Tim Dowling: the tortoise will not only outlive me, it’ll outwit me, too

Tim Dowling: the tortoise will not only outlive me, it’ll outwit me, too

It is just after 11pm and I am in the garden in a downpour that began precisely as I stepped outside, searching for the tortoise by the light of my phone.“I suppose it would be terrible if he were to sadly pass,” my wife says.

Tim Dowling: Is the puppy homesick? The worry is all-consuming

Tim Dowling: Is the puppy homesick? The worry is all-consuming

The puppy we’re looking after for friends appears at the garden door with a shoe in its mouth.The dog sits on the garden table, lip curled in a sneer, while my wife runs the trimmer over its back.“It’s for dogs,” my wife says.

Tim Dowling: we’re looking after a puppy. It’s riding our dog

Tim Dowling: we’re looking after a puppy. It’s riding our dog

I set my alarm for 7am to release the puppy from the cage at its accustomed hour, but when it goes off, my wife is already downstairs, the tiny dog running figures of eight round her ankles.“I knew you’d be down here, sucking up to it,” I say.“Did you want to be the one to let it out?” she says.“No,” I lie.“The extractor fan man will be here soon,” she says.“That’s today?” I say.

Tim Dowling: I’ve outwitted the cat, the tortoise and the coffee maker

Tim Dowling: I’ve outwitted the cat, the tortoise and the coffee maker

As I wait for the little green light indicating the machine is ready to dispense coffee, I hear the sound of the tortoise making a 45-degree turn somewhere in the vicinity of the cupboard where the mugs are kept.

Tim Dowling: me and the squirrel, it's war

Tim Dowling: me and the squirrel, it's war

Early on Monday morning, a damp autumn chill greets me when I open the garden door. One afternoon, I look up from my work to see the squirrel sitting on my office step, watching me through the open door, and eating a cherry tomato with both hands.