Dom Joly: Bovine ablutions, and other country ways

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The Independent Online

It's the sheer level of violence that I can't comprehend.

What happened to the cute little kitten that would spend hours obsessed with a tiny piece of string and a stroke under the chin? Dr Pepper is now a fully formed killing machine, intent on sowing mayhem all over the Coln Valley

We acquired a rabbit recently, and Dr Pepper seems to have taken this as some form of personal slight. Rocket, the rabbit, has an outdoor hutch, with one entire side made of Plexiglas so that he can enjoy the sights and sounds of country life – big mistake. Every morning Dr Pepper drags whatever he has killed the night before in front of the rabbit window and proceeds to devour it slowly, savouring every bite.

Poor Rocket, the sweetest of rabbits, cowers in the corner trying not to look. One day, Dr Pepper decided to up the ante. He caught a wild rabbit and decided to decapitate it in front of the Rocket pad. We found the remains the next morning. For several days afterwards, Rocket wouldn't leave his indoor hutch, and who could blame him?

After much consultation, it was decided to get Dr Pepper a bell that he would wear on his collar. The idea of this was to give whatever prey he stalks a warning. I was in two minds about it. On the one hand I don't want poor old Rocket to be traumatised. He is a delicate soul, even for a rabbit, and is currently displaying early symptoms of post-traumatic stress. On the other hand, Dr Pepper is only doing what comes naturally to a cat (admittedly homicidal).

The problem is that I have no idea how the bell is impacting on his social status. Maybe he will be driven to kill even more by the treatment he now gets whenever he goes out. I can just imagine a string of robins sitting on a wall, hurling abuse as he tries to slip past.

"Oi bell-end, not so panther-like now are we, you furry bastard?"

"Who's the wanka' with the bell? Who's the wankaaaaaaa with the bell?"

Poor Pepper is forced to attempt an ambush, but the bell gives him away and the cocky robins simply hop on to a tree branch out of reach.

"Ding-dong, ding dong, it's the cat who's a prat."

"Look at that moron! What a cat-astrophe."

It clearly upsets him, as he has twice managed to get rid of his collar, only for Stacey to get him one with an even bigger bell. It won't be long before he resembles one of those Swiss cows with huge clangers dangling from their dopey necks.

Speaking of cows, the countryside continues to confuse, despite it approaching the 10-year mark since we left the Big Smoke. The field behind our house (the one with the herd of killer cows that Stacey is terrified of) has a curious new addition. We first spotted it about two weeks ago – two huge brushes, one vertical and one horizontal, sit on a metal pole below what looks like a shower gel dispenser. We asked around and were simply told that it was a "cow-washer", by locals who appeared dumbfounded that we'd never seen one before.

It is clearly there for the cows, but we are slightly confused as to how it is used. Once we are all in bed, do the cows line up, washbag in hoof, to clean themselves before falling asleep standing up and hoping that no drunk townies turn up looking to do some cow-tipping?

While we're about it, why are some cows black and white? Is it camouflage? If so, then it's pretty rubbish. Why haven't they evolved an army camo-type look? So many questions ... the countryside is a confusing place and it doesn't seem to get any clearer, however long you stay here.