Allie woke slowly. She lay for a while, exploring the sensations her body was feeding to her brain. Her left forepaw was covered by that of another animal. This animal’s paw was large, thickly furred, and extremely soft. Keeping her eyes closed, Allie felt the body heat of the other animals warming her, and she supposed she was contributing too, but then revised this on remembering that polar bears didn’t radiate much heat at all. Yawning, Allie stretched her toes, this action waking the animal who’s forepaw rested on top of her own.
“Morning Allie,” Perdy mewed. Allie apologised to Perdy for waking her.
“No problem,” Perdy replied, “I must have rested my paw on yours in sleep, I didn’t realise I’d done it.”
“No, that’s all right,” Allie said, “by the way Perdy, you’ve got lovely soft paws.” Perdy smiled and embraced Allie.
“How’s that?” she asked. Allie snuggled up to the female snow leopard.
“I think that’s positive feedback Perdy,” Brunetta said. Allie worked her paws into Perdy’s thick fur, snuggling close to her.
“You are so gentle Perdy,” Allie said. Perdy rubbed the female polar bear’s back with one well padded paw.
“how’s that?” Perdy asked. Allie curled her toes into Perdy’s fur, careful not to dig in her claws. Feeling Allie curling her toes into her fur, Perdy smiled and tenderly licked the female polar bear’s ear, purring contentedly all the time. Allie’s paws got warmer, the warmth and softness of the snow leopard’s fur lulling her to sleep.
“Allie’s drifting away,” Kodiak said softly. Arki watched Perdy. Perdy curled her tail around Allie’s hind paws, using its black tip to gently stroke the pads of the female polar bear’s left hind paw. Arki marvelled at how agile the snow leopard’s tail was. Indeed, she remembered Amber tickling the pads of Isaac’s paw with the tip of her tail long ago. So if Snow leopards could tickle paws with their tails, why not massage them too? Arki remembered her own introduction to paw massage. Tolstuka had been responsible for it, and Arki remembered how hesitant she’d been to accept the cub’s offer of a paw massage. Taking it slowly, Tolstuka stroked one of Arki’s forepaws, then the other, until Arki, overcome by a desire for more massage, literally rolled over onto her side and let Tolstuka massage all four paws. Arki buried her paws in the quilt, wishing she was beneath it. Kodiak, sensing her mood, hugged Arki tightly. Arki snuggled up to Kodiak, working her paws into his fur, which was much softer and warmer than the quilt. She stroked his ears, muzzle and forepaws, Kodiak nuzzling her cheek as she stroked him. Arki breathed deeply, Kodiak’s scent thrilling her. The sound of paws on material made Arki look round. Tigger crawled onto the quilt, and Seeing him, Allie smiled. She seemed to like Tigger a great deal, in fact all the animals did, for Tigger was very gentle, and he certainly knew how to massage life back into cold stiff paws. Perdy also noticed Tigger, and releasing Allie, threw her paws round the tiger’s neck and hugged him. Tigger purred contentedly and raised his left forepaw to touch Perdy’s nose. Perdy tickled Tigger’s pads with her whiskers, the tiger grinning at her. Perdy then nuzzled Tigger’s cheek.
“I’m spoken for Perdy,” Tigger mewed. Perdy sighed:
“I can dream can’t I?” she said. Portia padded in then, saw and heard what was happening, and launched herself at Perdy! Perdy, being much larger than the little lioness, stopped her attack by raising her paw and bringing it crashing down on Portia’s nose! Portia yowled with pain and withdrew hurriedly.
“That was unnecessary!” Tigger snapped, the sound of Portia’s paws hurrying away from Perdy reaching him. Perdy spat at Tigger!
“That cub was about to attack me!” she yelled, “what else was I meant to do? Take her in my paws and pat her on the head in praise for a job well done? I don’t think so! Bloody cubs!” Tigger lashed out at Perdy, his paw catching her across her face!” Perdy screamed with pain and threw up her paws to protect herself. Tigger’s paw wasn’t soft any more, it was hard, very hard! Perdy, the side of her face stinging from Tigger’s attack, crawled away as fast as she could. Tigger went in search of Portia, finding her cowering beneath the raised bed on top of which the animals had their quilt. Crawling in beside her, Tigger turned round and tried to embrace Portia with both forepaws. Spitting at him, Portia fled!
“You were complicit in that act!” she screamed, “you wanted her didn’t you Tigger!” Tigger couldn’t believe his ears!
“No Portia love, no!” He mewed, “It’s not like that! I was being friendly towards Perdy, there is nothing going on between us!” Portia banged the carpet with one tiny forepaw.
“It sounded like there was!” She yelled, “Perdy saying she could dream about something or other. I know what that was!”
“Yes Portia,” Tigger pleaded, “she said she was dreaming of having me to herself, I’d already told her I was spoken for!” Portia then realised she’d put her paw in it.
“I misread the situation I think,” she said faintly, “I’m so sorry Tigger!” Portia turned and crawled away, unable to say any more to the Bengal tiger. Tigger tried so hard not to cry, but his emotions got the better of him and, burying his face in his paws, he burst into tears.
Portia knew she’d upset Tigger by busting in and separating him from Perdy. Perdy and he were friends, that was all. Now she wondered if she would be able to call Tigger her mate for much longer after this.
Tigger rubbed his streaming eyes with clenched paws, sniffing and swallowing hard. He crawled out into the open and onto the quilt, where Allie touched his paw.
“Can I hug you Tigger?” She asked. Tigger nodded, snuggling up to Allie as he felt her paws embrace him. Allie liked Tigger a great deal, and the tiger knew it. Allie’s paws were so soft, and she was so gentle, Tigger didn’t want to leave her side. Allie certainly knew how to hug him. The female polar bear’s fur was warm and comforting to Tigger.
“You certainly know how to soothe a stressed mind Allie,,” Tigger said. Allie nuzzled his ear.
“I’ve heard you’re not so bad at that yourself Tigger,” she replied. Tigger didn’t know if he could summon up the strength to massage another animal’s paws. Portia’s antics had greatly upset him. Tigger touched Allie’s cheek with one paw, the female polar bear rubbing back against his pressure.
“I could try,” Tigger said, “try to massage your paws I mean.” Allie smiled at him, though she knew he couldn’t see it.
“I’d like that,” she replied softly. Tigger began to stroke Allie’s left forepaw, massaging and stroking her pads. Allie felt Tigger’s hesitation, and tried to encourage him.
“go on Tigger, rub my pads!” Allie urged. Tigger knew she could feel his anxiety. Brunetta looked at Tigger and said:
“Remember what I told you Tigger, when you’re massaging another animal’s paws, noone else matters but the animal you’re working on. Concentrate on Allie.” Tigger closed his eyes, struggling to clear his mind of thoughts of Portia. Once Tigger relaxed, Allie felt a change in the massage he gave her. She knew Tigger was now totally committed to his work. As Allie drifted in a haze of pleasure, she wondered if it would be right to ask Tigger if she could stroke his paws. Allie roused herself and put the question to Tigger.
“Tigger, can, can I stroke your paws?” Tigger, stroking the pads of Allie’s left hind paw, smiled and patted her paw, letting her know he was up for it. Allie rubbed back against Tigger’s paw, letting him know she’d understood. Tigger finished massaging Allie’s hind paws and crawled along until she could take his forepaws in hers. Allie took Tigger’s left forepaw in both her own and began to stroke it, Tigger purring contentedly as the familiar sensations enveloped his brain and calmed him. Tigger’s paw relaxed in Allie’s, the tiger resting his head on her shoulder and breathing deeply.
“Let it all go Tigger,” Allie whispered. Tigger relaxed each paw in turn, and Allie’s massage did the rest to send the tiger into a blissful sleep. Allie explored Tigger’s paws by sight and touch, the tiger now deeply asleep. His paws were large and soft, the pads rough, telling of hard times somewhere in his past. Allie wondered about Tigger, where had he come from? What happened to him before he arrived at his current home? Allie desperately wanted to ask him all this and more.
Tigger woke slowly, Allie’s paw massage making his paws tingle and the rest of him feel like he was floating on air. Stretching, Tigger relaxed onto the quilt, his paws lying flaccid. Allie watched him, wishing she had the courage to ask the tiger all the questions which were running round in her head. Tigger seemed to sense her thoughts.
“You don’t want to know about my early life Allie dear,” he said, “it was just too awful. Finding my cubs dead n’all, no, please, don’t make me relive that.”
“You have cubs now though,” Allie said, “adopted cubs, Whitie, Blanche, and that tiny Bengal tiger cub. The one with the large eyes and soft paws. I know, for he asked me to play with him, and I tickled the soles of his paws. He laughed helplessly, gripping my paws with his tiny ones.” Tigger remembered the tiny cub’s arrival. The cub struggling to free himself from the bag he’d been imprisoned in. Tigger closed his eyes and shook his head as he remembered the sight of the cub’s terrified eyes, while his paws scrabbled at the plastic window in the side of the bag. Tigger remembered it all, right down to the feel of the tiny cub’s sweat soaked fur, and the way his paws clung to him for protection. Allie realised she’d asked one question too many, and Tigger was dreadfully upset.
“I’m sorry Tigger,” Allie said, “I shouldn’t have asked anything about your life, what business is it of mine anyway?”
Tigger rubbed his eyes with one paw, he looked exhausted.
“The tiger cub who’s paws you tickled was brought here by a dog, who found the tiger cub sealed in a bag and dumped in the trash. I can’t ever forget what I saw that day Allie! It was too much for anyone to cope with. The cub’s eyes still haunt me now, the sound of his paws scrabbling against the plastic window fills me with horror. That tiny cub did all he could to escape, but he couldn’t even force the toes of one paw through the plastic bag, it was just too strong. I freed him by untying the top of the bag and putting one paw into the bag. The cub gripped my forepaw with both his and I pulled him out, the cub helping me along by pushing with the toes of his hind paws. Now he’s my cub, kind of.”
“You adopted him,” Allie said, understanding the situation entirely.
“I did,” Tigger replied, “I couldn’t let him suffer any longer.”
“he loved playing with me,” Allie said, “that tiger cub’s got no fear of anyone.” Tigger smiled.
“the last animal I rescued was Kodiak,” Tigger said, “I was just about able to see him that day, for later the same evening, I lost my sight totally.
“Oh Tigger,” Allie said softly, “I’m sorry, though that sounds terrible too. I’ll keep my mouth shut.”
“Do you know why my cubs died?” Tigger asked, “it was because I couldn’t see enough to run to them and rescue them from the hunters who killed them and their mother. My mate’s body was never found, but my cubs bodies were found, I found them. They were stiff in the grass.” Tigger couldn’t see Allie’s look of horror, but he felt her paw touch and envelope his.
“Tigger, that’s a dreadful tale!” she said, “I can’t think of any words to describe that.”
“I know,” Tigger replied, “I know you’ve felt it too Allie.”
“yes Tigger,” Allie replied, “but my loss, though horrendous, was different. The male polar bear who killed my Whitie cub was only doing what male polar bears have done for generations, he was obeying instinct. It’s not the same with your cubs. Those humans don’t instinctively kill tiger cubs. That’s the worst of it.” Tigger knew this. he nodded.
“let’s change the subject,” Tigger said, “how would it be if I stroked your paws once more?”
“really, I should be offering you that, for I caused you to relive so much pain Tigger,” Allie replied. Tigger took Allie’s left forepaw and touched her pads.
“If I work on you, it takes my mind off the death of my cubs,” Tigger said. Allie’s paw was relaxed in Tigger’s, her pads warm against his. He began to stroke her paw, Allie wiggling her toes to let him know she was enjoying every minute of Tigger’s attention. Tigger stroked Allie’s paws one by one, taking his time over each, working the toes of his forepaws deep into the fur on Allie’s paw to check for damage and stimulate the pleasure causing chemicals to flow into her bloodstream and intoxicate her, which after all was the purpose of the whole venture. Allie felt Tigger’s paws doing their thing, and knew she would soon be in the same pleasurable haze as she’d been the first time. Allie closed her eyes and thought about Tigger, visualising the tiger’s paws, which she’d examined and massaged, working on her own, trying to imagine what she would see if she could watch her own paw massage. Allie realised she wouldn’t mind if Tigger and she massaged each other’s paws every day. She confessed to herself that she’d rather enjoy that state of affairs.
Tigger stroked Allie’s paws, totally focusing all he had through the pads and toes of his forepaws. Sensing Allie’s mood, he realised she was thinking of him, and of how good it would be to have her paws massaged by him as frequently as possible. Tigger remembered her paws stroking his, and wished she’d agree to stroking his paws once more, just once more. Tigger felt the toes of Allie’s right forepaw curl round his as he stroked her paw, and knew for certain their thoughts were going in a similar direction. Smiling at Allie, Tigger patted the top of her paw which held his with his remaining free forepaw. Allie wiggled her toes without releasing Tigger’s paw, her pads massaging his.
“do you trust me Allie?” Tigger asked. Allie sighed contentedly.
“I do Tigger, I really do,” she replied. Tigger stroked Allie’s left hind paw, feeling the polar bear relaxing slowly. When her paw rested flaccidly in his, Tigger knew Allie had fallen asleep completely.
“Allie’s got a thing about you I think Tigger,” Perdy said. Tigger finished stroking Allie and then turned to the female snow leopard.
“and you haven’t?” He asked, smiling broadly.
“All right, I have,” Perdy admitted, “you can see through me Tigger. Tigger took Perdy’s left forepaw in both of his and began to stroke it. Perdy relaxing as the massage did its work.
“I love working with you cold climate creatures,” Tigger said, “your fur and paws are always so warm and soft, a pleasure to work with. Not saying the fur and paws of my temperate cousins aren’t a joy to work with too, for everyone’s a pleasure to work with, but the cold weather creatures have something special.” Perdy purred contentedly.
“Can Arki and I have a bit of that?” Kodiak Asked. Tigger smiled.
“Of course you can,” he said, “as soon as I’ve finished working with Perdy.”
“Which I hope won’t be for a long time yet,” Perdy purred. Tigger patted her paw.
Tigger finished his work on Perdy, the snow leopard soon sleeping peacefully. Turning his attention to Kodiak, the Bengal tiger began to stroke the brown bear’s paws, treating him as he treated everyone else, as if their massage was the only thing in the whole world which mattered to him.
Kodiak soon found himself drifting away, as he had countless times before. This was one feeling he’d never grow tired of though, for Kodiak was a tactile bear, who’d always loved physical contact with other animals.
When Kodiak was sleeping like Perdy before him, Tigger settled himself beside Arki, who took his left forepaw in both of hers and stroked it, Tigger closing his eyes and relaxing his body. Arki looked Tigger over, from his ears, to the pads of his hind paws.
“Sleep well Tigger dear,” Arki whispered as the Bengal tiger snuggled up to her.
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