hennessey topped the list, and was described as "the kind of guy you dream about meeting when you're a 18-year-old girl fresh off your gap yah".

Now, the women plan to launch a similar list for female barristers. But while the male version was well received, some feel a female version could be a retrograde step. It has sparked a furious debate on The Lawyer magazine's website.

"The problem with extending this approach to women (barristers, or other professionals for that matter) is that for decades women have been hired, or not hired, on the basis of their appearance," writes one lawyer. "It has taken an inordinately long time to change that approach… I started practice in the era when that was the case, and I would not want to return there."

Bloomin' Park

Raymond Briggs, creator of The Snowman and the Father Christmas series with its grumpy Santa, was thrilled to be asked to paint a giant sculpture of Gromit by "one of my greatest heroes", the Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park.

It was part of an exhibition in Bristol of individually designed models of the plasticine dog, which will be sold off for charity. But what seemed like an honour turned into a nightmare for Briggs, now 79.

Writing about the ordeal in The Oldie, he describes how the model was so big it wouldn't fit in his home, and how his usual paints weren't suitable, so he had to use house paint. "Try lying on your back painting Gromit's belly, paint dripping onto your face," he grumbles, "and see how many times you bang your head on those infernal ears!"

The biggest blow was that Briggs had thought he was one of a few select artists invited to do the project, but later discovered "there are now over 80 of us muggins slaving away for the greater glory of Park". Sounds like they won't be swapping Christmas cards after all.

Those hard-working Lib Dems

Nick Clegg is in Spain on his annual holiday at wife Miriam's parents' place. This fact has been widely reported. So who was he trying to fool yesterday by sending a group email headed: "It's summer – back to work!"?

In it, he claims Lib Dem MPs are spending the summer "going back to the shop floor and finding out what it is like to be an apprentice". He tells us all about his experience with an apprentice pharmacy technician in Sheffield called Genna.

"It's a tricky job," he informs us. "You have to be very precise when handling medicines because there's no room for error when you're dealing with people's health".

Meanwhile, Danny Alexander is apparently on the butcher's counter at Morrisons. Or is he? Surely he's away on his summer holidays too, like every other MP.