Tim Dowling: the cat is using my lettuce bed as a litter tray. He’ll be sorry

Tim Dowling: the cat is using my lettuce bed as a litter tray. He’ll be sorry

The cat glides past, avoiding eye contact.“I know it’s you, you little shit,” I say.“He just sees a big expanse of raked earth,” my wife says.“Everything is clearly labelled,” I say.

Tim Dowling: lessons in survival against the odds, from the tortoise

Tim Dowling: lessons in survival against the odds, from the tortoise

At that point we’d been married five years, and I’d never heard anything about a tortoise.“I thought he was giving me some kind of memento,” my wife says.“He was,” I say.

Tim Dowling: the cat’s had his nuts off. Does no one else feel his pain?

Tim Dowling: the cat’s had his nuts off. Does no one else feel his pain?

Once out of the carrier, he walks round the kitchen table in unsteady circles, knocking into chair legs.“He’s still groggy,” the middle one says.My wife is washing up, and the youngest is at the table making guacamole, surrounded by a growing mess.“How is he?” I say, looking at the cat.

Tim Dowling: hunting for a tortoise in driving rain will shrink my inflated ego nicely

Tim Dowling: hunting for a tortoise in driving rain will shrink my inflated ego nicely

I watch as the tortoise attempts, not for the first time, to leave through the cat flap; I know from experience that he’s about a centimetre too wide.

Tim Dowling: the cat and I are both struggling with the new cat flap

Tim Dowling: the cat and I are both struggling with the new cat flap

The cat never really mastered the old flap anyway – he sat in front of it for hours, delicately prying it open with one claw and watching it fall back into place.“You don’t pull, you push it, you idiot,” I would say.

Tim Dowling: I’m on my hands and knees, teaching our new cat old tricks

Tim Dowling: I’m on my hands and knees, teaching our new cat old tricks

When I look back it opens its mouth in a silent O.Instead of letting it in, I go outside and lead the cat round the corner, where I get down on my hands and knees on the mossy bricks to demonstrate the action of the cat flap.

Great British bark-off: my Dog Slot show was a forerunner of Dog TV

Great British bark-off: my Dog Slot show was a forerunner of Dog TV

Reading Tim Dowling (We are way past peak puppy – it’s time to end the great British dog obsession, 22 November ) took me back to 1973, when I was launching a small local cable TV station, Bristol Channel.

Tim Dowling: I’m sent a photo of a tiny kitten… in the back of our car

Tim Dowling: I’m sent a photo of a tiny kitten… in the back of our car

An hour before, she comes into the kitchen with a cat carrier.“Where did that come from?” I say.“We had it,” my wife says.Looking again at the picture of the kitten, I notice it’s sitting in a brand-new cat carrier, on the back seat of our car.

Tim Dowling: I fear we may be getting a kitten. Or worse, a corgi

Tim Dowling: I fear we may be getting a kitten. Or worse, a corgi

I look down.“Not now,” I say.‘No, of course I don’t like corgis.’ Illustration: Peter Gamlen/The GuardianA few days later my wife rings me.“Do you like corgis?” she says.“What does that mean?” I say.“We’re going to look at a kitten,” my wife says.

Tim Dowling: the cat has gone to the vet. I sit and await good news

Tim Dowling: the cat has gone to the vet. I sit and await good news

When the oldest one surfaces at about midday, I am still sitting in a chair watching the cat on the sofa.“The cat’s not well,” I say.“Isn’t he?” the oldest says.“Dad thinks he’s about to check out,” my wife says from the doorway, being unnecessarily faithful to my phrasing.“So take him to the vet,” the oldest one says.

Tim Dowling: hallelujah, the dog’s gone on holiday

Tim Dowling: hallelujah, the dog’s gone on holiday

As the front door closes behind him, my own summer holiday begins: a week with no dog sleeping on my feet or barking every time the bell rings, or staring at me intently as I try to write, or read, or watch TV.“I hope they make it down OK,” my wife says.

Tim Dowling: the pet food system is broken, and the cat blames me

Tim Dowling: the pet food system is broken, and the cat blames me

Because of all these sounds, I do not hear the approach of the youngest one before he leans through my door and holds up an open packet of cat food.“Have you fed the cat?” he says.“Yes,” I say.“He’s hassling me,” he says.

Tim Dowling: is the dog’s friendship with the fox sweet – or a bad omen?

Tim Dowling: is the dog’s friendship with the fox sweet – or a bad omen?

My wife sits up in bed.“What’s going on?” she says.“The dog is barking,” I say, standing up to look out the window.If you open the front door at night, the dog will often run out between your legs to chase the fox down an adjacent lane.

Tim Dowling: there’s a cold snap forecast. The tortoise is in peril

Tim Dowling: there’s a cold snap forecast. The tortoise is in peril

While I’m always pleasantly surprised when in rains for four straight hours instead of seven, this can make it difficult to balance the tortoise’s desire to be outside with spring’s eccentric schedule.“Harold,” says the cat.“Keep trying,” I say.When I look up an hour later, the grapes and the tortoise are gone.

Tim Dowling: the dog needs a haircut, and I’m next in line

Tim Dowling: the dog needs a haircut, and I’m next in line

“I think that looks pretty good,” my wife says, standing back.“In the box,” my wife says.“Fix what?” the youngest says.“These are dog attachments, but whatever,” I say.He looks at me, and the youngest one, and then me again.“I’m good,” he says.

Tim Dowling: the cat has plenty to say. But why should I listen?

Tim Dowling: the cat has plenty to say. But why should I listen?

The cat crosses the room, jumps on to the worktop, sits down at the edge of the sink and turns in my direction.“Ray,” it says.“I’m not Ray,” I say.

Tim Dowling: my wife wants to adopt a dog to live on our farm. Wait – what farm?

Tim Dowling: my wife wants to adopt a dog to live on our farm. Wait – what farm?

Later that night, I find my wife at her desk, looking at what appears to be a website dedicated to the adoption of abandoned dogs from around the world.“What are you doing?” I say.“Look at Lucky!” she says.“Are you trying to adopt a dog?” I say.“To live on our farm!” she says.“But we have a dog,” I say.

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.

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