Kamchatka, Conrad and
Nanuq Junior led Helga and Ekaterina to Kamchatka’s lie up, which was bigger
than Olga’s and Nanuq’s had been. Once
they’d settled the cubs,
“Can, can you
help me?” The bear asked. Kamchatka looked at the bear; she saw a
scruffy grey bear with lighter grey paw pads, which
“You have been
dumped me,” he choked.
“I was dumped here three days ago!” the bear wept, giving up the struggle, “my life’s been with humans ever since I was a cub, and now, now it’s over, my life with humans that is, but who do I turn to? Who can I go to now the humans have abandoned me?”
“You can come
home with me if you want,”
“Come,” he said to the grey bear. “Come home with us.”
“But I’m older
than your cubs mama,” the bear protested, “I see you are looking after
“I can always adopt another cub,” she whispered softly, the grey bear choking back tears.
“Mama,” the grey bear said, “shows me how it is to be a cub, please! I’m begging you from the bottom of my heart to find it within you and your family to be kind and gentle to a poor grey bear!”
“How old are
years old,” he said, “your cubs are only a month or two old I think.”
“Do you have a
“My name’s Old Grey, at least that’s what my human child used to call me,” the bear replied.
“Patch I am then mama,” he said, “I will do anything to stay with you, let you play with my paws, tickle my toes, stroke my pads, anything to be with you.”
stroking the paws of my cubs,”
“I want you to stroke my paws, both fore and hind, but hind mostly, also, I like having my toes played with and tickled too! I’m sorry if this is not how a bear should behave, but I was with humans for the last seven and three quarter years and old habits die hard.”
“Me and my mate love playing with each other’s paws as well as the paws of our cubs. We will take you home and love you as our own Patch.” Conrad smiled broadly.
“Come here,” he said to the grey bear, who crawled to him, for he found walking painful after three days on his hind legs, having not been taught to walk on all fours. Conrad watched the bear coming, the poor creature looking more and more like a cub with every passing minute.
“You have been well loved,” Conrad said, “but humans are funny creatures. They will discard you as easily as a bit of rubbish, and move on, not giving a thought to the welfare of the poor creature they’ve discarded.” Patch reached Conrad, who sat down and gathered him into a huge bear hug. Patch gulped hard.
“Am I worth loving like this?” He asked himself, “for these two bears do love me, but on what do they base their love? Surely not my coat, that’s scruffy and balding? So what do they feel inside? Am I dreaming I’m feeling paws around me? Was the big grizzly mama a dream?” Patch held onto Conrad’s fur with all four paws, curling the toes of fore and hind paws into the bear’s fur.
“What’s going on?” Samson asked, padding up to the group.
“We have a
lost bear here,”
“Let me take a look at you,” Samson said gently, the scent of man on the bear’s coat making him want to run away.
“Who are you?” Patch asked, not turning his head to look at the lion.
“My name’s Samson, I’m, well, mama bear’s friend.” Patch wailed with fear as Samson touched him with his paw.
“Don’t force him Sammy,” fleur said, padding up and looking with a shocked expression at the scruffy bear.
“What happened to you?” Fleur asked.
“Take me home
mama; this is too much, too much!” Patch
begged, leaping at
“Let’s go home
“She’s got a new cub,”
“I don’t know if giving that bear a home is going to bring joy to her heart,” fleur mewed, “that bear looked pretty ill to me.”
“I can’t say,”
“Probably taken from his mama as a cub and reared by humans,” Samson suggested.
“I think that’s
exactly what’s happened,”
“I can smell him from here!” Ekaterina spat, “he smells of man! Disgusting!”
“I know he does,” Helga replied, “but mum’s brought him here for a reason I’m sure. Maybe he’s lost and in need of a home like Conrad was.” Ekaterina had heard Conrad’s tale, and this struck home.
“Maybe,” she replied. Ekaterina crawled up to Patch, which, having walked from the wood on his hind legs had collapsed onto the rug in an undignified heap.
is my cub Ekaterina, Ekaterina, meet Patch,”
“You said I smell disgusting,” Patch said, “why come to me little cub?”
“Because you are like my sire was, lost and alone, and I can’t let you be alone any longer,” Ekaterina said. Patch, feeling the cub’s touch, gulped hard, trying with everything he had not to cry.
“I mustn’t cry, I mustn’t cry!” He told himself, but tears wouldn’t stop filling his eyes.
“Cry if you want to Brother Patch,” Ekaterina said. Patch looked at the white bear cub through his tears.
“You are all so accepting of me,” Patch sobbed, “why? What have I done to deserve this?”
“You have spirit,” Ekaterina said, “you’re a bear.”
“I’m a humanised bear, who likes peanut butter sandwiches and curling up with a bedtime story. That’s not wild bear stuff, even I know that.”
“As a matter of fact, I like peanut butter too,” Ekaterina replied, “also, I like curling up with a bedtime story. Our badger friends tell us tales just before we go to bed some nights. We all gather in the great room, and Honeyfur will tell us all tales of the community who have passed into the spirit world from this one.” Patch, his tears subsiding, was listening with interest.
“The spirit world? The other side? I, I remember something,” the scruffy grey bear said, closing his eyes in concentration, the toes of all four paws curling as he fought to remember his first three months of life, “eon something?”
“Eohippus,” Ekaterina said, “go to Rowena and she’ll tell you that tale, for she’s the spiritual leader round here, but yes, eohippus guides our paws here, and guided yours to us today no doubt.”
“No,” Patch replied, “I was dumped by my human owner. I had no guide, I was lost, and I had strange dreams though, for I wandered for a few days, days in which rain came to the wood. These dreams, dreams of a white lioness. A white lioness who kept telling me “follow your paws, follow your paws.” When I told her my head didn’t know where to go, so my paws certainly had no idea, she just kept saying “follow your paws.”
“And you have followed your paws I see,” someone said.
“Oh, Hi Rowena,” Ekaterina said airily. Patch looked up, and then stared open mouthed.
“It’s, I mean, you’re, you’re the lioness from my dream!” He exclaimed.
“I saw a lonely road with a car driving along it,” Rowena replied, “I saw a human stop the car and push a scruffy bear out of the back. The car drove away. The bear was grey with light grey paw pads, as I saw when he lifted a hind paw to scratch the ankle of his other hind leg. The bear walked into the wood on his hind legs like a man. So I knew he’d been kept by humans for a long time to learn their ways like he had. Eohippus told me to reach out to this bear, that she would see him safe if I told him what I was told as a cub. Follow your paws. So I told the bear that, and he raged against the ancient teachings, but in the end, the grey bear with the light grey paw pads followed his paws, and they led him eventually to a track and to a meeting with a grizzly bear and polar bear. Then, in time, the grey bear came here.” Patch listened to Rowena’s voice; the lioness speaking in such gentle tones Ekaterina had fallen asleep.
“I don’t know what to say,” Patch said, “Queen Lioness Rowena, you know my dreams! You describe them completely.”
“Queen Rowena?” Rowena asked laughing, “come off it Patch!” Patch looked into the lioness’s eyes and saw a deep gentility.
“I thought lions were the kings and queens of the animals,” Patch said.
“This lioness isn’t,” Rowena replied, “I’m just a student of Eohippus, and Sometimes the white mare will ask me to go to people in need.” Patch looked at Ekaterina lying with his left forepaw still held in her right fore.
“Is Ekaterina my sister?” He asked.
“What do you think she would say to that?” Rowena asked.
“Her paw tells me, tells me she’d like to be my sister, also she called me brother. I know I want to be her brother, to learn to be a cub again, to play, and to love my mama and adopted sire and their family.”
“Your paws are telling you the right things,” Rowena said, “follow them Patch, and you will seldom go wrong.”
“Is it okay to let other bears stroke my paws and play with my toes?” Patch asked, “I’m sorry if that’s cub stuff, but I never really grew out of liking my paws played with.” Rowena looked down at Patch’s paws.
“Do they feel as if they want Ekaterina to play with them?” She asked. Patch thought for a minute and decided they did.
“Yes, they want to be played with,” he replied.
“So it is good to allow Ekaterina to play with your paws,” Rowena mewed. Ekaterina shook herself awake.
“Um, ah, oh, Rowena!” She said, looking guilty, “I’m sorry, but that story put me right to sleep, I mean, oh no! I didn’t mean it like that!” Rowena laughed and kissed Ekaterina’s nose.
“Now you are a good sister to Patch Ekaterina,” Rowena said, “for he’ll need your help.” Ekaterina smiled and nodded.
“I know,” she replied, “for he’s never been a cub.” Patch stared at the white bear cub.
“How do you know that?” He asked.
“I can feel it in your paw,” Ekaterina replied, “it told me everything.” Patch was about to ask if Ekaterina was willing to help, when she kissed his nose.
“Curl up my brother so I may kiss the pads of your paws,” Ekaterina said. Patch did as she requested, and Ekaterina kissed the sole pads of all four of his paws, how good that felt! First the tiny kiss to the sole pad of a paw, then the tiny caress of her toes holding the toes of whichever paw she’d just kissed.
“Close your eyes little brother,” Ekaterina said, “for you will not need them if you trust your paws.” Patch closed his eyes, reaching for Ekaterina with his forepaws, finding her forepaws, then her legs, then her body, enfolding her in a huge hug, his paws guiding him to hug her tightly.
“I want to hug her; I want to hug her so much!” Patch thought, “I can’t stop it!” Ekaterina snuggled closer, the scruffy grey bear’s rain dirtied paws enveloping her, holding her, loving her.
“My paws don’t want to let go!” Patch thought frantically, “but, but what if Ekaterina wants me to let go?”
“Follow your paws, always,” Ekaterina replied, “they’ll tell you what to do.” Patch and Ekaterina lay curled together for a long time, mud from Patch’s paws dirtying Ekaterina’s fur.
Helga watched Ekaterina and Patch, realising Patch had been taught by humans for such a long time, that when they left him, his world fell apart, though his memory of the stories of Eohippus meant he hadn’t quite forgotten the natural world.
Ekaterina and Patch parted after about an hour and a half. Helga then took her chance to look at Patch and examine him from nose to tail. He was a medium sized bear with grey fur which was balding in Patches. His eyes were brown, nose and paw pads grey. Helga thought he might be related to brown bears rather than grizzly or polar bears. Patch watched Helga inspecting him from nose to toes.
“I know I’m a mess,” he said, “I’ll clean myself up when I’ve had a rest, the last few days have been, well, difficult.” Helga kissed Patch’s nose.
“We’ll bathe you and feed you too,” Helga said, “mum’s taken quite a liking to you I feel, as has my sister Ekaterina. I also like what I feel, even though you are a bit scruffy.” Nanuq Junior wandered in shortly after and caught sight of Patch. Going over to him, the polar bear lay down beside the scruffy grey bear.
“Hi,” Nanuq Junior said to Patch, the grey bear watching him closely.
“Who are you?” He asked.
“I’m Helga’s sire,” Nanuq Junior replied.
“Helga?” Patch asked, “Whose Helga?”
“You mean you didn’t tell this poor bear your name?” Nanuq junior scolded his cub, “disgraceful behaviour Helga!” Helga hung her head; she’d forgotten to introduce herself.
“I’m Helga,” she
said lamely, “and you’ve got Conrad,
“Conrad!” Followed by the sound of tiny paws running into the lie up heralded Jinghua’s arrival. The panda cub ran to Conrad who was lying on his side, his eyes half closed. As the panda cub approached him, Conrad rolled onto his back, the cub leaping onto his chest, Conrad catching Jinghua in his paws.
“Hello dear cub,” Conrad said, almost purring. Patch watched all this.
“Is the black and white bear cub Conrad’s?” Patch asked.
“No,” Helga replied, “but he helped her mama a panda named Yi Jie give birth to her. That’s Jinghua.” Patch knew of pandas, indeed of many bears, as he’d learned to read with the human adult then the human adult’s child. He’d read many books, in secret of course, reading about pandas and all kinds of other creatures. What all his reading had not prepared him for was the family diversity within this community.
“Um, am I right in thinking that in essence, everyone’s cubs are everyone else’s? In terms of responsibility I mean?” He asked.
“Yeah,” Nanuq Junior replied, “of course you would never call, um, say Yi Jie mama, but if she were the only adult in the room, she’d be as careful with my cubs as I would with hers. Yes, we look after each other’s cubs.” Patch smiled, he liked that idea.
“Now let’s get you bathed,”
Helga covered her mouth with her paw to hide a smile, for she thought the grey
bear was mocking
“I’m on the same bedtime routine as you, so you’ll not be going to bed before everyone else,” Ekaterina said to Patch, the grey bear crawling to Ekaterina and hugging her.
you show Patch where the bathroom is Ekaterina,” Kamchatka said, “then you can show him how to
operate the shower, how to wash his face, body and paws, and then you can go to the bathtub, and soak
for a while before both of you have some food then we’ll visit Allie and
“I know how to use all this!” He said, “For I saw humans using a lot of this. I know how to use a shower, a bathtub, and the relieving place too.” Ekaterina laughed:
“That’s good,” she said, pressing a button on the wall by the shower to turn on the warm jets while Patch made use of the relieving place. Once he’d concluded his business and washed his paws, he padded over to the shower, staring in amazement at the buttons on the wall, all set at different levels so cubs and adults in the community could operate the shower. Soaking himself, Patch pressed a button marked “all over body wash” with one forepaw while cupping the other beneath the spout below the button. Catching the shampoo in his paw, Patch began to rub it into his facial fur. Once he’d rinsed the soap off his face, he attended to his body, rubbing more of the soap into his fur on belly, legs, chest, neck and paws, making sure he got between the pads and toes of all four paws by sitting down with the shower off and rubbing the shampoo into the pads and toes of his hind paws.
“This place is wonderful Ekaterina,” Patch said, Ekaterina laughing merrily.
“I like it,” she
said, showering herself down in another shower setup. Patch made sure every part of his body got
washed and rinsed thoroughly. When
Ekaterina and Patch emerged from the shower room to go to the bathtub, they
looked like walking puffballs. Indeed,
Patch’s coat looked a lot better now it had been washed. Entering the bathroom, they found
“I think you
two will have to use the other bathtub,”
“Okay,” Patch said, “Ekaterina and I will use the other tub. Getting into the water, Patch and Ekaterina sat opposite each other, their hind paws touching.
“Your hind paws are nice and warm,” Ekaterina said, Patch grinning hugely.
“”Yours are really soft and,” he picked up her left hind paw in his forepaws and examined it by touch, “so cute too, just like the rest of you Ekaterina.” Ekaterina giggled as Patch stroked the pads of her left hind paw.
“I love having my paws touched,” Ekaterina said, “do you like it too Patch?” Patch gently stroked the toes of Ekaterina’s paw.
“Why not take my hind paws in your forepaws and see what your paws tell you,” Patch suggested.
“I will do that, but first you have my hind paw in your forepaws,” Ekaterina said, “Do you want me to curl my toes?” She asked. Patch replied:
“Do you want to curl your toes? If you do, you curl them, I’ll stroke them.” Ekaterina smiled and curled her toes tightly, Patch stroking her curled toes and bunched pads.
“I love all this,” Ekaterina said. Patch kissed the bunched sole pad of his sister’s left hind paw, Ekaterina giggling with pleasure.
each other’s paws feels so good!”
“It feels great!” He said. Ekaterina giggled:
the pads of my left hind paw!” She
“That’s nice,” she said. Patch let go of Ekaterina’s left hind paw, the cub picking up his left hind in her forepaws and exploring it from toes to sole pad. Patch smiled hugely, wiggling his toes, Ekaterina kissing the wiggling toes and wrinkled sole pad. Patch sighed deeply.
“My hind paws like your paws it seems,” he said softly. Ekaterina smiled.
they’ve found their own fun,”
completely,” he said, “for all we need is ourselves and our paws to have just
as much fun as they are having
“That we do,” she said.
Padding along from the drying room, the first lie up they
came to was
“This is Patch,”
“Mama,” Patch asked, “is you part of the leonine pride too?”
“How about me,
Helga, and Ekaterina?” Patch
enquired. Kamchatka looked at
“Yes,” she said, “all of us.”
“So does that
“Of course,” she said.
tickling!” He yelled, “You’re tickling
“Hey!” He yelled.
“You have been
“I fell over!” He said, “But walking on all four paws is easier. Also, there’s less of a fall if I lose my footing.” Patch rolled over onto his back, letting Leo, Little Elsa, Theo and Clarence take a good look at him.
“You have light grey, almost white paw pads and dark grey fur Patch!” Clarence said. Patch smiled and curled the toes of all four paws, Little Elsa giggling as her right forepaw was caught in the toes of his left hind.
“Your pads are bunching up beneath my paw!” Elsa giggled, as if she’d never felt this before. Patch grinned.
“I like the feel of your toes in mine,” he said. Elsa kissed the bear’s toes holding her own.
“I like it too,” she replied.
“This bear’s mad about his paws,” Theo junior remarked.
“Aren’t we bears all mad about our paws?” Jinghua asked, padding into the lie up.
younger Brunetta that is,”
“I learned how to play with my hind paws when my last owner, a young female human child learned to play with her feet,” Patch said, “I was owned by the adult human, the young female human child’s mother then. Even so, I saw what the female child was doing and copied her, learning how to use my forepaws play with my hind paws. I could already stand upright, but I must say that walking on all four paws does feel better, though crawling is great too. If I crawl, that allows others to touch my hind paws if they want to. I’ll soon let them know if I don’t want them to touch my pads or toes. Ekaterina and I were having a great time playing with each other’s paws in the bathtub earlier.” Jinghua padded over to Patch and looked at him.
“You are no cub Patch,” she said, “but you act like a cub. Why is this?” Yi Jie, padding in and overhearing her daughter cub’s words took Jinghua aside to explain things, for Patch could not. As far as he was concerned, he was how he was, and that was that. He’d spent his life playing like a cub, and that was all he knew.
“U supposes I am a cub,” he mused, “but I’ve never been taught to be any other way.” Patch released little Elsa’s paw and sat up, looking down at his hind paws.
“So playing with
my hind paws is still okay?” He
“I can’t get to my paws; I can’t get to my paws! They won’t let me!” He yelled, while everyone else fell about laughing.
“Take it gently,” Ekaterina said, “though I have no idea what you were doing. Just lie on your back, take deep breaths and try to get to your paws.”
“I’m sorry Ekaterina,” Helga said, for she’d padded into the lie up, “it was so quick I couldn’t describe it. Patch turned summersaults, rolled about, grabbed his hind paws with his fore before letting go and kicking the air with all four paws in an attempt to get to his feet! It was very funny!”
“I was only
playing,” Patch said, “but it felt good to play like that, to let my mind run
wild for a minute or two.”
“I’m sorry I can’t describe what I just did,” he said, “it was so quick, so frantic, you know, like when you’re trying to get to your paws for the first time and you can’t. Ekaterina had tried once to get to her paws, but had fallen in a heap on the floor.
“I only tried it once,” she said, “and I fell over! It was painful!”
“Do you want to try getting to your paws now?” Patch asked. Ekaterina tried, putting her full weight on her forepaws and placing her hind flat on the carpet. She stood uneasily, and then took a few tentative steps, before collapsing again into a crawling posture.
“Crawl with me Patch,” she pleaded, “for I can’t’ walk yet!” Patch crawled over to Ekaterina and hugged her.
“I will,” he replied, “until you can walk.” Ekaterina hugged Patch and kissed his nose.
“Thanks,” she said.
“The only way I can describe what Patch did is by saying he rolled about on the floor, trying to get to his paws and failing. I think he got to his paws once, got them tangled up, then fell again, rolling about on the floor!” Helga said, “he grabbed his hind paws with his fore, curled up, uncurled, held his hind paws in his forepaws for a few seconds while rolling about on the floor before turning head over paws three times, then landing in a heap. It looked hilarious!!”
“I imagine it did,” Ekaterina said, feeling left out for the first time in her life...
“I’m sorry,” Patch said, Ekaterina, if, if I could take you with me, I would have done so. You can touch my paws all you like, feel me holding my hind paws with my fore, feel me curling my toes, everything like that, but I can’t re-enact for you what happened earlier. The sheer craziness of it can’t be recaptured. Unless someone reviews video of it I suppose. Oh yes, I saw video cameras here, I know someone will have recorded it. Maybe someone can describe what happened? I’ll even watch myself being cubbish and try to tell you. The thing is, I could let you feel me rolling over or turning head over paws, but you’d most likely be injured if you got paws on with something like that. Maybe when you’re bigger, I can then show you.”
“You aren’t a cub in body are you,” Ekaterina said, “Patch, you’re a grown bear with the mind of a cub.”
“I suppose I have the mind of a cub yes,” Patch said, “but I definitely have the body of an adult bear. I know this only too well when I realise I can’t play with you like I want to. I want to roll about with you Ekaterina, but I can’t! I’m too big!” Ekaterina hugged her friend.
“So I can’t see to play with you and you’re too big to play with me,” she said, “what a mess!”
“Yes,” Patch replied, “but we can still play with each other’s paws, even role plays games like pretend our paws are trapped and we have to free them. The trapped paw game I know it as.” Ekaterina smiled:
“I know that game,” she said, “take the toes of a forepaw in the toes of a hind and pretend it’s stuck, then after a lot of struggling, growling and snarling, another bear frees the trapped paw by stroking it. Have you ever played the game where we sit opposite each other, hind paws touching and pretend our hind paws are stuck together? We have to work the toes of our forepaws between the stuck hind paws, working our hind paws loose by inches.” Patch shook his head.
“I’ve never played that one,” he said, “but it sounds fun. So we pretend our paws are stuck together and try to free ourselves, hmmm, sounds fun.”
“It is,” Ekaterina said. Patch then had an idea.
“Ekaterina,” he said, “how would it be if I showed you what I did, sort of took hold of your paws and guided you through it?”
“So you get me to roll about and turn head over paws?” Ekaterina asked.
“Yeah,” Patch replied, “we could find a really soft mat or something, so you wouldn’t get hurt if you fell, and you could roll about and wrestle with your hind paws as much as you wanted.
“I’ve always wanted to go crazy like that,” Ekaterina said, “I wonder if there is such a place.”
“There is such
“You and Conrad
you mean,” Helga said laughing.
“I want it, I want it, and I want it!” Ekaterina yelled, jumping up and down with excitement.
“I can hardly wait either!” Patch said, dancing on his toes. Ekaterina hugged Patch forcefully.
“A place for us cubs and noone else? How wonderful!” She enthused. Patch giggled:
“Yeah,” he said, “a place where we can crawl about, play with each other’s paws, or play together on the slides and things.”
“This is going
to be so cool!” Ekaterina enthused. Patch took her paw and they crawled to the
new place which
“Go in,” she
said, “I can’t follow you two in there.”
Patch led Ekaterina into the new room, which was huge!
Ekaterina and Patch found themselves in a well lit room with soft flooring under paw and a slide off to one side. The room was forest themed, with the trees providing the supports for the above ground level activities. One tree was even part of the slide, this was a bent tree trunk which one slid down inside. Ekaterina bounced on her toes and looked up at Patch as best she could.
“Could you show me how you roll head over paws?” She asked. Patch grinned:
“Sit down,” he said, “and then lean forward, tuck your head into your chest and roll forward quickly. Let your body do the rest. Ekaterina tried it, but couldn’t do it.
“I don’t like it!” She whimpered, “It’s uncomfortable!”
“It is when you’re thinking about it,” Patch replied, “forward roles are not that easy to do when you’re concentrating. Right, let’s try something simpler. Try standing on all four paws, then tangling them up and falling over. You know how soft this floor is now, so you’ll be okay.” Ekaterina stood on her four paws, and then leapt into the air, trying to tangle her paws. Managing this, she collapsed in a laughing heap, rolling and wriggling in a fight with suddenly unresponsive paws.
“My paws are all tangled up!” She yelled laughing helplessly, “they’re trapped, Patch, touch my paws!” Patch did so, finding Ekaterina had her hind paws held in her forepaws and was trying to pull them apart.
“They’re stuck, stuck tight! I can’t free them!” She yelled, tugging desperately.
“Pull Ekaterina Pull!” Patch encouraged, the female polar bear cub rocking back and fourth and rolling from side to side in her struggle to free her fore and hind paws.
“I can’t free my paws, I can’t free them!” She yelled, “They won’t let go!”
“Come here,” Patch said gently, going to her and gently stroking the bunched pads of Ekaterina’s hind paws, which released her from the game.
“Thanks,” Ekaterina panted, exhausted, “my paws had a mind of their own!” Patch laughed:
“I don’t think they did, but I don’t know for sure,” he said, “mine seemed to at one point.” Ekaterina hugged Patch hard, her paws damp with sweat from her exertions.
“Weren’t we meant to be having food then going to sleep?” Patch asked. Ekaterina laughed:
“Not until mum catches us, come on!” She said, racing off into the depths of the playroom, scampering up a ladder, Patch following more slowly. Ekaterina seemed to find her way instinctively, even though she’d never been in that place. Running across levels and up ladders with her paws hardly touching the rungs.
“Wait for me!” Patch panted, his paws feeling clumsy when set against the light paw prints of his younger friend. Ekaterina waited for Patch at the top of the tower. Patch, his paws feeling heavy and useless joined her a minute later.
“Now where?” He asked, “There’s nowhere else, and it’s a long way down Ekaterina!”
“Is it?” She asked, “I wouldn’t know. Well, there’s got to be a way down from here, besides climbing down all those ladders of course, and that’s just boring. What can you see?”
“I can see two ways down,” Patch replied, “both make my paws sweat with fear. One is a slide, the other is a thing you sit on and hang on with your forepaws to a stick, and you are carried down at horrendous speeds. I must say, I like neither of them. You got me up here, now you get me down!” Patch whimpered. Ekaterina padded round, feeling her way to the zip wire. Finding the seat, she sat down in it, making sure her hind legs were each side of the central padded bar, the toes of her hind paws just brushing the soft flooring if she pointed them. She held onto the handles with both forepaws, working her body into the tight fitting space, and sat waiting. Nothing happened.
“Come on, I want to go!” She complained, swinging back and fourth with all her strength. Patch wondered what was keeping Ekaterina, and was about to ask her when she suddenly shot off down the wire. Ekaterina, completely unprepared, hung on with all her might, the slide plummeting downwards!
“Help me! Stop this! Please!” She screamed. Suddenly the slide began to slow, and then stopped with a jerk. Ekaterina didn’t know where she was, so she sat, the toes of her hind paws straining towards the floor only inches away.
“I don’t know
who released the zip wire, but whoever you are, you need a good whack!” “Let me be the one to whack them!” Patch begged.
“No Patch, that’s just vengeful,” she said, “Now let’s gets you both to the kitchen where I can fix you both some warm milk and some food. I think we could all do with a little peace for a bit.” Patch padded after his mama, feeling he’d not done a very good job of looking after his little sister.
“What does she
want to do with me?” He asked.
“I just want to
examine you, see how you are health wise,”
“You’re barely out of cubhood!” He exclaimed.
“I got my job
early on I’ll admit,”
somewhere private and I’ll just take a quick look at you,”
“Your fur is rather scruffy,” she said, “but that’s due to human intervention I believe.” Patch looked at himself. She was right.
“I like your
“Do you play
with your paws
“Like this?” She asked. Patch laughed:
yes!” He said.
stuff isn’t it,” Patch said.
“No it’s not silly cub stuff,” she replied, “it’s good wholesome fun, hurts noone and is very pleasurable.”
“So what’s the verdict on my health?” Patch asked.
“You mean I won’t be hugged here?” Patch asked, looking very upset.
you’ll be hugged, just in a different way which doesn’t damage your fur.”
“I will report
back to fleur on what I find,”
“I like that
Later that night, when everyone else was asleep,
“He looks so dreadful!” She said.
“You and your
“If we don’t
look after our paws then we go nowhere,” Kamchatka said, padding into the room
“Thank her for
what?” Fleur asked.
her for refusing to trust her eyes,” the grizzly bear said. Fleur stared at
“What do you mean?” She asked.
Patch off on sight!”
trained, not spiritually trained,” fleur mewed in mitigation.
“Fair one,” fleur sniffed, shocked at the force of the grizzly’s anger.
finished!” Kamchatka shouted, “
“I’m not as
powerful as I once was,” fleur mewed, “I’ll admit that, but
“Fleur,” she thought, “you shouldn’t have said what you did. You’re big mouth got you into trouble!”
Patch dear,” she whispered, Patch cuddling closer and relaxing totally. Alaska knew she liked Patch a lot, loving his
mind as well as his body, for she could feel his need to play, his love for his
paws was as great as her own for hers.
“Hold my paw
“I want you to
caress all four of my paws, play with my toes, tickle my pads, and love my paws
Waking some time later,
me out, not here! Please, don’t leave me!
Not here! Not on this
road!”!” He screamed.
“I dreamt that
I was inside my former owner’s car,” Patch sobbed, “I pleaded with them not to
throw me out, but they did, and I was all alone on a cold road in the middle of
“No wonder he screamed,” she thought.
“You’re safe now, totally safe and
“That was a horrible dream!” He yelled.
“I don’t doubt it was.” Helga snapped, “now Patch, go back to sleep.”
“I can’t, if I do, I’ll have that horrid dream again,” Patch whimpered.
“Well see if
anyone else is awake then,”
“I’m going back to sleep,” she said finally. Patch got to his paws and padded from the lie up. Padding along the passage, the tiles cold on his paws after the warmth of the rugs, Patch listened to the silence, it was silent, no sound bar the whirring of air conditioning.
“I wonder if anyone’s about.” Patch thought. Patch looked to his left, and then someone screamed in his right ear!
“Heehaw!” Patch leapt a mile!
“Hey!” He yelled once his paws had quite literally touched down. Swarupa laughed merrily.
“Got you!” She yelled. Patch, very angry, cuffed the half grown tigress with his paw.
“Hey big bully Patch!” She whined.
“You horrid thing!” Patch remonstrated.
“Oh, how sweet!” Swarupa teased, “oh you horrid thing!”” She mocked, “Come on Patch, let’s hear you swear!” Patch knew some disgusting words, for he’d heard them during the break up of the marriage between his first adult owner and her male human mate, but he’d never use them.
“Why should I swear?” He asked, “There’s no need.”
“I know some words,” Swarupa said.
“Yes,” Tigger said, padding up to his cub and whacking her hard with his paw, “I know you know them! Now leave poor Patch alone!” Patch turned to the larger tiger.
“You’re her sire?” He asked. Tigger smiled and held out his paw.
“My name’s Tigger,” he said, Patch instantly realising the tiger was blind, for he has the same tentative manner as Ekaterina. Patch shook paws with the tiger.
“I’m Patch,” the grey bear said unnecessarily. Tigger touched noses with him which made Patch feel a lot better.
“Now where were we?” Tigger asked.
“I was about to teach Patch how to swear,” Swarupa said. Tigger spanked his cub hard.
“If I catch you teaching anyone how to swear I’ll knock your block off!” He yelled. Swarupa ran away, goading her sire.
“Bet you can’t catch me!” She yelled, skipping away on silent paws. Tigger looked frustrated, for he couldn’t catch her, but Patch could, and did! Dragging Swarupa back to her sire, the bear dumped her on the floor at Tigger’s feet.
“Got you!” Patch snarled, now furious!”
“What are you? His enforcer?” Swarupa whined. Patch walloped her!
“Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!” Swarupa screamed. Patch left off, one blow from his paw being enough. Sushanti padded up to her younger sister and looked down at her.
“So your disgusting words have got you into hot water with a bear, wonderful!” She snapped. Tigger told her all about it, Sushanti getting even angrier!
“You horrid thing!” She yelled, adding her own blow to Patch’s, Swarupa howling with pain.
“That bloody great bear already hit me Sushanti!” Swarupa whimpered, “Right where you did too, and it sodding well hurts!” Tigger sighed with exasperation and padded away.
“You’re not going to leave us with a cub like Patch is you Tigger?” Swarupa yelled.
“He’ll sort you two out I’m sure,” Tigger snarled, “I’m leaving.” Sushanti looked at Patch.
“So how did you and my darling little sister come to meet?” She asked. Patch told her.
“Oh lovely,” Sushanti said, “Swarupa, you are a disgrace.” Patch padded away, not wanting to inflame the situation further. He wanted someone to play with; his paws were desperate to be played with or to play with the paws of another creature.
“I know I can play with my own paws, but that’s not what I want now,” Patch thought, “I want to feel the paws of another creature responding to my touch!” Patch padded along the passage, his paws pleading with him to make contact with the paws of another creature. Patch wanted to play, and play well, gentle or rough play, he didn’t mind which. Padding up some stairs, he found himself turning right and entering the lie up of the pandas. Almost immediately he was ambushed by Jinghua, who was unable to sleep and just about going round the twist with boredom. Patch pretended surprise, reared onto his hind legs and collapsed backwards, all four paws sticking skywards, to the panda cub’s huge delight.
“Got you!” She yelled, leaping on top of Patch, pawing at him, and finally tickling his right hind paw with huge enthusiasm, Patch laughing until he cried.
“Stop it!” He said, glad someone else was in a playful mood. Jinghua let go of his hind paw and embraced him as best she could.
“I saw you in Conrad’s lie up; you’re his new cub aren’t you?” The panda asked. Patch said he was, which Excited Jinghua, who hugged him even harder.
“Your Name’s Patch isn’t it?” Jinghua asked.
“Yes,” Patch replied.
“My name’s Jinghua, “the panda cub said, meeting you finally Patch is so great!” She enthused. Patch giggled cubbishly, enjoying her enthusiasm. Jinghua soon set to examining him from nose to paws, the panda loving the fact he had almost white soles with black paw pads and dark grey fur.
“Your fur and the soles of your paws are different colours!” She whooped, “How wonderful is that? Look, I’ve got brown soled paws!” She rolled over, showing Patch the soles of all four paws, Patch seeing this was indeed true.
“You have,” he said, “so we’re similar in that we have different coloured soles to our paws. That’s great isn’t it?” Jinghua hugged him.
“It is, it is!” She exclaimed. Yi Jie found them comparing the soles of their paws five minutes later, and laughed at the two bears.
“You two don’t need much to amuse you do you,” she said.
“No mum, we don’t,” Jinghua replied, “I haven’t even played with Patch’s paws yet, and nor has he played with mine. That’s a whole new game! We’re just letting each look at the other’s paws; we’ve not got paws on yet. Um, well I did, before I realised he had near white paws of course. Now though, t’is a whole new game!” Patch thought of Ekaterina, and how she could not play the visual part of the game, the thought saddening him.
“What’s the matter Patch?” Jinghua asked. Patch told her.
“Oh, oh dear,” Jinghua said, “So Ekaterina can’t see you have near white soles to your paws, nor that I have brown soles?” Patch shook his head.
“Oh dear,” Jinghua said, very affected by this news, “I don’t know what to say to that. It’s horrible!”
“It’s normal for Ekaterina,” Patch replied, “so she and I play very paws on. We play with each other’s paws from the very first.”
“Teach me,” Jinghua said, “please, teach me how patch.”
“Close your eyes and keep them closed,” patch replied, “then find my paws with yours. Feel my paws rather than look at them. Learn to find your world with your paws Jinghua.” Jinghua closed her eyes.
“I remember this!” She said suddenly, “It’s like when I was first born, I was like this all the time! This is easy!” Patch touched her nose with his, having also closed his eyes. Jinghua dabbed at his nose with her paw, Patch kissing her pads, which had the female panda cub laughing helplessly. Patch and Jinghua played for a long time, the panda cub and grown bear finding each other’s paws very easily and loving each other’s touch. Then, once the games were over, Jinghua took a good look at Patch’s paws. They had dark grey upper fur with white soles, his pads almost white rather than the usual black. Yi Jie laughed at the antics of the two bears, loving how they could get so much pleasure from their own bodies by just playing with each other’s paws.
“Long may they enjoy each other’s company and paws,” Yi jie thought.
playing with each other’s paws for the last two hours,” Brunetta said, “before
that, there was a little trouble with Swarupa.
The little tigress frightened the fur off of Patch and then tried to
teach him how to swear. He had none of
it, as did Tigger or Sushanti. Just watch
this!” Brunetta replayed all the footage
from the cameras in the corridor.
“Dam that tigress!” She snapped.
“Patch then went
to the panda’s lie up, more by luck than judgement. Watch this!”
Brunetta said, playing
“He looks so
“He’s as mad
about his paws as me or
“I can see
patch?” She asked.
“Jinghua? The panda cub?” Ekaterina asked.
though I think he’ll be back soon.”
Ekaterina snuggled up to
freezing!” She complained.
lovely,” she said dreamily. Kamchatka
“I’ll feed you
in a bit,” Kamchatka said, padding over to her cub and settling down beside
“I love you
“We all need
Ekaterina yelled, slapping
“What?” She asked, “Ooh, I feel dreadful!”
imagining giving birth to a cub,”
“I heard you grunting and yelling with effort,” Ekaterina said, “I was scared!”
“I’m sorry, so
it’s okay!” Conrad said, crawling over
to his mate and hugging her,
fantasised, imagined I was giving birth to a dark grey cub with near white paw
“You wish you
had given birth to him,” Conrad replied, “I can sympathise with that. For if you had, patch wouldn’t have had the
life he’s had. You can’t change his past
better than it was two days ago mama,” patch said, crawling towards
“I hope I
didn’t cause you too much pain during my birth.”
wonderful, just like Ekaterina’s birth was,”
“Jinghua and I
played with each other’s paws today mama,” he said.
Patch, Helga, I love you all my dear cubs,”
“You two are
“Come here Patch
dear cub,” Kamchatka said; patch crawling to her and embracing her with his forepaws,
“Play with my
paws mama, please!” Patch begged.
“I can feel
you love me very much mama,” he said.
on my paws!” The grey bear said, “aw
mum, don’t cry, it’s okay.”
“I love you
mum,” he choked, sniffing hard.
“Isn’t that sweet?” Ekaterina said, fully aware of what was going on.
“Kamchatka’s wanted to imagine the birth of her son cub for a long time,” Alaska said, “now she has, she feels he’s really part of her, not just part of her family. She needed to imagine Patch’s birth Ekaterina.” Ekaterina nodded.
“I know,” she
been so happy since I was in my den with my natural mother,” patch said.
“Dear mama,” he said.
“My dream was
“Was the cub
“I think he
grunting and panting!” Ekaterina said,
“Curling your toes too, I felt you curling your toes! You were really pushing hard mum!”
“You can’t help pushing when you’re convinced you’re having a cub,” she replied, “the need to bear down is so powerful! I just wanted to push so hard, then pant, then push, and push, and push some more! Right, right until I felt the final urge to squeeze down to deliver the cub’s hind paws. It’s a different type of push, it’s an open mouth, curl toes tight type of effort, breathing all the way through the effort. Just squeeze down into my tail, deep deep down, a really big push! The cub’s paws were hard to deliver, but I managed it.” Patch looked at his mama.
describing it, I can feel that,” he said.
“I do,” she replied.
“Can you remember anything else about the
dream?” Patch asked.
“I can remember pushing down into my tail, big pushes, big grunting, and panting, straining efforts. Then I saw the cub’s head, panting for breath, letting the cub slide into the world, then bearing down hard to deliver its forepaws and body, then a big push to deliver the cub’s hind legs, then the big squeezing push to deliver its hind paws. Patch hugged his mama.
“I love you very much Patch,” she said, “the birth I imagined was full of love for you, every effort was committed to with love, and I pushed with everything I had, to give life to the cub I love from nose to whitish padded paws.” Patch giggled cubbishly and kissed his mama’s nose and paws.
“I love you
mum,” he said, dropping mama, the more formal term.
“We all love
“I know,” he said. Patch curled up on the floor and was soon asleep.
“I saw him and
Jinghua playing together,” she said, “it was lovely to see them playing with
each other’s paws and enjoying each other’s company.”
“He is one
handsome bear,” she said, “and I love him so much
“I didn’t want
“I felt you thinking
about me and my birth,” Theo Junior said.
“I was, I
was,” she said, “I was thinking, remembering, for
“I know she
did,” the white lion said, “she wriggled and groaned with pain, bringing her
hind paws up and curling her toes as she pushed hard to deliver her cub. I saw her pain and effort. Although she was dreaming, it was real to
her, and that’s all that matters. I wish
her to remember that dream, remember her feelings, remember how she pushed and
fought to deliver her cub.”
“I can remember how I felt, how I wanted to push, how I bore down hard, how my toes curled, how I breathed deeply and heaved with everything I had, squeezing down to deliver the cub’s hind paws.”
about and pedalled the air with your hind paws,” Theo mewed.
“I could have
given birth to Patch,” she said, “and I’m glad I was allowed to come as close
as I could. The dream was wonderful, and
would have continued, had Ekaterina not freaked out, but I can’t blame her for
that. I so wanted to push Theo!”
Rowena listened in her lie up. She knew why
Patch rolled onto his back, presenting Theo Junior with all four white soled paws. The white lion laughed and tickled patch’s toes, the dark grey bear laughing and wriggling with pleasure. Theo kissed the soles of Patch’s paws, the bear shouting with laughter as the lion’s whiskers tickled his pads.
“It’s almost too much!” He shouted, “But I love it, I love having my paws played with!” Theo embraced each one of Patch’s paws in his large white forepaws, caressing toes and stroking white paw pads.
“Can I look at your paws?” Patch asked. Theo smiled and nodded.
“Why not touch them too?” He asked.
“Can I?” Patch asked. Theo nodded and blew on the pads of Patch’s right hind paw, the bear giggling. Theo rolled onto his back and presented Patch with his paws, the bear taking each one of the lion’s white, black padded paws in his and examining them by sight and touch, Theo purring and curling his toes in ecstasy, much as the bear had.
“I would like to see a birth video,” Patch said, “for mum said she’d watched Ekaterina’s birth video.” Theo nodded and pressed the pads of his right hind paw hard into Patch’s forepaws, pushing as hard as he could, the bear easily resisting his pressure, Theo curling his toes with effort.
“Push Theo Push!” Patch encouraged, the lion grunting and panting with effort.
“I can’t, can’t push any harder!” Theo panted, pressing with all his might, patch easily holding Theo’s paw, feeling the sweat break out on the lion’s pads as he struggled to increase the pressure exerted by his hind paw. Theo snarled, growled, then roared with rage as his strength gave out.
“I can’t do any more!” The lion yelled, tearing his paw free and kicking hard with all four paws. Patch laughed uproariously at Theo’s cubbish antics.
“You’re so funny!” He said. Theo leapt to his paws and grabbed Patch’s paw.
“I’ll show you
my birth, come,” he said. Theo led Patch
to a video screen and they were soon watching
“I feel guilty whenever I watch this,” Theo admitted to patch.
“You have no
need to feel guilt,” patch replied, “for it’s not your fault
“I would do it
all again right now,”
“I would like
to see a cubbing,” Theo mewed.
“I feel a cub
coming now, ooowww!”
ahoooah! Ush, ush, uuuuush!”
forepaws are coming mum!” Theo mewed,
body’s out, now for its hind quarters and paws, come on mum, push!” Theo begged.
“Owwwwwwwww! Owwwwwwww! Aowwwwwwwwww!
pant!” Theo encouraged,
“Ow Theo, ow ow ow! She whimpered, “It hurts, it really
hurts! Must push! Ow, ouch! Ouch! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ouch!
“It’s done, finished!” She gasped. Theo hugged his mum.
“How was that?” He asked.
“It was wonderful from my end too,” Patch said, Theo nodding in agreement.
longing to do that,”
“I love you both,” she said to Patch and Theo, the bear and the lion hugging her tenderly.
part is when everything’s at full stretch and I still need to push the cub down
what is now an almost rigid tunnel,”
“I can almost feel it myself,” he said, shifting from paw to paw.
“it’s like trying to force something down a pipe when it needs just a little more room,” Petra replied, “you can force the cub into the pipe and the tunnel will stretch to accommodate it, just, but to make it stretch is a real effort, a real puffing, grunting struggle.” Theo looked as if he wanted to bear down against a cub. Bouncing on his toes, he looked about him uncomfortably.
“I, I can
almost feel it!” He whimpered.
ouch mum!” Theo mewed.
“The sound you made a minute ago,” he sobbed, “it was so realistic, it was so full of pain!”
painful Theo love,”
“I suppose it refreshes your memory too,” he replied.
“It does Theo
dear cub, it does,”
“You said I’d
make it onto all four paws and I have,” patch said.
“Whose cub are you?” He asked. The lion cub let go of Patch’s right hind paw and looked up into his face.
“I’m Ruslana’s cub,” the male cub said, “my name’s Pipin.” Patch lifted Pipin up in his paws, loving the cub.
“Hello dear Pipin,” patch said, “Your very gentle with your paws, do you know that?” Pipin grinned and nodded.
“My mum doesn’t like me playing with the paws of other community members, but I love it too much!” Pipin replied.
“Do you like it when others play with your paws pipin?” Patch asked.
“I do, I think,” Pipin said, letting Patch put him down, then take hold of his right hind paw in both his forepaws. Patch felt the little lion curling his toes, the pads bunching under the bear’s touch. Patch felt the lion’s desperation, his loneliness and need for a friend.
“Stay with me a while Patch,” Pipin begged, “please, stay with me a while! It’s not often I meet a paw pal, someone who loves his paws as much as I love mine. My mum, lioness Ruslana, does not agree with me. She doesn’t use her paws like I do. Her mum, Portia, uses her paws, but not to the same extent as I do. My mum wallops my paws every time she finds me playing with my hind paws which I can just about reach with my fore.” Ruslana ran in suddenly, screaming, and whacked Pipin with her paw! Patch surprised, and angered by her actions!
“That’s horrible!” Patch yelled, leaping to his paws and grabbing hold of Ruslana in his forepaws! Getting to his hind paws and lifting her up over his head, he held her in the air! Ruslana screamed as she dangled from the paws of an angry bear!”
“Patch, no! No! No! Please!” Ruslana begged.
Allie and the other bears watched all this, knowing Ruslana was getting the hiding of her life!
“I will smash your body to bits!” Patch screamed, “You whack your poor cub’s paws because he likes playing with his own paws and the paws of others. You will die if you carry on restricting his paws!” Ruslana whimpered and whined begging for her life.
“Just let me go, and I’ll never trouble Pipin again!” She begged.
“You let him play with the paws of others and with his own paws,” Patch snarled, “Pipin is doing no harm, and has a gentle touch and soft paws. It’s a pleasure to let him play with my hind paws.” Patch dumped Ruslana on the floor, the lioness padding away sulkily. Pipin looked at Patch, and then motioned the bear to sit down. Patch did, and Pipin took his right hind paw in both of his tiny forepaws, patch curling his toes with pleasure. Pipin smiled as his smaller toes were engulfed by the bear’s larger ones.
“This feels so great!” Patch said, Pipin giggling, pressing his paw pads into the bear’s bunched pads.
“I love your paws Patch,” Pipin said, “for they are the keys to their owner, who is gentle and loving.” Patch laughed merrily.
“your paws are gentle and loving too,” Patch replied, releasing Pipin’s paws, then picking the cub up in his forepaws and settling him down on his back on the floor, taking the cub’s right hind paw in his forepaws and examining it. Pipin smiled as Patch traced his pads and played with his toes. Patch and Pipin laughed together, the latter pulling hard at his hind paws while the former held on gently to them, both playing a mind game, the lion pretending his hind paws were stuck to the bear’s forepaws.
“Pull Pipin pull!” Patch encouraged. Pipin gasped and tugged with everything he had, freeing his right hind paw with a rush, the lion squealing with triumph.
“One paw free, but, but the other’s still stuck! Must pull that one free now, got to try, try hard!” Pipin whimpered, tugging at his left hind paw with everything he had. Patch let Pipin’s paw slip slightly, the lion growling with effort:
“My toes are still trapped, even though my paw slipped!” He whimpered, “Must free my toes!” Tugging with all his might, Pipin tore the toes of his left hind paw free of the bear’s grasp.
“Done it, I’ve done it! I’m free!” Pipin yelled. Patch kissed Pipin’s nose, then the pads of all four sweat soaked paws. Pipin giggled cubbishly and kissed Patch’s nose and the pads of his forepaws, the bear and lion rolling together in cubbish play. Snarling, they batted at each other’s noses and paws, laughing helplessly whenever one grabbed the other’s paws and tickled their pads and or toes.
“I like you patch, brother patch,” Pipin mewed, Patch becoming still at the lion’s words.
“Did you mean that?” Patch asked. Pipin kissed Patch’s nose and the pads of all four large white soled paws.
“I meant it Patch, Brother Patch,” Pipin mewed. Patch hugged Pipin tenderly.
“I love you Pipin,” Patch said, kissing the lion’s nose and paw pads, the lion laughing helplessly.
brothers and sisters together in this community,” Pipin mewed. Patch tickled the lion’s belly and played
with the toes of his left hind paw, Pipin laughing with delight and pressing
his toes into Patch’s paws, frustrating the bear’s attempt to tickle his
toes. Pipin grinned hugely as his paws
were embraced by Patch’s. Patch giggled
and played with the lion’s toes.
It’s all paws
with you two,”
“You don’t mind
me playing with Patch or his paws?”
“Patch’s paws are his, ask him.” She replied. Patch smiled broadly.
“Mum’s as into
her paws as we are into ours,” he said, “she won’t mind us playing together
Pipin.” The truth was,
“I love it when
your pads bunch up,” Pipin said to patch, the bear giggling and gently curling
“I love you two,” she said, “Pipin, if you ever want to play with Patch or with my other two cubs, or even with me or Conrad, come and talk to us.” Patch nodded:
“She’s serious pipin,” he said.
Pipin crawled after Patch,
she thought, “is Pipin a stunted cub?”
Kamchatka padded after Patch and Pipin, the two vastly different cubs
finding their way to
“Patch,” he said, “please, please listen, I want to tell you something, for I think you’d understand.” Patch embraced Pipin, the lion whispering into his ear:
“My mum, she hits me with her paws, constantly, she hates me patch!” Patch shook his head, but Pipin scrabbled at his fur with his tiny paws.
“Please!” The little lion begged, “I’m not joking, I’m
serious! She hits me all the time, takes
her anger out on me, says I’m playing with my paws when I’m not, I’m not Patch! Please! Someone’s got to believe me, Afua
won’t, he doesn’t understand!” Patch
looked up at
“Mum?” He asked.
“No patch!” He yelled, “Don’t go, and don’t leave me alone!” Patch looked at the little lion.
“You will be safe here, I promise you,” he said softly, “I need to talk to my mum.” Patch tried to get to his paws and walk away, but Pipin grabbed his right hind paw in both forepaws and hung on tightly.
“My mum will go mad if she finds out what I told you!” The cub whispered, digging his toes into Patch’s pads for emphasis. Patch felt the cub’s toes digging in, and knew his claws were sheathed in consideration for him.
“Your mum won’t
hear anything of it.” Patch whispered. An angry roar stopped both
“Family business is not discussed with anyone else!” She yelled, Pipin crumpling to the floor. Patch had seen enough! Screaming, he launched himself at Ruslana and wrapped his paws around her neck.
“A cub I might be in spirit,” Patch snarled, “but a fully grown bear I am in strength! Tell me, have you hit your cub for no reason? Ruslana, you lie, I will know, for I know the truth of Pipin’s words, I felt it, I know it, the paws never lie!”
“I hit him, hit him for playing with his paws, for playing with Jinghua’s paws too,” Ruslana replied, her throat constricted by the bear’s grip, “Pipin killed my oldest cub, the healthy cub! I’m sure of it Patch! He cursed my eldest cub!” Patch knew what he’d felt, he might be a playful cub at heart, but he knew truth when he felt it. He knew Patch wasn’t into telling tales.”
“Your cub touched my paws, and he had the touch of a newborn cub, even though he’s six months old now,” Patch snarled, “Pipin’s scared, frightened for his life! I know that feeling, for I felt it once, I felt it from a human child when one of the humans she most loved did horrible things to her. She told me, while we were playing with each, each other’s paws, hind paws, feet, whatever humans call their hind paws, and, and,” Patch’s eyes filled with tears, “that’s how I know your cub is telling the truth!” Patch sobbed, remembering what he’d been told and the horrendous arguments in the house when it all came out. Many humans were locked in prison when the human child who’d abandoned him let the humans know what she’d told her ursine friend. Ruslana knew patch’s tears were for a loss she knew nothing about, but his anger was for her, for what she’d done to her cub.
“I know my cub’s unhealthy!” Ruslana screamed.
“He’s smaller than he should be, that’s all!” Patch yelled, “And you did things to him, things which make me want to end your life now like I wanted to run in and end the lives of the humans who did horrid things to my human child friend!”
“You would never end my life!” Ruslana choked, “you’re a cub, and you couldn’t do it!”
“I never thought my human child friend would abandon me, but she did,” Patch sniffed, “human or lion, or whatever you may be, doing and saying things like you have said and done to your cub is horrendous!! My human was abused by those who were meant to love her, and I could do nothing to stop them but play with her when we had the chance to take her mind off her trouble! Now, now I find it happening in a community I thought loved and caring, who cared for their cubs, even eight year old ones! Now I find, I find a mother who comes from a caring cat family, who actively hates and abuses her cub! I know it happened Ruslana, I know it, I felt it, I know that feeling anywhere! Your cub begged me to stay with him, begged me to stay a while, his paws, paws, telling me, telling me so much, so much! Just like my little human friend told me so much with her forepaws, sorry, hands I think they’re called, when she took my hind paws in them and played with my toes, she had no words to describe what was happening to her, but I knew things were very wrong. I hugged her in my forepaws and played with her feet as she played with my hind paws, for that’s how we played together, but that became more, much more, it was how we communicated, for she could not speak my language nor I hers, but we knew each other well then. I knew her mood, her mind, just as I know Pipin’s now! She cried on my paws, clung to them like Pipin clung to them, basked in the relief of me playing with her feet as I loved her playing with my hind paws. I would stroke the soles of her feet as she would stroke the soles of my paws. We played with each other’s toes too, and kissed noses. We communicated in a language only we understood, and she told me everything! I knew so much about that human, so much. I loved her when noone else loved her Ruslana, and I’m going to love and defend your cub, even if it means killing you!” Ruslana felt the intensity of Patch’s emotions, and knew he spoke truth. She was about to die.
Meanwhile, in a house not too far from the wood, a young girl named Jess sat at her desk trying to concentrate on her homework. Age eleven, she was coming up to her stage two exams and was studying hard. She’d had a difficult early life. Fostered after her parents were imprisoned for drugs offences culminating in murder, Jess had been with a family who’d fostered her from the age of four. The bad stuff started from when she was about six. Her guardians started shouting at Jess, slapping her , and worse, for no apparent reason other than the adults who did horrid things to her seemed to like their cruel sport. Her much older foster brother and his father seemed to like making her cry, then telling her not to tell anyone. The only constant friend in her life was the bear, a real live bear that’d been given to her by the social worker who’d looked after her from the age of one and a half until she’d been placed with the foster carers at age four. This bear had come with Jess, much to the annoyance of the family, but they’d kept him, as he was no trouble. The social worker said she’d owned him for ages that he was a wonderful companion, and that Jess and he really got on. The bear was about a year old when she’d given him to Jess. When jess’s problems started at age six, the bear which she’d named Old Grey, as he was old in her eyes and very grey, apart from the soles of his paws, which were almost white, became her constant companion and confidant. They’d play together, Jess playing with the bear’s large hind paws, stroking and tickling his pads and playing with his toes, and then he would stroke the soles of her feet and play with her toes using his forepaws just as she’d used her hands to stroke the soles of his hind paws and play with his toes. Throughout the bad times, Jess often played with her ursine friend, trying to tell him what she was feeling without saying a word in the hope he’d understand. Old Grey seemed to, for he would hug her often, embracing her in his huge warm forepaws after they’d both tickled and stroked each other’s hind paws or feet and played with each other’s toes for a while. Jess’s problems got resolved when police came crashing in one day when she was about eight years old and arrested her foster father and a lot of other adults, including the father’s son. Jess was then moved to her current home, where, after Old Grey had been living with them for three years, her new family were told by authorities they could not keep the bear, and Jess had been forced to throw him out. No re-homing centre would take him, even though he was almost human in his mannerisms. He walked on his hind legs, could relieve himself properly, and was dainty when eating food, all that and more. He was no trouble. Jess wondered why the bad humans, as she’d called them in her head, those who’d abused her, had not taken the bear from her. Now Jess was in a stable house, it was six months since she’d been told to get rid of Old Grey, and Old Grey had been gone exactly a month. Jess found herself staring at her mathematics homework, the page blurring into the shape of a bear, a scruffy grey bear with white paw pads. Jess hadn’t wanted to talk to her new family about the loss of her old grey bear, though she’d often thought of him. That day when they’d stopped the car and she’d pushed him out the door still haunted her. Jess had just pushed Old Grey out, her guardians driving away at speed to stop the bear from following. It was said there were bears seen in the wood, so they’d dumped him there. Jess knew from her natural history classes that Old Grey could not survive on his own, not after the life he’d led up till then. He was used to three meals a day, human contact, a bedtime story, things like that. Not eating berries and things off of trees. He’d gone fruit picking with her current family, but their circumstances had changed, and they could no longer give a home to an Old Grey bear. Every day Jess regretted pushing Old Grey out of the car. She thought about him all the time, and wondered if he thought of her, if he still could. Was he dead? Jess found herself crying, her new foster mum leaning over her.
“What’s the matter?” Her mum asked.
“I just got to thinking about Old Grey,” jess sniffed, “we kind of dumped him, and I was wondering how he was getting on and if he remembered me.”
“We can’t keep a bear here,” her foster mum said, “not after the council found out about him. We kept him for four years before they twigged, and now they’ve told us to get rid of him.
couldn’t give him a home could they!”
Jess yelled, “They didn’t suggest anywhere, we looked, but nowhere would
take him due to his unpredictability, or so they said. They wanted us to put him down! So we dumped him in the wood, but now I’m
thinking that wasn’t such a good thing. He’s probably starving to death, he was all
but human! I know his story! I’ve got in touch with the social worker who
took him from the wild in
“You and he would play with each other’s paws,” her foster mother said, “he with your feet and toes, and you with his hind paws. You’d play for hours like that.”
“That was how we communicated,” jess replied, “it was play, but it was communication too. We loved playing with each other’s hind paws, well, him playing with my feet in his case. He’d take one of my feet in his forepaws and stroke the sole before playing with my toes. I’d then play with one of his hind paws, and then he would play with my other foot, then me with his other hind paw. He’d then kiss my nose and the palms of my hands and soles of my feet, and I’d kiss his nose and the pads of all four of his paws.
“That bit was disgusting!” Her foster mother said.
“We washed our hands, feet and paws before we played,” Jess said, “Old Grey knew how to wash his paws. Indeed, sometimes I’d wash his paws, he liked that. Old Grey was my best friend in the entire world.” Jess’s foster mum looked at the picture of Old Grey on jess’s desk. The bear was sitting playing with his right hind paw, cradling it in his right fore, while playing with the toes of his right hind with his left fore. The bear looked contented, innocent, the most loving friend any little girl could have.
“Maybe you can trace him, find Old Grey.” Jess’s foster mother said. Jess was determined to find her lost bear.
“I will try,” she said, “but will he remember me?” She asked.
To this end, jess went onto her website page and put an appeal out for anyone to get in touch if they had seen a grey bear with white paws. She posted the only picture she had of him on the page and waited for responses.
The Boss, surfing the internet one day, came across jess’s
enquiry. He knew of the arrival of a
grey bear which the four pawed community were calling patch. He also knew of the troubles Ruslana was
giving her cub, and what involvement the new grey bear had in the discovery of
Ruslana’s abuse of Pipin. The Boss never
missed anything, even though he kept himself to himself pretty much, letting
the community run itself for the most part.
Now though, his interest was sparked by the appeal on website. He’d been looking from time to time for anyone
who’d lost a grey bear, in the hope of telling them the bear Kamchatka had
found in the wood was safe. That was all
he could tell them, for to try and reunite the bear with his previous owner
Jess, getting this positive response, emailed back and fired off many questions about Old Grey. How was he? Who had he made friends with? That kind of thing. The Boss emailed her back with answers to her questions, as well as links to footage from the cameras.
Back in the community,
“So I can come and see Old Grey?” Jess asked when the Boss got her on a VOIP line.
“Yes you can come and visit him, but first you’ll be met by a grizzly bear, his, um, mama.” the Boss replied. Jess was a bit nervous of meeting a grizzly bear, but after seeing the community in action, this was tempered with curiosity.
Meanwhile, back with patch and Ruslana, patch was close to murdering the lioness.
“I cannot let you live!” He cried, having lost control of his
emotions, “Ruslana, you are a horrid lioness!
You did horrid things to your cub, which deserved none of your hatred
and hard treatment! I will love him;
love him like I loved my human friend!
We will play with each other’s paws, understand each other, and love
each other for years and years and years!”
Ruslana’s life ended soon after that, for she spat at Kamchatka who’d
come back from a quick meeting with the Boss, secure in the knowledge that
Patch could deal with the lioness, and that Pipin was safe with him about. Kamchatka had reassessed her opinions of
Patch, and knew him now to be a cub at heart, which was how she and her family
saw him, the real patch, but there was another patch, the bear who’d seen much,
understood more than he let on, and was out to rescue Pipin from the fait which
had befallen another dear friend from his past.
Patch was not told of the meeting set up with his former
owner for the next day.
grizzly mama,” jess said gently.
“Mama?” Jess asked the bear’s paw soft and warm under
“You want my
shoes?” jess asked laughing out
“show me mama,”
socks?” Jess asked.
“You want me to
remove my shoes and socks?” jess
“its how Old Grey used to explore my foot,” jess thought,
her toes curling involuntarily.
“now do you
want me to give you my left foot?” Jess
“how can I be
calm when I’m face to face with a grizzly bear who’s just held my foot in her
paws, stroked the sole of my foot and kissed my toes?” jess yelled.
“Shhh, Shhh,” Kamchatka said in ursine, jess calming down after a while, for she could do nothing else, the bear’s paws wouldn’t allow her to be anything but calm. Jess found the bear’s voice soft and gentle, just like Old Grey’s when he’d tried speaking with her. Indeed, their accents were very similar. Then jess remembered, Old grey was half grizzly bear.
mama?” jess whispered.
what?” Jess asked, looking down at the
huge ursine paw.
“What?” jess asked.
okay!” she said, “I tickled your paw,
I’m sorry mama.”
what?” Jess asked.
“Hello Old Grey,
my Old grey!” jess cried, tears wetting
the bear’s fur. patch cradled jess in
his paws, letting her cry, for he was crying too. Ekaterina, Helga and Conrad watched or
listened from another room,
contact with humans?” Conrad asked,
“well, you never said a thing
“jess, that’s the girl human, she used to care for Patch. You remember he said his name was Old Grey? Well Jess, the female human who’s hugging him now, is the one who named him so. The Boss found her email address on line and that she was looking for her bear. he conversed with her, and now they’re meeting up. Patch’s human might tell us her tale, so we might get an insight into our cub.” Jess and patch came out of the lie up hand in paw, patch crawling beside his human.
“What is your
“I’m sorry,” Jess said, “I don’t speak ursine.”
“she asked, “what is your tale?” Conrad said. jess nearly fell over!
“You spoke English!” she shrieked, pointing to the polar bear. Conrad grinned and nodded.
“I was raised
in a zoo,” he said, “My mate
“But she understood me in the wood,” jess said, “she can understand English if it’s spoken to her, but not speak it?” She asked. Conrad nodded.
“but we saw you and her getting on famously in the wood,” he said, “you tickled her paw too! That’s a little familiar isn’t it?” jess giggled, catching the bear’s tone:
“I didn’t mean to,” she replied, “that was
“am I an
honorary bear grizzly mama?” jess
“You are so
funny,” she said, “I love you
not to graze my face with her claws!”
jess thought, “
world through the contact between your foot and
“I think, think
“We call him patch here,” Conrad said.
Jess replied, knowing she’d call him nothing else from now on. Patch was her Old Grey, but not her Old
Grey. He was a bear once more, and she
was in the bear’s world now, even though it looked like her own, they ran
things. Jess realised
Indeed, it was in a crawling posture that jess made her first independent link with another member of the community only half an hour after Patch had hugged her at their first meeting since his expulsion from the human run household. Jess was exploring the house, the great room, and taking a peak into some of the lie ups, as well as getting used to crawling on all fours, which she found easier by the minute, when a paw touched her left hand and she stopped, crawling as she’d been advised to in case she came across any blind community members and they were trying to work their way around her rather than make contact. Jess looked round to see a polar bear cub standing beside her. the cub was obviously shocked to find her paw encountering the hand of a human, for the paw was lifted quickly. Jess reflected that the cub was either blind, or had deliberately made physical contact with her.
“Hi,” Jess said, hoping the cub could understand her.
“You’re, you’re human,” the bear cub said, “I can smell you’re human. You are not the Boss, and he’s the only human round here, so who are you?”
“My name’s jess, I’m, was, Patch’s owner,” jess replied, thinking the term owner to be a horrid one. She didn’t own Patch’s life.
“You can’t own a life,” the cub said, “I don’t like that term jess.”
“No, I don’t either,” jess said, her face reddening and palms sweating, “I don’t like it; it’s a term used by the human in me. We humans own everything, or think we do, lesser animals included.”
“Lesser animals?” the cub asked. jess wanted to curl up and die with embarrassment.
“Not lesser animals, well, I don’t think you’re any less important than me, not now, though I used to, until, until, well,” she hesitated, feeling emotions welling up, “until, until I met a grizzly bear in the wood. The bear that brought me here, she was so dignified, so sure of herself.”
“Almost human, as you humans might say?” the cub enquired.
“yes, no, well,
I don’t know!” jess said, her distress
mounting, “there was something about her, something so magnificent, but also
humble too. She, she gave me her hind
paw to stroke, and I managed to tickle it accidentally. I got rather upset, and she drew me into an
enormous bear hug, and everything was all right after that.
“I’m sorry for speaking of owning patch and you being lesser animals,” jess said, “can I ask, what’s your name?” the polar bear cub sat down and regarded jess from friendly brown eyes.
“Take my left
forepaw in your hand if you must adhere to your human customs,”
“You are one
with us now,”
“I can never be
like you, I’m human
“You will learn quickly I think,” the polar bear cub said.
not a cub, well you are, but you’re not,” jess hazarded, “what’s your role here
“How wonderful!” Jess said, “that you were able to help a mother have her cub not once, but twice. I’d love to see a cub being born. I’ve seen it in documentaries, but to see one for real, even close up on a video would be wonderful.”
“come, I’ll show
you the latest cubbing video,” the polar bear said. Once the video was over, jess took her eyes
from the screen, which she’d not taken her eyes off for a full hour and a half,
expecting to see
“Oh, mama!” jess blurted, “I’m sorry for watching a
“It’s no problem,” she said using the language of the community.
“Oh mama, don’t
cry!” jess said looking at the grizzly
bear, who had buried her face in her paws and was fighting back tears, “mama,
don’t cry,” jess said, crawling over to
Kamchatka and embracing her as best she could.
“You could do
nothing more than you did!” jess said,
“I’m sure you did your best, your mate did too!
“let it all go
mama,” the young girl said.
“I’m letting it go,”
said, “here’s my left foot mama.”
“My guilt over Ekaterina’s disability is all gone now,” the grizzly bear said while stroking the sole of jess’s left foot and gently playing with her toes. jess nodded.
“mama,” she said, “I can feel that.”
“I gave birth
to Patch you know,”
“I do play with
my toes,” she said, “I use my forepaws to play with my hind. If you will let go of my hind paw I will show
“you look like
a bear cub when you play with your hind paws,”
Meanwhile, in their house, Jess’s guardians were watching the live feed from the community house. The Boss spoke to them on the phone, reassuring them jess would come to no harm and that she’d be fed and looked after.
“She can come up to my flat and I’ll see she gets food,” the Boss said, “then, if she wants it, and the community want it, she can sleep with the community for a few nights.” Jess’s foster mother watched her daughter playing with Ekaterina and patch, the two bears gentle with the human. There was much playing with paws by all three, either with their own paws or with each other’s. Jess giving Ekaterina her feet to touch and stroke, Ekaterina gentle with the human’s feet. Jess then took Ekaterina’s hind paws in her hands one by one, stroking her pads and playing with her toes, the young cub loving her touch.
“You have soft pads and even softer fur Ekaterina,” jess said. Ekaterina giggled, the sound making jess smile.
“Your hind paws are rather soft too,” the bear cub replied, “you curled your toes as I stroked them, just like I curl my toes when I have my toes stroked. I love how the pads bunch when toes curl, it’s so cute!” Jess laughed.
“curled toes can signify pain as well as pleasure,” the human said, “I saw mama Kamchatka curling her toes in pain when she gave birth to you Ekaterina.” Ekaterina nodded.
“I know mum did,” she replied, “my sire Conrad showed me how she tried to play with her paws to ease her pain, he played with his paws just as mum had and let me feel what he was doing.” Jess nodded.
“I can imagine that,” she said. Conrad padded into the room and smiled at jess.
“Come and I’ll re-enact it for you too. I love playing with my paws as much as any bear here,” Conrad said. Jess giggled childishly:
“A bear playing with his paws?” She asked. Patch smiled and rolled onto his back, gripping his hind paws in his fore, wriggling and squirming as if his paws were stuck together and he wanted to free them. Jess yelled to patch, encouraging him to pull his paws free. Patch snarled, wriggled and squirmed even more frantically fighting his own paws.
“I must free myself, but I can’t!” He whimpered. Suddenly Patch tugged with everything he had, tearing his forepaws away from his hind while yelling and whimpering with effort.
“My paw pads and toes were stuck together,” Patch gasped. Jess crawled over to patch and the two friends touched their hind paws and feet together, jess’s soles touching patch’s pads, their toes curling together. Suddenly the two friends were struggling to free themselves in a role play mind game, complaining that their feet and paws were stuck together, each trying to pull their feet or paws away from the others. Patch and jess struggled for half an hour, eventually managing to free them.
“That was great!” Jess enthused. Patch hugged her.
“I love playing those role play games,” he replied. Jess hugged her friend.
“I remember playing those games when I was younger,” she said, “you’d encourage me to scream and pull hard at my feet and toes to release my anger at what was happening to me, and I did. I remember that.” Patch kissed her nose.
“It worked,” Patch said, “I could feel it worked.” Jess kissed patch’s hot paw pads, the bear giggling with pleasure.
“Those mind games are wonderful,” Ekaterina said, and very soon jess and Ekaterina were playing the same game she had played with patch, the polar bear cub playing with enthusiasm and commitment. By the end of half an hour, human and bear were worn out from struggling to free their hind feet.
“That was wonderful!” Jess said, the soles of her feet tingling from the touch of the cub’s pads. Ekaterina giggled:
“It was,” she replied, “my paw pads and toes are tingling!” Jess laughed:
“Mine are too, but it feels great!” She said. Ekaterina sighed with pleasure.
“I’ll introduce you to a lion cub who loves his paws as much as we bears do,” Patch said to his human friend. Jess smiled and crawled over to Patch wrapping her arms around his neck and hugging him. Patch snuggled up to her, sighing deeply with contentment.
“I love you jess,” Patch said. Jess kissed his nose and buried her head in his fur.
“I’m sorry I threw you out,” she said, “I had no choice, other humans told me to throw you out or they’d throw us out of our home.”
“Did those humans think of how I’d feel if I was thrown out of my home?” Patch asked, “Did you think of me when you threw me out?”
“I tried to find a good home for you, but noone would give you a home,” jess replied, “The best I could do was release you into the wood in the hope you’d survive. The other option was to end your life.” Patch wriggled free of his human’s hug, his eyes harsh and angry!
“You thought of, thought of killing me?” He asked, his eyes filling with tears. Jess shook her head.
“No, no, patch, I didn’t, that was something the council suggested! It wasn’t my idea, I promise you!” Patch turned tail and stormed out of the room, crying bitterly.
“Oh dear, oh dear!” Jess said aloud, “what do I do now? I’ve busted things with the best friend I ever had!”
Patch threw himself down on the rug in
“She said she was going to kill me mama!” Patch choked.
which humans create to run things for other humans can be heartless,”
said, “I don’t know what I think of jess now.
I want to love her, I want to believe her that she didn’t want my life
ended, but, but, I don’t know what I feel now!”
“I’ll get Rowena to talk to Jess. She’ll divine what’s what.”
Rowena was indeed talking to jess at that moment. Jess found herself approached by a white lioness. This lioness had a bearing about her which could not be ignored.
“I believe you have a tale to tell?” The lioness said to jess. Jess sat down, unable to meet the lioness’s gentle eyes...
“I was forced to consider something which I would never consider in a million years,” jess said, “mama lioness, I was forced to consider ending Patch’s life and I made the mistake of telling him I’d considered that. You know what councils are?” Rowena nodded:
“I’m part of one here,” she replied.
“Well,” Jess said, the council told us that either we get rid of Patch, or we lose our home. I tried to re-home patch, but noone would take him. My last resort was to have him shot, but I thought I had another idea. I found a wood and pushed him out of the car.”
“I know this,” Rowena said, “I know your tale Jess.”
“If you know my tale, why ask me to retell it?” Jess asked.
“To see if you spoke the truth,” Rowena mewed, “for if you spoke the truth, this would mean you were on the right path. If you lied to cover up your failing, for fail you nearly did, I would know you were untruthful.”
“How did I fail?” Jess asked. The lioness sat down and lifted Jess’s chin so their eyes met.
“You thought you were doing the right thing releasing Patch into the wood. For this I cannot blame you, but that was the worst thing for him. Patch did not know the wood, he knew houses, and beds, and tins, and human things. He knew how to pick fruit, but that was about the sum of his knowledge.”
“You mean that
he would have died if mama
“I should not have said what I did, I know that now,” Jess said, almost crying, “I’m sorry mama lioness.”
“You need to
tell him what you really feel for him, tell him he’s not going to die, tell him
you’re no threat to him now. Let him
take your hind paws in his forepaws and then tell him what you really
feel.” Jess fled to find Patch. Finding him sobbing into
“Patch?” She asked softly. The bear raised his head and looked at her.
“Patch, please,” jess begged, “come to me, I want to tell you how I feel, how I am so sorry for even thinking of shooting you.”
“I went through so much with you jess,” patch said, crawling to her, “all that trouble, everything, and all you did was dump me. I don’t care what the council said, for they are surely not as important to you as what you and I had together? Do you love the council more than me?” Jess hugged her friend tightly.
“No Patch no,” jess sobbed, “the council, they gave us a house, and part of the conditions for living in that house is that we have no pets. I wanted to keep you, you are my friend and I wanted to keep us both together, but the council said we had to part. As soon as I could I tried to find you, and the Boss communicated with me, and now I’m here. I want to be with you patch, I promise I will never harm you or your mama. I was trying to make the best of a bad job patch. Shooting you would have broken my heart, as did letting you go into the wood, but something kept reminding me of you, a vision in my mind of a bear sitting in a house his head in his paws, crying.”
“That was Eohippus doing,” patch said. Jess nodded.
“Mama Lioness said something like that too,” the girl said. Patch smiled:
“Mama Lioness?” He asked, “
“So where do we go from here?” Jess asked. Patch shook himself.
“To find out if you’re really sorry for what you said and did to me,” patch replied, “sit down, take my right hind paw in your hands, give me your left foot and I will hold it in my paws. Then tell me, tell me what you really feel about me. I will then know for sure, for right now, I don’t know anything!” Jess did as Patch asked, sitting down and taking his hind paw in her hands, letting him take her foot in his forepaws.
“Now tell me how you really feel,” Patch said, jess stroking his right hind paw while he stroked the sole of her left foot.
“I feel sorry for dumping you in the wood and also for planning to shoot you,” jess said, “now, now I want us to live in peace together. Is that possible?”
“I don’t know jess,” patch said, feeling her sincerity, but not too sure what to make of things. Were councils that powerful they could kill bears? Patch looked at his lifelong friend.
“I love you jess,” he said, “but I wish you’d not told me about the council. I wish you’d just come back to me and said nothing!” Jess didn’t know what to say or do to make it easier on Patch.
“Look Patch,” jess said, “I love you more than I love anyone in the world, and that’s the truth. You’ve been like a brother to me. I didn’t want to throw you out of our home, and would take you back if I could, though I know you have a family here now. I want to love you now as I did before!” Jess pressed her foot into Patch’s forepaws, the bear embracing her foot with one forepaw while playing with her toes with the other. Jess also embraced patch’s right hind paw, stroking his pads and playing with his toes. Patch smiled hugely.
“I like it when you play with my toes,” Patch said. Jess smiled:
“I love you patch my friend, my ursine brother.” Patch tickled jess’s toes, the young girl laughing helplessly.
“You rogue!” She squealed curling her toes, catching patch’s toes in hers. Patch giggled, tugging at his now trapped paw.
“I can tell you love me,” patch said softly. Jess massaged patch’s pads and toes, the bear kissing the toes of her left foot still curled round those of his right forepaw. Patch closed his eyes, feeling Jess kiss the toes of his right hind paw which she held in her hands. Jess looked down at her friend’s hind paw, examining the grey upper fur on his paw, and then the nearly white pads on the sole of his paw. Patch opened his eyes and looked at Jess’s foot, jess releasing her hold on his paw. Patch looked more closely at her foot held in his forepaws. It was dark pink with lines on the sole, the lines on the sole of Jess’s foot becoming confused as she curled her toes gently at first, but then hard, patch stroking the bunched skin on the sole of Jess’s foot until she relaxed her toes. Then the bear used the toes of his right forepaw to trace the lines on the sole of Jess’s foot until they disappeared into the pad of her heel. Jess sighed contentedly, remembering the good times she and Patch had in their old home, each stroking the other’s hind feet with their hands or paws. These were gentle times, loving gentle hours. Jess curled her toes hard, making the skin wrinkle into furrows, Patch kissing the furrowed skin, then tracing it with the toes of his right forepaw. Jess smiled at her friend.
“I want to stay here for a few days,” jess said, “I’ll talk to my guardians and maybe I can stay?” Patch nodded.
“I’m sure the Boss will arrange that,” he said.
Jess’s guardians watched everything, talking to the Boss on the phone.
“She can stay for a while, maybe till Friday.” Jess’s foster mum said to the Boss.
“She can sleep
where she wants, and I’ll make sure she gets food,” the Boss said. The Boss pressed a button and spoke to
“She says she hopes you won’t mind if she calls jess cub.” Jess’s guardians were moved by the grizzly’s words.
“We don’t mind,”
they said, “all we ask is that you look after her like your own cub.
“No problem,” she said in heavily accented English. Patch and jess, listening in, laughed with delight.
“You can stay! You can stay jess!” Patch yelled, each dropping the other’s hind foot and lovingly hugging each other.
“Let’s dance a bit!” Jess suggested. Patch looked uneasy:
“Bears can’t dance!” He warned, getting to his hind paws, Jess getting to her feet. The human and bear danced together, Sometimes standing on one leg and kicking out behind with the other hind foot.
“Try holding onto your raised hind foot with one forepaw,” patch suggested. Jess grabbed the heel of her raised right foot in her right hand, Patch grabbing the heel of his raised left hind foot in his left forepaw. They then tried to dance together, both falling over after a few leaping steps, much to the delight of the watching community. Patch rolled onto his chest, crawling away, jess following, keeping in contact with him by touching the sole of his right hind paw with her left hand. Patch led jess to the soft room where he and Ekaterina had played together two days previously.
“Let’s play here,” patch suggested, jess nodding and gently stroking the pads of the bear’s right hind paw.
“I’m looking forward to this,” she said, “We can play with each other’s hind paws even more, then slide down the slides, climb the ladders, and play in the ball pool filled with foam balls!” Patch smiled and nodded, pressing the toes of his right hind paw against the palm of his friend’s left hand.
The two friends crawled about, chasing each other’s hind feet, grabbing at each other’s toes and tickling the soles of each other’s feet until they were exhausted from laughing. Then jess sat down and showed patch she could play with her toes just like he could. Patch watched as jess took the heel of her right foot in her right hand and played with the toes of her right foot with the fingers of her left hand.
“That looks so ursine, you look so happy,” Patch said, Jess smiling broadly.
“My toes curl up when I stroke the sole of my foot with my fingers,” she said, “it feels great when the skin on the sole of my foot wrinkles up, just like yours does when you curl your toes patch. Patch remembered the first time they’d discovered this, all those years ago when jess was younger than she was now. She and Patch, on discovering how the soles of their feet reacted when they curled their toes spent ages playing together, each curling their toes and letting the other touch the curled toes and bunched pads. It had been such a happy time. Jess wanted more of the happy time with her ursine friend.
“Can we go back to how, how we used to be?” Jess asked Patch. Patch looked at Jess.
“I’ve already forgiven you for thinking of shooting me,” Patch replied.
“I know,” jess
said, “I didn’t mean that, I meant, meant, the times before all the trouble,
before, well, you know what happened.
The time when we played with each other’s hind paws because it felt the
right thing to do, each wanted the other to play with our hind feet. You wanted me to play with yours and I
wanted, want, you to play with mine. We
got close then, really close; you taught me how to be, to be like, like
you. Not to be a bear, well, to be sort
of like a bear. Gentle, caring and
loving. You gave me love when noone else
in my life did. It’s a duty for my guardians
to take care of me, they’re professionals at it. You patch, took and take care of me because
you want to. I love you with everything
I have Patch! I don’t care if my
guardian’s hear this, I don’t care if they’ve seen me playing with my feet, tickling
your toes or playing the trapped paw role play games. This is what I want to do! I want to be with mama
“When I look at you I see a human I love playing with the toes of her right hind paw as if it’s the most natural thing in the world for her, and enjoying it hugely,” Patch said, “now, if I close my eyes and take your left foot in my paws, like this,” he took her left foot in his forepaws, jess gulping hard as she felt his touch, her toes curling slightly, “I feel my sister cub’s left hind foot in my forepaws. You play with your hind feet because you saw me playing with mine at first. I taught you that, though I didn’t realise it until lately.”
“I love it patch,” Jess said, “I love playing with my toes and feeling the sole of my foot with my fingers. In my view, hind feet were meant to be played with. Though I don’t need to tell you that.” Patch smiled:
“I thought you looked more contented than I’d seen you in years while you were playing with your toes a few minutes ago,” he said. Jess smiled, automatically reaching for her left foot with her left hand, her fingers cupping the heel and pulling her foot towards her. Then she got a better hold of her left foot with her hand, her fingers caressing the sole of her foot. Patch watched her, as jess meant him to. The grey bear lay down so his eyes were level with Jess’s fingers holding her left foot. Jess giggled as she settled her heel comfortably, and then withdrew her hand, wiggling, and then curling her toes, making the sole bunch up. Patch giggled cubbishly.
“We get so much pleasure from our paws it’s cubbish,” he said.
“It’s how we are,” jess replied, “its how you and I have always been. How we’ve communicated, how we’ve expressed our love for each other. Some send text messages, we send touch messages. Patch reached forward with his left forepaw and touched the bunched sole of Jess’s foot with his toes, jess wrapping her hand around the bear’s paw and pressing his toes to the sole of her foot, her own toes curling to meet his.
“Ekaterina and I did this yesterday,” patch said, she touched my right hind foot with her left forepaw, and I held her paw just as you’re holding my paw now. This is ursine indeed.” Jess sighed contentedly.
“Thank you for loving me Patch,” she said. Patch kissed the curled toes of jess’s left hind foot.
“You’re my sister,” he said, “as much my sister as Ekaterina or Helga is. Your body might be that of a human, but your mind is ursine.” Jess smiled:
“I lived with a bear for nine years almost,” she replied, “so that’s not surprising. When my human role models did anything but be kind to me, I turned to my ursine friend, who became a brother to me. I want to live like you patch, I want to be here, I want to play with my toes and let you play with them too. Let me stay here Patch, forever with you.” Patch didn’t have to look up to tell jess was pleading with him, crying too.
“I can’t believe what I’m seeing!” Jess’s foster mother said to her husband, who’d given up their daughter for lost ages ago and was doing paperwork.
“What are you
“Telling the foster agency our daughter’s been abducted by a bear!” He snapped.
“Hardly abducted,” the Boss corrected them, “use your eyes and ears, listen to them, and watch them. I’ll bet jess hasn’t been so happy in years.” Jess’s foster mother had to agree that point.
“So what do we do?” She asked, “We can’t claim money for a child we’re not fostering!”
“We can’t even
let her go, as she’s not competent in the eyes of the law,”
“Tell her she can’t be!” Jess’s foster mother said.
“So now you’re saying she can go?” Mildred said, “You were saying she was being abducted five minutes ago.”
“I don’t know
what to think,”
“Patch is what
we all wish we could be,”
“What will happen when she reaches eighteen?” Mildred asked.
her own choice as to whether to stay in the community or not.”
“But the law won’t allow it,” Mildred said.
“I can get lawyers on to that,” the Boss said, having listened to everything.
“They won’t let you take her on,” Mildred replied, “You’re not registered.”
“I’m not taking
Jess and Patch knew nothing of the swift legal proceedings. The Boss spoke to a good lawyer friend of his, presenting evidence of how Jess had been taken in by the bears and by the whole community. The lawyers knew of jess’s case, for it had been huge in the local area. They knew of Patch too, and managed to get a temporary order to keep Jess with the bears for one year. The Boss said he’d make sure she was educated. But one lawyer asked him why jess needed human education at all. She was educated by the bears now, by Patch and their mama. If the bears needed no education in the human sense, then neither did jess, as she was one of them in all but body shape and mannerisms, though she was catching on fast.
Meanwhile, patch and jess crawled around the room, feeling the soft flooring beneath their hands and paws. Patch stopped when they reached the ladder up to the zip wire.
“Jess,” he said, “I no longer walk on my hind legs now, I walk on all four paws or crawl. You need to walk on your hind feet, for you are human and cannot walk on all four paws.”
“I know you walk on your paws patch dear,” she said, “but I promise I will walk on my hind feet. I need to go to the Boss’s place and talk with him I think. I have a feeling, but it’s only that, which tells me my life will never be the same again.”
“You’re staying permanently?” Patch asked.
“I think so,” jess replied, “until I’m eighteen, then, then, I can decide what I want to do. Maybe I’ll continue the Boss’s work when he retires.”
The Boss is only thirty or so,” Patch replied, “he’s not retiring yet.”
“No, but sometime he will, and he will want a safe set of paws to give the control of the house to,” jess said. Patch looked at his friend.
“You wear clothes,” he said, “we don’t. How are you going to deal with that?”
“I’ll get a jumpsuit or two,” Jess replied, “that will leave my hands and feet bare, which are the whole idea of this place, keep in touch.” Patch covered Jess’s hand with his paw.
“We bathe each other here too,” he said.
“Patch,” jess replied, “I think you are forgetting what we used to do? Do you remember when the humans who did horrible things to me refused to bathe me for weeks?” Patch nodded, growling deeply in his throat at the memory.
“I remember,” he said.
“You bathed me like you’d bathe your sister cub,” jess said, “You treated me like your ursine sister for weeks until the police came and found us. The humans fed us, so they could not get done for anything else, but that was about it. You helped me eat, sleep, play, bathe, everything. You looked after me patch.” Patch remembered everything. He’d treated Jess the only way he knew how. He made sure she was as clean and as fed as he was. His instinct for finding fruit was developed, and sometimes he’d raid fruit from the bowls of the humans after dark. Then he and Jess would eat the fruit together. Patch would bathe his friend twice a week, making sure she was clean and tidy. The humans washed her clothes, but the only interaction with Jess herself was to do horrid things to her. They would never be kind to her at all. Patch made sure she was dressed in her clothes, for she could dress herself well enough. He would help her bathe; though in truth she could do that for herself. The help in bathing was more a guard duty, making sure the humans did nothing else to his friend. Patch knew about the ill treatment the humans dealt out to Jess, and vowed never to let her be ill treated when he was with her. Though there were times when he was shoved into a room and the Dorr was locked, times when he would fret and worry. Then the door would be unlocked, and patch would go back to Jess, and she’d tell him horrible tales by touching his paws with her hands and hind feet.
“I tried to protect you,” patch sniffed. Jess hugged her friend.
“if you’d hit out at them, they’d have shot you and kept on doing horrible things to me, so you could do no more than you were doing.” Patch looked at his friend.
“You are so adult in some ways,” he said, “but you’ve got there by experiencing things noone should.” Jess buried her face in patch’s shoulder.
“I want to be a cub, a cub in a family who love me from my nose to my paws,” she whispered, “I want a brother who protects me with everything he has, who is playful and loving. I want all this and you patch have let me into your world for eight years. Your teachings have kept me together. When the humans did horrid things to me, I was angry at them, I had no words to describe what was happening, but I knew you were there, that my brother bear would be there for me through it all. You tried to be like me and my race failed you. Now it’s my turn to come over to your side, to live like you, to love like you love. To be a bear with you. I want to do this patch; I want to be with you and your family. I’m a bear within a human body. I wish I had paws and fur like you, but I don’t. Please patch, treat me like you’d treat Ekaterina or Helga, and forget I’m of human form if you can, for I hate my race. Love me as jess, not as a human, but more as a bear. Bathe me like you’d bathe a bear, play with me like you’d play with a bear. I want to be with you and your kind patch.” Patch looked into Jess’s face, seeing a cub in need of a hug and someone to play with, someone to tickle her paws. Patch ran his paws from jess’s head to her toes, jess making sure her hands and feet got a good massage from his paws.
“I want you to treat me like your ursine sister,” jess said. Patch stroked the sole of her right foot, jess giggling and pressing her toes into his pads.
“I love you stroking my toes,” jess said. Patch laughed.
“I know you do,” he replied.
Patch and jess clambered up the ladders and slid down the slides. They crawled to the ball pool and leapt in, Patch and Jess throwing foam balls at each other, trying to juggle the balls with their hind feet, patch doing a better job of it than Jess, who kept losing the ball which kept slipping from the sole of her foot. After a while of this, jess and Patch found their way to the main part of the room and began playing with their own hind paws, Patch and Jess playing with their left, then their right hind paws. Then they played the trapped paw game, pressing their hind feet together. Jess giggled as she felt patch’s rough hind paw pads touching her toes and the soles of her feet.
“I love the touch of your paws on the soles of my feet,” jess said. Patch smiled and curled the toes of his right hind foot around those of her left foot, jess curling the toes of her right foot around those of patch’s left hind paw. Patch felt jess’s intense emotions transmitting through the contact between the sole of her foot and his rough pads. Patch and Jess then their forepaws and hands to try and pull their paws apart, both snarling and whimpering with the effort of pulling their hind feet apart. Once they’d freed their feet, the final effort causing both jess and patch to end up on their backs with their hind feet in the air. Jess, laughing helplessly, kicked the air with her feet until patch grabbed her right foot and tickled the sole. Jess curled her toes, patch stroking the furrowed skin.
“I love your hind paws Jess,” patch said, “for they are keys to your spirit.” Jess smiled and pressed her foot hard against Patch’s forepaw.
“The sole of your foot is soft to my paws,” patch said.” Jess giggled.
“I remember you washing my hands and feet,” she said, “it felt lovely.” Patch grinned.
“I loved washing your fore and hind feet,” patch said, “it brought us closer to each other.”
“I used to wash your paws too,” jess replied, “That was great.” Patch and jess went to the bathtub, where they were soon in the water playing with each other’s hind feet, the warm water heightening the sensations. Jess and patch washed each other from noses to toes, just as they had in the old days, jess thinking she’d feel strange having patch bathe her, but she loved it. His paws were gentle, he was considerate of her dignity, but most of all, and she felt loved, really loved.
“I don’t want you to let go of my right foot!” Jess said, Patch massaging soap into the skin on the sole of her foot. Patch smiled and kissed her nose.
“Why not?” He asked.
“I’m feeling so loved, and the feeling’s coming from your paws, through the sole of my foot, and to my brain. I want to give your paws a wash now.” Patch stopped washing jess’s hind feet, and jess got hands on with his hind paws. Patch enjoyed every minute, jess starting with his left hind paw, stroking his toes and massaging his pads. Jess smiled as she worked on her brother cub, patch sighing contentedly.
“I can feel the love you have for me,” patch said, “now, now please stroke my paws, then we’ll go and get dry and get some food.” Jess and Patch were soon eating together. Jess had some cheese on toast and a cup of tea, and Patch, liking pretty much the same thing, had peanut butter on toast and a cup of tea. The Boss spoke to jess and patch, explaining things to them.
“So I’m here for a year?” Jess asked.
“A year, then if you’re getting on fine, we’ll extend it. You are happy here so it seems, so your guardians say you can stay if you want, and Patch for one wants you to stay,” the Boss said. Patch hugged the Boss with his peanut butter covered paws.
“Hey,” the Boss laughed, “peanut paws Patch!” Patch giggled cubbishly.
“I’m sorry,” he said. The Boss grinned and gently wiped patch’s forepaws, the bear becoming still at the human’s touch.
“He loves us all,” Patch thought, his eyes filling with tears.
“Thank you for saving my life and allowing Jess to continue her life here,” patch said. The Boss hugged Patch, and then turned to Jess.
“I’m not the
one who saved you Patch, Eohippus is, and so is
“I know, I know,” she said.
“Make paw contact with everyone you can,” the Boss said, “there are lots of friendly creatures here. You will find which paws are friendly paws here. Mama Kamchatka will look after you and Patch. I will go now, and let you two do your own thing. Play with each other’s paws, hug each other, tickle each other’s toes, whatever.” Patch giggled.
“We love playing with each other’s paws,” patch said. Jess smiled:
“You’ve got lovely paws,” she said, “lovely grey paws with beautiful whitish paw pads brother cub Patch.” Patch giggled:
“You have lovely paws too Jess,” patch said, “your hand paws are soft, your hind feet are soft too. I feel your paws are keys to a gentle sister cub.” Jess kissed his nose.
“I love you Brother Patch,” she said softly.
“I love you too sister jess,” Patch replied, returning the kiss to her nose.
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