One big family.



Kamchatka hugged Chowilawu tightly.

       “I don’t know how to undo the damage I have caused,” she whispered to the cub.

      “Just follow your paws Grandmamma Kamchatka,” Chowilawu replied.

        “And so say all of us,” Patch said, padding into the room with Kuruk.  Ekaterina giggled as Kuruk’s right forepaw brushed her right hind.

      “That’s my right hind foot you’re touching!”  She laughed.  Kuruk kissed the pads of her right hind paw, Ekaterina smiling.

      “That feels great,” she said.  Kuruk found his way to Ekaterina’s head, then lay down beside her.  Enfolding her in a huge hug, he lay there.  Patch found Chowilawu and embraced him, leaving Conrad to embrace Kamchatka.  Finally jess, who came in with younger Nanuq lay down and hugged each other, Winnie padding  in finally with Olga Honeydew and sat down to embrace her.

      “Now we’re one great big ursine pile up,” patch said.  Kuruk laughed.

      “Kuruk have it no other way,” he said.  Ekaterina snuggled into her brother’s hug.

      “You’re so warm and comforting Kuruk,” she said, burying her paws in his thick fur.

       “Kuruk find Ekaterina comforting too,” Kuruk said.  Ekaterina relaxed into her brother’s enormous embrace.

       “I could stay here forever,” she yawned.

      “If we’re going to go to sleep, maybe we aught to turn the lights out, just in case they come on again during the time we are asleep?”  Kamchatka suggested.

      “Noone wants to get up,” patch said, Chowilawu cuddling close and clinging to him with all four tiny paws.

       “I’ll get up,” Jess said, getting to her feet and padding over to the light switch, pushing it up with one forepaw.

      “Now let’s go to sleep for a while,” she said.

      “Mama,” Chowilawu said, “can I have a drink before I go to sleep?”  Jess picked her cub up and sat down with him, feeding him with the milk she had.  Once that was done, he snuggled down with Patch once more.

        “Sleeping in the dark for the first time in my life,” Kamchatka mused sleepily, “comforting when I have my mate with me, not so when I’m alone.”  Sleeping peacefully, the bears passed several hours together.


Meanwhile, Geming, Weici and their newborn cub lay curled together in their lie up.  Geming, still shocked by his mate’s sudden labour and the arrival of a cub, kept touching the newborn cub to check if it was still there, that it wasn’t all a dream.

      “So you had a raging bellyache and then felt the urge to push Weici?”  Geming asked.  Weici nodded:

       “The urge to push, Oooh that was overwhelming.  Pain on top of pain that was.  Painful contractions and then more pain as I had the urge to push.”  Geming touched his mate’s left forepaw.

       “You really didn’t know you were pregnant?”  He asked.  Weici shook her head.

       “Until the time when I really had to push, no, I thought I’d eaten something which disagreed with me.  It was only when Chowilawu told me I was having a cub, then when I finally saw little Shen that I knew the truth of it.  Let’s examine our cub by touch before the lights come back on again shall we?”

        “Describe him to me will you?”  Geming asked.  Weici giggled and said:

       “Right, I’m starting at his nose, he’s got a tiny nose and mouth, and I can feel his tongue licking my paw as I explore his face.  Shen’s got tightly closed eyes and tiny ears, a small body, short legs, and the cutest paws I’ve ever touched!”  The cub, feeling his mama’s paws exploring his, curled his toes.

      “He’s curling his toes now, and that’s so cute!”  Weici exclaimed.

      “Do you mind me curling my toes mama?”  Shen asked.  Weici kissed his nose.

      “No Shen love,” she replied, “You keep curling those toes my dear.  I’ll even teach you how to play with your hind feet when you’re older and can balance enough to reach them.”  The cub giggled.

      “I can hardly wait,” he replied.


It was about then the lights came back on, much to everyone’s relief.

        “The lights are back on,” Winnie said, “thank Eohippus for that!”

      “I think Eohippus switched the lights off too,” Kamchatka said, “after my outburst, my horrible words, we were plunged into darkness so those of us who relied on our eyes had to rely on those who some of us class as inferior to ourselves.”

       “That’s rather noble speaking,” Winnie said.  Kamchatka shook her head:

       “You don’t know,” she replied, “you don’t know what I said Winnie.  They were horrible, inexcusable, dreadful words.”

     “Well who is in darkness round here anyway?”  Winnie asked, “certainly not my cub, or any of yours Kamchatka, so who is?”

       “Um, Winnie,” Kamchatka replied, “My youngest cub Ekaterina, she cannot see you at all.”  Winnie looked shocked.

       “Really?”  She asked, “And who else?”

       “Conrad, and little Chowilawu,” Jess replied, “They cannot see you either.”

     “Mum,” Olga Honeydew said, “I’ve been trying to tell you Ekaterina’s blind, but you wouldn’t listen to me!”

       “I thought you were joking!”  Winnie snapped.

       “Mum,” Olga said, “if Ekaterina hadn’t found me in the bush, you’d never have been found in the wood.  So it’s thanks to a blind cub we’re here now.”  Winnie stared at Ekaterina.

       “You don’t look blind,” she said.  Ekaterina snorted, now offended:

        “How should a blind bear look then Winnie?”  She asked, “Stumbling about, falling over all kinds of shit those inconsiderate sighted sods left on the floor?  No my dear, that’s you sighted bears and other creatures when the bloody lights go out!  Such a simple thing, and you lot are screwed, lost!”  Ekaterina swore outrageously, earning a slap from her mother.

       “Ow!”  Ekaterina yelled, “But mum!”

      “You don’t swear!”  Kamchatka yelled.

       “I think she’s justified this once,” Theo mewed, padding into the lie up and scowling at Winnie.  Ekaterina stormed from the lie up, dreadfully upset.

      “I hope you never have to go through what our cub has to!”  Kamchatka roared.  Winnie looked scared.

      “Okay mama, okay, I’m sorry!”  She said, almost begging.

        “I think we should all calm down,” Theo mewed.

      “Calm down?”  Kamchatka yelled, “How the bloody hell do you expect me to calm down?”  Theo padded forward and took Kamchatka’s paw in his.

      “Please dear,” he said, “there’s a new cub born today, he doesn’t need to hear arguments and stuff.  Please?”  Kamchatka calmed down a little.

       “All right,” she replied gruffly, “but if that bear says anything else about blind cubs, I’ll go so bloody crazy!”



Meanwhile, in the Boss’s quarters, the Boss was talking to a representative from the local council about them leasing part of his wood for a local youth project where the council would set up a paintballing centre and use part of the wood.  The Boss, being concerned about his community, was hesitant.

       “You must understand that I have many different animals here,” he said, “They are allowed to roam in the woods at will.  They know their boundaries.”

      “I know that,” said the man from the council, one mister Charles Fullbeans, “but surely they would be kept inside the house during our paintballing sessions, isn’t that the law?”

     “So you want me to restrict the comings and goings of what is in essence wild animals that have learned to live on my land?”  The Boss asked, “I can’t do that.”

     “Well we’ll have to make a compulsory purchase of the land then,” Charles Fullbeans said.

     “Buy our wood?”  Kamchatka said, hearing the last of the conversation.  The man from the counsel looked round.

      “Oh my god!”  He yelled, as a huge female grizzly bear padded in to the room.

       “I must use your toilet!”  Charles babbled.

      “Out the door, turn right and you’ll see it,” the Boss said.  Charles fled!  Kamchatka giggled cubbishly and threw her paws around the Boss, hugging him tightly.

       “I’ll bet he’s been giving you trouble,” she said.  The Boss smiled:

      “Threatened me with a compulsory purchase order on part of the wood,” He replied, “they want it for paintballing.”  Kamchatka blew through her mouth, a sound which meant she disapproved.

      “Paintballing,” she said, “like when humans run about the woods shooting guns full of paint at each other?”

      “Yes,” he said.  Kamchatka sat down.

      “Well let me negotiate with him,” she said, “If I can bring a human child round to my way of thinking, I can bring this one round.”  A sudden scream echoed down the passage.

     “Lion!”  Followed by the sound of running feet, then Charles Fullbeans was back with the Boss and Kamchatka.

       “A bloody great lion padded into the toilet when I was relieving myself,” the human panted, “he, he got on with his business, then, then, when he’d finished, he washed his paws and departed.  I finished my business, trying to ignore him, but, but, when I came out, he followed me!  Bloody great thing!  All mane and paws, and huge!”

       “Samson,” the Boss and Kamchatka said with evident affection.

       “You mean you like this lion?”  The man from the council asked, having taken Kamchatka’s presence in the room as less dangerous than the arrival of a full grown male lion into his life.

      “I like him,” Kamchatka said, getting up and padding to Charles Fullbeans.

      “Keep that bloody grizzly bear away from me!”  He screamed.

     “Sit down mister Fullbeans and she’ll leave you alone,” the Boss said, “and stop screaming, there’s a good chap.”  The man sat down on the floor, Kamchatka towering over him.

      “Nice bear, good bear,” Charles babbled, Kamchatka snorting with indignation.

      “Nice bear?  Good bear?”  She asked, “What is this?”

      “He’s frightened,” the Boss replied, “humans say things like that when they’re scared.

      “You won’t hurt me now will you mama bear?”  Charles begged.

       “I won’t hurt you at all,” Kamchatka said gently, getting the drift of the man’s words, even though she hardly knew English.

       “She’s coming towards me and sitting down!”  The man squeaked.

      Kamchatka does that kind of thing,” the Boss replied, “it’s in an attempt to make herself more approachable.”

       “She’s huge, with paws so big, so big!”  Charles Fullbeans babbled.  The next thing he knew, Kamchatka was hugging him.

       “Get her off me!”  Charles screamed, as Kamchatka’s paws enveloped him.

       “She’s only being friendly,” the Boss replied, “ever heard of a bear hug?”  Charles Fullbeans wailed with fear, wriggling and smacking Kamchatka.

       Its okay, it’s okay!”  Kamchatka said gently, rubbing the man’s back through his suit jacket.  Charles Fullbeans felt the bear’s massive power in her embrace, her huge paws, and her huge strength in check.

       “Don’t hurt me mama!”  He pleaded, realising the use of the word mama had soothed the bear somewhat.

       “I won’t harm you,” Kamchatka replied, kissing the top of the man’s head.

       “Just relax,” the Boss said, “you’d do better if you did.”  Charles tried to relax in the bear’s embrace.

       “What’s her name?”  Charles asked in a shaky voice.

       Kamchatka,” the Boss replied, “she’s head of the ursine family here, and “she had a cub here, and has a mate and three grown cubs now.”

        “This mama has three grown cubs?”  Charles asked, “And they’re here?”  The Boss nodded:

     “Give me a minute and I’ll ask them to come here.”

        “No, No, it’s okay, really,” he replied, “is, is there any chance I can have that cup of tea I refused earlier please?”  Kamchatka, smiling, released Charles and got to her paws, the man staring after her as she went to the kettle, switched it on, fished for a teabag, dropped it in a cup, and then poured boiling water onto it.

      “How long do you want your tea brewed for?”  She asked.  Charles looked blankly at her.

      Kamchatka asked how long you want your tea brewed for.”  The Boss translated.

      “Three minutes please,” Charles replied, “the Boss holding up three fingers.  Kamchatka nodded and when three minutes were up, she brought the tea over, setting it down with some milk.

       “Did, did you train her to do that?”  Charles asked.

      “No,” the Boss replied, “Kamchatka heard you say you wanted tea, and she made you a cup.  Now not everyone’s had tea made for them by a grizzly bear have they mister Fullbeans?”  Charles Fullbeans looked at the Boss then at Kamchatka.

        “No,” he said weakly, as the big grizzly sat down beside him, watching him expectantly.

       “Why is she staring at me?”  Charles asked.

      “She wants you to drink your tea,” the Boss replied.  Charles looked down at the cup, which had steam rising from it.

       “I, I must pour milk in,” he said, “Could, could you call your pet over to you, so I might do that?”  He asked.

      Kamchatka’s no pet of mine,” the Boss replied, “a friend she is, a dear friend too, with whom I’d trust my life, but she’s no pet.  Let her sit there Mister Fullbeans.  Now pour the milk into your tea.”  The man bent his head to pour the milk and slopped some over the edge into the saucer.

      “I can’t,” he said, putting the jug down.  Kamchatka deftly picked the jug up in her paw and poured the milk for the council worker.

       “Um, ah, thank you mama,” he said.  Kamchatka smiled, resting her paw on his shoulder.

       “You’re welcome,” she said in passable English.  Charles nearly dropped his teacup.

       “So you speak English then?”  He asked, hoping the local surveillance team were not bugging every word he said, or worse, watching him conversing with a female grizzly bear.

      “I can a little,” Kamchatka replied.

       “sorry for referring to you as someone’s pet,” Charles said, and, and for treating you like a dumb beast.”  Kamchatka shook her head.

      Kamchatka no pet,” she said, “but mama understand humans be scared of her at first, and that why they say things like “good bear.  Just make sure grey human no do it again, okay?”

     “Grey human?”  Charles asked, looking down at his suit, “ah, yes, I suppose I am.”  He looked Kamchatka over.

       “You are beautiful mama,” he said.  Kamchatka smiled and gave the human her paw.

       “I’ve never shaken the paw of a grizzly before,” he said.  Kamchatka grinned.

       “Grizzly bears aren’t aggressive,” Samson said, padding into the lie up and settling down by the fire.  Charles Fullbeans stared at the huge lion.

       “It’s the lion who followed me out of the toilet,” he said.

     “This is Samson,” the Boss replied, “what’s up Sammy?”  He asked.

       “I was just curious as to what this human was doing,”  Samson replied, “I saw him going into the toilet and waited for him to come out after going in myself and completing my tasks.”

      “He wants to buy our wood,” Kamchatka said.

      “No, no, not any more, I’ll find somewhere else,” Charles gabbled.

       “Why?”  Samson asked.

      “Because, because you need that space more than we do,” Charles blurted, “please, as a token of my respect for your gentility, I give you my life!”  Kamchatka laughed:

       “We won’t harm you,” she said, “as long as you don’t harm our wood or our way of life.  We know you want to educate your young humans, just like we want to educate our cubs.  Why not tell them the tale of how you met a gentle grizzly bear and a lap cat lion?”  Charles got to his feet:

      “Let me drink a toast to you all, with tea,” he said.  The Boss, Samson and Kamchatka grinned as the human drained his teacup.  Charles then shook the Boss’s hand, and the paws of a lion and a bear.

       “How well known is this community?”  Kamchatka asked the Boss.

      “Well enough known,” he replied, “the council know about you, but I don’t encourage many visitors, after all, this is not a zoo.  I tried an experiment, and its working.  The council need to know about you.”

      “So they know about each and every one of us?”  Samson asked, looking troubled.

      “They do, right down to little Shen, who I believe was born only three hours ago,” the Boss replied.

      “”Ah, yes,” Charles Fullbeans said, “I was asked to enquire about the young girl who you took into your charge, how is she doing?”  The Boss smiled:

      “Oh?  Jess?”  He asked, “Well, she was accepted into the community, and then adopted a polar bear cub.”

     “That’s nice,” Charles said, “could I arrange a time for us to interview her?”

     “There’s one more thing,” Theo said padding into the room, Charles staring at him.

       “What is that?”  Charles asked.

       “I’m a white lion sir,” Theo mewed, “now as I said, there’s one little thing you must understand, “Jess, though she is here and happy, she is no longer of human form.  Um, she got turned into a bear by eohippus.”  Charles stared at him.

       “The dawn horse,” he said, “I’ve heard of such tales.  A three toed horse that lived in the eosin.”

      “What else do you know of her?”  Theo asked.

       “That she was the horse from whom all other horses are descended.”  It seemed to the Boss that Charles didn’t mind being quizzed by a lion, and nor did he find conversing with one particularly strange.

     “Maybe he’s just too relieved not to be eaten alive,” the Boss thought.

       “What else is there to know about her?”  Charles replied, “There’s not much else is there?”

       “How about the beliefs we hold here?”  Theo asked.

       “I read in Jess’s file that she was friendly with a wild grizzly polar cross boar bear,”  Charles replied, “don’t tell me you’ve elevated her from the status of human to honorary bear or something crazy like that.”

      “Do not say such things,” Theo warned, his eyes burning into those of the council official.

      “The next thing you’ll be doing is asking me to take my shoes and socks off like you did Jess before she entered,” Charles said laughing nervously.

       “Don’t ridicule something you know nothing about!”  Theo snapped.

      “I mean, it’s crazy, isn’t it?  Going barefoot??  Charles asked

       “Why is that so strange?”  The Boss asked, “many human tribes still do it, so why shouldn’t my community.  They are more in touch that way.  And after all, put socks or something similar on a blind cub’s paws and what would they feel then?”  Charles stared at the Boss:

       “You mean, mean there are blind cubs here?”  He asked, “They get on well here?”  Kamchatka nodded:

      “My cub is blind, as is my mate, oh, and Jess’s cub is too.  She had a cub a few days ago you know.  And by the way, if you want to live, I’d wipe all memory of her human existence from your mind.  After all, you’ll find all record of her human life gone from your systems.”  Charles looked at the huge mama grizzly bear.

       “You speak strange words,” he said, “but I believe you.”

       “Eohippus wiped our systems,” the Boss said, “The earliest picture of Jess we have now is her giving birth to her cub.”

       “How can a human become a bear?”  Charles asked.

       “Don’t humans sometimes humanize bears?”  Samson asked.

      “Well yes, I suppose they do,” Charles replied, “but we don’t turn bears into humans.”

      “So you’ve never seen a circus where a bear wears human clothes then,” jess asked, padding into the room with Chowilawu riding on her back.

        “Who on earth is that?”  Charles asked.

      “My names Jess, Nanuq told me you wanted to interview me.  Can’t see why though, what are you, some kind of vet?  I hate vets you know, I remember eating one for breakfast once, so if you’re a vet, kindly piss off and leave me and my cub in peace!”

       “I once used to be in child, sorry cub protection and remember interviewing you!”  Charles screamed at the sow grizzly bear.

       “You can’t have been interviewing me,” Jess replied, “for you only interview human’s right?  I’m a bear, unless you lot have started interviewing cubs?  What’s all this about cub protection?  I’ve never abused my cub!”

       “Mama is good to me big man,” Chowilawu said.  Charles was certain this mama bear was the child jess he’d interviewed in a former job, or was it a former life?  Now though, Jess now was a bear with no recollection of her human existence.

       “Let me take your paw mama,” Charles said, Jess looking at him with hostility.  Grudgingly, Jess gave Charles her paw.

      “It’s warm, and soft, and not like a human hand in a glove,” he thought.

       “I’m a bear!”  Jess snapped, “I might have been humanized once, and I might have been interviewed by some sick human who thought he’d do a documentary on cubs, as I was stolen from the wild as a cub, maybe you interviewed me ten years ago.  Maybe that’s the interview you got?  Now I’m a mama bear that is home with my mama Kamchatka.  I’ve got nothing to say to you, and neither has my cub, good day to you sir.”  With that Jess looked over her shoulder:

      “Hold on tight Chowilawu, we’re out of here,” she said, turning and bolting!

       “You know something mama Kamchatka,” Charles said, “what happened to the child Jess?”

       “You know no other Jess,” Kamchatka said, “Charles; you know no other jess than the mama bear that you’ve royally pissed off.  If you speak of the human jess to anyone, anyone at all, I will personally rip your head off!  All records will be erased, but memory cannot be.  You were the only case worker who saw jess that last time, yes?”  Charles nodded:

     “It was me all the time,”  he replied, “She was placed with guardians about five months back, and the last we had was a notification that this man had taken guardianship of her, along with another, named, um, Kamchatka.  Oh, oh no!  Kamchatka, that’s you isn’t it?”  Kamchatka nodded.

      “Jess is my cub,” she said, “and I must say, she looks a bit like me.  I’m very proud of her surviving the time in the zoo the way she did.  Mind you, it’s thanks to her devoted Brother Patch.  He saved her mind while the humans poked and made fun of jess.  Now she’s at home, at peace.”

         “She’s a teenage mother too!”  Charles yelled.

       “A young mother yes,” Kamchatka replied, “but we’ll let that go won’t we.  After all, you’re in a house with creatures you cannot begin to understand.

       “I’ll report back to my superiors that you’ve stolen Jess and made her wear a bear suit and play act at mothering a cub!!”  Charles yelled.

       “Right,” now you’re for it!”  Someone yelled.  Charles stared as an angry mama grizzly charged in to the room and headed straight for him!

        “This is real, this is real!”  His brain told him just as he was bowled off his feet and pinned down by a set of enormous paws!

      “This is not the weight of an eleven year old child either!”  Charles thought as the air was squeezed out of him, “this is an angry mama bear!”

        “You say one more thing about me being a fraud, or me dressing up as a mama bear, I’ll flatten you slowly and painfully!”  Jess screamed, “You might have interviewed me as a cub, I can’t remember that very well, but your face is one I don’t want to see again!  Maybe you were one of those members of the public who taunted me with sticks in the zoo, maybe you were one of those who fed me mustard covered bread and made me sick.  Maybe you were one of those who teased me with nuts and withdrew them at the last minute, only to eat them when I was starving hungry!  Which ever of those you are, I hate the sight of you!  Now get out, and leave me, my cub, and my mama alone!  For if you don’t, you will learn what it is to be ripped apart slowly and painfully, from the inside out.  We will destroy you as your race sort to destroy us.  Put us on display, feed us nuts and shit would you?  I knew I hated humans, not the Boss, he’s different, for he understands us, but your lot, the closed minded ones who poke fun at bears in zoos and do horrid things to them like put tubes in them for bile etc.  I know this, I’ve seen it, and I was watching something on television with Conrad. Something like the ten worst crimes perpetrated by humans on bears, that kind of sad thing.  Conrad’s in a hell of a state now, and I’m not much better for watching it.  Yes there are good humans who help bears and other wildlife, the Boss is one, but there are also the likes of you.  You who would have us all in cages, either milking us for our bile or making us dance, or other horrific things!  I’ll bet when you first saw me I was a miserable half grown cub.  Well now, now I’m a mama bear, and I’m angry, bloody angry!  You are the first human I’ve met since the documentary viewing who has managed to piss me off, and I want to rip your throat out!  Now leave, leave before I get claws rather than paws on with you Charles Fullbeans.  The name rings a bell too; maybe you were the chief researcher for this horrid experiment in the zoo.  Whoever you were then, and are now, your name and face make me sick!  Get out of our lives!”

       “And if I don’t?”  Charles challenged.

      “Then I’ll rip you to bits!”  Jess screamed.  Charles got to his feet and stumbled from the room, hitting the button on the wall, the lift arriving.  Charles couldn’t wait for the lift to deposit him at the lower ground level where he could get into his car and depart smartly for his office.

       “I know that’s Jess, the bear is Jess!”  He thought, “But I can’t prove it.  She’s no fraud that’s for certain, but she’s interesting.  Charles Fullbeans drove from the Boss’s property, thinking of the strange happenings he’d been a part of.


Meanwhile, back in the house, jess was comforting Conrad, who was crying.

       “That documentary was horrible!”  Conrad sobbed, “The bears in that zoo being milked for their bile, oil drenched bears, bears being made to dance, oh, oh for Eohippus sake!”  Jess hugged the weeping polar bear.

      “I remember the bit about prince William sound and the oil tanker,”  Conrad sobbed, “I remember it so well, for I was there, that was my home!”

      “I’m sorry,” jess said softly.”

       “I lived there ten years or so after the tanker dumped its load, but I’ll bet that’s what caused the oil which I got on my paws.  Rubbing my eyes with my paws caused me to lose my sight, and now, now I’m blinded.  I can feel the oil on my paws even now!”  Jess cradled Conrad while he sobbed.

        “Humans, I hate them, I hate them!”  Jess sniffed, getting emotional herself.

        “That documentary was horrible!”  Allie said, her paws shaking beneath her as she walked.

       “I know, I know!”  Conrad wailed.

      That poor sea otter drowning in the oil!”  Allie said.  Conrad whimpering loudly.

      “There was a grizzly bear there too,” patch said, “His paws were covered in oil, and his fur was all dirty and matted!  It was horrible!””  Conrad wailed with misery.

       “It’s okay now, it’s okay now!”  Jess sniffed, trying not to break down entirely.

        “But, but I know how that grizzly bear felt!”  Conrad wept, “I felt oil on my paws Jess, I know how it feels, and I know what oil can do to your eyes too!  It’s not good to rub your eyes with crude oil covered paws.  Nor is it good to wash your face in oily water.  I did both of those, and now, now I’m here, unable to see, and who knows what else might be wrong with me!”

      “Well you can sire cubs,” Jess said, “that’s not affected.  You can also love, and be loved.”  Conrad smiled briefly.

       “I know,” he said.  Jess hugged Conrad tenderly.

       “Did anyone tell you you have soft paws?”  Conrad asked Jess.  Giggling, Jess buried her head in his shoulder.

       “It’s because I never walked much in the zoo,” she replied.  Conrad hugged Jess with conviction and love.

       “Let’s go and find your cub,” Conrad said gently.  Jess squeezed his paw.  Padding back to Jess’s lie up, they found patch playing with Chowilawu.

       “That’s so sweet!”  Jess said.  Patch grinned:

       “We were enjoying it,” he replied.  Chowilawu giggled cubbishly.

       “Patch was tickling my paws mum!”  He yelled.  Jess leant down and tickled the pads of Patch’s right hind foot, patch laughing merrily.

       “You’ve got a wonderful cub here little sister,” he said.  Jess smiling proudly.

      “All I need is for that Fullbeans character to leave us in peace, and I’d be completely happy now,” jess said.

       “Did he upset you?”  Patch asked.  Jess sat down beside her brother.

       “I recognised him from somewhere, maybe the zoo, I don’t know,” Jess replied, “but his face made me fear him.”

       “He’ll never come back,” Patch replied.

     “I hope he doesn’t,” jess replied.


Meanwhile, Elsa and pippin were playing at their usual cubbing games.  The lion and lioness loved their games where Pipin would help Elsa give birth to her imaginary cub, then he’d play the part of the newborn cub, and they’d roll over and over in play.

      “We might be able to stop role playing soon,” Pipin said.

     “Not for some time yet,” Elsa replied, “we’re too young to have cubs yet.  Though the games are a lot of fun.”  Pipin kissed her nose.

     “I like them,” he replied, “It gets us really close.”  Elsa laughed delightedly.

       “It does,” she replied, “I love the way you stroke my paws during our re-enactments.” 


Leo and Petra watched Elsa and Pipin’s play, Leo concerned at the realism of the cubbings.

       “It’s wrong isn’t it?”  He asked.  Petra smiled and shook her head.

       “I think its fine,” she replied, “playing at cubbing is fine.  They know they can’t have cubs yet, but they love each other and are getting ready for the time when they have cubs.  Pipin wants to be with Elsa during her labour, and that’s great.  I vote for letting them continue their play.”  Leo sighed:

      “I suppose my mind is full of Elsa’s mother giving birth that was traumatic and horrendous.  Though I suppose all labours are different, and just because Young Elsa’s birth was difficult doesn’t mean the births of her own cubs are going to be difficult too.”  Petra kissed his nose.

       “Leo,” she said, “guesses what?”  Leo kissed her nose:

      “What Petra love?”  He asked.  Petra took his paw and lay down, placing his paw on her belly.  Leo looked surprised then shocked as he felt something kick back against his paw.

      “You’re having cubs?”  He asked.

     “Not just me, we are having cubs,” Petra mewed.  Leo felt his legs weaken, having to lie down.

       “Oh, Oooh!”  He said, covering his face with his paws, “I didn’t think, didn’t think we could do it!”

       “We can and have,” Petra mewed.

       “Are you okay with having cubs?”  Leo asked.  Petra took his paws from his face and kissed his nose.

      “I am Leo,” she mewed.  Simba ran in.

      “You’re having cubs mum?”  He asked.  Petra shook her head.

      “No,” she said, “Leo is, he’s the first male lion ever to get pregnant!”  Leo roared with laughter.

      “I might act out a cubbing,” he said.

      “Oh no, no!”  Simba whimpered.  Leo grinned and got to his paws, hugging Simba tenderly.

      “We’re looking forward to having our cubs,” Leo mewed.  Simba sighed heavily.

        “More cubs,” he said, sighing deeply.

      “You’re jealous?”  Leo asked.  Simba growled:

        “No,” No, good luck to you,” he said gruffly.

      “Mama Lion can have cubs,” Kuruk said, padding into the room, “Simba lion, you no want her have cubs, you get out of community.  You listen to me white lion!  You make moves on your mama’s cubs; I break your bloody neck!”  Simba wailed with fear.

      “Okay, okay, I’m gone, I’m gone!”  He yelled.

       “Simba unable to let Petra move on,” Kuruk grunted.

       “He’ll leave you alone,” Theo mewed, “I’ll make sure he does.”  Petra looked at her youngest Son.

       “I hope he does,” she mewed.

       “You can have a carefree labour,” Theo mewed, “for if Simba makes a move on you or on the cubs, he’ll be in more pain than the most horrendous labour a lioness could ever endure.  I promise you mum, he’ll not set paw on you or your cubs.”  Petra looked into her son cub’s face.

       “I’m frightened,” she whispered.  Theo hugged her tightly.  Petra gasped as she felt Theo’s strength, it was double that of her older son Simba.

      “You’ve grown into a really strong lion Theo,” Petra thought.

      “What’s this about you having cubs Petra?”  Jess asked, pounding into the lie up.

        “I’m having cubs,” Petra sighed, “but now, now I’ve got Simba on my back about it.  A lovely time has now turned into a fearful one, and I can’t rest until the cubs are born and I can really protect them.”  Jess snorted with indignation.

       “He should be strung up!”  She snarled.

      “Right,” jess said, “I’ll guard you when you’re in labour.”  Petra smiled sadly.

       “I shouldn’t need guarding, not here, not in my home!”  She said her voice cracking.

       “Hey shh,” Leo said, as Petra sobbed into his mane.

       “I wish I wasn’t having cubs,” Petra sobbed, “I don’t want them to be born into danger!  Maybe I can have them aborted that would be better for them and me.”

        “No Petra no!”  Leo mewed, horrified, “you can’t do that!”

      “What’s worse?”  Petra asked, “Having the cubs and then Simba killing them when we’ve got to know them, or me having a little labour and the cubs being stillborn, then they can be buried and we’ll never have cubs again.  I can’t bring life into the world knowing at least one lion is out to get the cubs!  Worse, that lion’s my own son!  Leo, I don’t know what to do!”

      “Aborting the cubs isn’t the answer mama,” Jess replied, “It’s not their fault Simba’s a total ass.  You can have those cubs in peace, and then we’ll protect them, every bear will anyway.  Samson will pin Simba down for the lions, so he’s busted.”

       “”Simba will die slowly and painfully if he sets paw on you or the cubs mum,” Theo mewed.  Petra looked into his eyes, Theo’s sadness clear to her.

       “You know something don’t you,” she said, her tone heavy.  Theo shook his head.

       “Don’t ignore your instincts Theo,” Jess said.

      “Should I let the pregnancy continue?”  Petra asked.  Theo buried his head in her neck, Petra feeling his body shaking.

        “I’ll get the cubs aborted,” Petra mewed, “I can’t have them born into a climate of fear!”

        “No mum, don’t,” Theo choked, “I don’t know what I feel.  Maybe it’s just sadness about Simba’s anger.  I can’t say what it is for sure.”  Petra took a shuddering breath.

        “I feel so vulnerable,” she whispered, turning and leaving for her lie up.

        “Poor mum,” Theo thought miserably.  Petra lay down in her lie up, buried her face in her paws and wept.

       “I need to get a grip,” she thought, “but I can’t, I can’t, when, when my own cub is threatening his brothers and sisters!”  Petra cried into her paws, rubbing her face with hot sweat and tear soaked forepaws.

       Petra?”  A voice said gently.  Petra looked up into the eyes of a white lioness.

        “Rowena, my dear cub, I need your help!”  Petra pleaded.  Rowena kissed her mum’s nose.

        “I have already fixed it with Theo,” she said, “He’ll keep you safe.  I will watch things from this end.  Theo will help you through your labour; I’ll oversee things from this end as I did when Theo was born.  Now, now Petra, take a deep breath and relax.  Simba won’t harm you or your cubs.  I promise you that.”  Petra took a deep breath, feeling her cubs stirring inside her.

      “Don’t let your cubs feel your distress,” Rowena said, “show them you love them by giving joyous birth to them.”  Petra closed her eyes, and Rowena disappeared.  Sighing, she opened her eyes and looked round her at the empty lie up.

        “”pull yourself together Petra,” she thought, “you’re a mama lioness!”


Meanwhile, Simba was having a nightmare.  Sleeping in his lie up, he saw a white lioness straining to give birth to her cubs.  hearing her roar of effort, Simba watched as bloody fluid exploded from her, the lioness kicking with all four paws and screaming in pain as her body heaved and strained to deliver her cubs.  The cubs were born traumatically, the lioness’s fur covered in blood, sweat, tears and fluid.  Simba went up to the lioness, feeling the heat from her exhausted body, smelling her sweat, as well as seeing the blood and amniotic fluid on her hind quarters, and her fear.  Simba wept as he looked down at the lioness.

        “You killed my cubs,” the lioness wept.  Simba shook his head, but knew he’d never forget the sight, sound and smell of the births of the white lioness’s cubs.  Jerking into wakefulness, Simba found himself covered in sweat and tears.  Sore eyes told him he’d been crying, and the sight of the lioness in labour wouldn’t leave him.  Getting to his paws, Simba shook himself hard and stared down at his forepaws.

       “That dream was horrible!”  He thought.  Looking up, he found Theo standing in the lie up with him.

       “You look dreadful,” Theo mewed.  Simba swallowed hard, and then the nightmare poured from him.

        “What does it mean?”  Simba asked, begging his brother for an answer.

       “It means keep your bloody paws off Petra and her cubs!”  Jess yelled, barrelling into the lie up, ready to swing at Simba.

       “Peace Jess,” Theo mewed softly, stopping Jess in her tracks.

        “As she says, paws off Petra and her cubs,” Theo mewed.  Simba gulped hard.

         “I won’t touch her or her cubs,” Simba said, “I promise you Theo.”  Theo touched his brother’s paw.

       “Our mum is a lovely lioness,” he said, “don’t ruin her life Simba.  Let her give birth to her cubs in peace and safety.”

        “Tell me when her labour begins and I’ll leave the community,” Simba sniffed.

       “You can’t trust yourself?”  Jess asked.

       “No,” Simba sniffed, “I might do something I regret.”

      “What stopped you from doing Theo harm when he was born?”  Jess asked.

      “The only lioness he’s really respected,” Theo mewed.  Jess gulped hard.

       “So, so, if you can’t do it for your mum, control yourself for Rowena,” she said, almost crying, “Simba, paws off those cubs and your mum.  If you can’t do it for your mum, or for Theo, do it for your sister.”  Simba turned away, unable to meet jess’s or his brother’s eye.

       “Why are you so angry Simba?”  Theo asked.

       Petra told me I was the one and only, and now, now she’s gone and fostered cubs, and had you too!”  Simba yelled.  Theo looked at his brother cub.

       “I don’t know what to say,” He said, “you are envious of me Simba?”  He asked.

       “I’m angry, jealous, furious with the fact you have everything I want, the fame, the presence, the trust.  I have none of that!”  Simba screamed.

        “So what do we do?”  Jess asked.

       “I don’t know,” Theo mewed.

       “Why not kill me, get it over with!”  Simba roared.

       “I don’t want to do that,” Theo mewed.  Simba screamed and ran from the lie up, Theo and Jess following him.  Barrelling into Petra’s lie up, Simba flew at the white lioness!

      “Simba, oh, for Eohippus sake Simba!”  Petra pleaded as her son’s claws ripped down her shoulder!  Theo, totally shocked, felt Rowena’s paw on his.

      “Defend your mum,” Rowena mewed, “before its too late Theo.”  Theo tore Simba off Petra, the fully grown lion seemingly weightless in his paws.  Throwing him to the floor, Theo leapt upon his brother cub!  Screaming with rage and grief, Theo tore Simba’s throat out.  Simba died quickly and cleanly, Petra staring at the dead body of her eldest son.

       “Suicide by lion,” Jess said.

      “You what?”  Theo asked, his whole body shaking.

       “Putting you into a position where you had to kill him,” jess replied.

        “That’s what I felt,” Theo mewed sadly, “Simba’s uncontrolled anger, his raging jealousy.  He was destined to die.  I take no pride in what I’ve done this day.  The only comfort I can take from this is that that I’ve saved my mum and her unborn cubs.”  Petra looked at Theo.

       “Come here,” she mewed.  Theo went to his mum, and she hugged him.

       “The sadness has gone,” Petra mewed.

        “I am sorry I had to do that,” Theo said.

       “You were protecting me and my unborn cubs,” Petra said wearily.  Theo kissed his mum’s nose then took her paw in his.

       “I know I will suffer for this tonight,” Theo said.  Petra looked into her son cub’s eyes.

       “You cared about Simba didn’t you,” she said.  Theo nodded, swallowing hard.

        “I didn’t want to kill him,” he said.

      “I know,” Petra mewed, “I’m sorry it came to this, I should have tried harder to control my cub.”

       “No mum,” Theo mewed, “Simba was power hungry, Jells beyond sense and crazy.  He admitted as much.  The worst of it mum is that he hated me and I did nothing to him, I tried to help him mum!”

      “You naturally became what he wanted to become by force,” Petra mewed, “you became the lion Simba wanted to be sever since he was a cub.  Now if he’d only followed his paws, he might have got his wish, but he didn’t.  You, who have followed your paws, find that you are respected, have rank and status, and are now spiritual leader of the community at just under two years old.”

       “I don’t want this status mum,” Theo mewed.

       “If you wanted it, you’d not be ready for it,” Petra mewed.

      “All I want to do is play with the cubs a bit and live my life in peace,” Theo said.

       “You’ll have at least one more cub to play with in a few weeks,” Petra replied, “for my time is near now.”  Theo kissed his mum’s nose.

       “Good luck mum,” he said.  Petra hugged Theo tightly.


The badgers buried Simba’s body, making sure noone saw where they buried it.


Petra’s pregnancy continued a pace, and within a few weeks she could hardly walk due to being heavy with cub.  Petra’s labour started while she was talking to Kamchatka one day.  The bear and lioness were talking about the impending birth, when Petra was seized by a violent contraction.  Screaming, she grabbed hold of Kamchatka’s paw and nearly broke her toes as she crushed it.

      Ooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! Owwwwwwwwwwwwwwaowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!”  Petra screamed.  Kamchatka looked into Petra’s face, the lioness’s eyes tightly shut, her teeth bared with effort and pain.

        “This, this cub’s coming now, now, now now now!”  Petra yelled, straining hard, “ouch, ouououououoch!  Must push, push, and push!”  Petra roared and screamed through two more contractions, then, wriggling, she stretched full length on the rugs, her forepaws clamped around Kamchatka’s right fore and squeezing it hard.

       “Push mama,” Kamchatka said, “the lioness’s grip puny to her.  Petra growled and roared with pain and effort, bearing down into her tail.  Kamchatka saw the cub’s forepaws, then its nose, then, with Petra making a screaming, sweat soaked effort, the cub’s head exploded into the world with a gush of fluid which covered Petra’s hind paws.

       Ooooooawwwwouch!  Oww’w’w’w’w’w’w’w’w’w’w, ououououououoch!”  Petra screamed as the cub’s head came free.  Then taking a deep breath, she moaned deeply with pain and discomfort as the cub’s body emerged.

       OOoooooooooah, oooooooooowwwww’w’w’w’w’w’oah, ow’w’w’w’w’w’w’w’w’oah!”  Kamchatka heard Petra’s panting, smelt her sweat, felt her effort, and saw her scrabbling paws.

       “One more push mama,”  Kamchatka said, Petra curling up suddenly, grabbing the cub in her forepaws and screaming as she bore down, trying to push the cub into the world, as well as catch it in her forepaws.

        “One more push, just one more!”  Petra gasped, having got paws on with her own emerging cub.  Crying, she bore down forcefully, grunting and squealing, the cub’s hind quarters and large hind feet about to slide free.  Petra wriggled as the cub’s right hind foot got stuck.

       “He’s got big paws mama lioness,” Kamchatka said.  Petra gasped and grunted as she strained to deliver the cub’s hind paws.

       “I can’t free his hind feet!”  She panted.  Kamchatka kissed Petra’s nose, the lioness releasing her hold on her paw.

      “I’ll free your cub,” she said.  Going to Petra’s hind quarters, Kamchatka gently explored the cub’s hind paws, Petra panting and whimpering as Kamchatka gently freed the cub’s right hind foot.

      “Ok Petra, Push hard,” Kamchatka said.  Petra groaned deeply, feeling the cub’s paw slowly slide free.

        “Ah! Hurhrhrhf!  Done it! That was a struggle!” Petra mewed.  Looking round, she got a full length look at her cub.  He was enormous!

        “No wonder I had a difficult time,” Petra thought as sweat dripped off her nose and she felt her fur soaked with sweat and fluid.

       “Well done Petra,” Kamchatka said.  Petra’s labour had lasted only half an hour, the labour fast and hard.  Petra cleaned her cub from his nose to the toes of his huge hind feet.  Petra had never seen such big paws on a cub!!

       “You’re enormous!”  Petra mewed to the cub, which cuddled close to her, clinging to her fur with his huge forepaws.  Petra looked the cub over, from black nose to black paw pads.

      “He’s a white cub,” Petra thought, “a white cub, I have a white cub!”  Petra groomed her cub thoroughly, working with her teeth and tongue; she worked from his nose to the pads of his paws, the cub giggling with pleasure.

       “I like that mama,” he said, wriggling with joy.  Petra felt his paws against her face as she kissed the toes of his left forepaw, and his touch felt wonderful.

       “Well done mama,” Theo purred, padding into the lie up.  Petra looked up at her eldest son.

      “Come and meet your baby brother,” she said.  Theo lay down, taking the newborn cub in his paws.

      “Hello little one,” he purred, kissing the cub’s nose and forepaws.  The cub clung to Theo, recognising the family scent at only half an hour old.

       “How do you think we should name him?”  Petra asked.  Theo smiled:

       “Your call,” he said, “he’s your cub mum.  You and Leo should name this, um, little chap.”  Petra giggled:

       “He’s huge isn’t he,” she said, “I had to make a huge effort, really push down hard to deliver him.  You see his right hind foot?  Well that got stuck it is so big.”  Theo examined the cub from nose to paws, the cub wriggling with pleasure as Theo’s paws worked over his body.

      “He’s really strong,” Theo mewed.  The cub crawled to Petra’s side and drank his first milk.  Once that was done, he curled up to sleep beside his mum.

       “You’ve had your cub?”  Jess asked, pounding into the lie up.

       “Yes,” Petra mewed, “but he’s sleeping, or trying to.”  Jess stared at the large bundle of white fur beside Petra.

       “That cub’s gigantic!”  Jess thought.  Leo padded in then, having come off patrol.  Staring at Petra‘s sweatsoaked , bloody fur, he looked for the cub.  At first he didn’t see the huge bundle beside Petra, for he was looking for a tiny cub or cubs.

       “Did you have your cub?”  He asked, angry he’d missed the birth, and anxious in case Petra was in trouble.

       “Yes, he’s here,” Petra said, patting the cub beside her with one paw and smiling up at her mate.  Leo looked at the huge cub in astonishment!

       “What?”  He asked, “That’s not newborn, it can’t be!  It’s enormous!”

      “He’s indeed newborn, he’s enormous and healthy too,” Petra mewed.

       “Wow, just wow!”  Leo gasped.

       “View the birth on video,” Petra said, “it’s half an hour from first contractions to the cub’s birth.  It was very fast and very hard work, but I got through it with Kamchatka’s help.”  Leo smiled as he looked down at the huge cub.

       “How was it for you Petra?”  He asked.  Petra smiled:

       “You know I said I didn’t want pain relief?”  She asked, “Well, I know now why I don’t.  I can remember everything, I want to remember everything.  I remember the first heavy pains, then the last push to deliver our cub’s right hind foot.  I felt the paw come free pad by pad, everything had tensed up you see, and I had to really push, even then, I felt first the cub’s heel pad,  then his toes, every pad, every bit of his paw.  I regret nothing.  Just look at his paws Leo, and you’ll see what I mean.  Leo lay down beside his newborn cub and hugged the cub to him, the cub sleepily snuggling close, Leo able to get a good look at him.  Leo explored the cub from nose to tail, paying special attention to his face and of course those huge paws.

       “He looks so much like you Leo dear,” Petra mewed.  Leo kissed the cub’s nose.

      “His right hind foot got stuck you say?”  Leo said, examining the cub’s right hind paw.  It was large, and Leo could see why Petra had trouble, for the paw was so much bigger than the cub’s leg, the paw quite able to get stuck.  Leo gently stroked the cub’s pads, imagining his mate straining to deliver her cub.”

      “Yes, I felt everything,” Petra mewed.  Leo kissed the cub’s nose.

        “I would have loved to have witnessed the birth,” Leo said sadly.  Petra got to her paws and shook herself.

        “I can show you the video,” she yawned.  Leo hugged their cub to him.

       “I’d like to see that,” he said.  Petra punched a button on the panel and soon the video of her in labour came up.  Leo watched intently, Petra watching with him.

       “See how much effort I have to make?”  Petra asked.  Leo did, and kept looking to the lioness in pain on the screen, and the real lioness smiling broadly as she watched herself having her cub.

       “I wouldn’t have missed a minute,” she said, “now, now watch Leo, watch as I try to deliver the cub’s hind feet.”

       “You’re moaning and groaning,” Leo mewed, “as the cub’s body emerges you’re moaning Petra!”

      “That was a time where I couldn’t push,” Petra mewed, “I just had to let it happen.  The hind quarters and hind feet were more difficult.  Watch.”  Leo watched, and Petra zoomed in on the cub’s hind quarters, the sound of Petra’s growling and roaring filling the room as she pushed down hard.  Then the cub’s left hind paw was out, his right hind jamming tight.  Petra whimpered and whined as she felt everything tense up, Petra finally exhausted.  Leo saw the cub’s paw was stuck, and Petra was too tired to deliver it.  Kamchatka felt her way around the paw, Petra gasping and panting, and then the bear told Petra to push.  Petra’s huge effort was plain to see, but was making little headway.  Kamchatka pulled on the cub’s leg, and then his paw as Petra pushed, her effort far outweighing the progress made.

      “No wonder I felt every pad and claw,” Petra said wincing.  Leo looked at her:

       “And you enjoyed that?”  He asked.  Petra smiled:

       “I would do it all again,” she said.  Leo hugged her.

       “Now what shall we name our cub?”  Leo asked.

       “I thought of Aslan,” Petra mewed.  Leo grinned:

       “What a great name,” he said, looking at the cub who’d woken up and was now playing with his mum’s right forepaw.

       “I remember my hind foot getting stuck,”  the cub said, “I could feel every bit of mum pushing, that felt weird, all slimy and all pressure around my paw as mum pushed at my paw to free it.”

       “It was,” Petra mewed, “but I did it with love.”  Aslan kissed his mum’s nose.

       “I could feel that, and I will remember that forever,” he said.  Petra smiled at her cub, kissing his nose and forepaws.

       Which hind paw is my right one?””  Aslan asked.

      “Roll onto your back and I’ll show you, though I thought you already knew,” Petra mewed.  Aslan smiled:

      “Show me, please?”  He begged.  Petra kissed his nose and Aslan rolled onto his back, waving his hind paws at his mum.  Petra laughed and kissed the toes of Aslan’s right hind foot.

       “Looking at his hind paw, no wonder I had a problem delivering it,” Petra thought, “it’s huge, and the toes and pads are large.  I suppose the left hind didn’t get stuck because I was really pushing hard.  When his right hind foot got stuck, I’d given up through exhaustion.  Aslan’s paws are gorgeous though.”  Petra gently stroked Aslan’s right hind paw, the cub giggling and curling his toes tightly.

       “Would you play with my paws mum?”  Aslan asked.  Petra played with her cub’s hind paws, Aslan giggling cubbishly.

       “I could never get tired of watching my cub playing with his mum,” Leo thought.  He watched as Petra stroked and tickled Aslan’s paws, the cub eagerly playing with Petra’s paws when he could get hold of them.  Petra and Aslan were soon playing fighting as well as a large lioness and a large cub can.  In the end, Petra let Aslan use all four of his paws to bat at, tickle and fight with her forepaws.  Aslan succeeded in getting his fore and hind paws in a tangle, ending up in a battle between his own fore and hind feet.  Mewing and snarling, he fought to free his hind feet from suddenly clingy forepaws.

       “It won’t let go of my toes!”  Aslan yelled as he tried to free his right hind foot from a grasping right forepaw.

      “I can’t free the toes of my right hind paw,” Aslan said.  Petra looked at her cub.  He was serious.

      “Try letting go with your right forepaw,” Petra said, trying not to laugh.  Aslan did, and sighed deeply as his hind foot was freed.

        “Didn’t you realise you were holding your right hind foot with your right fore?”  Petra asked.  Aslan, realising his mistake, laughed:

        “Just testing,” he said when the former was clearly the case.  Petra gathered her cub close, running her paws from his nose to his paw pads, Aslan giggling and snuggling close.


Samson and fleur padded into the lie up some time later.  Samson smiling went up to Petra and hugged her.

       “Have you hidden your cubs away from us then?”  He asked.  Leo, afraid his mouth would give the game away, pretended he was asleep.

      “My cub?”  Petra mewed, “um, he’s here.”  Samson looked round him.

      “NO newborn cub here,” he said, “are you sure you even had a cub?”  Fleur laughed:

       “I’m sure she knows if she had a cub Sammy,” she replied.

       “But there’s no cub here!”  Samson growled.

        “Oh yes there is,” Aslan said.  Samson stared at the huge cub, now three hours old.

        “You?”  He asked, “You’re Petra’s cub?”  Aslan smiled and nodded:

        “My sire missed me at first,” he said.  Samson examined the cub from nose to tail.

      “Giving birth to him must have hurt,” he thought.

        “Giving birth to Aslan was painful;” Petra mewed, “that’s all I’m saying.”

       “You mean it was more than that?”  Fleur asked.  Petra nodded:

       “Intense, draining, emotional, strenuous, hard work,”  she replied, “but I wouldn’t change it for the world, and I’d do it all again right know.  I knew I was able to give birth without pain relief.  I felt confident in my body, secure in my mind and ability to do the job.  Yes I complained, I roared, squealed and screamed, but that is normal.  Ok, when Aslan’s hind feet got stuck, things got a little difficult as I was tired, but even then, as I pushed, I felt something I’ll never forget, I felt the pads of his right hind foot leaving my body.  Every pad I felt, as the paw slowly emerged.  That was amazing!”

        “So you like pain?”  Fleur asked.

      “I like sensation, to be in touch,” Petra mewed, “most pain relief drugs dull touch as well as pain.  If there was a drug which gave full awareness of what was going on, but would allow the blocking of pain without the blocking of sensation too, I’d be your first candidate.  But there isn’t.  So as I want to feel my cub’s birth, I need to feel the pain too.  That’s no problem, as I get to scream the roof off, and that feels great!”  Fleur smiled at her friend.

      “You told me to scream and roar,” she said, “and I did that during Clarence’s birth.  That felt fantastic.”

        “Jess roared and whimpered as she gave birth to Chowilawu too,” Samson said, “she said that felt fantastic, painful though the birth was.”

     “There you are,” Petra mewed, “Jess is a bear who knows what is good for her.  Lionesses and mama bears were giving birth without drugs long before all this medication came about.  I’m not denying the power of a paw massage or of playing with one’s own paws, but my personal preference is to hold onto something and just scream and roar.”

       “Playing with one’s paws is not really drug filled labour,” Kamchatka said, padding into the lie up, “playing with my paws helped me, though I remember everything about the births of my cubs.  Kuruk’s birth was painful, as he was a big cub.  Patch’s was also a bit of a squeeze, Jess though, she just slid out, one little push, and she came into the world.  None of the bearing down and grunting I had to perform to get the other two born.  Ekaterina then got stuck eight years later, and that was difficult.”  Aslan crawled to Kamchatka, the grizzly bear sitting down and pulling the huge white lion cub onto her lap before hugging him tightly.

       “I know your paws,” Aslan said, “your paws held my right hind paw as mum pushed against it to free it.  Your paws are gentle, though you are no lioness.”  Kamchatka kissed Aslan’s nose.

       “I can love a lion cub as well as his mama though,” Kamchatka said.  Aslan snuggled up:

       “I can feel that,” he said, “I like the touch of your paws on mine.”  Kamchatka gulped hard, fighting a sudden rush of tears.

       “I love you Aslan,”  Kamchatka said, her vision blurring.  Kissing His nose, kamchatka held Aslan close.


Kamchatka examined Aslan from nose to tail, stroking his ears, nose, back, belly and paws, the cub purring with contentment.

        “I could get used to this,”  he said, cuddling into kamchatka’s warm fur.

        “there’s plenty of fur,”  Kamchatka said..  Petra laughed and got to her paws.

      “Must go wash,”  she said, padding out of the lie up and along to the shower.  Standing in the warm spray, she thought of all that had taken place that day.

      “Now I have a new cub,”  she thought, “I must do my best to bring him up decently.”  Once Petra had washed herself thoroughly, she padded back to Kamchatka’s lie up, where she’d given birth to Aslan.  Already, new rugs were being laid on the floor to replace those soiled during the birth of Petra’s cub.  Petra looked at kamchatka and then settled down.

        “I’m happy for the first time in weeks,”  Petra thought.  “I love my family, they love me, and I’m safe, well fed  and warm.  Leo looked at his mate:

       Petra,”  he said, “you did wonderfully giving birth to Aslan.”  Petra laughed:

       “I enjoyed it,”  she replied.  Leo looked at Aslan’s huge paws.

       “but squeazing these out too?”  he asked.  Petra nodded:

      “an extra bit of pushing,”  she said, that was all.  No problem really,”  she looked at Leo’s face, then at his large fat paws, “I’m glad I gave birth to a cub who is as handsome as you are,”  she said.  Leo kissed her nose.


Kamchatka, yawning, settled down to sleep.  Aslan, crawling over to her a few minutes later, touched her right forepaw, finding she’d put the toes of that paw in her mouth..

      kamchatka’s sucking the toes of her right forepaw mum,”  Aslan said.  Petra smiled:

       “it’s something she’s done ever since she was a cub,”  she replied.  Kamchatka, on the edge of sleep, stirred.

       “Was I sucking my paw?”  She asked sleepily.  Aslan kissed her nose.

       “You were,”  he said, “it’s so cute!”  kamchatka smiled:

       “I shouldn’t really suck my paw at my age,”  she said, “but I’ve never grown out of it.”  Petra giggled:

      “I think it’s cute,”  she said, “it’s a throwback from cubhood, but that’s no problem.”  Aslan craweled to kamchatka’s right hind foot and began to stroke her pads and toes.  Laughing, kamchatka curled her toes, the large sole pad bunching up under the lion cub’s paw.

      “I love that,”  he said, kissing kamchatka’s pads, making the bear catch her breath.

       Kamchatk’as gone all soppy,”  Petra said.

       “I can’t help it,”  the bear replied, “contact between my paws and those of others is so important to me Petra.  I love it, I love it so much!  When Aslan kissed my pads, I felt something reassureing.  I love him, and he loves me.”  Aslan giggled and kissed the pads and toes of the mama grizzly’s hind paws, then cralwed to her head and kissed her nose.

      “If I could reach your forepaws, I’d kiss those too,”  Aslan said.  kamchatka rolled onto her side, letting the cub do just that.

      “Now, can I kiss your nose and the pads and toes of all four of your paws?”  She asked.  Aslan rolled onto his back:

      “go for it!”  he invited.  Kamchatka kissed Aslan’s nose, then the pads and toes of his fore, then hind paws, Aslan purring with pleasure and delight.

       “You’ve got gorgious paws Aslan,”  kamchatka said.

       “You have too Kamchatka,”  he replied.  Kamchatka put her lips to the pads of Aslan’s right hind foot and blew hard, the cub roaring with laughter.

       “I love that!”  he said when he’d calmed down.  Kamchatka left the lie up, Petra following her.

       “Thanks for your help during Aslans’s birth,”  the lioness said.  kamchatka hugged her.

      “I was honoured to help,”  she said, “after all,  you are part of my family.”  Petra snuggeled hard up to kamchatka.

       “I love you mama,”  Petra mewed.  kamcahtka ruffled the lioness’s neck fur with her left forepaw.

      “I love you too,”  she replied softly.  Petra sighed deeply, contented with her lot.

       “I have a cub who is healthy, a mate who loves me, and a mama too,”  she said, “that’s lovely.”  Kamchatka kissed her nose.

       “well done again,”  kamcahtka said.


Meanwhile, in Weici’s lie up, Geming was exploring little Shen in the light.  To his delight, he saw the cub had brown soled paws, just like Geming himself had.  Pointing this out to Weici, he tickled the cub’s paws, Shen laughing and thrashing the air with his three free paws.


Back in kamchatka’s lie up, Ekaterina had found Aslan.  Padding into the lie up, she could smell the newborn cub before she found him with her paws.  Once she’d found him,  she lay down some distance away, afraid that to get too close would upset Petra.  A few minutes later, Petra and Kamchatka padded back into the lie up.

      “Mum,”  Aslan said, “a big thing with huge paws padded towards me, touched me, then padded away,  What’s going on?”  Petra could smell Ekaterin’as scent on her cub’s fur, even though her touch had been brief.

      “A half grown polar bear cub touched your shoulder with her paw and then left you,”  she said.

       “Why did she touch me and then leave?”  Aslan asked, “I would have let her get paws on with me, doesn’t she want to get paws on with me?  Her touch wasn’t a threat to me.”

        “Maybe it’s because I walked in,”  Petra mewed, “maybe she doesn’t feel she can get paws on with you.  That she needs my permission to get paws on with you.”

       “but you told me that I was the only one who could decide who got paws on with me,”  Aslan mewed, “why didn’t you tell this polar bear that too?”

      “I haven’t seen ekaterina before now,”  she admitted, “the last time I saw her was before your birth.  yes she can get paws on with you if you want her to.”  Aslan drank his fill of milk, then cralwed to Ekaterina, the blind polar bear embracing the white lion cub with gentle paws.

       “Hi-ya little Aslan,”  Ekaterina said as her forepaws ran from his nose to his tail as the cub wriggled expertly between them to give her a full and unadulterated sense of how big he was.

       “Oh!  Um, you’re not so little!”  ekaterina exclaimed.  Aslan giggled.

       “no,”  he said, “I’m not so little, or so mum aays, but then how would I know what is little?”  Ekaterina kissed the lion cub’s nose.

      “your paws feel a lot like kamchatka’s,”  Aslan mewed, “do you know her?”

      “I’m her cub,”  Ekaterina replied.

       “your mum helped free my hind foot when it got stuck during my birth,”  Aslan said.  Ekaterina smiled and stroked Aslan’s back with her right forepaw:

       “Mum would do that sort of thing,”  she said.

       “I think you would too,”  Aslan mewed.  Ekaterina hugged him tenderly.

       “I would if I found a cub with a stuck paw,”  she replied.  Aslan snuggled hard up to Ekaterina.

       “There’s a lot of you to snuggle up to,”  he said, burying his paws in her thick fur.  Ekaterina laughed, curling her body around the lion cub’s.

      “Well snuggle up close then,”  she said.  aslan did as she asked, cuddling as close as he could to his new animated heater.  Ekatierna liked the way Aslan fitted into the curve of her body, how her forepaws embraced him easily.

       “He’s just the right size for me to hug,”  she thought, kissing his ear.  Aslan, purring deeply, settled to sleep in the all enveloping warmth.

      “I’m so tired,”  Aslan mewed sleepily, yawning.

      “Sleep well,”  Ekaterina said gently, embracing the cub with care.  Aslan feeling the pressure of her paws, snuggled harder up to Ekaterina.

      “Hold me tighter, tighter,”  he mewed.  Ekaterina did so, scared she’d crush the cub.

       “that’s better,”  Aslan said, ekaterina surprised at how much pressure she could put on his body without causing him discomfort.

      “now I’m warm, I’m safe, and I can sleep,”  the cub said.  Meanwhile, Petra and kamcahtka, who’d padded into the lie up while Aslan and ekaterina were getting to know each other, were cuddling up in a similar fashon.  Petra felt kamcahtka’s paws embracing her, and it was the most wonderful feeling in the world.  Snuggling close, Petra found herself rapidly falling asleep.

        “Is Aslan all right?”  She yawned.  Kamchatka kissed her nose.

      “Aslan’s fine,”  the grizzly bear replied gently.


Meanwhile, Olga Honeydew and Shen were playing together, the now month old panda cub and the slightly older grizzly bear cub having found the pleasure of each other’s company when Olga had padded into Weici’s lie up one day and began playing with Shen.  The two cubs had found a mutual intrest, namely playing with each other’s paws.  Even though they’d played endlessly with each other’s paws, they found the experience fresh every time.

       “can I stroke your right hind foot please Shen?”  Olga asked.  Shen gave her his right hind foot, then it was his turn to take her left hind foot in his paws, which he did by asking her the same question she’d asked him.  Once each cub had one of the other’s hind paws in their forepaws, the stroking of pads and playing with toes began.


Winnie watched with disgust as her cub played with the panda’s paws.  She didn’t like the idea of her cub playing with the paws of a younger cub.


“I like the touch of your paws on mine,” Olga said to Shen, the panda giggling cubbishly.

      “I like the touch of your paws too,” he said.  He embraced her left hind foot with tender care, rubbing her pads and gently playing with her toes, Olga pressing her toes into his paws.

       “I like how your paw pads are lighter than your sole fur,” Shen said to Olga.  Olga looked at the sole of Shen’s right hind foot.

       “I like a bear with brown soled paws,” she said.  Winnie watched them with thinly disguised horror.  Padding away, she woke Kamchatka.

      “Oi!”  She yelled, “I wan’a talk to you mama!”  Kamchatka snorted with surprise.

      “Ay?”  She asked, releasing Petra, who groaned and opened her eyes.

     “What the hell’s going on?”  She asked sleepily.  Winnie, furious, kicked Kamchatka hard.

     “Right bitch!”  Kamchatka scrammed, flooring Winnie.

       “Kick me would you?”  Kamchatka asked, bringing her paw smashing down on the younger bear’s nose, “I’ll break every bone in your body!”  Winnie whimpered with fear.

       “I wanted, wanted to bring to your attention that my cub and Shen are playing with each other’s paws!”  Winnie yelled, “It’s disgusting!”

      “It’s normal,” Petra yawned, “and why did you kick mama Kamchatka?”  Winnie snorted and wriggled free of Kamchatka’s held, running away.

        “She kicked you!”  Petra exclaimed.

      “I know,” Kamchatka replied, rubbing her side with her paw, “it’s nothing.”

      “She’ll die for this,” Ekaterina said, “I’ll make sure she does.”  Kamchatka looked into her cub’s face, and saw her intent.

      “You couldn’t set paw on Winnie even if you wanted to,” Kamchatka said gently to Ekaterina.

       “But, does that mean I can’t want to take revenge for what she did to you?”  Ekaterina asked.

       “I don’t want you to get hurt,” Kamchatka said.  Ekaterina got to her paws, waking Aslan, who until then had been sound asleep.

      “What’s going on?”  He yawned.

       “Come here Aslan,” Petra mewed, sensing danger.  Aslan crawled to his mum, Petra picking him up in her mouth and carrying him from the lie up.  Ekaterina stood beside her mum, her fur bristling with anger.

        “If only I could see, I’d tear Winnie to bits!”  She snarled.

        “It’s okay,” Kamchatka replied, touching her cub’s paw, “I’ll settle the matter.”  Ekaterina sighed heavily.

       “She kicked you for what reason?”  Ekaterina asked.

      “To wake me and quiz me as to why Shen and Olga were playing with each other’s paws, and to tell me she thought it was disgusting,” Kamchatka replied.

       “One of those cubs is a panda, the other a grizzly bears, one of whom you are related to by breed, the other you have no relation to other than species.  Now she expects you to know everything about bears?”  Kamchatka nodded:

      “I know,” she sighed, “I’ll get her under control.”  Ekaterina curled her toes into the rug.

       “I want to tear her apart!”  She screamed.

       “Keep your paws clean dear,” Kamchatka said softly.  Ekaterina padded out of the lie up, running straight into Winnie.  Screaming, Winnie clobbered Ekaterina round her head with a knife sharpener she’d armed herself with from the kitchen.  Ekaterina, caught off guard stood daises and confused as the maddened bear pressed home her attack.  Smashing the sharpener down on Ekaterina’s nose, Winnie screamed into her face!

        “Get off my cub!”  Conrad yelled, dragging Winnie away and throwing her on the floor!  Ekaterina, crying, stumbled back into Kamchatka’s lie up, collapsing on the floor.

       “Winnie hit me with something mama!”  Ekaterina sobbed.  Kamchatka pounded out of the lie up, helping Conrad drag a now semi conscious Winnie to a place where they could teach her a lesson.  Kamchatka picked up a phone and got Alaska to tend to Ekaterina, while she dealt with Winnie.

      “I want to kill her now!”  Conrad screamed.

     “Let’s see what the cctv saw,” Kamchatka said.  Winnie, realising she was about to be found out, tried to attack Conrad, the male bear holding her down.  Kuruk padded into the room, furious and ready for a fight.

      “Kuruk deal with horrible Winnie bitch!”  He yelled, “No bear use long pole to hit Ekaterina!  Kuruk think if Winnie wants fight with

Ekaterina she wants get paws on with her, but no, Winnie hit Ekaterina with pole like coward bear!”

      “How did this start in the first place?”  Conrad asked.

       “Ekaterina threatened to do me harm for kicking her mama!”  Winnie mumbled, “I will not take that from a cub, let alone a blind cub!”  Kuruk lost his temper.

     “Let Kuruk kill Winnie!”  He yelled, lunging at the grizzly bear and tearing her throat out.

      “You don’t hang about do you,” Kamchatka said.

      “As Kuruk say before, no one threaten sister Ekaterina for no reason.  If they want fight with her, then they square up fairly, no use poles like coward!”   Kuruk yelled.


Meanwhile, in Alaska’s bathroom, Alaska was comforting Ekaterina, who was very shaken up.

       “I’ll never go out of my lie up again!”  Ekaterina sobbed.

        “You’re safe now,” Alaska said gently.”  Ekaterina shook in Alaska’s embrace.

       “What did she hit me with?”  Ekaterina asked.  Alaska showed her the three foot long knife sharpener.

        “So you could not get paws on with her,” Alaska said.

      “Conrad taught me how to defend myself in paw to paw combat,” Ekaterina replied, “so if I’d managed to get paws on with her, I might have been able to do something.  As it was, I couldn’t do a thing!  What a bitch!”

      “Winnie’s dead now,” Alaska said, looking up at a screen.  Ekaterina sighed heavily.

       “I can guess who killed her,” she said, “Kuruk won’t let her get away with things like this.”  Kuruk padded into the bathroom and hugged his younger sister.

       “You badly hurt Ekaterina love?”  He asked, kissing her nose.  Ekaterina snuggled up close to her brother.

       “I’m a bit bruised, I’ve got a bit of a bump on the head and a bruised nose, but I’m okay.  Thank you Kuruk, thank you,” Ekaterina said.  Kuruk smiled and cuddled his sister even tighter.

       “What were you doing before you dealt with Winnie?”  Ekaterina asked.

       “Kuruk play with Kuan-Yin,” the grizzly bear replied, “Kuruk tickle panda’s paws and then swing him round off his paws in circle.  Kuan-Yin no like having feet off floor and squeal like crazy.  He kicks hind paws in air and hold on with forepaws real tight too.”  Ekaterina giggled:

       “You bully,” she said, “I hope you only did it once and promise never to do it again.”  Kuruk nodded:

      “Kuruk promise,” he replied.  Kuan-Yin padded into the bathroom.

      “I heard Ekaterina had been attacked,” he said.  Seeing the female polar bear, Kuan-Yin sat down and hugged Ekaterina tenderly.

       “Are you all right?”  The panda asked.  Ekaterina smiled and replied that she was fine.

     “Did Kuruk tell you what he did to me?”  The panda asked.  Ekaterina smiled:

      “Swung you off your paws and round in a circle?”  She asked.  Kuan-Yin grinned:

       “I like all four of my paws, or my bum and the heels of my hind paws, or my back in contact with the ground at all times,” the panda replied.  Ekaterina touched the sole of Kuan-Yin’s right hind foot with her left forepaw, feeling the panda’s toes curling as he felt her touch.

      “I like that,” he said softly.  Ekaterina smiled and gently traced the pads of the panda’s right hind foot, Kuan-Yin gasping with emotion.

       “You know how to stroke paws,” he said softly.  Ekaterina leant down and kissed the toes of Kuan-Yin’s hind foot, the panda choking back tears.

        “Why did Winnie hurt you?”  He asked.

       “Because I said I wanted to do her harm after she kicked my mama,” Ekaterina replied, “now if she’d got paws on with me, then it would have been a fair fight, but not this.  Kuruk did what he did, and now Olga Honeydew has no mother, but she has a mama.  Kamchatka will look after Olga.”  Kuan-Yin pressed his toes into Ekaterina’s paws.

       “I could easily become addicted to this,” he said softly.  Ekaterina massaged his toes tenderly.

        “Make that seriously, incurably addicted,” Kuan-Yin added.  Ekaterina kissed his nose.

       “I like playing with paws,” she said.  Kuan-Yin laughed.

       “I know,” he said, “Chowilawu told me, he likes you playing with his paws Ekaterina.”  Chowilawu crawled into the bathroom, crawled up to Ekaterina and kissed her nose.

      “HI,” he said, Ekaterina smiling broadly.

       “I love you Chowilawu,” Ekaterina said.  Chowilawu laughed and crawled onto Ekaterina’s lap, Ekaterina hugging him with both forepaws.

        “I love you too Ekaterina,” Chowilawu said, snuggling up to her.

      “Mama Jess told me you’d been attacked by a big mama bear,” Chowilawu said.  Ekaterina sighed:

      “I have a sore nose,” she replied, “but apart from that, I’m okay.”  Chowilawu held Ekaterina’s left forepaw in both of his.

       “Why did that big mama bear hit you with the pole?”  Chowilawu asked.

      “She didn’t like me, but she’s dead now,” Ekaterina replied.

      “Is death the only way to resolve issues?”  Chowilawu asked, “It seems a harsh thing to me.  Ekaterina sighed:

       “Winnie attacked me with a pole,” she said, “She needed to be stopped.  I wanted to take her on in a fight for attacking my mama, and she smacked me with a stick.  Now, now I’m safer, as is the whole community.  The thing which hurts me more than anything though is the fact we helped Winnie to health.  Yes I found Olga in the wood, and now she’s in the community.  I’m sorry she lost her mama, but she’s got the whole community behind her now.  I just want to get back to the best bit of any day, stroking and tickling paws.”

       “Why do we need all this violence anyway?”  Kuan-Yin asked, “It’s so wrong, feels dreadful to me.”

      “Ekaterina,” Conrad said, padding into the room, “I thought you might want to find out a little more about what Winnie hit you with.”  With that he gave Ekaterina the knife sharpener.

     “This is heavy,” Ekaterina said, “it’s very heavy in fact.  No wonder it did me harm.”  Conrad touched his cub’s shoulder.

       “Can I hug you Ekaterina?”  He asked.  Ekaterina patted Kuan-Yin’s right hind foot and padded away with her sire.  Sitting down with him, Ekaterina soon found herself embraced in her sire’s huge warm paws.

      “I’ve wanted to hug you for ages,” Ekaterina said to her sire.  Conrad smiled and released his cub.

       “Hug me if you like,” he said, Ekaterina enfolding him in her paws, trying to pull him close.

       “You’re strong!”  Conrad said, astonished at his cub’s embrace.

      “I love holding you in my paws,” Ekaterina said.

      “Would you play with my paws?”  Conrad asked.  Ekaterina let go of her sire.

      “Of course,” she said, picking up his right hind foot in her forepaws.  Conrad gently curled his toes as Ekaterina stroked his pads.

       “I love that,” Ekaterina said gently.

      “You like it when I curl my toes?”  Conrad asked.  Ekaterina giggled:

      “I do,” she replied, “the way your pads bunch up is so cute.”  Conrad smiled broadly.

      “I like curling and relaxing my toes,” Conrad replied, “in fact any paw play is good I think.”  Ekaterina smiled:

      “Paws were meant to be played with, of that I’m certain,” she said.  Conrad covered Ekaterina’s forepaws with his, pressing her paws against those of his right hind foot, Ekaterina smiling broadly.

      “I love that,” she said.  Conrad kissed her nose.

       “Can I play with your paws when you’ve finished playing with mine?”  Conrad asked.  Ekaterina smiled and kissed Conrad’s nose.

      “You can,” she said, “Just take your time over everything, stroking my pads, exploring my paws, playing with my toes.”  Conrad sighed deeply as he released Ekaterina’s paws and she explored his right hind foot with her forepaws, exploring it from furry top to rough pads and long claws.  Then she explored his left hind foot in a similar manner.  Once she was contented with her exploration, in which Conrad took part by curling and relaxing his toes from time to time, making Ekaterina smile and sometimes wiggle her own toes free of his, the feeling giving huge pleasure to both.

        “That feels wonderful,” Conrad said as Ekaterina wiggled the toes of her right forepaw free of the grip of her sire’s left hind foot.  Smiling, she kissed the male polar bear’s curled toes, Conrad sighing with pleasure.

       “All this paw play sometimes seems unreal,” Conrad said, “it’s so much pleasure it can’t be real can it?  How can the touch of paw pad on paw pad feel so good?”  Ekaterina smiled:

      “It can and does,” she replied, “and I for one am not going to stop playing with my paws or the paws of others if they want them played with.”

      “I want you to play with my paws,” Conrad replied.

     “Then I will, and I have with all the love I have for you,” Ekaterina replied,” As it happens I want you to play with my paws too.  Will you?”

      “I will my cub,” Conrad replied, “and I will put everything I have into it too, just as you have.”  Ekaterina laughed delightedly.

       “Let’s play then,” she said.  Conrad worked his left hind foot free of his cub’s forepaws and then took her left hind foot in his forepaws, stroking her pads and playing with her toes.   Ekaterina focused her mind on the touch of Conrad’s paws on her own pads.  Sighing with pleasure, she tried to focus on the minutes detail, every touch of his toes on her toes, his toes on the sole pad of her left hind foot, the touch of the sole pad of his right forepaw on hth sole pad or toes of her left hind foot, everything like that and more.  Ekaterina let her toes curl and relax naturally during the playtime.  Sensations came in waves, waves of pure pleasure ebbing and flowing with the touch and release of her left hind foot in Conrad’s paws.  Then he moved to her right hind, Ekaterina settling onto her back, Conrad’s paws cradling her right hind foot and stroking her pads.  Saying nothing, the two bears communicated deeply, strengthening their bond.  Ekaterina had never felt a massage like this.  It was one she could immerse herself in, the feelings washing from her right hind foot to the rest of her body, soothing, calming, and loving her from her nose to her toes.

        “I hope Conrad felt my love for him,” Ekaterina thought, “I wonder if I did as good job conveying my love for him as he is conveying his for me?”

      “Ekaterina,” Conrad said softly, “don’t question what is past.”  Ekaterina wasn’t surprised her sire could feel her thoughts.  For all she knew her pads could have become warmer, even sweated a little as she went through self doubt.  Ekaterina relaxed completely.  Conrad let go of Ekaterina’s right hind foot, the half grown cub almost sobbing.

       “I’m not leaving you Ekaterina,” Conrad said gently, “I’m coming round to your right side, and so if you will let me, I can stroke you from nose to paw pads.”

       “Please, oh please Conrad,” Ekaterina replied, her mind and body desperate for reassurance after the run in with Winnie.

       “I’ll rub you down from nose to paws,” Conrad said, touching Ekaterina’s nose with his left forepaw.  Ekaterina kissed his pads, reaching up with her forepaws to take his left fore in them and hold it tightly.

         “Stroke me as if I were a tiny cub again, please?”  Ekaterina begged, “Please give me back my security!”  Conrad kissed her nose:

        “Do you want me to introduce you to your paws one by one, just like I did that first time?”  Conrad asked.  Ekaterina squeezed his paw hard.

        “Yes, yes, please Conrad!”  She begged, her plea coming from her heart.

        “I’ll do that for you,” Conrad said, “but first, try and clear your mind Ekaterina.  Squeeze my paw as hard as you can in your forepaws if you need to, curl your toes hard and hold there for a few seconds.  Then relax slowly, letting everything go, the tension from your fore paws and hind feet, your troubles and worries, everything, for you are safe Ekaterina.”  Ekaterina took a good hold of Conrad’s [paw once more.

       “Tell me when,” she whispered.  Conrad kissed her nose.

      “Ok Ekaterina, one, two three, squeeze my forepaw and curl those toes!”  Ekaterina did as Conrad asked; gasping with the intensity of the emotion she was feeling.  She held the tension in her fore and hind paws for a minute, then relaxed slowly, breathing out, letting everything go.  Whimpering, Ekaterina relaxed completely.  Conrad then stroked Ekaterina from her nose to her paw pads, the half grown cub wriggling with pleasure in his embrace.  Once he’d massaged her from nose to tail, Conrad touched the top of her right forepaw.

      “Now to introduce your paws to you and you to them,” Conrad said softly.  Ekaterina smiled:

       “I’m looking forward to introductions,” she said.  Conrad smiled broadly.

       “Let’s start with your right forepaw,” he said, “first there’s the top of your paw, covered with fur,” he touched the top of her paw.  “Then there are your toes, five on each paw.”  Conrad touched each toe of Ekaterina’s right forepaw.  “Now, on the ends of your toes are your claws.  Ekaterina, you have lovely paws my dear.  Now, let’s turn your paw over and touch the underside, the sole of your forepaw.  On this you have one large sole pad, and five pads, one on each toe.”  Conrad touched the pad of each toe.  “There’s also a large sole pad on each one of your paws, though they are smaller on your forepaws than on your hind.  I’ll come to your hind feet later.  Ekaterina sighed contentedly as Conrad explored and described her right forepaw, then her left.  Ekaterina, already very happy, realised the exploration of her hind feet was still to come.  Ekaterina felt Conrad take hold of her right hind foot.

       “here on your right hind foot, you have a furry top to your foot, five toes, and five claws, as on your right and left forepaws,”  Conrad said, “now on the sole of your foot is a large sole pad and are five pads on the five toes of each of your paws.  Now if you curl the toes of this paw,” Ekaterina did, “can you feel the parole pad bunching up?”  Ekaterina sighed contentedly:

       “I think so,” she said, “I can feel my toes curling anyway.”

      “Right, now sit up Ekaterina, that’s it, gently, and take your right hind foot in your right forepaw,”  Ekaterina obeyed her sire, “now feel the sole pad of your right hind foot with the toes of your left fore.”  Ekaterina grinned as she felt the sole pad of her right hind foot bunching beneath the toes of her left forepaw.

       “So this is my right hind foot?”  Ekaterina asked.

      “It is,” Conrad said, patting the curled toes of her right hind paw.  Ekaterina giggled with delight.

      “Can, can I try curling the toes of my left hind foot too?”  She asked.

        “Try it,” Conrad replied, “why not touch your left hind foot with the toes of your right fore while you curl your toes.  Enjoy your paws Ekaterina.”  Ekaterina grinned:

       “I will!”  She promised.  Ekaterina reached out with her right forepaw and touched her sire’s nose.

       “Conrad,” she said, “thank you for giving me back my sense of security, for touching me deeply.  Only you know how I feel, for only you, Chowilawu and a few others here know what I lost when Winnie hit me with the metal pole.  Mama Kamchatka doesn’t know, and I hope she never will know how it is for me and you.  I love both of you dearly, but only you can touch me in the way I really understand, for you understand me completely.  From nose to tail, you understand how I feel in my body.  How it is to be a blind bear.  How the constant stress of keeping alert to your surroundings affects you, how it feels to have that security damaged, or broken forever.  I hope mama never hears my words, for she might feel unloved by me, but I still love her, I love her dearly, but she cannot touch me like you can.”  Kamchatka padded into the room, touching her cub’s shoulder with her paw.

        “I cannot understand how it is to be blind,” Kamchatka said, “and I understand how you feel you are closer to your sire.  I am not surprised really, for I pushed you away at the beginning of your life.  I love you Ekaterina, and I know you love me, but I have not been able to let you touch me like your sire has felt able to let you touch him.”

      “I love you mama,” Ekaterina replied, “but I wish I could explain how corned and I feel in our lives as blind bears.  The fear, the constant worry about what’s going on around us.”  Kamchatka kissed her cub’s nose.

       “I’ve overheard everything, and some of it has been hard to listen to, but I understand it was a talk between a sire and his cub that both happen to be blind.  I am not part of that world, and I thank eohippus for that every day.  But I wish I could understand your stress, the life you have to lead due to your extra limitation.”

       “Mama,” Ekaterina said, “please does not take my words to mean I love you any less than I love my sire.  He touches me in ways only a blind bear can.  I cannot explain how he touches me, for it is not just the touch of paw pads against paw pads, or the way he plays with my toes, it’s deeper than that, as deep as my spirit.”  Kamchatka took her cub’s left forepaw in both of hers.

       “I cannot understand fully,” she said, “but I can try.  I feel your closeness to Conrad should be nurtured, and kept vibrant and alive to flourish.”  Ekaterina kissed her mum’s nose.

        “I don’t want this to distance us,” she said.  Kamchatka hugged her cub tightly.

       “How can I possibly understand what you and Conrad go through every day?”  She asked, “I can’t, for I can see my surroundings, see others eyes and know their intentions sometimes too.  You cannot do this, and while we love by the paw, we can also hate by it too.  You need to find loving, comforting paws, whose owners understand you totally Ekaterina.  Conrad understands you totally, in ways I cannot, so it is right you go to him for help, as Chowilawu goes to you for help, as he has noone who can understand him like you can.”  Ekaterina felt tears pricking her eyes, tears she didn’t try to hide.

       “I need you and Conrad mama, but Conrad has the touch which can truly soothe me, for he is like me.”  She whispered.  Kamchatka laid her head on her cub’s shoulder.

        “Don’t try to put it into words,” she said, “for I know this much.  What you are trying to describe is indescribable.  Something only you and Conrad, and Chowilawu in time, know of.  Even Jess will not reach Chowilawu like you or Conrad can, for she, like me, is not like him, you or Conrad.  Your paws communicate things my paws will never be able to communicate, give comfort the like of which my paws will never give.  Your world is not mine, nor that of the majority here, so we, the majority, need to respect you and others like you to find support and comfort with those of your own world from time to time.  I know you and Conrad got very close very quickly, I could see that from the start, and always wondered why it was.  Now I know why.  I don’t resent that closeness; I want it to continue, for you two to get closer and closer until you are both at peace.”  Conrad and Ekaterina each took one of Kamchatka’s forepaws in theirs and kissed it.

        “Ekaterina and I do not mean to isolate you mama,”  Conrad said, “but sometimes, a female or male cub who is blind needs to talk to his or her blind sire or mama, and a blind sire or mama bear to his or her blind cub in ways those who have sight will never understand.”  Kamchatka nodded:

        “I will go now,” she said, “leave you two to talk a while.”  Kamchatka padded away very distressed.

       “That tore mama apart Conrad,” Ekaterina said.

       “She wants to experience life with us more than anything else,” he replied, “but she hopefully never will experience what we do.  She wants to be closer to us, but to be closer to us would scare her so much she’d hate it.  We cope, for we understand how to cope, mama would go mad I think.  What she wants is something I hope for once, she never gets the chance to have, for it would upset her so much.”

      “I would never wish the stress on anyone,” Ekaterina said softly.


Kamchatka lay down in her lie up, buried her face in her paws and wept.  All she’d feared had come true; she was distant from her youngest cub.  Coughing violently, Kamchatka gulped hard, trying to pull herself together.  She’d seen the interaction between her mate and youngest cub, and their play had been gentle play.  Kamchatka now felt she knew very little about Ekaterina.  Choking back tears, she got to her paws, padding from the room to watch her mate and youngest cub doing what they did best.  Kamchatka could only watch for a few minutes before her control snapped.  Running to Theo’s lie up, Kamchatka threw herself down at the lion’s feet.

       “I need help!”  She wailed.

       “You need to understand where Ekaterina and her sire are coming from Kamchatka,” Theo mewed.

       “Tell me then!”  She screamed.

      “Conrad understands what it is to be a blind bear, you don’t.  So Ekaterina will gravitate towards him.  I will not set paw in this, for the situation is for you to come to terms with.  Conrad and Ekaterina are very close, close in a way you will never understand unless you are in their situation.  I do not wish you to be in that situation, as their closeness is due to a disability.  While we value Ekaterina and Conrad as much as anyone else here, it is true their world is different to ours, and that their closeness is born of the world they live in.”

       “I saw them having such a great time, and they loved each other in silence too!”  Theo smiled:

       “Stroking and playing with each other’s paws?”  He asked.  Kamchatka nodded:

       “Ekaterina feels insecure too,” Kamchatka replied, “now Conrad is trying to help her out.”

        “I know,” Kamchatka replied, “I saw it all, all the reintroduction to her paws and all that.  I suppose all that’s comforting in a way.”

       “If you’d had all your confidence knocked, wouldn’t you want reassurance like that?”  Kamchatka nodded:

       “I suppose I would,” she replied, “can playing with one’s paws be that reassuring?”

       “It can, for both parties,” Theo mewed.

       “How do I bridge the gap between my cub and me?”  Kamchatka asked.

      “Just be yourself when you’re with her, and try to accept she’s got a bond with your mate that is different to the one she has with you,” Theo mewed.  Kamchatka got to her paws, feeling her heart racing.

       “I’m so confused!”  She said, “It’s not easy for me.”

      “It’s harder for them,” Theo mewed.  Kamchatka padded from the lie up, trying to imagine Ekaterina’s situation.  Closing her eyes, she tried walking down the corridor and blundered straight into Brunetta, who wasn’t impressed.

      “Watch out!”  She yelled, “What the hell are you doing walking down the corridor with your eyes shut Kamchatka?”

      “Nothing, I’m tired,” Kamchatka babbled, “I didn’t see you, I’m so sorry.”  Brunetta snorted with disgust and padded away.  Kamchatka, now with her eyes open, padded to her lie up and collapsed in a miscible heap.

       “I don’t know what to do!”  Kamchatka thought, feeling stressed from her collision with Brunetta.

      “My paws are sweating, I’m anxious and my heart is racing!”  Kamchatka thought.


Meanwhile, Conrad and Ekaterina were playing with each other’s paws, Conrad stroking the sole pads of his cub’s hind paws.

      “Mum might want to break our bond,” Ekaterina said, “but I won’t let her.”

      “I don’t think she wants to do that,” Conrad said gently, “she just doesn’t know how to react around us.”

      “You mean she doesn’t love us?”  Ekaterina asked.  Conrad stroked the toes of his cub’s right hind paw.

      “No,” Conrad replied, “It’s not that she doesn’t love us, she does, she just can’t think of a way to bond with us.

       “Use her paws?”  Ekaterina suggested.

       “It’s very difficult for a sighted bear to use her paws like us blind bears do,” Conrad replied.  Ekaterina withdrew her hind foot from Conrad’s grasp and sat on his lap, embracing him with her paws.

      “I feel safe here,” she whispered to Conrad.  Conrad rested his head on her shoulder.

        “I love you Ekaterina,” he said softly.  Ekaterina sighed with contentment.


Kamchatka lay in her lie up, sweat pouring off her.  Sobbing and wringing her paws, she wept as she thought of her cub.

      “I must get a grip on myself!”  She thought miserably, “but I can’t bring myself to think of my cub in a positive way.  How can she cope?  How can she cope when we have pole wielding bears about the place?  I’m scared for her eohippus!”  Kamchatka closed her eyes, feeling the tears squeezing from beneath her eye lids.

        “I’m scared for my cub,” Kamchatka sobbed.

      “mama?”  a voice asked, as a nose poked her under her chin.  Kamchatka looked round, seeing ekaterina beside her.

      “I don’t know how to talk to you any more,”  Kamchatka admitted ashamedly.  Ekaterina touched her mum’s sweat and tear soaked left forepaw.

       “You don’t need to talk to me in any special way,”  Ekaterina said, “mum, talk to me normally, love me mama!”  kamchatka held her cub close.

      “I must try to love her like I do Patch, jess and Kuruk,” she thought.

       “Just love me with your paws mama,” Ekaterina said, “that’s all you have to do.”  Kamchatka enfolded her youngest cub in a huge hug, feeling Ekaterina’s warmth and gentility.

       “How?”  Kamchatka asked, “How should I play with you?”  Ekaterina touched her mum’s paw.

       “How do you think I would like to be played with?”  Ekaterina asked.

      “Probably very paws on all the time,” Kamchatka replied, “maybe a kind of rough and tumble game?”  Kamchatka asked.  Ekaterina squared her paw.

      “Yes,” she replied, “get paws on with me, use all four paws too; touch my fore with your fore, my hind with your fore, my hind with your hind.  Roll me over, tickle my paws, play with my toes and stroke my pads.  Massage me with your forepaws from my nose to my tail mama.  Please do this for me, please!”

       “Would you do the same for me?”  Kamchatka asked.

      “Yes mama,” Ekaterina replied, “Then we’ll play, but first we wash.  I wash you and you wash me.  Then we’ll play.”  Kamchatka was up for all her daughter cub suggested.


Washing each other’s fur and paws took a full hour, each washing the other with tender care.  Washing of paws and faces was done with extra care, the washing of paws turning into more of a massage of pads and toes.  Both Kamchatka and Ekaterina left the bathtub with paws tingling.  Drying off, they were careful to dry each other’s faces and paws, making sure they dried behind their ears and between their pads and toes.  Once towelled dry, they stood in the warm drying room with the warm air ruffling their fur and tickling the soles of their paws.

      “That was amazing,” Ekaterina said to her mum.  Kamchatka smiled and hugged her cub tightly.

       “I’m looking forward to our playtime,” she said.  Ekaterina giggled:

     “Me too mama, me too,” she replied.


Padding to the lie up, Kamchatka and Ekaterina sat down together.  Closing her eyes, Kamchatka got paws on with Ekaterina’s paws.  Using her forepaws, Kamchatka explored Ekaterina’s fore and hind paws, then, using her hind feet, Kamchatka touched Ekaterina’s hind feet one at a time, then both together, making sure she curled her toes round Ekaterina’s toes and pressed her pads hard against those of her cub’s hind feet.

      “I love that,” Ekaterina sighed.

      “I love it too,” Kamchatka replied.  Ekaterina smiled and kissed her mum’s nose, taking hold of her right forepaw in both of her smaller forepaws.

      “I’m looking forward to this,” Kamchatka said, settling back.  Ekaterina massaged all four of her paws, Kamchatka sighing with contentment.

      “I can hardly wait for our game to start,” Kamchatka thought.  Closing her eyes, she focused her mind on the touch of her cub’s pads on hers.

      “I love the touch of Ekaterina’s pads on mine!”  Kamchatka thought.  Curling her toes caught hold of the toes of Ekaterina’s right forepaw...  giggling, ekaterina wiggled her toes free of the grip of her mum’s hind foot.

      “Let’s get paws on,” Ekaterina said.  Ekaterina began to tickle her mum’s right hind foot, Kamchatka laughing and bowling Ekaterina over, freeing her right hind foot, enabling her to roll her cub over onto her back and tickle her left hind foot.

       “This is wonderful!”  Ekaterina laughed.  Kamchatka tickled her cub’s paws until Ekaterina was exhausted.  Then she rubbed her cub down with gentle care.

       “Wow that felt great!”  Ekaterina said when Kamchatka had finished rubbing her down.  Kamchatka laughed and rolled onto her back, letting Ekaterina get paws on with her from nose to tail.

        “I love your paws mama!”  Ekaterina said, kissing her mum’s nose and the pads of all four of her paws, Kamchatka gulping back tears.

      “I love that Ekaterina,” she choked.  Ekaterina stroked the pads of Kamchatka’s paws over and over, tracing sole pads of hind and forepaws alike, Kamchatka showing which paws she enjoyed being massaged the most by curling her toes extra hard. Of course, her favourite paws were her hind.  Ekaterina giggled cubbishly.

       “I love playing with my mum’s hind paws,” she said.  Kamchatka wiped her eyes with her forepaws.

       “I love my cub playing with my paws,” she said, trying not to cry.

       “It’s okay to cry mama,” Ekaterina said.  Kamchatka let her tears flow, Ekaterina kissing her mum’s tear soaked cheek.

       “This is wonderful,” Kamchatka gulped, sniffing hard, “I want more, more of this, more contact with my cub!”  Ekaterina kissed her mum’s tear soaked forepaws.

       “I love you from nose to paws mama,” she replied.  Kamchatka buried her face in her cub’s shoulder and sobbed.

        “Hey mama, mama,” Ekaterina said gently, stroking her mum’s paws, ears and back.


Meanwhile, in Jess’s lie up, Chowilawu and Jess were playing similarly and easily together.  Chowilawu had hold of his mama’s right hind foot while she lay curled up on her side.  Wiggling her toes as her cub explored the sole of her foot, Jess sighed contentedly.

      “Can you curl your toes mama?”  Chowilawu asked.  Jess giggled and curled her toes gently, making her pads bunch up, much to her cub’s delight.

      “Your pads bunch up when you curl your toes mum, that’s so cute!”  He enthused.  Jess sighed deeply.

       “I love paw contact with you Chowilawu,” she said.

       “I love paw contact with you too mama,” her cub replied.  Jess gently explored Chowilawu’s right forepaw with the toes of her right hind.

      “That tickles!”  The cub yelled.  Jess giggled.

       “I can tickle your forepaws with my hind, that’s great!”  She laughed.  Chowilawu grabbed his mum’s tickling toes in his forepaws and gently played with them.

       “Lovely,” Jess sighed...  Chowilawu gently massaged the sole pad of his mum’s right hind foot, jess laughing merrily.

       “I would like to stroke your paws now,” she said, withdrawing her foot from her cub’s grasp.  Chowilawu laughed as Jess played with him, rolling him over, rubbing his belly, tickling his paws and playing with his toes.  Chowilawu then clambered all over his mama, exploring her from nose to paw pads.

       “I’ll bet nothing can hurt you mama,” Chowilawu said.  Jess rolled over onto her back, tipping her cub off her back and then scooping him up in her paws, holding him on her chest.

     “I can be hurt,” she said, “giving birth to you hurt a great deal, but I loved every minute of your birth.  Painful though it was, I’ll never regret it Chowilawu.”

      “Did you make sound like Weici did?”  Chowilawu asked.

      “I’ll bet I was louder and complained more,” jess replied.  Chowilawu leapt from his mum’s paws, and went to her hind feet, jess drawing them to her and holding them with her forepaws.  Chowilawu, now large enough to do so, explored his mum’s fore and hind paws, jess curling the toes of both hind paws as her cub touched the furry top of his mum’s right forepaw.  Jess gripped her hind feet with all her strength, pulling back with her forepaws and pushing with her hind.

      “Hookah, Ahh!  Feels good this, so good!”  She gasped, wriggling, pulling and pushing at the same time.

       “Was that what you did during my birth?”  Chowilawu asked.

      “I did,” jess said unashamedly, “I cried, I whimpered, growled, grunted and panted.  I wanted to push so hard, so very hard Chowilawu.”

       “I play with my hind feet too,” Chowilawu said, “is that wrong?”  Jess, the emotion of her memories making her catches her breath.

       “It’s not wrong,” she replied, “Chowilawu, if you stop playing with your paws, I’ll be very upset.”  Chowilawu kissed the furry top of the toes of his mum’s left forepaw, then the curled toes of her right hind.  He then worked the toes of his right forepaw between those of his mum’s right forepaw and the sole of her right hind foot, jess sniffing hard.

       “I love that,” she sniffed.

       “So you cry when you’re happy too?”  Chowilawu asked.  Jess laughed:

      “I do,” she replied, “I cried with pain when I was in labour, and then with joy when it was all over and you were safe.  I then had to chase after you as you’d run off!”  Chowilawu smiled and rubbed jess’s right hind foot with his forepaw, Jess squeezing his toes with hers, as she was still holding her right hind foot with her right forepaw.

      “Your pads are tough and rough mama,” Chowilawu said.

      “Yours are softer than mine,” jess replied, “and that’s because you are a cub.  When you get to my age you’ll have rough pads too.”  Chowilawu giggled and blew on the slightly exposed sole pad of his mum’s right hind foot, making Jess laugh and release her hold on her hind feet, in turn letting go of his paw...

        “Playing with your paws is wonderful mama,” Chowilawu said.  Jess smiled:

       “Playing with your paws is wonderful too,” she replied.

       “What happened to that pup mama?”  Chowilawu asked.

      “The little German shepherd bitch?”  Jess asked.  Chowilawu nodded.

       “Oh, the boss found a new home for her.  She wasn’t suited to our way of life, so she told him.  So he found a new home for her on a farm I think.”

      “Oh ok,” Chowilawu said.

      “Why, if labour is so painful mama, do mama bears have cubs year after year?”

      “You forget the pain,” jess replied, “the joy of having another cub in your life takes all that away.”  Chowilawu kissed his mums nose.

        “I hope I wasn’t too much trouble,” he said.  Jess licked his ear:

       “You weren’t,” she replied, “yes it was a squeeze getting you born, but that’s normal.  And yes I did play with my paws and make a lot of noise too.”  Chowilawu smiled:

       “That’s the best way,” he replied, “if it’s painful while in labour, express your pain.  I did when my stomach hurt; I growled, panted and whimpered too.  And when things were really bad while relieving myself, I groaned then also.  Making noise felt good too.”  Jess hugged her cub to her.

       “I love you,” she said.  Chowilawu snuggled close.

      “I love you too mama,” he said”


Kuruk and Patch watched everything from Kamchatka’s lie up.  He and Kuruk had been playing up until the time jess and Chowilawu had gone to their lie up.  Then, deciding to do some bear watching, the two brothers had done just that, watching Kamchatka and Ekaterina as well as Jess and Chowilawu...  now they turned to each other.

       “They look so contented,” patch said.

      “Yeah, them do, all four of them,” Kuruk replied, “I wonder if Kuruk and Patch be as contented as them?”  Patch smiled:

       “You mean you want to get paws on with me?”  He asked.  Kuruk smiled:

      “Only if Patch want thing too,” he replied, “if not, then Kuruk fine how he is.”

        “I don’t know,” patch replied, examining his forepaws, “I don’t know if I want you touching my paws Kuruk.”  Kuruk turned away, letting the request lapse.

     “Kuruk going to do something else then,” he said, getting to his paws to walk out of the lie up.  Patch let Kuruk get three paces, then leapt upon him.

      “I want my paws tickled now, now now!”  He whined like a cub.  Kuruk laughed, gently helping patch to lie on his side.

        “Kuruk think you no want paws touched, so he goes do other things,” he said, “now you want paws touched patch?”  Patch smiled and batted at his brother’s paws with his.

       “I was only playing; I thought you could see that?”  He asked.  Kuruk shook his head.

      “Kuruk serious bear most of time,” he said, “only when he knows him playing he becomes less serious.”

       “Please Kuruk, would you play with my paws?”  Patch asked, rolling onto his back and waving his paws at his brother.  Kuruk caught hold of patch’s left forepaw and examined it, then, dropping that, examined the grey bear’s right hind foot.

       “Yes, Kuruk want play with paws of Patch,” he said, “so what happen next?”  Patch rolled onto his chest and crawled away, Kuruk getting into a crawling posture and chasing chasing him, his focus solely on the near white soles of his brother’s hind feet.  Kuruk got close, then pounced on patch’s hind paws, grabbing his right hind in both his forepaws and holding on tightly.  Patch squealed and rolled over, thrashing and kicking to free his foot as if it was caught by an attacking force.  Kuruk held on with determined but gentle paws, patch getting into his role by growling, kicking and protesting loudly.

      “The bear’s got hold of my foot, I can’t free it!”  Kuruk stroked the pads of Patch’s right hind paw, the stroking calming the seemingly terrified bear.

       “Now Kuruk got one hind paw, he goes for other hind foot too,” he said.

       “I’m beaten!”  Patch whimpered.  Kuruk kissed the sole pad of patch’s right hind foot, the grey bear laughing with delight.

      “You have big paws brother Patch,” Kuruk said.  Patch giggled:

       “I like playing with my paws, so I know I have big paws,” he said, “I’m proud of my paws Kuruk.”  Kuruk smiled, exploring the pads and toes of Patch’s right hind foot, and then comparing it with patch’s left hind.

       “Patch has strong toes and very clean paws,” Kuruk said.  Patch grinned:

      “I keep my fur and paws very clean, as do you,” he said.

      “How you know Kuruk keep paws clean when you no seen them?”  He asked.

       “I don’t know, yet, I just assumed,” patch babbled, getting into the game.  Kuruk sighed with mock exasperation.

       “So Kuruk suppose you want look at his paws now?”  He asked gruffly.  Patch looked contrite.

       “Look,” he said, “I’m sorry for assuming things!”  Kuruk laughed, kissing his brother’s nose.

       “Kuruk want you to explore his paws,” he said.  Patch sighed contentedly.

       “I’m looking forward to it,” he said, “but first, check my paws thoroughly to make sure they’re clean will you?”  Kuruk examined all four of Patch’s paws with sight and touch, patch loving his brother’s attentions.

      “You got off white paw pads with a rim of grey fur around the pad,” Kuruk said.  Patch laughed as Kuruk traced his pads with the toes of his forepaws.

       “I love it when you touch my paws,” he said.  Kuruk kissed the pads of all four of patch’s paws, patch becoming tearful.

        “I’m sorry for crying,” he sniffed, “I shouldn’t, it’s silly!”

        “You feel like crying, you do thing,” Kuruk replied, “Kuruk know why you cry, you cry for some reason he do when brother patch touch his paws.  He happy that brother patch is his brother.”  Patch laughed:

       “Yeah,” he said, wiping his eyes with a forepaw, “that’s it, I love you so much Kuruk.”  Kuruk smiled and blew on the pads of his brother’s left hind foot, Patch squealing with surprise!

      “Hey!”  he yelled, sitting up and grabbing his left hind foot in both forepaws, holding his left hind foot with his left forepaw and rubbing the pads with the toes of his left right fore.  Kuruk laughed merrily.

       “Now you want look at Kuruk’s paws?”  He asked.  Patch looked into his brother’s eyes, and then touched his paw.

      “I would like that,” he replied.  Kuruk lay down on his back and presented patch with his huge brown furred, black padded paws.

        “Paws of Kuruk are Patches to stroke and tickle,” he said.  Patch, enjoying more of a gentle game where he would stroke the pads of Kuruk’s paws, while Kuruk curled and flexed his toes.  Patch loved touching the large sole pads of Kuruk’s hind paws as they bunched up when he curled his toes.  Patch held Kuruk’s right hind foot in his forepaws, the large grizzly sighing with contentment.

      “I heard you like drinking from a bottle,” patch said playfully.  Kuruk smiled:

       “Kuruk do drink from bottle sometimes,” he said, “but only in private place in wood, for he like no one sees him do thing.”

       “Would you let me see you doing it?”  Patch asked.  Kuruk looked shocked!

       “Kuruk hide nothing from Brother Patch, so yes he can see him do drinking thing.  Though what Kuruk think Patch really want see is how hind paws of Kuruk kick air while he drink busily isn’t it.”  Patch laughed:

       “You’ve got it,” he said.  Kuruk smiled:

       “Kuruk let Ekaterina touch him while he drinks too then,” he said, “or she no able to find out what thing is like.”  Patch patted his brother’s belly.

       “How far do you want to take this?”  Patch asked.  Kuruk grinned:

       “I think I know where bottle,”he said, “be so I go get it.”  Patch watched as Kuruk crawled away towards the bathroom.  Reaching the corridor, they found Kamchatka coming down the passage with Ekaterina.

      “What on earth are you doing Kuruk?”  She asked.

      “Patch want see how Kuruk wave hind feet in air while drinking from bottle,” the big male grizzly replied.  Kamchatka looked sternly at patch.

        “You can’t put him through that,” she protested, “It’s embarrassing for him patch!”

       “Kuruk’s offered to show me,” he said, “mum, watch the video if you don’t believe me.”  Kamchatka knew then that the two brothers were in league with each other.

       “Sister Ekaterina might want come get paws on with Kuruk while he drink from bottle and wave paws.”  Ekaterina padded forward to Kuruk’s side.

       “What do you mean drink from a bottle and wave paws?”  She asked.  Kuruk laughed:

       “Kuruk like drinking from bottle like cub,” he said, “so I sometimes do it even now.  Though Kuruk like drinking while lying on back with bottle in forepaws, while hind feet in air.  Hind feet of Kuruk kick air while he drinks.  Patch thinks that look cute, so as part of our games, he ask Kuruk if he do drinking thing.”

        “You’re always so serious and adult,” Ekaterina said.  Kuruk smiled and squeezed her paw.

       “Kuruk like acting the cub really,” he whispered, “just make sure sister Ekaterina tell noone.”  Ekaterina laughed at Kuruk’s manner of speech.

        “I love you big brother,” she said gently, “and I’d love to get paws on with you while you’re drinking from the bottle.  I’ve got to find out more about this!”  Kuruk smiled:

      “So, as Kuruk is acting like cub, he was crawling to bathroom to get bottle for patch fill with water, then he go back to lie up and do drinking and hind paw air kicking thing.”  Ekaterina kissed her brother’s nose.

        “As long as you really want to do it,” she said.  Kuruk smiled and nodded:

        “I want do thing,” he said, “and if Ekaterina want play silly cub games like drinking from bottle while kicking with hind feet, she come to Kuruk and he show her how it be done.”  Ekaterina giggled:

        “I know how it’s done,” she said, “for I often do it.”  Kuruk laughed:

       “You make lie!”  He laughed:

      “No, I no make lie,” Ekaterina said, “everything is true, Ekaterina no lie to brother Kuruk.”  Kuruk laughed uproariously.

        “You rogue Ekaterina!”  He said, “You no speak like Kuruk normally, but now you speak like Kuruk!!”

      “Was I?”  She asked, “I didn’t realise.”  Kuruk hugged her tightly.

        “It is okay,” Kuruk replied.  Ekaterina rested her head on her brother’s shoulder.

        “So you and Patch have been playing?”  She asked.

       “We have,” Kuruk replied, “and Kuruk play cub now.”  Ekaterina giggled.

       “I love crawling about and drinking from the bottle,” she said, “but I’m willing to be shown how to do it all over again.”  Kuruk kissed her ear...

       “Kuruk looking forward to showing Ekaterina how he is when lying on back with bottle in forepaws and drinking water while hind feet kick air.”

        “Would you let her get paws on with you while you crawl?”  Patch asked.  Kuruk nodded:

        “Ekaterina, get paws on with Kuruk if you want.”  Ekaterina ran her paws all over Kuruk’s body, feeling his head, forelegs, forepaws, back, belly, hind legs and hind feet.  Then she returned to his head, and Kuruk crawled past her, Ekaterina feeling how his right forepaw shuffled forward, then his shoulder passed her, then his body and hock, then down his right hind leg to the pads of his right hind foot.  Kuruk giggled as Ekaterina’s left forepaw touched his right hind.

       “That tickles!”  He laughed.  Ekaterina followed her brother to the bathroom where he found the bottle.  Handing it to patch, Kuruk watched and Ekaterina listened as their brother filled the bottle.  Then it was back to the lie up, Kamchatka carrying the bottle while watching her fully grown and half grown cubs crawling along the passage, her eyes shining and grinning hugely.

       “Now what?”  She asked.  Kuruk rolling onto his back and picking up the bottle she’d put on the floor.  Kuruk took the bottle in both paws and lay back.

       “Ok Ekaterina, listen for Kuruk to start drinking, then go and get paws on,” Patch said.  Kuruk settled comfortably onto his back, feeling his hind feet leave the floor.  He then began drinking busily.  Ekaterina got paws on with her brother, from his head, to his forepaws which held the bottle tightly, to his body and hind legs, which were pedalling the air enthusiastically.  Kuruk wriggled slightly as he drank, Ekaterina’s paws telling her her brother was enjoying his role.

       “That’s so cute!”  She exclaimed, gently stroking Kuruk’s right hind foot.  Kuruk suddenly snorted, and then Ekaterina was covered in water as the grizzly bear began to laugh helplessly.

       “You’re tickling Kuruk hind foot!”  He yelled.  Ekaterina, soaked with water, looked ashamed.

       “I didn’t mean to, I was stroking your pads,” she said.

       “Best not to stroke them, touch them yes, but don’t stroke them while he’s drinking,” Patch said.  Kuruk, now as soaked as Ekaterina, put the bottle down.

        “Kuruk forgive you Ekaterina,” he said, embracing her with wet paws.  Ekaterina snuggled up to her brother, whose fur was soaked with water.

       “I’m sorry Kuruk,” she whispered, feeling his strong paws around her, but remembering the vulnerable cub she’d been in contact with during Kuruk’s demonstration.

       “You are really a sensitive chap aren’t you,” Ekaterina whispered.  Kuruk, knowing what he’d communicated to Ekaterina, buried his head in her shoulder, almost crying.

        “I love you my brother,” Ekaterina said.

        “What’s going on?”  Jess asked, padding into the room.

       “Kuruk’s having a bit of a bad time.”  Ekaterina said gently.

       “Both of you are soaked!”  Jess exclaimed.

       “A little accident with a bottle, nothing more,” Ekaterina replied.  Jess went to a screen and viewed the footage which had been joyous until the very end.

       “You’re almost crying Kuruk, What’s the matter?”  Kuruk wiped his eyes with hot paws.

        “Kuruk feeling a little insecure,” he said, “Kuruk no like being violent.  Kuruk know he get rid of young Brunetta and Winnie bear, but he no violent bear really.”

       “You’re not violent?”  Jess asked, almost laughing, “That’s a joke Kuruk.  If I wasn’t family I’d be terrified of you!”

       “Jess!”  Kamchatka snapped.

        “Not violent when you have ripped three throats out?  Not violent when you’re always looking for a fight?”

      “Jess, stop it!”  Kamchatka snapped.

      “No mama, I won’t!”  Jess snarled, now into her stride, “You Kuruk are the most violent bear I’ve ever met!  I don’t know if I trust you enough to let Chowilawu anywhere near you unsupervised!”  Kuruk suddenly got to his paws, snatching up the bottle, before tearing the top off the bottle and throwing the water in Jess’s face before storming out!

       “You bloody idiot!”  Ekaterina yelled.  Jess stormed out, slamming the door.

       “I’m going after Kuruk,” Ekaterina said, her eyes full of tears.  Crawling from the room, she followed her brother’s distressed scent to the shower room, where she found her brother standing under the shower.  Despite the water running down his face and into his mouth, Ekaterina could tell he was crying.

     “Kuruk?”  Ekaterina said softly.  Kuruk sniffed hard, snorting water up his nose.

       “Kuruk no hurt Chowilawu cub,” Kuruk sobbed.  Ekaterina went to him and touched his soaking left forepaw.  Both of them now having activated a shower each, they stood getting soaked.

         “I know you wouldn’t,” Ekaterina said.  Kuruk hugged his sister hard.

       “Kuruk isn’t a violent bear,” Kuruk said.

       “No Kuruk, you’re not,” Ekaterina said gently, “You’re a gentle bear.  You’re a product of mama Kamchatka.”  Ekaterina kissed her brother’s nose.

       “I want you to go out of here, and hold your head up high, for I know and you know you are not a violent bear.”  Kuruk looked at his sister.

       “Kuruk know he be no violent bear, but jess tell him she no want Chowilawu near him.  Kuruk love Chowilawu cub!”

       “I’m coming in!”  Chowilawu yelled, throwing the door to the shower open and running in, before booting it shut with his right hind foot and jamming a wedge beneath it.

       “You’re on your paws Chowilawu!”  Ekaterina exclaimed.

       “I’ll get on my paws when I want to Ekaterina,” Chowilawu said, running up to Kuruk and rising to his hind feet to embrace the much larger bear.

        “Chowilawu!”  Jess screamed, battering at the door, which was closed, Chowilawu having wedged it shut.  Jess screamed and, rising to her hind feet, beat at the door with her paws.

       “My cub, my cub’s in there!”  She yelled.

     “Leave him,” Kamchatka said, padding up to her daughter cub.

        “But, but, mama, my cub’s in the shower room with a violent bear!”  Jess yelled, “Would, would you let me be with a violent bear when I was as young as he is now?”  Kamchatka laid her paw on her daughter cubs, making Jess drop onto all fours.

       “Listen to me Jess,” Kamchatka said.  Jess snorted and withdrew her paw from beneath her mum’s.

       “No mama, no!”  She yelled, “I won’t!  I hate Kuruk!”

         “Please listen,” Kamchatka said, “I’ll talk to Kuruk, try to get him to discuss why he is so violent sometimes.  I know why he is, but you won’t take it from me.  I don’t think he’s a violent bear.  If I did, I’d be beating that door down too, and I’m not.  I want Kuruk to talk to you, to patch, and to Chowilawu too.  Kuruk loves your cub, and he loves you too jess.  He would fight for you and your cub until he dies.”

      “How can a violent bear like him love anyone or anything?”  Jess asked.

      “Kuruk’s violence is triggered by threats to his family, which is any bear or any cub,” Kamchatka said.  Jess sighed heavily...

       “You aren’t going to let me near my cub unless I talk to Kuruk,” she stated.  Kamchatka nodded.

       “Your brother bear is a gentle bear, as long as you get to know him,” she said.  Jess screamed and reared onto her hind feet, scrabbling at the door with the toes of both forepaws.

       “Let me in!”  She screamed.

     “No mama, I won’t!”  Chowilawu yelled straight into her ear.  Jess spun round and chased her cub, but Chowilawu was too quick for her.  Kamchatka watched as Chowilawu led his mum into the drying room, and then slammed the door in her face!  Jess slammed into the closed door, screaming and yelling.

       “Oh, Oh dear,” Kamchatka said, trying not to laugh.  Kamchatka knew laughing was cruel, but what her Grandcub had done impressed her.

       “I think what he did was great,” Kamchatka said to jess when the disgraced mama bear returned to her, rubbing her nose with one paw.

      “What he did was horrible!”  Jess whined.

       “What Chowilawu did was tell you you are going wrong jess,” Theo mewed, padding up to her, “Kuruk is no violent bear.  He is gentle, kind and the best friend anyone will ever have.  Upset him though, and your friend will turn into your worst enemy.  Now go to him, speak with him, and find out why he is who he is.  Find out why he is violent one minute and drinking from a cub’s feeding bottle the next.  Doesn’t the private drinking from the feeding bottle in the clearing tell you something?”

       “It tells me he likes playing the cub,” jess snorted.

       “Kuruk might have played the cub once and then never done it again, but he keeps doing it.  He keeps filling the bottle with water and going to that clearing where he sits down and thinks, then lies back and drinks the water from a cub’s feeding bottle while he pedals the air with his hind feet.  He might look cute, but he can’t see himself, so there must be something in it for him personally.  Does he enjoy it because he likes drinking water?  I don’t think so.  Drinking water from a bottle while lying on one’s back is difficult, so why does he do it?”

        “I wish you’d not ask so many bloody questions!”  Jess yelled.

       “I want you to find out why he does these things,” Theo mewed.

       “So do I mum,” Chowilawu said.  Jess turned thunderous eyes on her cub, raising a paw to strike him.

     “No mama,” Theo mewed, “hitting your cub is not the right thing to do.”

        “I’ll hit my cub if I want!”  Jess screamed, “keep your horrid white nose out of our lives!”

       “Mum, don’t say that,” Chowilawu begged, “It’s not right to say that!””

      “Leave us to our argument!”  Jess screamed, backhanding her cub across his nose with her paw.

       “Ow mum, that hurt!”  Chowilawu yelled.

      “Now who is violent?”  Kuruk asked.  Jess turned ready to attack.

       “No Jess, you won’t lay paw on Kuruk or any other bear,” Kuruk said calmly.  Jess found her paws wouldn’t obey her.

      “No, no I won’t hit anyone,” jess said, staring at her cub that was standing on the soles of his four paws, just like an adult bear would stand.  Jess looked into her cub’s eyes, seeing his distress.

      “Please mum, listen to Kuruk,” Chowilawu begged.  Jess looked at his paws.

       “You’re on your feet now?”  She asked, “You were crawling an hour ago.”  Chowilawu smiled:

      “Ekaterina’s been teaching me,” he said, “I fell a few times, but she taught me to stand on my own four feet.  Of course, there was a lot of paw contact too, which is always a bonus.”  Jess looked at her cub anew, seeing him stronger, more assured and a different cub to the one she’d played with over an hour ago.

       “You are serious aren’t you Chowilawu,” jess said.  Chowilawu touched his mum’s paw.

      “Please, please mama, listen to Kuruk,” he begged.  Jess looked into her cub’s pleading eyes.

       “I will listen to Kuruk,” jess said heavily.

       “Thank you mama,” Chowilawu said.  Jess watched her cub turn and walk away.  Watching how he walked, jess realised having his friend teach him how to walk must have been a long process, though clearly enjoyable for both parties.  Ekaterina padded up to Chowilawu and hugged him tenderly.

      “Let’s go back to my family home and listen to Kuruk’s tale,” Ekaterina said taking Chowilawu’s paw.  Chowilawu smiled:

      “I want to listen to his tale,” he said.  Chowilawu padded with his friend to Kamchatka’s lie up and they sat down together.  Taking each other’s paws, they bent their heads to listen to Kuruk’s tale.  Patch, jess, Conrad and Kamchatka sat down with Kuruk.

       “Now tell your tale Kuruk dear,” Kamchatka said, kissing her eldest cub’s nose.  Kuruk buried his face in his paws, clearly upset.

       “Come on Kuruk,” jess said impatiently.

     “Let him cry,” patch said gently, “Jess, he needs to cry, for his tale is a sad one I feel.”  Kuruk raised his head, rubbing his eyes with tired paws.

       “Kuruk’s tale begins when mama leave him and other cubs alone.  Kuruk fight for his food, then, one day, Kuruk gets trapped by humans, and they beat him with fire sticks, they burn his paws and fur.  Kuruk get away and bathe his paws and fur.  He cries for long time then Kuruk pull himself together and go on with his life.  He find mate a few years later with which he had a cub.  Mama bear was a lovely bear.  Kuruk’s cub a sweet and gentle female.  Mama bear had an easy time giving birth, and the cub was born with love.  Kuruk love his cub and mate with everything he had.  One day, when Kuruk’s cub had been on her paws for three months or so, she no comes back at night when she goes out with mama.  Mama come back and tells Kuruk that their cub is in trap and she no move.  Kuruk go with mama and find cub dead.  Her neck broken and her paw trapped.  Kuruk and mama cry big time, and mama become inconsolable.  She tells Kuruk to stay in cave while she goes for walk, but he ignore her and follow her.  He sees her go to place where cub dies and then goes to top of cliff.  She then jumps off cliff.  Kuruk see mama die in front of him.  Kuruk then become very unhappy, want die for miss cub and mate like crazy.  He thinks of them every second of minute of every day.  It was then that he decides go find mama Kamchatka, and after two years of tracking mama down, he fined her.  Kuruk walk for long time, get in long train, hitch ride to England.  He then get out and run like crazy, growling and roaring at humans until they be so scared they leave him alone.  Kuruk run into wood, then he meet tigers and lion, and the rest is history.  Now, now he want be family bear like before.  Kuruk love his family, brother patch, sister Ekaterina and sister Jess.  He also loves his mama and Chowilawu Jess’s cub.  Kuruk want to make family more secure than his wild one was.  That why he be decisive when sorting bad bears, for they threaten his family.  Winnie attack Ekaterina, so do younger Brunetta, and Kuruk no like that kind of thing happen to his sister, so that why Kuruk seem violent.  Though Kuruk love playing like cub.  He loves lying in clearing with bottle in paw.  Kuruk lie on back and drink from bottle while his hind feet pedal air.  Kuruk want protect his family, so that why he violent from time to time.  Now all he want do is play with his paws and lie back in clearing with bottle in forepaws and feel air on hind feet as he kick at air while drinking.  Kuruk want be cub again, want be with cubs, want be safe and warm.”  Kamchatka phoned the kitchen, and soon Bramble came with a bottle in her paw.  Kamchatka took it from her and put the bottle into Kuruk’s paw.

       “Drink that,” Kamchatka said to her cub, kissing his nose.  Kuruk felt the bottle warm in his paws, and looked down at it.

      “That is cub’s bottle,” he said.

      “Try the contents,” Kamchatka suggested.  Kuruk put the teat in his mouth and sucked carefully.  The milk was warm and creamy, with a hint of sweetness.

       “How does that taste?”  She asked.  Kuruk settled onto his back and, closing his eyes,  began drinking from the bottle with absorption.  Holding the bottle tightly in his forepaws, he drank deeply, his hind feet soon going into air kicking mode.  Jess and the others watched Kuruk drinking, the sight of her grown cub drinking milk like a cub choking up Kamchatka.  Covering her eyes with her paws, she quietly wept.  Chowilawu padded to Kuruk and explored him from nose to tail.  Kuruk, intent on his bottle of milk, hardly noticed the young bear’s exploration of his head, his forepaws, the bottle, his belly or his hind legs or hind feet.  Chowilawu kissed the pads of Kuruk’s right hind foot as he brought his hind legs up, wriggling with pleasure, just like a cub would do.  Chowilawu smiled and stroked the sole pad of Kuruk’s right hind foot with the toes of his own left forepaw, the older bear sighing with contentment.

        “”Relax dear cub,” Chowilawu said gently.  Kuruk finished his milk and laid the bottle aside.  Then, Kamchatka padded up to her cub and, very gently, wiped his mouth with her paw.

      “Relax my cub,” she whispered.  Kuruk, his eyes still closed, sighed deeply.

       “Kuruk calm now,” he said softly.  Jess watched everything, her views challenged by Kuruk’s tale and the sight of her older brother drinking milk from a cub’s feeding bottle.

       He looks natural doesn’t he,” patch said.  Jess nodded:

        “He looks contented,” jess admitted.

      “Kuruk rolled onto his side, and then did something Kamchatka had never seen him do before, and thought he’d never do in his life.  Kuruk put the digits of his right forepaw in his mouth, curled up, and fell deeply asleep.


“Kuruk’s sucking his paw!”  jess exclaimed.

       “I think I would if I’d recounted the tale Kuruk did,”  patch replied.  Jess stared at him.

       “So that’s what happened to him to make him protective,”  she said.

       “Yes,”  patch replied, “Kuruk’s violence makes headlines, so everyone notices it.  What they don’t see is the real bear.  Kuruk loves to hug, to play silly games, and to be gentle.  He might take a bit of prompting to play, but he will react if you play with him.  He’s not as cold as he might seem.”  Jess looked at Kuruk, who was still asleep despite all going on around him.

        “he does look peaceful,”  she said.  Chowilawu padded up to Kuruk and took the bear’s free left forepaw in his smaller paws.  Kuruk, his subconcious feeling the cub take his paw, roused himself slightly, and very soon Chowilawu was embraced by Kuruk, the older bear sleeping once more, Chowilawu held close to him.

       “I like this,”  Chowilawu said, snuggling up to kuruk, jess powerless to stop him.  Kuruk shook himself awake, smiled at Chowilawu and kissed his nose.

      “You are a gentle bear Kuruk,”  Chowilawu said, “I know that, if mum doesn’t, she’s stupid.”  Jess walloped her cub.

       “You speak like that again, I’ll break your paws!”  she screamed.

       “ow!  Hey mum, that’s horrible!”  Chowilawu whimpered.

        “I won’t have you calling me stupid!”  jess yelled.

        “You be stupid mama jess,”  kuruk said, getting to his paws and shaking himself.  Jess looked at her brother, he was enormous!

        “um, Ok Kuruk,”  Jess said, fear in her eyes.

        “Kuruk get angry and bust jess up if she attack cub for no reason,”  Kuruk said.  jess stormed from the room, slamming the door hard.

       “What’s eating her?”  Patch asked.

       “What’s eating my mum is the fact I love Kuruk as much as I do her, and she thinks he’s violent,”  Chowilawu replied, “Kuruk’s not violent, he’s just protective when he needs to be.”  Patch looked at Chowilawu, examining him from nose to paws.

       “You are a handsome bear Chowilawu,”  patch said.  Chowilawu padded to patch and hugged him.

       “would you play with me?”  Chowilawu asked.

        “I will if you want,”  Patch replied.  Chowilawu rolled onto his back and waved his paws at patch.  The cub wriggled with pleaseure as his paws were enveloped by the larger bear’s.

       “I love the feeling of paw pads against paw pads,”  Chowilawu said.  Patch kissed the cub’s nose:

      “I do too,”  he replied.  Chowilawu made sure Patch’s forepaws embraced all four of his many times over.  Wriggling with pleasure, Chowilauw giggled as Patch’s toes tickled his pads.


Kuruk padded out of the room, still somewhat distressed.  Padding along the passage, he found his paws taking him outside.  Hearing a chopping sound, he padded along a path to the back of the house where the Boss kept wood.  There he saw a strange site.  A human figure, or it looked human, dressed in clothing he’d never seen before, wheelding an axe and chopping wood.

       “Kuruk want know who you be, and right now too!”  Kuruk snapped.  The figure, startled, snatched up a metal plate it had by its booted hind feet and holding the axe ready to strike, whipped round.  Kuruk saw fear in the strange creature’s eyes, and well he might.  The creature wasn’t human, he was a bear, a brown bear too!

        “Kuruk be  a friend, a friend!”  Kuruk gabbled, almost as scared as the axe whielding brown bear was.

         “You are a grizzly bear, ancient enemy of the brown bears,”  the strangely dressed bear replied.  Kuruk stood on his hind feet, showing the brown bear the pads of his forepaws.

       “Kuruk be weapons free,”  he said.  the brown bear nodded, and put down his axe and the shield.  He then sat down on a pile of logs and removed his boots and the garments covering the rest of his body.  Now standing as nature intended him to be, the brown bear looked smaller and more vulnrable.

        “Why you wear all that?”  Kuruk asked.

       “I am Skirnir, I was brought up to be a knight from long ago,”  the bear replied, “now I come here, and chop wood for the community.  Noone sees me, until now.  I am alone since my work dried up.  I learned to fight like a knight, using my axe as an affective weapon.  Ok, now it’s only used on trees, but maybe, if I could come into your community, I could serve you and your family by obeying my calling.”

       “Skirnir,” Kuruk said, “Kuruk and his family be non violent bears, in the most part.  We no use axes or funny suits.  If we need fight, it is paw to paw combat.  No axes.”

        “I am sorry for causing you concern with this,” Skirnir said, picking up his axe, which he handled with evident knowledge, “I was frightened by your sudden appearance, and seeing you are a grizzly bear, I was very worried indeed.”

         “Kuruk no mean you harm,” Kuruk replied, “Kuruk very worried about axe though.”  Skirnir smiled and handed Kuruk the axe handle first.

      “Take it,” he invited.  Kuruk weighed the axe in his forepaws, and then he swung the axe at a log and buried it in the wood up to the shaft.  Another smashing blow split the wood.  Skirnir clapped his paws with approval.

       “You could be my right paw bear,” Skirnir said.  Kuruk smiled and laid the axe down on the grass.  Kamchatka padded round the end of the house and headed towards Skirnir and Kuruk.

         “Ah mama,” Kuruk said.  Kamchatka smiled and trotted towards her son cub.  Reaching him, she enfolded him in a huge hug.  Skirnir smiled at the two bears.

       “I’ll get back to chopping wood for heating,” he said, picking up the axe.  Kuruk looked at the armour Skirnir had been wearing.

       “He was wearing this mama,” Kuruk said.  Kamchatka turned the armour over in her paws.

       “I’d like to see him wearing all that,” she said.  Skirnir laid down the axe and began to pull on his armour, pushing his hind feet into the boots and finally picking up the shield and axe.

        “I now protect your community!”  He proclaimed.  Kamchatka looked at him.

       “Where did you come from?”  She asked.

      “I was born to this work, from a cub I was chosen to be a protector of good and gentle peoples of England!”  The bear announced.  Kamchatka couldn’t help smiling:

        “No,” she said, “you were enslaved by humans, who made you wear that stupid outfit and made you think you were born to serve in the way you have for years.”  Skirnir looked up into Kamchatka’s face.

        “You speak strange words,” he said.

       “I speak as I find, and I’m not afraid of that axe either,” Kamchatka replied, “for I know you are more terrified of us than we are of you.”  Skirnir looked down at the axe hanging limply from his right forepaw and dropped it.

      “Take it, I don’t want it any more,” he said.  Kamchatka picked up the axe and hefted it in her paw.  Then, selecting a thin tree, she stood half an axe handle’s length from it, and swung with all her strength.  The axe cleaved clean through the thin trunk of the half grown tree, Kamchatka leaping for safety as the top portion of the tree nearly fell on her.

       “Now you’ve shown off,” Skirnir said, “Can I have my axe please?”  Grinning, Kamchatka handed him the axe.  Skirnir stepped up to a tree and tried to do the same think Kamchatka had, but his strength was not half that of the grizzly.  Indeed, he lost hold of the axe as the blade hit the trunk.

       “That wasn’t meant to happen,” the bear said ashamed.

      “Can I have a go?”  Kamchatka asked, working the axe gently from the tree and stepping back.  Swinging at the trunk, she cleaved straight through it once more.

        “How do you do that?”  Skirnir asked.

        “I have technique, you just swing,” Kamchatka replied, “now put that weapon away and let’s go indoors.”

       “Will I have to go bare pawed?”  Skirnir asked.

       “Yes,” Kamchatka replied, “though you can wear your armour inside the house if you want, just keep your fore and hind paws bare.  Skirnir was happy with that.

       “Kuruk think we hide axe in case cub get hold of thing and do damage,” he said.  Kamchatka nodded:

        “Hide the axe Skirnir.  Lock it away,” She said.  Kamchatka hugged Skirnir and helped him remove his boots.  Kamchatka, unable to resist the chance, gently massaged Skirnir’s hind paws, the brown bear smiling.

       “If not wearing boots enables my paws to be played with and stroked I’ll go bare pawed more often,” he said.  Kamchatka smiled broadly.

      “You look more relaxed with bare hind paws,” she said.  Skirnir smiled:

      “It’s nice to be in touch with the ground,” he said.  Kuruk picked up Skirnir’s boots and helmet.

      “Come,” Kuruk said, motioning for Skirnir to follow him and his mum.”  Skirnir padded along beside Kuruk, walking on all four of his paws for the first time in ages.  Kuruk led Skirnir to his family lie up where they found Jess playing with Patch.  The two bears were rolling about on the floor, catching hold of, and tickling each other’s paws.  Skirnir watched the two bears playing.

      “You two look very happy,” he said.  Patch looked at him.

       “We are,” he said.

      “Who’s that?”  Jess asked.

     “A bear wearing chainmail and a leather suit,” Patch said.   Jess padded up to Skirnir and touched his paw.

      “You were chopping wood out the back weren’t you,” she said.  Kuruk stared at her.

      “Jess cub knows him?”  He asked.

       “I smelt him,” Jess said, he has a strong scent.

Jess touched Skirnir’s nose with her paw, then ran her paws all over his body, feeling his unusual attire.  Lying down, Skirnir let Jess touch him from his nose to the pads and toes of his hind feet.  He then grabbed a boot and put it on his left hind foot.  Skirnir smiled and let Jess remove the boot, Skirnir wiggling his toes as his paw came free.  Jess massaged his pads and played with his toes, Skirnir smiling.

        “Its bare paws for me then,” he said.  Jess kissed the pads of Skirnir’s fore and hind paws, Skirnir giggling cubbishly.

       “You just like playing with paws don’t you,” he said.  Jess smiled and squeezed his right forepaw.

       “I do,” she replied, “cub’s paws, adult bear’s paws, lion’s paws, any paws.”  Aslan crawled into the room followed by Petra.  The white lion cub crawled up to patch and grabbed his left hind foot in his forepaws, tickling his pads, Patch roaring with laughter.

        “That playful attack on patch’s white soled paws was a roaring success,” Skirnir said, Jess playfully slapping his shoulder.

       “That’s a dreadful joke,” she said.  Skirnir kissed her nose.

       “I liked it when you freed my paw from the boot,” Skirnir said, “and especially when you massaged my pads and played with my toes.  Jess smiled and kissed Skirnir’s nose.

        “Do you role play?”  She asked.  Skirnir nodded:

       “Do you think this armour and the boots is natural?”  He asked.  Jess shook her head.

       “But you must like wearing it?”  She asked.

      “I used to, well still do, but your mama said something while I was still outside.  She said I was enslaved by humans and made to think I was a knight.  I’m not a knight though; I’m a brown bear, a common old brown bear.  A bear, which, who likes playing a medieval knight, but who also likes having his hind feet freed from his boots by one with gentle paws.”  Jess giggled:

        “You soppy thing,” she said.  Skirnir touched her nose with his.

       “Would you free my paws again if I should ever put those boots on?”  He asked.  Jess smiled:

      “You want me to make sure you remain bare pawed?”  She asked.

       “I want to remain bare pawed,” Skirnir replied, “but sometimes I might slip back into my old ways.”  Jess smiled broadly:

       “I will help you,” she said.  Skirnir took a good look at Jess, liking what he saw.  A nine year old bear with a gentle face and big expressive gentle paws.  Skirnir himself was eight years old, though he felt a lot older.

         “I want Jess to play with my paws,” he thought.

       “I like you playing with my paws,” Skirnir said softly.  Jess kissed his nose.

       “I like playing with your paws too,” she replied, “they have soft almost cub soft pads.  Am I to think you’ve never had them out of those boots when outdoors?”  Skirnir looked ashamed:

       “You’d be right there,” he said, now no longer sounding like the medieval knight he once had.  Skirnir clung to Jess, burying his head in her shoulder, crying into her fur.

       “I wan’a be a normal bear,” he sobbed.  Jess helped him out of his armour, then out of the suit beneath, putting them both aside.

       “Maybe one day you can play act a knight, but now let me take you to the bathroom and wash you,” she said.  Skirnir followed Jess, enjoying the feel of the rugs, then the tiles beneath his feet.

       “You’ve played with paws, and I don’t even know your name, well not formally,” Skirnir said.

     “Oh, my name’s Jess,” jess replied.  They arrived to find Chowilawu and Ekaterina playing together in the water.

       “These two are my youngest sister Ekaterina, and my cub Chowilawu,” jess said, pointing them out to the male brown bear.  Skirnir looked at them.

       “So you’ve found a mate mama?”  Chowilawu asked.  Jess laughed helplessly.

       “We’ve only known each other for a few minutes, steady on!”  She said, but privately she couldn’t deny the truth of her cub’s words, what she had felt between Skirnir and herself.  His paws hadn’t just been soft; they’d been communicating strongly with her, begging her, their owner pleading to be played with like a normal bear.

       “I can feel how you feel about that big brown bear whose paw you hold so tenderly,” Chowilawu said.  Jess laughed.

       “His name’s Skirnir and I like him that’s all.”

       “Like him?”  Ekaterina said, “You’ll be in cub by him within a month.”  Jess wanted to slap her younger sister, but stopped herself, realising Ekaterina was right.

      “Let’s get into the water and wash you,” Jess suggested to Skirnir.  Skirnir sat on the edge of the pool and dangled his hind feet in the water.  Wiggling his toes, he began to kick the water with both hind feet.

        “This feels great!”  He said.  Jess sat down beside him and took his right forepaw in hers.

       “I think like the bear to which these small paws belong,” Jess replied. Skirnir smiled and kissed her nose.

       “I like your paws too,” he said.  Skirnir smiled and splashed with his hind paws, soaking Ekaterina and Chowilawu.

      “Right, you splashed me with your paws, now I get to explore the paws which splashed me,” she said.  Skirnir kissed Ekaterina’s nose and gladly gave up his hind paws for Ekaterina to stroke, and then tickle.  Skirnir, Laughing helplessly, bounced on his backside with delight and cubbish pleasure.

      “This is lovely!”  He yelled.  Ekaterina swam away, leaving the field open for Chowilawu, who came along and grabbed hold of Skirnir’s left hind foot, stroking his pads and playing with his toes.

       “Chowilawu’s my cub,” Jess said gently.  Skirnir lifted Chowilawu out of the water, holding him in his forepaws.  The polar bear cub kicked his hind feet in mid air, as Skirnir lifted him clear of the water.

        “He’s blind, just like Ekaterina is,” jess said.  Skirnir nodded, kissing Chowilawu’s nose.

      “I like your cub,” he said, settling Chowilawu on his lap, resting the cub on his back, paws in the air.

      “Will you play with my paws?”  Chowilawu asked.  Skirnir smiled and played with Chowilawu’s right hind foot, the cub wriggling with pleasure.

      “Your paws are so soft and gentle!”  Chowilawu said.  Skirnir smiled and gently traced the pads and played with the toes of his right hind foot.

        “I love that,” the cub said.  Skirnir smiled:

      “I like playing with your paws,” he replied, “You have soft paws like your mama.”  Chowilawu smiled:

       “Your mama has such soft paws,” Skirnir said, “She played with my paws and freed one from a human covering.  I loved that bit, for I had to struggle a bit to free my foot, and she helped pull it free.”  Chowilawu smiled hugely.

       “I’m sure mama would like to keep playing with your paws,” he said, “she likes hers played with too.  She plays with her hind paws, as do I and my friend Ekaterina.”  Skirnir kissed Chowilawu’s nose and the pads of his left forepaw.

       “I love that,” he said.

      “I’ll bet Jess gave joyous birth to you little Chowilawu,” Skirnir said.  Chowilawu smiled and reached up to touch Skirnir’s nose:

      “She did,” he replied, “If you want, I can show you the video if mama will let me.”

      “I like my birth video,” he said.  Skirnir grinned:

      “I’ve never seen a mama bear give birth,” he said.  Jess smiled and touched Skirnir’s shoulder.

       “I’ll show you the video sometime,” she said.  Skirnir and Jess got into the water, washing each other from nose to paw pads.  Splashing about happily, the two bears rolled each other over in play.  Then, laughing, they involved Ekaterina and Chowilawu; rolling the cubs over, and tickling their paws, then letting the cubs both half grown and quarter grown, roll them over with their help and tickle their paws.  Once everyone’s paws had been stroked, tickled and played with several times over, it was time to dry off.  Laughing, the bears made their way to the towels where they carefully dried their paws, each drying the other’s paws, and a third bear checking the drying process by touch.  Once this intimate and enjoyable process was complete, the bears went to the drying room to complete drying their fur and paws.  Standing in the warm room, the bears lifted each paw in turn, letting the warm air blow gently over sole pads and toes, wiggling their toes in the rushing air.  Once each was satisfied the other’s paws were dry, they went back to jess’s lie up.

Sitting down, Skirnir felt his left hind foot taken in small paws, and looking down, saw Chowilawu playing with his hind foot.

       “Carry on dear cub,” he said gently.  Ekaterina smiled broadly and padded away to let her friend and his new found family member play together.


Ekaterina padded to her lie up, and found patch playing with his right hind foot.  Ekaterina covered his free left hind foot with her forepaws, the grey bear laughing helplessly.

      “Tickle my pads if you want,” he said.  Ekaterina stroked his left hind foot, the bear smiling broadly.

       “I remember when you and I used to play with each other’s paws in the soft room,” she said.  Patch smiled and kissed her nose.

      “Shall we go there now?”  He asked.  Ekaterina smiled and hugged her brother.

       “Let’s go,” she replied.  Patch crawled away, his sister following him by keeping in contact with his right hind foot by touching his pads with her right forepaw.  Patch pressed the toes of his right hind foot against the sole pad of his sister’s right forepaw, Ekaterina smiling hugely.


Meanwhile, jess and Skirnir sat together, Chowilawu playing with Skirnir’s left hind paw.

       “So what’s your tale?”  Jess asked.  Skirnir looked down at his forepaws.

       “I was enrolled in the circus as a cub,” he replied, “taught to wear armour and carry an axe and a shield.  I knew nothing more than that until one day when the circus was rumbling through town and my transport crashed.  I used the axe to break my way free of the tangled mess and escaped, and ran for my life!  I ran into the wood, and met the Boss on a woodland path.  Being used to humans I showed him I was no threat and spoke to him.  He said that if I wanted to stick around and maybe get a home in his house, I’d need to make myself useful.  He’d feed me, and see me all right, but I’d have to work outside.  Then maybe one day one of his communities would see me and I’d come here.  He said he couldn’t promise anything, but it was a lifeline for me, better than I had before, that’s for sure.  I began chopping wood for him, and was there for about two weeks before your brother and mama found me.  That’s all.”  Jess kissed his nose.

       “I like you more when you are out of that armour, though you in the armour with your fore and hind paws bare is nice too.”

      “I wear a kind of suit under the armour which cushions my fur from the metal,” Skirnir said, “does you like that too?”  Jess smiled:

       “Let me guess,” she said, “they had you wearing that suit to get you used to it, then they put the armour on later?”  Skirnir smiled:

       “They did,” he replied, “I might find myself wearing the under suit from time to time, but if I ever put those boots on again, you pin me down and remove them straight away, okay?”  Jess giggled:

       “Even if I have to fight you?”  She asked.  Skirnir smiled:

       “You won’t have to fight me, just pin me down and pull the boots off,” he replied.  Jess took Skirnir’s left forepaw in

        “You liked it when I freed your hind foot from the boot didn’t you,” she said.  Skirnir laughed:

      “I loved it,” he replied, “you had to pull the boot off, and your forepaws brushed my hind paw, and you even massaged my pads, which was wonderful.”  Jess giggled.

       “I loved taking the armour off your body and freeing the bear from inside the suit,” she said.  Chowilawu let go of Skirnir’s left hind paw, the brown bear crawling away.  Jess followed him, crawling too.  She touched his right hind paw, feeling his toes flexing and pads bunching as he crawled.  Skirnir sat back on his heels, resting his forepaws flat on the floor, jess recognising the position she’d adopted just before her final efforts to give birth to her cub.  Skirnir then crawled about a bit before rolling  onto his back and kicking hard with his hind feet, clasping his belly with his forepaws.  Then he drew his hind feet to him and held them tightly with his forepaws, curling his toes so tightly.

      “You’re recreating Chowilawu’s birth,” jess said softly.  Skirnir looked at his mate:

       “Was I?”  He asked, “I just felt I wanted to do all this, that, well, I almost had to.”  Jess kissed the gripping toes of his right forepaw, then the bunched pads and curled toes of his right hind foot, feeling his bunched pads against her face.

       “I feel you wanted to be with me when I gave birth to my cub,” she said.  Skirnir released his hold on his paws.

       “I wanted to be there,” he said softly.  Jess smiled.

       “I’ll show you the birth of our cub,” she said.  The bears sat down to watch Chowilawu’s birth.  The video was intense, with jess wriggling and squirming, panting and blowing, while grabbing her hind feet with her forepaws and squeezing her toes from time to time.  When she wanted to push hard down against the cub, she rolled onto her back and drew her hind feet up, gripping them with her forepaws, before screaming and wriggling while pushing hard down against the emerging cub.  Jess watched herself on the video, her forepaws playing with the toes of her right hind.

      “Oooh, ouch,” she said, as the bear in the video roared with pain for the last time.”  Skirnir watched intently, then, as the mama bear on the screen heaved for the last time, with her hind feet held in her forepaws and toes curled hard, he hugged the real Jess tenderly.  Then reached down and removed her forepaws from her hind paw and kissed the toes jess had just been playing with.  Jess giggled happily.

       “I like that,” she said.  Skirnir smiled and gently traced the pads of her right hind foot.

      “I love your face and your paws too,” he said.  Jess gulped hard, her emotions welling up.  Curling the toes of her hind feet, she buried her face in her forepaws, crying quietly.

        “I love you from your nose to your paw pads,” she sniffed.  Skirnir hugged his mate tenderly.

        “I want to be at the birth of our next cub,” he said.  Jess smiled and giggled:

        “You will be,” she replied, “through everything too.”  Skirnir smiled:

       “I wonder if Chowilawu will let me be there,” he said.

        “I will let you be there,” Chowilawu said, “I’d like you to help my mama have her next cub.”  Skirnir looked at Chowilawu:

       “I’d like to help jess bring you up first,” Skirnir said.  Chowilawu scrambled into Skirnir’s lap and held his forepaws in his.

       “I want you to help me and my mama,” he said.  Skirnir kissed his nose.

      “I will,” he replied, “now Chowilawu, would you let me stroke your paws?”  Chowilawu smiled and rolled onto his back, waving his paws at Skirnir.

       “Here they are,” he said, placing a forepaw in that of the larger bear.  Skirnir kissed the pads of Chowilawu’s forepaws, then the pads of his hind.  Wriggling and laughing with delight, the cub submitted happily to Skirnir’s attention.

        “I’m glad you two are getting along well,” Jess said.


Meanwhile, in the soft playroom, patch and Ekaterina rolled about on the floor while catching hold of and tickling each other’s fore and hind paws.  Patch broke off the game and led Ekaterina up the rope ladders to the top, Ekaterina finding her way to the zip wire, which was no longer the thing of terror for her it had once been.  Putting her paws through the loops, she held on tightly as Patch clipped a belt around her middle and clipped it to the carriage on the wire.  Then, checking everything over, he pressed a button, the zip carriage releasing, and Ekaterina disappearing down the wire at an alarming rate, screaming with delight the whole way.  Once she was down, patch slid down the slide to release her.  Then it was her turn to help him ride the wire, which she did.

      “The wire riding is good,” Patch said to Ekaterina, but I prefer paw contact.”  Ekaterina smiled broadly.

      “I do too,” she replied.


Meanwhile, in Jess’s lie up, Skirnir and Jess were playing together.  Jess’s paws were larger than Skirnir’s, the male bear liking the fact he’d got smaller paws than his mate, though the two bears were roughly the same height when on all fours or standing on their hind feet.

       “You do have small hind paws Skirnir,” jess remarked as she cradled his right hind foot in her forepaws and played with his toes.  Skirnir smiled:

       “I suppose that’s how the humans managed to get my paws into those boots,” he said, “Did you remember when you removed the boot from my right hind foot?  It got slightly stuck and you had to gently work my paw free?”  Jess nodded.

       “I was gentle when I did that I hope,” she replied.  Skirnir curled his toes as the toes of Jess’s right forepaw brushed his pads.

      “Yes,” he said, “but I loved having to pull my foot free, the slight effort, and the feel of your pads against mine as you helped my paw free.”

       “You just love having your paws played with,” Jess said laughing.  Skirnir smiled:

        “And so do you,” he said.  Jess nodded:

      “I never disputed that,”  she replied,  “I could tell you love playing with your paws by the way you rolled about, kicked your hind feet in the air and grabbed hold of them in your forepaws.  That was lovely to watch.”

       “But then you kissed the toes of my right forepaw as I held my right hind with it, then kissed the pads of my right hind foot too,”  Skirnir reminded her.

       “I did, and it was enjoyable,” she said. “It released your hold on your hind paws.”  Skirnir smiled:

        “You even touched my hind feet while I sat back on my heels,” he said, “that were lovely too.”  Jess giggled and kissed the pads of Skirnir’s right hind paw, Skirnir becoming emotional.

         “I love this tactile play,” he sniffed:

      “So do me,” jess replied.

        “Skirnir has got tiny paws mama,” Chowilawu said, “they’re meant to be big, as he’s a grown bear n’all, but they’re tiny compared to yours.”  Skirnir smiled and said:

      “How about if your mum and I touch hind paw to hind paws, then you can then feel the difference between your mum’s and my paws then.”  Chowilawu smiled and nodded:

       “I’d like that,” he said.  So jess and Skirnir rested the heels of their hind feet on the floor, making sure their pads were pressed hard together.  Chowilawu padded carefully towards them, finding Skirnir’s left hind leg with a forepaw before exploring down it to the bear’s left hind foot and jess’s right hind.  He found Skirnir’s toes only just reached the bottoms of jesses, Jess quite able, as she proved, to curl her toes around her mate’s toes and hold them.  Skirnir tugged at his now trapped hind paws.

        “Let go!  Jess, let go of my feet!”  He yelled, bouncing about and tugging with both forepaws at his right, then left hind paw.  Wriggling, Skirnir pulled hard, while jess bounced about with equal discomfort:

      “My toes have gone into spasm, I can’t let go!”  She whimpered, scrabbling with the toes of both her forepaws at the toes of first her right hind, then her left, tearing at them in an attempt to free Skirnir.  Chowilawu explored the whole scene, finding out how his mama and her friend were struggling to free their hind feet.

        “Maybe, maybe pressing our paws together might help,” jess gasped after five minutes of frantic activity.

       “Ok,” Skirnir panted, “now push, push against my feet really hard!  One, two, three!  Push Jess Push!”  Jess pushed hard, Skirnir pushing to counter her, but Jess’s toes would not release.

       “It’s not working!”  Jess panted, Chowilawu touching their paws as they pressed pads together.

       “Maybe if, if you Chowilawu could help us,” Skirnir said.

       “How?”  Chowilawu asked, recognising the game and playing along.

        “Try and work the toes of your forepaws between the pads of mine and your mum’s hind feet and rub the pads of her hind feet one at a time.  That might release the tension in your mum’s toes.

           “I’ll try,” Chowilawu replied.  Gently, he tried to work the toes of his right forepaw between the pads of Skirnir’s right hind foot and Jess’s left hind, but with the two older bears pressing their paws so hard together, he couldn’t do it.

       “Relax both of you,” Chowilawu said.  Jess panted hard.

      “We’ll have to try,” she said, taking a deep breath.  Skirnir and Jess relaxed the pressure, feeling Chowilawu’s toes slip between their hind feet.

     “Try to wriggle backwards a bit both of you,” Chowilawu said, Jess and Skirnir wriggling backwards an inch or so.

     “That’s all we can manage!”  Jess whimpered, “Oh I hope this works!”  Chowilawu rubbed the pads of her left hind foot with the toes of his right fore, jess curling her toes harder than ever for a minute, Skirnir and Jess both squealing with surprise, then, all of a sudden, the pressure was relieved as jess’s toes relaxed., jess and her mate gasping with relief.

       “It’s worked!”  Jess exclaimed.  Chowilawu smiled.

       “Now for your other hind foot mum,” he said.  Repeating the process on his mum’s right hind foot released Skirnir in good time.  The two bears letting Chowilawu touch them as they massaged their hind paws with their forepaws.

       “That was wonderful!”  Jess enthused.  Skirnir laughed:

      “It was,” he said.  Chowilawu grinned:

      “Good game you two,” he said.  Both bears hugged him tenderly.

        “So you do play the trapped paw games,” Skirnir said.  Jess giggled and nodded:

       “I recognised the game as soon as you began struggling to free your hind feet,” she said, “I love those games.”  Chowilawu smiled and sat down in front of Skirnir.

      “Want to play?”  He asked.  Skirnir smiled and touched Chowilawu’s hind paws with his.  Pressing pads together, the larger male bear curled his toes around Chowilawu’s.  Chowilawu giggled and pressed his pads hard against Skirnir’s.  Kuruk, padding in silently, watched everything from then on as Skirnir took Chowilawu’s right hind foot in his forepaws and rested it on his left leg before massaging Chowilawu’s pads and playing with his toes.  Chowilawu giggled and bounced on his backside with delight, a cub that was enjoying the attentions of someone he really liked.  Kuruk tried not to get upset, but he’d really wished to be closer to Chowilawu.  Padding away, he flopped down in Kamchatka’s lie up, trying not to cry.

      “Kuruk know he no sire to Chowilawu cub, but he want is close to him,” he thought miserably.  Kuruk sighed heavily.

       “It’s because Kuruk been a violent bear in the past,”  he thought, “Skirnir, he only play at violence, so jess know he not violent really, but Kuruk,  he do violence thing for real.  Now Chowilawu no want go near him for he got playmate now that has no violence in him at all.  Kuruk no violent bear really, he just want lie on back and drink from bottle like cub.”  Depressed, Kuruk fetched his bottle and padded away into the wood.  Settling down on his back in the clearing, he set to drinking, but that only made him feel worse.  Kuruk felt tears pricking the backs of his eyes.

        “Kuruk adopt little Chowilawu,” he thought miserably, “now he gone to other bear who been in community for only a few hours.”  Kuruk began to sob, almost choking on the water he was trying to drink.

       “Kuruk,” Someone said gently.  Kuruk looked to his right, to find Chowilawu standing beside him.

       “I haven’t abandoned you,” the cub said, “I was only playing with Skirnir, for he is to be my mum’s mate, so I need to get to know him well.  My feelings towards you haven’t changed.  Now suck on that bottle and pedal the air with your hind feet.  Make it good, for I want to touch you while you do it, just like I played with Skirnir and mum as they pretended their paws were stuck together.”   Kuruk looked at Chowilawu.

        “Kuruk sorry he think bad things,” he said, “but he think mama Jess no want Chowilawu play with him any more.  Kuruk think mama Jess warns Chowilawu off Kuruk.”

       “No she hasn’t done anything of the sort,” Chowilawu replied, “I’m coming to you because I could feel your mood as you were watching me and Skirnir playing.  I noticed you, even if the others didn’t.”  Now kick those hind feet, drink busily from the bottle, and then let’s play together shall we?”  Kuruk nodded:

      “How be if Chowilawu do drinking thing first?”  He asked.  Chowilawu picked up the bottle and lay back on the grass, drinking busily.  Of course, his hind feet, now off the ground, went into overdrive, pedalling the air.  Kuruk laughed merrily and grabbed Chowilawu’s left hind foot, tickling his pads, Chowilawu laughing and spraying Kuruk with water.  Kuruk laughed merrily and lay down beside his friend, snatching the bottle from Chowilawu.  This ended in a fight between the two bears for the bottle.  Chowilawu managing to unscrew the top and empty the remainder of the contents over Kuruk’s head.  Laughing and drenched with water, Kuruk rolled Chowilawu over onto his back and tickled the soles of the younger bear’s hind paws, Chowilawu laughing helplessly.

       “You have nice soft padded paws Chowilawu,” Kuruk said.

       “Yours aren’t that hard Kuruk,” Chowilawu said when he could speak.  Kuruk kissed Chowilawu’s nose.

       “Kuruk love Chowilawu dearly,” he said.  Chowilawu smiled broadly:

      “I know,” he replied.  Kuruk stroked Chowilawu’s belly and paws, the cub wriggling and giggling with pleasure.  Kuruk kissed Chowilawu’s nose and paw pads, the cub sighing with pleasure.

      “You’ve got the most wonderful touch,” Chowilawu said softly.  Kuruk smiled broadly.  Lying down on his back, Kuruk let Chowilawu run his paws all over his body, from his nose to his hind feet, Kuruk wiggling his toes as the cub touched them, finally kicking his hind feet in the air as the cub touched his pads.

       “I like the way your pads bunch up when your toes curl,” Chowilawu said to Kuruk, the grizzly bear laughing helplessly.

        “Kuruk love your touch too,” he said.


Meanwhile, Shen and Olga were playing with each other’s paws once again.  Shen had been told of Olga’s mum’s hatred of the paw play games, and of the attack on Ekaterina.  Shen was shocked at the attack on Ekaterina, a shock which grew when Olga showed him the weapon the mama bear had used to attack the polar bear.

        “But that’s long, and heavy too,” Shen said, hardly able to lift the knife sharpener.  Olga Honeydew took the sharpener from Shen and returned it to the kitchen.  Returning to the panda cub, she hugged him and settled down to massaging his right hind paw.

      “I’ve never met Ekaterina,” Shen said, “She sounds a nice bear.”

      “She is,” Olga replied, “she’s kind and gentle and has huge warm paws too.  Of course they would be warm as she’s a polar bear, what with all that fur, but I’m not talking of physical warmth.  She’s lovely natured too.”

       “Did I hear my name mentioned?”  Ekaterina asked, padding into the lie up.  Olga got to her paws and padded to Ekaterina, hugging her tenderly.

       “I was just telling Shen of my mum’s attack on you,” she said.  Ekaterina sighed heavily.

       “I don’t want to talk about it,” she said.  Olga kissed Ekaterina’s nose:

       “Ok I won’t,” she said.

      “Make sure Shen doesn’t either,” Ekaterina warned, “for I’d rather forget it.  It was yet another horrible attack, the likes of which I seem to be the victim of more often than most.  I’ve done nothing to hurt anyone, but one half grown cubs attempted to murder me, and a frustrated mama tried to injury me.”  Chowilawu padded in then, walking up to Ekaterina and touching her left forepaw with his.

       “Ekaterina love?”  He asked.  Ekaterina turned her head to him.

       “Chowilawu,” she said.  Chowilawu smiled at his friend, kissing her nose, then, removing his paw from hers, he kissed the furry toes of her left forepaw, Ekaterina giggling with pleasure.

       “Do you love him Ekaterina?”  Olga asked.  Ekaterina laughed:

       “I don’t know,” she replied, “what do you think?”  Ekaterina then turned to Chowilawu and rolled him over, hugging him hard.

       “I think she does,” Shen replied.  Chowilawu laughed as Ekaterina tickled his belly and paws.  Then they padded away to a lie up to continue their play.  Kuruk watched them padding to the lie up, the male bear smiling broadly.

       “They looks good together,” he thought, “Chowilawu and Ekaterina cubs together.  Lovely.”  Reaching the lie up Ekaterina and Chowilawu settled down, kissing each other’s noses and playing with each other’s paws, stroking pads and playing with each other’s toes.

        “Our paws are very much attracted to each other,” Chowilawu said.  Ekaterina smiled, curling the toes of her right hind paw around those of his left fore, Chowilawu smiling broadly.

       “Now would you release my toes and hold my hind paw in your forepaws, please?”  Chowilawu asked.  Ekaterina smiled and did as her friend asked, Chowilawu laughing merrily and giving her his left hind foot to massage, Ekaterina stroking his pads and playing with his toes.  Chowilawu whipped his foot away suddenly, hugging Ekaterina fiercely.

       “I love playing with you Ekaterina,” he said breathlessly, “I love you so much!”  Ekaterina giggled and snuggled up to him.

      “Same here about you,” she replied, “but let’s play like Pipin and Elsa do, our time for cubs will come soon, but we can play act at cubbings.”

      “It will,” he replied, “and I will wait for you to be ready to have cubs, I will never force you.”  Ekaterina smiled hugely.

       “I could pretend,” she said.  Chowilawu laughed:

       “Like Elsa you mean?”  He asked, “She and Pipin pretend at cubbing at least twice a week.”  Ekaterina kissed his nose:

      “Yes,” she said, “It would bring us closer, or might do so, I don’t know until we try.”  Chowilawu took hold of Ekaterina’s right hind foot, the young female bear curling her toes around his.


Meanwhile, Emily, the only otter in the community, lay in her lie up.  In considerable pain, she writhed and rocked back and fourth, getting up, sitting down, rolling onto her back, kicking all four paws in the air and curling her toes while with pain.  Straining hard, she felt one cub emerging, panting; she wriggled and kicked, feeling the cub slide free.  Panting, she curled her body to clean the first cub up.  This one was male and was tiny too.  Emily felt her muscles contracting, clenching her teeth and closing her eyes she strained hard, feeling the presence of another cub.  This one was bigger, much bigger.  Panting, Emily heaved convulsively, wriggling and straining.  Emily, tears rolling down her face, screamed with pain as the cub became stuck.  Bearing down hard, she found she couldn’t free the cub.  Getting to her paws, she carried her first born cub from the lie up, aware of the cub still inside her.  Contractions still ripping through her, Emily stumbled along to Alaska’s lie up, where the polar bear was lying on her back, examining her paws.

       “I’m in labour and my cub’s stuck!”  Emily wailed.

       “You told me under no circumstances to disturb you,” Alaska said, “You refused help.”  Emily sniffed:

      “I know, I know!”  She wailed, “but, but now, now, I can’t free the cub!”  Squatting, she strained hard.

       owoouw’w’w’w’w’w’w’ch! Owwwwwwwwwwwwww! Owwwwwwwwwwwww! She screamed.  Alaska watched Emily as she turned her tail to her, the otter’s long strong tail straining backwards as she bore down against the cub.  Alaska watched Emily bounce on her toes as she came down from a contraction.

       “Please, please!”  Emily begged.  Alaska gently took hold of the large otter cub, and pulled as Emily pushed.  The cub came into the world inch by inch, Emily grunting, groaning, roaring and yinnying with pain and fear.

       “Just a bit more,” Alaska said gently, Emily closing her eyes and straining with all her might.  Screaming, Emily felt the cub slide free.  Collapsing, she lay exhausted on the rugs.  Her youngest cub, whom she’d put down as she entered the lie up, finding her milk supply and drinking busily.

       “Your second cub is enormous!”  Alaska remarked.  Emily panted:

      “I know that!”  She snapped.

       “It was only an observation!”  Alaska spat, “you refused my help, and I only helped out because the cub would suffer.  Dam you Emily!”  Emily turned on Alaska, but thought better of it when the polar bear reared up on her hind legs.


Meanwhile, Ekaterina and Chowilawu were playing together.  Ekaterina, having been present and touched Bianca as she had her cubs, used her knowledge to re-enact her own cubbing. She set to crawling about, sometimes stopping to pant, curl her toes and groan with pain.  She then sat down and began squeezing the toes and rubbing the pads of her right hind paw with her forepaws, whimpering and whining while Chowilawu stroked the pads and curled toes of her free hind foot.  Ekaterina, getting into her role, rocked back and fourth, moaning, panting and grunting with effort.  Chowilawu then felt her roll onto her back and grab her hind feet with her forepaws, the female bear gripping her hind paws with all her might, writhing and yelling.

      “Push, Ekaterina, Push!”  Chowilawu encouraged.  Ekaterina heaved and panted, pressing her hind feet into her forepaws and pulling back against her hind feet with her forepaws in equal measure as she wriggled and twisted.  Chowilawu stayed paws on with his friend as she fought to deliver her imaginary cub.

      “Nearly, nearly done, owwwwwwwwwwwoooooowwwwwwww!  Nearly here, the cubs, cub’s nearly here Chowilawu, ouch, owwwwwwww!  It hurts!”  Ekaterina complained.  Chowilawu stroked the bunched pads and gripping toes of Ekaterina’s right hind and right forepaw.

       “Just one more push,” he said, “come on Ekaterina, just one more.  Chowilawu kissed Ekaterina’s nose, and the female bear screamed lustily into his face, groaning, grunting and roaring.

       “Ouououoch!  Aouw’w’w’w’w’w’ww!”  She yelled, gasping and panting.

        “The cub’s here Ekaterina, just the body and hind feet, come on!”  Chowilawu encouraged.  Ekaterina grunted and puffed, squeezing her right hind foot with both forepaws.  Then, wriggling, she panted and moaned as the imaginary cub’s hind paws emerged.

       “It’s all done,” Chowilawu said softly.  Ekaterina found herself sobbing with her exertion.

         “I’m exhausted, totally finished!”  She sniffed, and she meant it too.  Chowilawu stroked his friend’s paws.

       “Your paws are hot and damp,” Chowilawu said, leaning down and kissing Ekaterina’s fore and hind paws one by one.  Ekaterina, tears rolling down her face, hugged Chowilawu tightly.

       “”Thank you Chowilawu,” she said.  Chowilawu buried his face in her shoulder, smelling her increased scent and feeling the heat of her efforts.

       “You enjoy yourselves?”  Kamchatka asked.  Ekaterina turned her ear to her mama.

       “I’m sorry mama,” she said, “I felt I had to do that.”  Kamchatka crawled to her daughter cub and hugged her.

      “I re-enact cubbings too,” she replied, “and it would be good if you could help me.  Alaska’s not really into it, and you seem to be into it well enough.”  Ekaterina smiled:

      “I enjoyed it,” she replied, “ever since I witnessed my first cubbing, I wanted to help.”  Kamchatka held her cub’s forepaws in hers.

      “I’m glad you want to help,” she said.

       “How did I do?”  Ekaterina asked.  Kamchatka kissed her nose:

       “You did wonderfully,” her mum replied.

      “I think she did fantastically,” Chowilawu said, “it felt real!”  Ekaterina smiled:

      “I put my heart and soul into it,” she replied.

      “You did,” Kamchatka replied honestly.

      “Ouch Ekaterina,” Jess said padding in, “that was too real!”  Ekaterina smiled:

       “I wanted to have that cub,” she replied.

       “I know how things can take over,” Kamchatka replied, “and you let things take their course Ekaterina.  That was wonderful.”  Ekaterina smiled:

      “I like the game,” she said.

      “I got paws on with Ekaterina,” Chowilawu said.  I touched the pads of her hind paws while she curled her toes, and even managed once to touch her hind feet as she pushed against her imaginary cub.  Ekaterina was really pushing mama jess, really pushing.  Jess looked at her cub.

       “It’s only a game,” she said, “You are not having cubs yet!”  Chowilawu smiled:

       “I know this,” he said, “and so does Ekaterina.  We were playing mum, that’s all.”

       “I want to do it again,” Ekaterina said.  Jess scowled at her:

       “No!”  She snapped.

       “I say let her if she wants,” Kamchatka said, “its only harmless fun jess.  Maybe a little playing with your paws and bracing them against something would do you good too.”  Jess looked at Ekaterina, who was already lying on her back, her hind feet drawn up.  Holding her hind paws with her fore, Ekaterina wriggled a bit to settle, and then took a few deep breaths to ready her body.

       “Now, now got to push, hard too!”  She gasped, pressing hard into her forepaws with her hind.  Sitting up, Ekaterina grabbed her right hind foot with both her forepaws and squeezed it hard, squealing with effort and pain.

       Ouawowwwwwwwwwwwww, Owwww!”  She screamed.  Panting, she desperately rubbed the sole pad of her right hind paw, the toes of which were curled as hard as she could manage.  Panting and gasping, Ekaterina squeezed the toes of her right hind foot hard with her left forepaw while holding her right hind paw in a vice like grip with her right fore.

      “Ow!  Ow! Ow, ow, ow!  Owoooooooowwwwwwwwww!”  She yelled, rocking back and fourth.  Snarling, she bounced about vigorously on her backside, trying to free the cub inside her.  Wriggling and twisting, Ekaterina howled with effort.

       “I must try harder!”  She sobbed, bracing her hind paw hard into her forepaws.  Half drawing her legs to her, Ekaterina leant forward and gripped the toes of both hind feet in her forepaws and squeezed them hard, roaring with exertion.  Wriggling, Ekaterina freed her hind paws from her fore and rolled about a bit, kicking the air with all four feet and growling fiercely.  Then, panting, she sat back on her heels, her forepaws taking her weight.

       “All done,” Ekaterina gasped, while Chowilawu stroked the soles of her hind paws, Ekaterina wiggling her toes with pleasure.

       “I saw a cub having a good time,” Kamchatka said.

      “I saw a cub pretending to have a cub,” jess snapped.

       “All she was doing was bracing her hind paws against her forepaws, playing with her toes, massaging her pads and squeezing her toes,”  Kamchatka said, “that’s what you used to do as a cub jess.”  Jess looked away, her mum was right.

      “Ok, I did, I did,” she confessed.  Ekaterina giggled:

      “All my whimpering and whining is me getting into the sensation of paw pads on paw pads.  I push against my forepaws with hay hind, and I want to push harder, that’s all I mean when I say I need to push or need to try harder.  I can’t be imagining having a cub, for how would I know what a cubbing was?  I could be play acting having a cub, but none of its real jess.  I don’t want cubs, well not yet, I’m just playing with my paws in an energetic way.  When I said I wanted to do it again, my paws wanted to be played with, and I was obeying them.  Maybe when you feel your paws telling you they need stimulation, you should try playing with them and see if you get carried away like I do.  I might play act at cubbing, but deep down, I don’t want cubs.  I just want to hold my hind feet in my forepaws and rub my pads while curling my toes and squealing about it.  When you and Skirnir played at your paws being stuck together, noone thought that was real, or that you really wanted to he trapped.  It was a game, and teat’s how it is with Chowilawu and me.  Now tell me, does a cub learn to play with his or her paws before they have cubs of their own or during the labour process?”

      “Before mostly,” jess admitted.

      “There you go,” Ekaterina replied, “take my paw play as just rougher paw massage.  It’s frantic, wriggling play, but it’s not hurting anyone.  If Chowilawu was forcing me to play like that, that would be different, but he’s not.  Do you go after Nanuq Junior for recreating cubbings, something he sometimes does?”  Jess shook her head:

     “No,” she admitted.

      “Then I’ll try it shall I?”  Chowilawu asked.  Jess snapped:


      “But I can’t yet have cubs, so how can I be recreating a cubbing?”  Chowilawu asked.  Jess couldn’t answer that one.

       “I’d like to touch you while you have a fight with your hind feet Chowilawu,” Ekaterina said.

      “First of all, would you fight with yours?”  Chowilawu asked.  Ekaterina crawled about a bit, then suddenly rolled onto her backside and grabbed her right hind foot in forepaws, rubbing her pads and wiggling her toes.  Then, snarling, she rolled onto her back and kicked with her fore and hind feet, rolling about and eventually getting herself into a tangle.  Snarling, she tried to free her forepaws from the grasping toes of her hind, but found she couldn’t.

      “I’m stuck!”  She whimpered, Chowilawu padding round and investigating the situation with his paws, something Ekaterina enjoyed hugely, if her sigh of contentment was anteing to go by.

      “I’ll rub the soles of your hind feet,” Chowilawu suggested, “maybe that’ll help.”  Ekaterina giggled:

     “Try it,” she said.  Chowilawu did, and the toes of Ekaterina’s hind feet released their grip on those of her forepaws.

     “Thanks,” she said.  Chowilawu kissed the pads of all four of Ekaterina’s warm, slightly damp paws, the female bear laughing merrily.

      “You can see Ekaterina and Chowilawu want to play together,” Kamchatka said to jess, “so why not let them?  They mean each other no harm.  Plus, playing with each other’s paws breeds trust, and friendship too.  For you would never give your paw to someone you didn’t trust now would you?”  Jess had to admit she wouldn’t.

      “Um, no,” she replied, “and now you come to put it that way, Ekaterina and Chowilawu do look rather contented.”

      “You and patch used to role play a similar game as cubs,” Kamchatka said, “You have pretended to have a cub, once.  You quite enjoyed it too if I remember correctly.”  Jess looked at her mum:

      “I do enjoy playing with my paws, and letting patch play with them too,”  she said, “I’ve also played with patch’s paws,,,”  then jess realised her stance was untenable.

       “I’ve been stupid over this,” she admitted shame faced.  Chowilawu turned his face to his mum:

     “Does that mean me and Ekaterina can play now?”  He asked.  Jess smiled and replied:

       “Yes.”  Ekaterina hugged Chowilawu.

       “I loved it when you stroked my hind paws while I sat back on my heels,” she whispered, “that felt wonderful!”

       “Your paws feel as if they want mine to touch them,” Chowilawu said.  Ekaterina giggled:

       “My paws want you to touch them, and their owner wants you to touch them also, and for a long time and over and over again too.”

       “What do my paws tell yours?”  Chowilawu asked.

      “Why not let my paws touch yours and see what they say?”  Ekaterina suggested.  Chowilawu rolled onto his back and Ekaterina touched all four of his paws with hers.

       “My paws want yours!”  Chowilawu exclaimed as the toes of all four paws curled involuntarily, those of his right hind foot catching hold of those of Ekaterina’s left fore.  Ekaterina laughed merrily.

      “I love your paws!”  Ekaterina said, touching all four of Chowilawu’s paws.

        “I feel you love their owner too,” Chowilawu said.  Ekaterina kissed his nose:

       “I think you’re right,” she replied.  Chowilawu smiled, sighing deeply with contentment and pleasure.

       “I think we’ll leave these two to it,” Kamchatka said to Jess.

      “But what if they start recreating cubbings again?”  Jess asked.

      “If they do, it will be in a spirit of cooperation and mutual play,” Kamchatka replied, “acting out what they experience in life is part of cubhood, and they have both experienced cubbings, Chowilawu has been present at sheen’s birth, Ekaterina at the births of Snowy and Tommy.  Let them re-enact the things which make them feel good.”

       “it’s only play,” Nanuq junior said, padding into the lie up, “I think playing with your own paws and getting involved in it to a degree that you are whimpering, growling and roaring in your effort to press your hind paws into your forepaws, or curl your toes that bit harder, or pull back against your hind feet while pushing hard into your forepaws, is good too.  Making a lot of noise is wonderful also.”  Kamchatka looked at Nanuq Junior and smiled at him.

       “Want to show Chowilawu how it’s done?”  She asked.  Nanuq junior laughed:

       “I think he already knows,” the large bear replied.  Chowilawu giggled and waved all four paws in the air growling theatrically.  The cub then grabbed his hind feet with his forepaws and, once he had a firm grip, began to wriggle convulsively, panting, snarling and gasping with effort.

      “I want to free my forepaws from my hind but I can’t, I can’t!”  Chowilawu complained.  Wriggling, he sat up, able to keep his forepaws holding his hind.  Puffing, he dragged the toes of his right forepaw off the sole pad of his right hind, panting and whimpering as if pulling the toes away from the sole pad of his hind foot hurt him.  Snarling, he suddenly tore his paw free!  Ekaterina, crawling over to her friend, massaged his now free right fore and hind paws, Chowilawu whimpering with mock fear and exhaustion.

       “Come on,” Ekaterina whispered, “free that other forepaw.  You know you can do it Chowilawu.”  Chowilawu massaged the toes of his left hind foot with his right forepaw, gasping as they curled hard.

       “Oooh!”  He panted, “oooah!”

        “It’s okay,” Ekaterina said softly, gently stroking the damp pads of her friend’s right hind foot.

      “Now, now I must, must try and free my other forepaw,” Chowilawu gasped.  Ekaterina felt Chowilawu working the toes of his right forepaw between the toes of his left fore and pads of his left hind.  Working his left forepaw free of his left hind, Chowilawu gasped and snarled with effort.

      “Now how do you feel?”  Ekaterina asked.  Chowilawu panted and whimpered with fear.

       “Stroke my paws Ekaterina,” he gasped.  As she stroked his paws, Chowilawu’s toes went into spasm over and over again, the cub wriggling and growling with discomfort every time the toes of all four paws curled tightly.  Chowilawu held the tension in his paws for thirty seconds or so, and then relaxed, panting.  Then, with Ekaterina stroking his pads and toes, Chowilawu’s paws would go into spasm again, the cub squealing with fear as his toes curled, and then growling with discomfort as his toes refused to relax, finally panting with relief as his toes relaxed.

       “Just don’t fight the urge to curl your toes,” Ekaterina said.  Chowilawu panted, wriggling into a sitting posture, then stroking the pads and toes of both hind paws with the toes of both forepaws, the inevitable spasm overtaking him and causing Chowilawu’s forepaws to clamp around his right hind foot, the toes of his hind feet curling hard.

      “Ow, ow, ow! Ouch! Ow’w’w’w’w’w’w’w’w’w’w’w’w’w’w’ouch!”  Chowilawu roared. wriggling and bouncing on his backside as his paws took their revenge on him.

       “Pant Chowilawu pant, breathe deeply, it won’t last forever!”  Ekaterina encouraged.  Chowilawu whimpered and whined, puffed and blew, then gasped as his forepaws let go of his right hind foot.

       “Ow Ekaterina,” he said sobbing, “It hurts!”

       “I know it does,” Ekaterina said softly, kissing his nose, Chowilawu whimpering then roaring as the toes of all four paws curled hard.

       “Ouououoch! Owwwwwwwwwwww, oooooooowwwwwwwwww!”  Chowilawu yelled, “I want this to stop now!””  Ekaterina gently massaged the bunched pads of her friend’s right hind foot, the massage relieving the tension in Chowilawu’s paw, the male bear writhing with discomfort as the release of one paw released all of his paws, the release of tension making him feel tired.

       “I want this to stop now,” Chowilawu gasped, “I’m finished!”  Ekaterina hugged him hard.

        “You got as carried away as I did during the mock cubbing,” she said.  Chowilawu smiled and snuggled into his friend’s hug.

      “I loved every minute,” he said.

      “Your paws are so cute, from toes to heels they’re gorgeous,” Ekaterina said, “even cuter when your toes are curled and sole pads bunched up.”  Chowilawu grinned:

       “I thought you might like that,” he said, “you were cute when you held your hind feet with your forepaws.  I like that very much.”  Ekaterina giggled:

      “I love playing with your paws,” she said.

       “I love playing with your paws too,” Chowilawu said softly.

       “I love having my paws played with by an expert in playing with paws,” Chowilawu said.

       “I know the expert who I want to play with my paws every day,” Ekaterina replied, “and I’m hugging him.”

     “I’m being hugged by the one whom I want to play with my paws every day too,” Chowilawu replied.  Chowilawu giggled and kissed Ekaterina’s nose.

       “Our paws are wonderful things,” she said...  Chowilawu wriggled with pleasure.

       “I love you Ekaterina,” he whispered, Ekaterina kissing his nose.

        “I love you,” she whispered.  Chowilawu laughed merrily.

       “I won’t let my mum tell me what I can and can’t do where my paws are concerned,”  Chowilawu said, “if I want to play with them, or let others play with them, or use them to play with other bear’s paws, I will do that endlessly if I and other bears wish me to.”  Ekaterina kissed his nose again.

      “Let’s crawl about a bit, and then stroke each other’s paws a bit?”  Chowilawu suggested.  Ekaterina smiled and kissed his nose:

       “I would like that,” she said.  Chowilawu rolled Ekaterina onto her back and stroked her paws.  Ekaterina, amercing herself in the sensation of Chowilawu’s touch on her pads, wriggled with pleasure.

     “I love when you wriggle with pleasure,” Chowilawu said, Ekaterina smiling broadly.

       “I wriggle with pleasure quite often,” she said, “and I writhe with intense emotions too when attempting to re-enact a cubbing, or using my forepaws to play with my hind feet.  Ekaterina sat up, Chowilawu touching her from her nose to the heels of her hind paws, Ekaterina smiling and then giggling as Chowilawu’s paws touched the pads of her hind feet.  Ekaterina curled the toes of both hind feet, the toes of Chowilawu’s left forepaw caught in those of her right hind, those of his right fore touching the sole pad of her left hind foot as she curled her toes.

       “I love the way your pads bunch up when you curl your toes Ekaterina,” Chowilawu said.  Ekaterina laughed merrily:

       “I love you playing with my paws while I curl my toes,” she replied.  Chowilawu laughed merrily.

       “I love you Ekaterina Adsila,” he said.  Ekaterina laughed at him:

       “Only mama calls me Ekaterina Adsila, and that’s when she’s angry,” she said.  Chowilawu kissed her nose.

       “No matter what your mama calls you,” he said, “I love your name Ekaterina.  Pure blossom.  That sounds almost as good as your given name.  Ekaterina returned his kiss.

       “You are lovely,” she said to him.  Chowilawu laughed merrily.

      “I   “I love you Ekaterina,” he said.  Jess, listening in, was about to protest, when Kamchatka, also listening in, held up a paw, even going so far as to place her paw over her daughter cub’s mouth.

       “No jess,” Kamchatka said, “your cub knows what he wants, their love is true.”  Jess subsided, her protest dying in her throat.

      “Watch them Jess, watch them play, the respect for each other, the love for each other, the way he handles her and she him.  Celebrate their friendship, even their love.  It’s only right.”  Jess looked at her mama.

       “Ekaterina’s a lot older than him,” she said.

       “She is, but they know they cannot have cubs yet, and he respects that.  Chowilawu’s not your typical male bear Jess.”  Jess deferred to her mama’s knowledge and sat huffily down on the rug.

       “Of course I want them to be happy,” Jess replied, “but they’re so young!”

      “They’re not as young as they look,” Kamchatka thought, but said, “Listen to them Jess, Listen to their play, watch them, enjoy their love for each other.”  Jess nodded.


“Let’s go to the pool,” Ekaterina suggested, springing to her feet and falling over them.  Chowilawu laughed at his friend’s antics and helped her to her feet.

     “Let’s go,” he said, letting her rest her head on his shoulder.  Following him, Ekaterina padded to the pool complex, the two bears laughing as their fur and paws were tickled from the side and beneath by the jets of water which cleaned their fur and paws before they entered the pool complex.  The wave machine was in operation, and the two bears took their station on the rock where Ekaterina had last lain before she’d got soaked by the tsunami.  Now she and Chowilawu took their place on the rock, enjoying the feeling of the water washing over their hind paws as they sat on the rock.

      “I love this,” Chowilawu said, cuddling up to Ekaterina and taking her left forepaw in both of his.  Ekaterina rested her head on his shoulder, closing her eyes and sighing contentedly.

       “I love it too,” she said softly, sighing with contentment as she snuggled up to her friend.  She felt Chowilawu snuggling closer, and his presence felt fantastic.

      “Don’t leave me alone Chowilawu,” Ekaterina begged.  Chowilawu kissed her nose, then kissed her left forepaw which he held in both of his.

        “I won’t unless you want me to,” he replied.  Ekaterina kissed Chowilawu’s nose, then kissed the paws holding hers.

       “I love you Chowilawu,” Ekaterina said softly.  A wave splashed over their hind legs, the two bears laughing merrily and flicking water with their toes.

       “Now let’s slide into the water and swim about a bit shall we?”  Chowilawu suggested.  Ekaterina kissed his nose and guided him into the water.

      “Swim my love,” she said, giving him a push.  Chowilawu swam with three paws, the fourth, his right forepaw holding Ekaterina’s left fore.  But by synchronising six paws between them, they swam across the pool with ease.  Leaving the pool, the two bears rose to their hind paws, the waves washing over their hind feet as they hugged each other.

       “How about if we go into the wood?”  Ekaterina asked.  Chowilawu padded after his sweetheart.  Venturing into the wood, the two bears found the slope down which Alaska had rolled before finding older Olga giving birth to Helga.  The bears rolled down the slope and then cuddled up to each other in the clearing.

       “Let’s make a big bundle of loving fur,” Ekaterina said, pulling her friend down onto the woodland floor and curling around him, the two bears tucking in their paws and burying their heads in each other’s fur.

       “Now I hope there are no stray paw pads on show,” Ekaterina said, “for if there is a hind foot free, the pads will be tickled by wind, or worse by a cub.”  Ekaterina and Chowilawu snuggled down together, and were soon dozing peacefully.  Tommy, padding nearby, spotted the two bears.  Padding silently up to them, he focused on Ekaterina’s right hind foot, the pads of which she couldn’t quite protect.  Tommy tickled Ekaterina’s toes and sole pad with the toes of his right forepaw, the female bear waking with a start and whipping her foot away!

      “Hey, stop!”  She yelled, very angry.

      “Ekaterina,” Tommy said, sitting down.  Ekaterina rounded on the tiger cub.

      “You pain in the neck!”  Ekaterina remonstrated.

       “I didn’t mean to be a pest,” Tommy protested:

      “Um, ok, so you tickle my foot, and that’s called being gentle is it?”  Ekaterina asked.  Tommy kissed her nose:

       “I’m sorry Ekaterina,” he said contritely.  Chowilawu, now awake, crawled to his friend and encountered the tiger cub.

      “Chowilawu, this is Tommy,” Ekaterina said.  Chowilawu shook the tiger cub’s paw.

      “Nice to meet you, even if you did wake my mate by tickling her paw,” he said, “how did you two meet anyway, for I know it’s not usual to tickle a stranger’s paw?”

      “Ekaterina helped me into the world,” Tommy replied.

       “You mean she was present at your birth?”  Chowilawu asked.  Tommy smiled and replied that was true.

       “He got stuck,” Ekaterina said, “I helped his mother give natural if noisy birth to him.”  Tommy giggled:

     “Now the tiger with the big paws meets the bear with the big paws!”  He said.  Kuruk padded up to the group and dumped a bucket of salmon beside Ekaterina and Chowilawu.

       “Salmon from mama,” he said.  Ekaterina grinned, for she knew what this meant.

       “Let’s take it away and eat in private,” she said to Chowilawu.

      “Can I have some?”  Tommy asked.  Ekaterina laughed merrily and shook her head, pushing the cub to his feet.

      “Go away Tommy,” she said, “This is time for me and Chowilawu.

       “I’ll tell my mum what you two are doing!”  He teased.

      “See if we care,” Chowilawu said, “It’s not as if our relationship is secret.”  Bianca padded into the clearing and stepped on her son’s tail, Tommy whipping round, snarling and spitting.

      “Oi mum that hurt!”  He yelled.

      “Leave these two alone Tommy,” she said, dragging him away.  Tommy dragged his paws, Bianca half lifting him off his feet.

      “Come now!”  She commanded.  Tommy growled, mewed and spat his defiance.  Bianca dragged her son cub away from Ekaterina and Chowilawu, the bears listening to the sound of the cub’s dragging paws reseeding into the distance.

       “That tiger’s got nerve!”  Chowilawu snarled.

       “Yes he has,” Ekaterina agreed.  Chowilawu hugged his friend.

       “My mum doesn’t like our relationship,” he whispered.

       “Your mum can scream all she likes,” Ekaterina replied, “we love each other and that’s that.”  Ekaterina and Chowilawu ate the salmon Kamchatka had given them, the salmon recognition of their relationship.

       “Your mama doesn’t mind us getting together then,” Chowilawu said.  Ekaterina laughed:

      “That’s the understatement of the year,” she replied.  Chowilawu and Ekaterina started eating the salmon, enjoying the fresh fish.  Chowilawu had lifted a morsel of fish from the bucket and was lifting it to his mouth when a paw snatched it away from him!  Snarling, he turned on Ekaterina.

       “You need not steal eat my fish!”  He yelled at her.

        “I didn’t steal your fish!”  Ekaterina snapped back.  Chowilawu and Ekaterina got back to their meal, and this time Ekaterina lost her fish.  Snarling, she whipped round, but couldn’t hear or smell anyone.  Ekaterina turned back to the bucket, to find a paw other than Chowilawu’s fishing in it.  She recognised the paw, and leapt upon the fish stealer.  Tommy screamed as Ekaterina floored him.  Twenty stones of very pissed off polar bear slammed into Tommy’s body, Ekaterina careful not to crush him, only knock him down.  The tiger cub screamed and screamed as Ekaterina pulled his tail, whacked him with her paws and nipped his ears.

       “You will not steal our fish!”  She screamed.  Chowilawu joining in by stamping on Tommy’s tail!

      “Ow you two, ow! Ow, ow, ouch!”  Tommy whined.

      “You took advantage of our disability to steal our fish you horrid creature!”  Chowilawu screamed.

        “It was only a joke!”  Tommy whimpered.

      “No it bloody wasn’t!”  Ekaterina yelled, “You stole from us Tommy!  That is a crime!”  Tommy howled as he was rolled over and pinned beneath Ekaterina’s angry paws.

        “You will not steal our food!”  She roared.

        “Ok, ok!  I’m sorry, so, so sorry!”  Tommy whined, “I beg you Ekaterina, don’t hurt me!”  Ekaterina left off, disgusted.

      “If only you were a bit bigger I could really smack you one!”  Ekaterina snarled.  Tommy tried to roar with anger, but all that came out was an infantile roar, which had Ekaterina laughing helplessly.

       “You can’t roar!”  She teased.  Tommy slashed at her with his paw, angry with the female bear, which rolled him over and stuck her tongue out at him, making Tommy laugh despite his anger.

       “Now get lost little one,” Ekaterina said, pushing Tommy to his feet and making sure he left the clearing.


Bianca, having been informed of the goings on in the clearing, lay in wait for her son cub, who was escorted back to the house by Kuruk.  Tommy, unable to slink out of this one, lay whining on the floor while Bianca screamed at him.

       “You do not steal!”  She roared, smacking her cub with her paws.  Tommy curled up, screaming and begging.

       “I won’t do it again mama, I promise, I promise!”  He wailed.

        “You’d better not!”  Bianca snarled, very upset.  Tommy faced his mother:

       “Why are you so upset about what I did?”  He asked.

      “Stealing from others is very wrong, and stealing from ones who cannot defend themselves to the same degree you can is worse, and stealing a present is worse than that, and stealing from the one who helped you into the world is even more awful!”  Bianca yelled.

      “Kuruk want smack Tommy tiger too,” Kuruk grunted.

      “Go ahead, wallop him!”  Bianca invited, “maybe he’ll learn more than he does when I talk to him!”  Kuruk picked Tommy up by his hind paws and then got to his hind feet, swinging the tiger cub round, the cub screaming loudly and thrashing the air with his forepaws.

       “Put me down, put me down!”  Tommy squealed, “Kuruk, put, put, put me down!  I’m sorry; I promise I’ll never do it again!  I’ll never steal from anyone ever again!  I’ll do anything you want, anything you want me to do!”  Kuruk put the tiger down after ten revolutions.  Tommy covered his eyes with his forepaws, fearful he might be sick.

       “I feel dreadful!”  He moaned.

       “Kuruk want you go to Ekaterina and apologise to her big time, tiger cub Tommy roll onto back and present belly and paws to Ekaterina like submissive tiger.”  Tommy looked sick:

       “I’m gonna be sick!”  He wailed, vomiting onto the rug.

       “Kuruk think Tommy disgraceful animal!”  Kuruk snapped.  Tommy crawled away, very angry and frustrated.  Washing his face and paws in the shower room, he padded outside to where Ekaterina and Chowilawu were playing in the clearing.  Tommy made a huge play of approaching the two bears, Ekaterina leaping on him and pinning him down.

       “So what have you got to say?”  She asked.  Tommy squirmed beneath her paws.

       “I’m sorry Ekaterina!”  Ekaterina snorted with disgust.

      “Show me,” she growled.  Releasing the tiger cub, Ekaterina felt him roll onto his back and present her with his large fat paws.  Ekaterina touched Tommy’s nose, belly, legs, paw pads, toes and tail.  Then, holding each one of his paws, Ekaterina asked Tommy to:

      “Curl your toes as hard as you can Tommy,” Ekaterina said, and after a minute or so she told him, “Now relax them.  Tommy complied, Ekaterina asking the cub to curl and relax his toes twice more, Tommy panting and whimpering with discomfort.  Once that was done, she tapped gently on his belly with the toes of both forepaws, then invited Chowilawu to come and touch the tiger cub.  Chowilawu padded up to Ekaterina and took her place.  Tommy wriggled with discomfort as the male bear touched him.

       “Touch his nose, tail, legs, belly, pads and toes,” Ekaterina suggested.  Chowilawu did, Tommy growling with indignation.

       “I hate this!”  He mewed.

      “You hate this because you are forced to do things you don’t want to.  Forced to do time for your crime,” Chowilawu said.  Tommy curled and relaxed the toes of all four paws on command, just as he’d done for Ekaterina, the male bear touching his pads and toes as the tiger kept his toes curled until asked to relax them, something which was hard for the cub.  Once Chowilawu had explored Tommy as much as he wanted, he dismissed the cub.  Tommy, his paws aching from curling his toes for over six minutes in all.  Whimpering, Tommy crawled away to sulk.  Passing Ekaterina, Tommy snarled at her.  the she bear reaching out a paw and touching his right forepaw, then his leg, then his shoulder, body, right hind leg and then the pads and toes of his right hind foot.  Tommy stopped dead, tears filling his eyes.

         “Ekaterina,” he choked, “Ekaterina,” Ekaterina waited, and finally, Tommy, crying like a cub, buried his face in her shoulder, clinging to her with fierce strength.

        “I was only playing a game,” Tommy sobbed, “I’m a tiger, tigers stalk things; I thought you’d understand when I swiped your salmon.”  Ekaterina knew why the tiger had broken down entirely.

        “You’re a tiger,” Ekaterina said, “and you’re finding your power as a tiger, but it is not fair to steal the food of other community members.  Do you know why mama Kamchatka gave me and Chowilawu the fish?”  Tommy shook his head:

       “No, No I don’t, my mum said it was a present, but what for?”  Ekaterina felt the tiger’s hot paws holding her, and the wet tears of his remorse.

        “The fish was a present from my mum to me and Chowilawu to celebrate our love for each other,” Ekaterina replied.  Tommy gulped hard:

       “Oh, ok,” he sniffed, “I’m sorry for stealing the salmon.”

       “Did you eat it?”  Chowilawu asked.  Tommy looked at the male bear.

      “No,” he replied, “I dropped it some way off.”

      “At least that’s something,” Chowilawu grunted:

       “I didn’t want to eat the salmon; I just wanted to have some.  It’s cubbish I know.”

      “Ekaterina,” Chowilawu asked, “What did you do to make this reprobate cub see sense?”

       “She, she stroked me from my right forepaw to my hind,”  Tommy replied, “it, it, it was, was,”  he lay on the floor, balling his paws into fists and rubbing his eyes hard, trying not to cry, but he couldn’t stem the flow, “it was just like how she touched me when I was born.  It brought back memories, memories of how much I love Ekaterina, and a realisation of wrong I’d been to steal from her,” Tommy sobbed.  Chowilawu padded forward and touched the pads of Tommy’s right hind foot, the tiger pressing his toes into the bear’s pads.

       “He’s genuine,” Chowilawu said to his mate.  Ekaterina smiled:

       “I know he is,” she replied, “I knew that from the minute I touched his right hind foot and he stopped and turned to me.  I knew what he’d felt in my touch.

         “You did something I could not do,” Bianca said sadly, padding into the clearing.

       “Show your cub the footage of his birth,” Ekaterina said.

        “I have,” Bianca replied, “he can’t watch, he screams as loudly as I did.”

       “I do, it’s horrible, horrible!”  Tommy sobbed, “That’s also why I got upset when you touched my body like you did Ekaterina.  I knew how much effort both of you had put in to deliver me.”  Bianca smiled at her cub:

       “Now tell me what Ekaterina and Chowilawu made you do as punishment for stealing their salmon?”  Bianca asked.  Tommy rubbed his face with hot paws and looked at his mother.

       “They made me roll onto my back, like this,”  he replied, rolling onto his back, “then they asked me to curl my toes hard, like this,”  he continued, curling the toes of all four paws as hard as he could., which I did  until they told me to relax.  That was hard mum, really hard.  They touched my hind and forepaws while I curled my toes hard, and that was difficult for me too.”  Bianca looked at her son cub.

       “You won’t steal from anyone ever again will you,” she said.  Tommy looked at his mum, then at Ekaterina.

       “No,” he replied, “I promise.”  Tommy thrust his paw into Ekaterina’s.

      “Please, please, would you massage my paws and play with my toes?”  Ekaterina smiled and took Tommy’s left forepaw in both her forepaws, the tiger cub mewing with pleasure.

       “Would you stroke me from nose to tail?”  Tommy asked.  Ekaterina began to do just that, massaging Tommy from his whiskers to the pads and toes of his hind paws.  Tommy curled and stretched his toes, extending and retracting his claws, extending them when his toes relaxed and retracting them as he curled them tightly.

       “This feels wonderful!”  He mewed, wriggling with pleasure.  Bianca looked at her cub.

       “I remember giving painful, slow, screaming birth to you,” she mewed.  Tommy stopped trying to get Ekaterina to stroke his right hind foot and looked at his mum:

        “I’m sorry I caused you so much pain,” he said.  Bianca sat down, looking very uncomfortable.

       “I, I can’t almost feel it now,” she panted.  Tommy watched his mum stretch full length on the grass, her paws pedalling the air.

        “Hookah,” she whimpered.

       “Relax Bianca,” Ekaterina said softly.  Bianca pedalled the air with all four massive paws, panting and snarling.

       “One big screaming roar, that’s all I want,” Bianca gasped.

       “Go on mum, give it some!”  Tommy mewed.

       “Touch my paw Tommy,” Bianca whimpered, Tommy crawling to his mum and touching the pads of her right forepaw.  Bianca took a deep breath, clenched her teeth, curled the toes of all four paws and arched her back, growling at first, snarling, and then roaring with effort.  Screaming, she beat the air with her paws!

       “I can do it, I can do it!”  Bianca screamed, kicking and rolling about, ending on her back, kicking the air with all four massive feet.

        “Ow, ooooooooowwwwwwwww! Ouch, ouch!  Ow, ow! Ow! Owouch!”  She yelled.  As soon as Bianca’s effort had started, the tigress lay back, whimpering and sobbing.

       “I can’t watch the video of my birth,” Tommy said, “or I couldn’t, but now, now I might be able to.  Now mum’s got rid of her fear and pain.

       “I’ll never forget the pain,” Bianca said, “and if you see me sitting on the floor with the toes of all four paws curled into the rugs while wriggling and switching my tail from side to side, you’ll know I’m reliving the pain.  Tommy, your entrance into the world made Whitie’s easier, I’m sure of that.”

        “She came quickly didn’t she mum,” Tommy mewed.  Bianca smiled:

      “She did,” she said, “I nearly didn’t get to Ekaterina.  One small contraction, then a huge one, and she was half way out.  I staggered along the passage, struggling not to push down.  I just turned tail when I reached Ekaterina and, squatting down while bracing all four paws, pushed down gently, delivering Whitie into Ekaterina’s paws.  That wasn’t so painful, as she just slipped into the world, though Snowy’s birth was hard, as she was the first.  So I had to push hard to give birth to my first cub, push hardest to deliver my second and then had an easy time with my third.  I don’t regret a thing.”

       “I can still hear your screams on the video as you strained hard to deliver me into the world,” Tommy said.  Bianca kissed his nose.

       “I would have screamed until I had no voice,” she said, “but even I am amazed at how loud and          what sounds I made during my efforts to give birth to you.  Everything from a snarl to a roar and an outright scream of pain and effort.”

        “Ekaterina screamed like you did when pretending to give birth to a cub,” Chowilawu said.

       “I like someone who gets practise early,” Bianca replied.  Ekaterina grinned hugely.

        “I love getting into the job of cubbing,”  Ekaterina said, “when I learned from you Bianca, what it was to give birth to a cub, I was fascinated by the process.  How intense, how tactile a process it is!”

       “I know of tigers that actually enjoy the sensations and effort of giving birth,” Pakshalika said, padding into the clearing.  Pakshalika, Tinka’s cub, was now a beautiful tigress.

      “You mean you enjoy it,” Bianca replied smiling.  Pakshalika looked away.

     “How did you know?”  She asked.

       “You’ve had two cubs in secret,” Bianca said.  Pakshalika smiled:

       “But they’ve come out okay haven’t they?”  She asked.  Bianca kissed her nose.

      “They have,” she replied, “and I am the only one who saw the births of both your cubs.  You had one cub each time.  Pakshalika smiled broadly.

       “You’re right,” she replied, and they’ve gone into the general population.”  Pakshalika remembered her own birth; Tinka’s wriggling, straining effort, and her fascination with her own birth and the births of other cubs.  Pakshalika refused all pain relief and was quite open about her enjoyment of the birth process.

       “Is it wrong to enjoy giving birth so much?”  Pakshalika asked.  Bianca smiled and shook her head.

       “Do you enjoy mating?”  She asked.  Pakshalika nodded:

      “Whitepaw has helped with that,” she replied, “but he wants no contact with the cubs, which I don’t mind.  Yes I like mating.”

       “Mating and birth are intense experiences, and if you like mating and giving birth to cubs, then that’s fine,” Bianca replied, “your cubs have grown up to be gentle tigers Pakshalika.”  Pakshalika smiled and rolled onto her back, waving her huge paws in the air.

        “I curled these toes as hard as I could, my claws extended and pads damp with sweat.  I roared and screamed with open mouth and tightly closed eyes, wriggling and screaming to the heavens with every contraction and every effort I had to make.  Growling and groaning as I pushed down hard, screaming and roaring as I endured involuntary contractions.  Panting, I felt the cub emerging, from the pads of forepaws, to the cub’s head, straining to push the cub’s head out, then pedalling the air with my paws while panting and grunting as I felt the cub’s body emerge, catching my breath and bearing down hard to deliver the cub’s hind legs, relaxing after, feeling the cub’s hind legs and feet emerging nice and gently.”  Ekaterina could hear Pakshalika’s enthusiasm for her job.  She’d appointed herself the tigress that produced cubs regularly and raised them so they could be the next patrollers, the next stealthy security teams.   Pakshalika wriggled and squirmed across the grass to Ekaterina, the bear hearing the tiger’s puffing, panting, scrabbling approach.

       “Pakshalika’s wriggling across the clearing trying not to use her paws,” Bianca said, “it looks hilarious.  She’s throwing herself about the toes of all four paws curled and teeth clenched in effort, and now she’s nearer you than me.  Pakshalika, now hot and panting, reached out with her paws, Ekaterina pulling the tigress towards her.  Pakshalika mewing with effort and exhaustion. 

     “Stroke my paws, please!”  Pakshalika begged, panting and drenched with sweat.  Ekaterina smiled and massaged Pakshalika’s paws.

       “I hear you like recreating cubbings too,” Pakshalika said.  Ekaterina grinned:

       “I like it yes,” she replied.  Pakshalika curled the toes of her right forepaw around Ekaterina’s right hind foot.  Ekaterina giggled delightedly.

       “I love that,” she said.

       “I heard you helped Bianca give birth to her cubs,” Pakshalika said, “would you help me when I have my next cub?”  Ekaterina smiled and kissed her nose:

       “I will,” she replied.

       “I haven’t seen Tinka for a long time,” Bianca mewed.  Pakshalika became still.

       “My mum died a week ago,” she said, “I’m been trying to keep my mind off her death.  Hop along is inconsolable, but he won’t let me talk to him, and I don’t want to think about mum dead, so I’m just carrying on as normal.

      “But you can’t carry on as normal,” Ekaterina mewed, “you’ve lost your mum.”

      “She’d want me to,” Pakshalika replied, “so I am, forging ahead with my calling in life which is to provide cubs for security patrols.”

      “You don’t have to constantly get in cub,” Ekaterina said.  Pakshalika shook her head:

       “I want to,” she replied, “call it strange, but I enjoy the challenge of giving birth and bringing up cubs.  As you say, two of my cubs are healthy and well here.  Anyway, I’m sorrier for Hop along than for me.  He’s the one I’m worried about.  Padding about the great room on those great big paws of his, lost in his own world.”

       “Can’t we try to help him a little?”  Chowilawu asked.

       “Maybe me giving him Grandcubs will help a little,” Pakshalika replied. 


Indeed, Hop along was playing with little Tinka, Pakshalika’s second born cub.  the now quarter grown tigress was fun to play with, for, like her mother, she seemed to have eight paws rather than four, batting at his forepaws and whiskers with energetic enthusiasm.  Hop along let little Tinka clamber all over him, the touch of her pads on his fur feeling great to him.

      “You’re very tactile Tinka,” Hop along said to the cub, his pain at his mate’s death easing with every touch of the cub’s paws on his fur or paw pads.  Little Tinka smiled and massaged the pads and toes of her grandsire’s right hind foot.

        “I have my mama Pakshalika to thank for that,” she said, “it is she who taught me how to be tactile, right from the time I was born.  She said she birthed me long and slow, so I would not be overly stressed by the experience.  You use videos to remember the births of your cubs, my mama, she needs no video, and she remembers everything.”  Hop along smiled and kissed the cub’s nose.

        “If you ever stop being tactile, I’ll be sad forever,” he said.  Little Tinka smiled:

       “I won’t,” she replied.

       “Did your mama tell you everything about your birth?”  Hop Along asked.  Little Tinka smiled and nodded:

      “She described everything from the start of her pain, to the time when my hind feet emerged,” the cub replied, “and she told me without shame or fear.  I love my mama for her openness and tactile nature.  She tells us stories after the sun goes down, stories of you Grandsire Hop Along, stories of her mama Tinka, stories of the community, stories of tigers alone.  She also showed us how to use our paws and our bodies, how to enjoy touch and to give touch.  She taught me how to use my body from my nose to my tail.  I love my body, my whiskers, ears, paws, belly and tail.  I’ve wriggled madly while lying on my back, touched my mum’s body with my fore and hind paws, touched her whiskers with my whiskers, touched her whiskers with my fore and hind paws, curled my toes around mama’s, felt her curl her toes around mine, pressed pads with mama, touched mama from nose to tail too.  I’ve counted her toes and pads, played with her paws, and she’s played with mine.  I also played with my little Raja’s paws, brother cub’s training finishing before mine, but he still comes home to listen to mama’s tales and play with her and me.”

       “I told her my tale little Tinka,” Hop along said.  The cub kissed his nose and touched his forepaws.

        “I know,” she replied, “it was a tough rough tale, but you came out of it ok, and your paw is healed too.”  Hop along smiled and hugged the cub.


Meanwhile, Pakshalika and Ekaterina were playing together, the tigress and polar bear enjoying them.  Hop along and little Tinka padded into the clearing and joined the group, Pakshalika breaking off to run to her sire and hug him, then roll onto her back to hug her youngest cub.

       “Good to see you both,” she said.  Little Tinka padded to Ekaterina and grabbed her right hind paw in her forepaws, Ekaterina instantly getting the measure of the cub.  Pressing her toes into the cub’s paws, Ekaterina smiled broadly.

       “I love your touch,” she said.  Little Tinka snuggling up to the polar bear.

        “I love using my paws,” she said, “mama Pakshalika taught me how to use them.”

       “I can feel you know how to use your paws,” Ekaterina said.  Little Tinka smiled:

       “Mama told me about my birth too,” She said, “it is part of the story of my life.  My mama is not afraid of talking about her birth experience.  She says she loved, and can remember every minute.”  Ekaterina wondered if she’d be able to remember the births of her cubs.

       “I’m sure you will be able to remember the births of your cubs,” Little Tinka said.  Ekaterina giggled, not at all fazed by the tiger cub’s perception.


Meanwhile, Samson was pacing furiously about his lie up, angry and upset.

       “How could you not tell me Tinka had died?”  He yelled at fleur.

       “Tinka swore me to secrecy,” fleur mewed, “I won’t break my word.  Now she’s been on the other side for a while, we can break our silence.””

      “Tigers!”  Samson roared, “You’re all so bloody secretive!!”

       “We’re solitary,” fleur mewed, “its natural not to draw attention to ourselves.”  Samson grumbled, but knew he’d have to accept Tinka senior’s decision.


Meanwhile, back in the clearing, Ekaterina and little Tinka played together, the tiger cub enjoying the bear playing with her paws.

      “Mama even showed us how her toes curled, how she pedalled the air with her paws during and sometimes after contractions, and let us feel her teeth clenched.  Her explanation and description of my birth was amazing!”  Ekaterina giggled delightedly.

       “I’ll bet it was a good description,” she said.  Pakshalika touched Ekaterina’s forepaws.

       “I could describe it and re-enact it for you,” she said.  Ekaterina smiled and nodded:

       “If you want to, I’d like to see how you gave birth to little Tinka,” she said.  Pakshalika smiled and lay down on the ground, letting Ekaterina run her paws all over her from her nose to her paw pads.  Ekaterina felt Pakshalika’s unconscious signals which told her she was enjoying the rub down.  This tigress was so switched on physically Ekaterina could feel her every mood.  Being careful to be firm in her handling of sensitive areas like ears and paws, Ekaterina worked her paws over Pakshalika’s body from her head to her toes.  Mewing and sighing with pleasure was the only sign Pakshalika gave of enjoying her massage that was until Ekaterina took her left forepaw in hers and began to massage her pads and toes.

        “This is wonderful, just wonderful!”   Pakshalika exclaimed.  Little Tinka smiled as her mum began to wriggle with pleasure.

         “Cubbing recreations are off,” Pakshalika gasped, “this is too exquisitely pleasurable!  Oh wow! Oooh!  Someone hold me down so I don’t fly away!”  Pakshalika begged.

      “Is she serious?”  Chowilawu asked.

       “Leave her paws for a minute Ekaterina, let her calm down,” Bianca said, laughing at her tigress friend.  Pakshalika wriggled with pleasure as Ekaterina’s paws explored hers for the second time.

       “Cubbing’s definitely out now,” Pakshalika mewed, “Ekaterina, you have the most amazing touch!”  Pakshalika mewed.

       “I’ll stop massaging your paws,” Ekaterina said, kissing Pakshalika’s nose.  Pakshalika smiled, loving the bear’s touch.

       “I’ll get on with showing you a mock cubbing soon,” she said.  Ekaterina kissed the tigress’s nose.

      “Take cubbing gently,” she said.  Pakshalika breathed deeply, then clenched her teeth and curled her toes.

        owwwwwwwwwwwwwooooooooowwwwwwwwwwww!”  Pakshalika moaned softly.  Ekaterina felt the tigress’s body wriggling beneath her paws, hearing her pant and whimper.

       “Cub’s on its way!”  Pakshalika gasped.  Growling, Pakshalika flexed the toes of all four paws.

      “Do you want to push?”  Ekaterina asked.  Pakshalika panted and gasped:

      “No,” she replied, “let, let me take my time.   It’s hurting, but not time for pushing yet, not quite, oooooooooawhwhwhwhwhwhwhw!”  The tigress moaned.  Soon Pakshalika was whimpering and curling her toes tightly with every mock contraction, panting and grunting.

       “Cub’s forepaws coming now, coming now!”  Pakshalika gasped, wriggling and puffing.  Ekaterina held Pakshalika’s damp left forepaw as the tigress writhed on the floor.

       “Now, now for the cub’s head!”  Pakshalika whimpered, roaring with pain, “oooawwwwwwwwoarhrhrhrhrhrhrhrrhrhrhrh!”  Panting, Pakshalika tore her left forepaw from Ekaterina’s grip, pedalling the air with all four damp padded paws, her toes tightly curled.

         “One more big push!”  Pakshalika gasped, thrusting her left forepaw into Ekaterina’s forepaws and bearing down hard against her cub.  Then the tigress gave vent to prolonged moans and groans as the cub’s body emerged, before catching her breath to push against the cub’s hocks.  With a strangled cry, she delivered the cub’s hocks and then, whimpering, she endured the passage of the cub’s hind legs and paws.  Pakshalika wriggled slightly as the cub emerged.

      “There done it!”  Pakshalika panted her body and paws drenched with sweat.

       “So that’s how I was born,” Little Tinka said.  Pakshalika grinned weakly.

       “It was,” she panted.  Little Tinka padded to her mum’s side and kissed her nose and the pads of her right forepaw which Ekaterina released.  Pakshalika smiled at her cub and curled round, holding her in her forepaws.

        “I love you,” she mewed, kissing little Tinka’s nose. 

     “I love you too mum,” Tinka mewed.


Little Tinka snuggled up to her mama, Pakshalika sighing with contentment.

        “I love you Tinka,” she mewed softly.  Tinka, her paws still cubbishly fat, clung to her mama as she snuggled up.  Pakshalika ran her paws all over her daughter cub’s body from her nose to the pads of her hind paws.  Tinka, recognising this, wriggled contentedly into her mum’s hug as Pakshalika’s paws worked over her body.

      “This is warm, so warm!”  Little Tinka mewed.  Pakshalika kissed her cub’s nose, Tinka snuggling hard up to her mum.

        “I remember playing with little raja,” Tinka mewed softly.

       “Why not add to that memory,” her brother said padding up and placing his large forepaws on his sister’s back.  Tinka turned to her brother and embraced him, rubbing her cheek against his.

      “I brought you two up to use your paws and bodies to give and receive pleasure,” Pakshalika said, “and it seems you both have learned well.”

     “We both love our paws that are for certain,” Little Raja said.


Meanwhile, in her lie up Emily otter was marshalling her two rather boisterous cubs.  Tarker and Whitetip, as she’d named the male and female cub, tussled with each other, even though their eyes were closed.  Whitetip was huge, her name due to her white tipped ears, toes and tail.  Whitetip was a huge playful cub, her brother not so.  She wanted to explore, to investigate her mum’s nose, whiskers, belly, tail and paws.  Emily was a river otter, with large webbed paws, her cubs taking after her.  Whitetip loved rolling about the lie up, getting her paws into a tangle, then mewing and snarling as she fought against her own paws to free herself.  Emily watched as her cub wriggled and rolled about on the floor.

       “You are funny!”  She mewed.  Whitetip snarled and yikkered with anger at her grasping paws.

        “My feet won’t let go of each other!”  She yelled.  Emily stopped her cub’s struggles with one paw and gently freed her hind paws from her fore.

       “There you go,” she said, freeing Whitetip’s right hind paw from a grasping right forepaw.  Whitetip smiled up at her mum, giggling with pleasure.

      “The fight to free my feet was so enjoyable!”  She mewed.  Emily laughed merrily.

        “I could see you were enjoying it,” she said, “but I had to help.”

       “I wanted your help,” Whitetip replied, “that was part of the game.  I wanted you to touch my fore and hind feet mum.  I love your touch on the soles of all four of my feet mum.”  Emily giggled.

       “I’m so glad of that,” she replied.  Tarker tugged at his sister’s paw.

       “Would you help me fight with my hind paws?”  He asked.  Whitetip tried, but Tarker couldn’t get it right.  He just didn’t let himself go with the flow.

       “My paws don’t stay together,” he mewed.

      “They will if you just relax and imagine your feet are stuck together,” she said.  Tarker snarled with anger as he failed repeatedly to keep his fore and hind paws together.  Emily examined Whitetip’s body from nose to tail as the cub lay on her back while Tarker tried to touch her as she showed him how to play with all four paws at once.  Bored, Tarker gave up.  But Emily, fascinated by the sight of her cub from nose to tail, explored her by sight, and then by touch, from her pinkish nose, to her black padded and webbed hind paws and muscular tail.

       “You’re beautiful Whitetip,” Emily said.  Whitetip wriggled with pleasure and curled the toes of all four paws as Emily stroked the soles one by one.  Whitetip, laughing helplessly, kicked the air with all four paws as her mum tried to kiss her paw pads.

      “Hold still a minute so I can kiss your paws!”  Emily laughed.  Whitetip spun onto her chest and crawled away, her mum chasing her and catching her, holding her in her paws and kissing the cub’s nose, then the soles of all four paws, Whitetip laughing helplessly.

        “I love them kissing and playing with my feet,” she mewed.  Emily breathed on her cub’s belly fur, ruffling it.

       “I love it too,” she mewed softly. 


Meanwhile, back in the clearing, Kamchatka stumbled upon the tigers and bears.  Tommy looked shame faced as he saw the mama bear.  Kamchatka, seeing his guilty expression, padded up to him:

        “You look unhappy,” she said.  Tommy looked into Kamchatka’s face and told her what he’d done.

       “This matter has been resolved,” Bianca mewed.  Kamchatka went to Ekaterina and took her paw.

       “Chowilawu and I resolved the matter of the salmon with Tommy,” she said.   Kamchatka nodded and padded away.

       “Now that’s what makes you a tiger,”  Bianca said to Tommy, “stealing Salmon doesn’t make you a tiger, going to the one who gave the salmon as a present to others and admitting you stole it is what makes you a tiger.”



Pakshalika got to her feet, Tommy watching her.

      “You have big fat paws Pakshalika,” he said.  Pakshalika grinned and waved a forepaw at him.

      “Want to take a closer look, or maybe touch my fat paws?”  She asked.  Tommy giggled and padded up to Pakshalika.  Tommy began pushing at Pakshalika’s belly, trying to overbalance the tigress.  Pakshalika fell over, rolling onto her back and waving her paws in the air, Tommy laughing helplessly.


Back in the otter’s lie up, Emily and Whitetip played together, Emily catching her cub’s fore and hind paws in her forepaws.  She noticed Whitetip had referred to her own paws as “feet”, always feet, never paws, so according to her, she had four feet, not four paws.

      “I love you playing with my feet!”  Whitetip yinnied.”  Emily kissed the sole of her cub’s right hind foot.  Whitetip giggled and wriggled with pleasure.

       “I love my mum playing with my feet!”  Whitetip laughed.  Tarker tucked his paws under his body as best he could.

      “She can play with your fore and hind paws all you like,” he grumbled, “but I don’t want her playing with mine.”

       “Fine, more for me then!”  Whitetip yelled.  Emily thought back to the day she’d given strenuous difficult birth to Whitetip.  The birth had been hard, very hard, each straining effort causing her to sweat, cry, scream and pant.  Even when Alaska pulled against the cub, Emily remembered having to exert all her strength to birth her cub.  Now though, playing with the toes of Whitetip’s right hind paw, the cub laughing, wiggling and curling her toes with excited pleasure, Emily didn’t regret any effort, any of her tears or drop of sweat.  Emily loved the touch of her cub’s pads on hers, and of the cub’s toes pressing against her own toes too.  Whitetip pressed her toes hard into her mum’s forepaws.

      “Would you let me touch your hind feet with mine?”  Whitetip asked.  Emily giggled and rolled onto her side, letting her cub touch her right hind foot with her left hind.

      “That feels wonderful!”  Whitetip laughed.


Meanwhile, patch and Kuan-Yin played together, the panda and grizzly bear enjoying each other’s company.  Kuan-Yin explored Patch from his nose to his tail, laughing delightedly as he found Patch’s white soled paws.

       “I love these white padded paws,” the panda said, tracing the pads of Patch’s right forepaw.  Patch laughed:

       “I love them too,” he said, curling his toes slightly to make his pads bunch up.  Patch giggled as the panda’s toes explored his pads and toes.  Wriggling with pleasure, the large grey bear closed his eyes, enjoying his friend’s ministrations.

       “Lovely paws you have,” Kuan-Yin said.  Patch smiled broadly.

       “I think yours are lovely too,” he replied.

      “When you played with my paws earlier, you said they were soft and warm,” the panda replied.

       “Your paws also have brown soles, which is rather cute,” patch replied.

      “I think your white soled paws are cute too,” Kuan-Yin replied.  Patch and Kuan-Yin laughed together.


Back in the clearing, Tommy was trying to get hold of Pakshalika’s paws, the tigress snarling in mock anger and throwing him to the floor from time to time as he tried to get at her paws.  Once Pakshalika even got to her feet, stumbled a few steps and then collapsed in a heap to the delight of Tommy and Bianca.  Feeling left out, Chowilawu and Ekaterina left for the house.  Entering Kamchatka’s lie up, they found her playing with the toes of her right hind foot.  They knew this, for even though Kamchatka knew playing with her paws was allowed in the community, she always got startled by other bears entering the room.  Her snort of surprise told its own tale.

       “Hi mum, playing with your paws?”  Ekaterina asked.  Kamchatka laughed:

       “Yeah,” she replied.  Conrad padded in, sitting down beside his mate and taking her right forepaw in both of his.

       “Hi Conrad love,” Kamchatka said, kissing his nose.  Ekaterina laughed delightedly.

       “You two are so lovely,” she said.  Chowilawu touched Ekaterina’s paw.

       “Can we?”  He asked.  Ekaterina lay down, and Chowilawu joined her, the two bears snuggling up together.

       “Ekaterina and Chowilawu are curled up together Conrad,” Kamchatka said.  Conrad crawled over to his daughter cub and her friend and explored the scene with his paws.

       “They are so sweet,” he said.


Meanwhile, in Jess and Skirnir’s lie up, she and Skirnir were playing together.  Sitting opposite each other, hind paws pressed together, the two bears pretended their paws were stuck together.  Bouncing about a little on their backsides, they tried to free their hind paws by tugging at them with their forepaws.

       “Let’s concentrate on one set of paws,” Skirnir panted after an hour of bouncing about and scrabbling at the toes of each other’s hind feet with desperate forepaws.  Jess, gasping and grunting with effort, worked the toes of her right forepaw between the pads of her right hind and Skirnir’s left hind paw.  Whimpering, Skirnir felt his mate’s toes working into the slight gap between their hind paws.  Wriggling, he panted and bounced about a bit as jess worked her toes between her own and his pads.

       “Now pull gently,” jess panted.  Skirnir pulled at his left hind paw, groaning as his paw came free.

       “Oooh, Oooh! My paw’s free!”  He gasped.  Jess rubbed the pads of her right hind foot, exploring damp pads and tired toes with her forepaws.

      “Now my turn to free our other hind feet!”  Skirnir said, “Ok jess, hold still, and try to relax.”  Jess moaned with distress as the toes of Skirnir’s right forepaw worked between his right hind and her left.

        “Nearly there, nearly there!”  Skirnir panted as he wiggled his paw free of his mate’s, “pull away gently Jess,” he said.  Jess squealed loudly as she pulled her paw away:

      “My toes aren’t coming free!  Ow, ow!”  She gripped the sole of her right hind foot with both forepaws and tugged at her paw, Skirnir encouraging the game by curling his toes around hers.

       “I can’t free my foot!”  Jess whimpered.  Skirnir stroked jess’s forepaws, which were still clamped around her right hind foot.

       “Try again,” he whispered.  Jess grunted, took a fresh hold of her right hind foot in both forepaws and tugged strongly at her paw.

       “Ow! Ouch!”  She wailed, tearing her toes free of her mate’s.

        “Done it jess, you’ve done it!”  Skirnir enthused.  Jess massaged the pads and toes of her right hind paw, feeling the sweat on her pads and the ache in her tired toes.

       “That was wonderful!” she panted.  Skirnir smiled at his mate.  Watching the toes of her right forepaw exploring the light grey pads of her right hind  made Skirnir smile:

       “You look so cute when you play with your paws,” he said.  Jess giggled and massaged the toes of her right hind paw.

       “Do I?”  She asked, “That’s so sweet!”  Skirnir lay down and kissed the exploring toes of jess’s right forepaw as they explored her right hind, accidentally kissing the toes of her right hind foot as well.

       “You kissed my toes!”  Jess laughed.

        “It was accidental,” Skirnir replied.

       “I hope it wasn’t,” she replied.

      “What do you think?”  Skirnir asked.  Jess giggled.

       “I think you can kiss the toes of my fore and hind paws all you like,” she said.  Skirnir looked up into her face, Jess looking down into his eyes.  Smiling, she touched his nose with her free left forepaw.

       “You soppy thing,” she teased.  Skirnir giggled and kissed her paw pads.

        “I love watching you playing with your hind paws,” Skirnir said.  Jess giggled:

       “Do you want to get paws on with me while I get paws on with my hind paws?”  She asked.  Skirnir laughed:

       “Touch your fore and hind paws while you use your forepaws to play with your hind?”  He asked.  Jess giggled:

      “Yes,” she replied.  Skirnir looked serious.

       “Only if you’ll make sure I am playing with my hind paws properly afterwards,” he said.  Jess nodded and smiled:

       “I will,” she replied.


Meanwhile, Whitetip and Emily were still playing together, Emily getting used to her cub’s insistence on referring to her paws as her “feet.”

      “So I can’t call your paws, “paws,”” Emily said, “you’d like me to refer to them as your feet?”

       “Yes,” Whitetip said, “for I don’t have paws, neither do you mum. Bears have paws.  The bear that helped me into the world had real paws.  We otters have webbed feet.  That is webbing between the toes of our paws, as you call them, which makes me call them feet.  My feet are just as sensitive as a bear’s paws though.”

      “I’ve heard Kamchatka bear refer to her forepaws and hind feet,” Emily said.

       “So have I,” Whitetip replied, “but that is only to define which set of gorgeous paws she’s talking about.  My paws aren’t gorgeous at all; they are tools, so they’re my feet, not as soft as paws.”  Emily couldn’t work out her cub’s logic.

       “Whitetip’s paws are feet, her paws are her feet,” she told herself.  Whitetip crawled away, Emily torn between Tarker and her youngest cub.

       “I’m sure she won’t get into trouble,” Emily thought.


Whitetip, wanting to explore, crawled along to jess’s lie up, which was the next one along from her own.  Finding her way into it, she found Jess and Skirnir playing together.

       “Oh, HI Whitetip,” jess said, crawling to the cub and hugging her.

       “Skirnir and I were just playing with each other’s paws.  Would you like yours played with?”  Whitetip giggled:

      “My feet would like to be played with,” she said.  Skirnir looked at jess:

      “Her Feet?  Don’t otters have paws?”  He asked.  Jess smiled and shook her head:

       “Whitetip’s always referred to her paws as feet,” she said.  Skirnir crawled over to Whitetip and examined her paws one by one.

       I would consider these paws, not feet,” he said.  Whitetip giggled as the brown bear handled her hind paws in his fore with gentle care.

       “I like that,” Whitetip mewed, wiggling her webbed toes.  Skirnir laughed merrily and kissed the pads of the otter cub’s right hind paw.

        “I like your paws,” he said.  Whitetip giggled:

      “Can I touch your forepaws and hind feet?”  She asked.  Skirnir massaged the toes of Whitetip’s right hind paw.

       “You can,” she said.

      “Would you examine mine too?”  Jess asked.

      “I’ve heard you are cute when you play with your hind feet Jess,” Whitetip said, “would you show me how you play with your hind feet?”  Jess laughed:

       “I will,” she replied.

       “I think Jess is cute when she plays with her hind feet too,” Skirnir said.  Whitetip pressed her toes into Skirnir’s soft warm pads.

      “I would like to find out,” Whitetip said.  Jess sat down, taking her right hind foot in her forepaws.  Once she was comfortable, her right hind paw held in her right fore, the toes of her left fore massaging the toes of her right hind, Whitetip crawled up to the mama grizzly and explored her large hind feet and forepaws with her smaller webbed forepaws.

        “Why not touch my free left hind foot?”  Jess asked.  Whitetip did, and Jess curled her toes while the otter was exploring the pads on the sole of her left foot.

      “Your hind foot is cute when your toes curl and pads bunch up,” Whitetip said gently, exploring jess’s left hind foot from curled toes to bunched sole pad, jess giggling with pleasure.

       “You truly love playing with paws,” jess said to Whitetip.  Whitetip smiled and kissed the curled toes of Jess’s left hind foot.  Jess wiggled the toes of her left hind foot, Whitetip laughing.

      “Now can I touch your right hind paw?”  Whitetip asked.  Jess smiled and let the otter cub touch her right hind paw, while Jess herself played with the toes of that paw with her left forepaw.  Whitetip explored the obliging mama bear’s forepaws and hind with her smaller webbed forepaws, Jess loving everything about Whitetip’s exploration.

        “Please will you play with the toes of my right hind foot Whitetip?”  Jess asked.  Whitetip gently removed the bear’s left forepaw from the toes of her right hind foot and then gently played with them, jess laughing softly.

       “I love that,” she said.  Whitetip felt paws enfolding her from behind.

      “Who’s that?”  She asked, “Who’s got hold of me?”

       “That’s my mate Skirnir,” Jess said.  Skirnir laughed:

       “I’m harmless,” he said, “now Whitetip, would you massage my hind paws after you’ve massaged my mate’s?”

        “If by massage you mean play with, I will,” Whitetip replied.

       “Skirnir’s paws are smaller than mine,” Jess replied.  Whitetip giggled and released Jess’s right hind paw, feeling the paws release her too.  Crawling towards the male bear, Whitetip found her forepaws encountering Skirnir’s hind paws, but they weren’t like Jess’s, they had hard things on them, covering them.

      “Your feet aren’t at all like Jess’s,” Whitetip said.  Skirnir smiled and said:

       “Can you feel my right hind leg Whitetip?”  Whitetip said that she could, touching Skirnir’s leg, just above the top of his boot.

       “Your paw’s in that thing?”  She asked.  Skirnir smiled and replied that it was.

       “Touch my leg as I remove my hind foot from the boot,” he said.  Whitetip kept paws on with Skirnir’s leg as the bear tugged off his boot, Whitetip feeling the bear’s hind foot come free of the boot.  At one point it got slightly stuck, the bear having to curl his toes a little and tug hard, but then once his heel was free, Whitetip felt the bear’s pads sliding over her forepaws, first Skirnir’s large sole pad, then his toes with their individual pads and long claws.

      “Let’s measure your hind foot against Jess’s,” Whitetip suggested.  Skirnir complied, shuffling over until his and Jess’s hind paws were touching pads to pads.  Whitetip explored the difference in size between Skirnir’s and Jess’s paws.  Finding Skirnir’s toes barely reached the bottom of Jess’s, his whole paw being smaller than hers.

       “I heard you play a game with your feet where you pretend your forefeet are stuck to your hind?”  Jess asked.  Whitetip giggled and replied:

      “Yes, do you play that game too?”  Jess said:

      “Touch my right hind foot Whitetip, I’ll show you how I play the trapped paw game.”  Whitetip touched Jess’s right hind paw, and soon felt her left forepaw touching the toes of her right hind, then the toes of her right hind foot were curling around those of her left forepaw.  Jess then began snarling and worrying at her trapped forepaw, Whitetip feeling the bunched pads of Jess’s right hind foot, as well as the toes trapping her left forepaw.

        “I just can’t free my paw!”  Jess whimpered.  Whitetip massaged the sole of Jess’s right hind foot, the bear panting as the toes of her right hind foot relaxed.

       “Thank you little one,” she gasped.  Whitetip giggled:

       “I like those games,” she replied.

       “Why don’t we show her the other game we play Jess?”  Skirnir asked.

      “What other game is this?”  Whitetip asked, “does it involve playing with your hind paws again?”

      “Yes it does,” Jess replied, “and yes Skirnir, let’s show her.”  So the two bears sat opposite each other, and soon Whitetip felt the two bears touch their hind paws together, just as they had when measuring paws.  Then, both bears began bouncing about on their backsides and scrabbling at each other’s hind feet with their forepaws, while Whitetip, fascinated and enjoying the game, encouraged them:

      “Go on Skirnir, Jess, you can free those hind feet!”  Jess whimpered and snarled, Skirnir growling with anger and tearing at the grasping toes of jess’s left hind foot with both his forepaws, while jess grabbed her right hind foot in her forepaws and tried to wrench it free of her mate’s left hind foot.

       “We can’t free ourselves!”  Jess panted, “This is worse than usual!  There is usually some play in it, but not now!  Our hind feet are firmly stuck together Whitetip!”  Whitetip felt her way over hot hind paws, the toes of which were curled and pads damp.  For a game this was intense and Whitetip knew it, for her own paws and hind feet became hot and damp when she fought against them.

       “Can you concentrate on freeing one paw at a time?”  Whitetip asked.  Skirnir gasped and panted:

        “I’ll try,” he replied, “but the toes of Jess’s right hind foot are trapping my left hind.  If, if you can encourage her to relax her toes, please!”  Jess, whimpering and snarling, had continued to tear at the toes of her right hind foot throughout Skirnir’s entreaties to the otter cub for help.

      “My toes are in spasm,” jess panted, “I can’t free them, I’ll have to break my toes to free my mate!”

       “No you won’t,” Whitetip replied, “let me get paws on with them; I’ll see what I can do.”  Whitetip crawled round to Jess’s right side and took hold of her right hind foot in her tiny forepaws.  Jess wailed with fear as she felt the otter’s touch.  Whitetip rubbed Jess’s toes, the bear panting as her toes relaxed.

      “It’s working, it’s working!”  Jess panted, almost crying.  Whitetip giggled:

      “I knew it would,” she replied.  Skirnir pulled his left hind foot away bit by bit, working the toes of his left forepaw between the pads of his left hind foot and those of jess’s right hind, forcing his pads away from hers.

      “Why are you working the toes of your forepaw between the pads of yours and Jess’s?”  Whitetip asked.

       “when our hind feet touch, our paws get glued  together,”  Skirnir replied, “it’s got stronger recently, and the only way I can free my hind feet from my mate’s and she can free hers from mine is to work the toes of our forepaws between the pads of our stuck hind feet.”

        “My mum’s paws become stuck to mine sometimes,” Whitetip replied, “she says she can’t let go of my right hind foot sometimes.”  Jess giggled:

       “I know how that feels,” she said, working the toes of her right forepaw between the pads of her own left hind and Skirnir’s right hind foot.

      “You two love each other very much,” Whitetip said, “I can feel it in your games.”  Jess laughed:

       “I love Skirnir from his nose to his toes,” she said.

       Same to you my dear,” Skirnir said.  Jess hugged her mate hard.

        “Let’s play with each other’s hind paws tonight,”  Jess whispered to her mate, “let’s play the trapped paw games until our paws become so well stuck together we become exhausted from trying to free them, let’s stroke each other’s paws and play with each other’s toes until we know all there is to know about each other’s paws.  Let’s stroke each other from noses to toes?”  Skirnir smiled and nodded, whispering into his mate’s ear:

       “I want it as much as you,”

     “Can your paws become so stuck together you can’t free them?”  Whitetip asked.  Skirnir looked shocked that she’d overheard, but jess laughed:

       “They can, if we want them to,” she said.

        “Sometimes I can’t free my hind feet from my mum’s forepaws,” Whitetip replied, “those are lovely times too.”

        “If the glue holding our hind paws fast is very strong one day, maybe we won’t be able to work our paws free,” Skirnir said.

       “Will it become that strong?”  Whitetip asked.

       “It’s becoming strong already,” jess replied, “We both had a hard struggle to free our hind feet earlier.”

      “But it was a lovely struggle,” Skirnir said, “every last tug at my hind feet, every wriggling effort, everything was lovely.

      “Do you want your hind feet firmly stuck together?”  Whitetip asked.  Jess looked at Skirnir:

       “Yes we do,” Skirnir replied, “it’s wonderful when our paws are stuck together, it keeps us close.”  Whitetip knew how it felt to be so content; her paws didn’t want to leave the paws of others.  She fancied she could even feel her pads bonding to the pads of the paws holding her own.

      “Jess, Skirnir,” Whitetip asked, “do you feel when you’re playing your games and your hind feet are pressed together, that your pads actually stick together?”  Jess looked at her mate:

      “I suppose when our feet are pressed hard together, and the wrinkled skin on the pads comes into contact in such a way that our paws are as close as they possibly can be, then yes,”  jess replied, “when that happens, we press our paws hard together, sealing the bond.”

       “You two never want to be apart do you,” Whitetip said.

       “Right there,” Skirnir replied.  Whitetip crawled towards the door:

       “I’ll leave you two to it then,” she said, “and thank you both.”

      “Come back a minute,” jess invited.  Whitetip did, and the two bears hugged the otter cub tightly.

       “Now go,” jess said, “but remembers, if you ever want to play with our paws or us to play with yours, or to feel two bears playing together, you can come and watch our games from time to time.”

        “But your games are private,” Whitetip said, “I really shouldn’t have asked.”

      “We know you won’t ask constantly,” Skirnir replied, “so we’ll let you get paws on while we play our games.”  Whitetip giggled:

        “I love those games,” she said, “they were great to play.”

      “Your encouragement was most welcome,” Jess replied, “I couldn’t have freed my foot without your help.”  Whitetip kissed her nose and left the lie up.


Jess looked at Skirnir:

       “Our paw play was very intense,” she said, “I love it that way.  Skirnir laughed and hugged his mate tenderly.

       “So do I jess love, so do I,” he replied.


Meanwhile, Emily had found Whitetip, the cub eagerly telling her everything about the games with the bears.

       “Those bears,” Emily said, “they are so funny!  They love their paws so much, playing with them, exploring with them, and letting others play with them.”

        “Jess let me play with her right hind paw mum,” Whitetip said, “and I let them play with my hind feet too.  Both playing with Kamchatka’s paws and letting Skirnir play with my hind feet felt lovely.”  Emily knew her cub would be independent of anyone else, much like herself.

       “Go explore with your paws, um, sorry feet Whitetip,” she said gently.  Whitetip promised she would.

     “Mum,” Whitetip said, “Skirnir said he and jess use glue when they’re playing with each other’s paws.

      “You know what they were referring to,” Emily said, “I know it too, so you can’t fool me Whitetip,” Emily replied.

       “Oh dear!”  Whitetip mewed, “I thought I could string you along, making you think the bears used real glue.”  Emily laughed:

        “You can’t fool me, I saw it on the cameras,” Emily replied.

      “The glue Skirnir spoke of can be very strong though, stung enough to hold the hind feet of two bears stuck fast,” Whitetip replied.

      “I know it cans,” Emily mewed, “for it binds me to you and you to me Whitetip.”

      “It does,” Whitetip replied.  Emily had seen Skirnir and Jess’s struggle to free their hind paws, and they were really committed, really fighting to free themselves.

       “They enjoyed their game,” she thought.

       “Conrad and I know about that glue too,” Kamchatka said, padding to Emily and hugging her.

       “I bet you do,” Emily said.  Kamchatka laughed merrily:

      “I’ve watched jess and Skirnir playing the trapped paw games before,” she said, “they love those games, indeed so do I and Conrad.  Our paws are often held together with special glue.”


Meanwhile, jess and Skirnir were playing together, Skirnir playing with Jess’s hind paws while she lay on her back, her paws in the air.  Taking hold of her right hind foot, Skirnir massaged her sole pad and toes, Jess sighing with contentment and pleasure.


Meanwhile, back in the clearing, Tommy had got bored with playing with Pakshalika’s paws, much to the tigress’s disappointment.  Padding back to the house,   Pakshalika felt her paws nun need of more contact with other creatures.  Padding into Patch’s lie up, she found him playing with Kuan-Yin’s paws, the panda and bear sitting opposite each other,  Kuan-Yin’s right hind foot resting on patch’s left hind leg as the grey bear played with the panda’s paw.  Pakshalika watched patch stroking the pads of Kuan-Yin’s right hind foot, and then played with his toes, the panda giggling with pleasure.

      “Have you thought of playing the trapped paw games Patch?”  Kuan-Yin asked.  Patch smiled:

       “I like those games,” he replied, “both the single player and two player versions.”  Kuan-Yin curled his toes as patch massaged them:

      “Would you play it with me?”  He asked.

     “I’d like that,” Patch replied.  So the two beers sat opposite each other, hind paw pads touching, Kuan-Yin pressing his pads hard against patches.

      “I can feel the glue taking affect already!”  Kuan-Yin exclaimed.  Patch tugged gently at his right hind foot:

      “So can I,” he said excitedly, “this is going to be a good game!”  Pakshalika, seeing the enjoyment the two bears derived from their game, whimpered with her need to have her paws played with.  Patch looked round, saw Pakshalika and smiled at her as he recognised her restless pacing and pawing at the floor.

       “We’ve got a tigress who wants her paws played with,” Patch said.  Kuan-Yin smiled:

      “Let’s pull our paws free, then maybe we can both play with her,” he said, “Ready Patch, one, two three, Pull!”  With growling, snarling effort, Patch and Kuan-Yin tore at their own paws, freeing each other quickly.  Crawling over to Pakshalika, the two bears assessed Pakshalika’s considerable size.

       “We can’t flip her, can we?”  Kuan-Yin asked.  Patch smiled, then, rearing onto his hind paws, grabbed hold of the tigress in his paws, and before Pakshalika or Kuan-Yin knew what was happening, he’d the tigress onto her back and began to critically examine her paws.

       “I wasn’t expecting that!”  Pakshalika gasped, still getting used to the fact she’d been flipped onto her back by a bear with ridiculous ease.  Patch massaged Pakshalika’s paws, the tigress sighing with contentment, while curling her toes, and trying to take in the sensations produced by the bear’s pads on her own.  Kuan-Yin watched Patch and Pakshalika, the panda observing how fat the tigress was.  And were the stories of her remembering the births of both her cubs true?  Shuang had told him stories of this tigress that she could slow down her labour so the cub was less stressed and she could remember everything about it.  Kuan-Yin padded to Pakshalika’s tail and watched her hind paws.  They were huge hind paws, with big expressive, mobile toes and large pads.  Pakshalika seemed to enjoy curling and stretching her toes, as well as pedalling the air with her hind paws while patch played with her forepaws.  Every now and again, Pakshalika would look at Kuan-Yin, obviously not embarrassed by her paws in the air posture.  Patch stroked all four of the tigress’s paws, Pakshalika mewing and purring with pleasure.  Kuan-Yin ached to ask Pakshalika if the stories he’d heard about her were true.  Kuan-Yin padded forward to Pakshalika’s hind paws, intent on taking one in his.  He sat down and reached forward with his forepaws, Pakshalika’s left hind paw landing in his paws.  Stroking her paw, Kuan-Yin felt tough pads and strong toes.

      “Do you like my paw?”  Pakshalika asked.  Kuan-Yin smiled at her.

       “I do,” he replied, “Pakshalika is it true you can remember the births of both of your cubs?”  Pakshalika smiled and nodded:

       “I can,” she replied, “and very dear to me those memories are too.”  Kuan-Yin giggled:

       “You re-enact cubbings,” he said, “but I know something about Kuruk which you might find funny and maybe rather cute too.  He likes drinking from a cub’s feeding bottle!  He lies on his back, the bottle in his paws, and drinks from it.  Kuruk can’t help what his hind feet do during this time, and he ends up pedalling the air with his hind feet!  It looks so cute!”  Pakshalika giggled:

       “He’s rather cubbish I know,” she replied, “but I can’t blame him for what he does.  It gives him security, and that’s great...  Kuruk listened at the door, and at the divulgence of his secret pastime, he padded in, lifting Kuan-Yin off the floor and swinging him round, the panda screaming and kicking the air with his hind feet.

       “Put me down kukri!!”  He yelled, “I’m sorry, so sorry!”  Kuruk let the panda go, Kuan-Yin feeling sick.

       “Kuan-Yin panda no tell Pakshalika about my cub bottle thing,” Kuruk grunted, “it private thing that!”

        “Oh come on Kuruk,” Pakshalika implored, “show me how you drink from a bottle.”  Kuruk looked desperately round him, catching Patch’s eye.

       “Show her Kuruk,” patch said gently, “it can’t hurt you can it?”  Kuruk looked down at his forepaws.

       “No Patch,” he grumbled.  Pakshalika got to her paws, looking at Kuruk.

        “Come on,” she mewed, “if you don’t want to show the world, we’ll go somewhere private.”

      “There no place where private be,” Kuruk grumbled.

      “Come,” Pakshalika said, touching Kuruk’s right forepaw with her left, “come with me Kuruk.”  Kuruk turned and followed Pakshalika out of the lie up.  Padding along to Kuruk’s lie up, the tigress padded stride for stride with the bear.

       “Pakshalika tigress love cubs, so she undersatnadunderstand why Kuruk want continue do drinking thing Kuruk hope,” Kuruk said desperately.  Pakshalika smiled and kissed his nose.

       “But yes, I understand,” she replied, “I just want to see something cute, and Kuruk, you are cute.  I like the look of you.”  Kuruk looked away, seemingly embarrassed, but Pakshalika could see a slight smile touching the corners of his mouth.

       “Kuruk love drinking from bottle while lying on back,” Kuruk said.

       “I like recreating cubbings,” Pakshalika mewed, “but I do it to reinforce my memories of the births of my cubs.  You drink from a bottle as security for yourself.  It keeps your paws on the ground Kuruk, and that’s lovely.”  Kuruk grunted:

       “Kuruk love thing anyway,” he replied, the two creatures reaching Kuruk’s lie up, where Kuruk got a bottle, and then filled it with warm milk.

       “Kuruk love milk,” the bear grunted, “so he make embarrassing situation a bit better for him.”  Kuruk lay down on the rugs, settling himself onto his back, the bottle of warm milk in his forepaws.  Putting the bottle to his lips, he looked over at Pakshalika, who sat quietly, watching his every move.  Kuruk found he couldn’t start drinking though.  Putting the bottle down, he looked desperately at the tigress.

       “Kuruk no able to do drinking thing,” he said.  Pakshalika padded forward and touched Kuruk’s forepaw.

        “Do it for yourself,” Pakshalika mewed.  Kuruk looked into Pakshalika’s eyes, feeling the warmth of her paw on his.

        “Kuruk feel Pakshalika understand cub inside Kuruk,” he said.  Pakshalika kissed his nose, and then kissed the pads of his left forepaw.

      “In your own time,” she mewed.  Kuruk began to drink busily, his hind feet soon pedalling the air.  Pakshalika felt her toes curling involuntarily, a reaction to anything cute, like cubbish behaviour for instance.  Kuruk drank until the milk was all gone, then looked up at Pakshalika, seeing the tigress’s eyes shining with delight.

       “That was so cute!”  She said.  Kuruk smiled:

      “Kuruk seen how he look when on back and drinking from bottle,”  he said, “and when Kuruk forget he be doing thing in video, and look at bear in video as just bear and not Kuruk, then Kuruk think drinking thing pretty cute too.”  Pakshalika laughed.

       “Thought you did,” she replied.  Ekaterina padded into the lie up and up to her brother, touching the pads of his right hind foot.  Kuruk, laughing, pedalled the air with his hind feet, Ekaterina laughing at him.

      “Drinking from your favourite bottle Kuruk?”  She asked.  Kuruk picked up the bottle and said:

       “Explore Kuruk and see what he does.”  Ekaterina did, from Kuruk’s ears to his hind paws, Kuruk miming drinking, as there was nothing left in his bottle.  Ekaterina kissed her brother’s nose, the furry top of his right forepaw, and the pads of his right hind foot, Kuruk unable to stop himself from becoming tearful at his sister’s touch.  

   “You soppyKuruk,” Ekaterina said, kissing his nose.  Kuruk had to put his bottle down to wipe his eyes.

       “Kuruk always get tearful when Ekaterina put paws on his paws,” Kuruk choked.  Ekaterina kissed his nose once more.

       “You soppy thing,” she said softly, Kuruk embracing her tenderly.

       “Kuruk love Ekaterina and patch very much,” the massive grizzly said earnestly.  Ekaterina smiled and kissed the pads of Kuruk’s right hind foot, the bear giggling with pleasure.  Pressing his toes into his sister’s pads, Kuruk smiled broadly.

      “I love you Kuruk,” Ekaterina said gently.  Kuruk kissed his sister’s nose.

      “Would you play with Kuruk’s paws?”  Kuruk asked.  Ekaterina smiled and replied:

       “I will.”  Kuruk hugged her tightly.

       “Kuruk look forward to having his pads touched and toes played with,” he replied.

      “But when I touch your paws, you get tearful,” Ekaterina said.

       “Kuruk get tearful for he like touch of Ekaterina’s paws on his,” Kuruk replied.  Ekaterina hugged her brother cub as tightly as she could.

      “Let’s hug each other tightly,” Ekaterina said.  Kuruk embraced her as tightly as he could.  Ekaterina snuggled up to her brother.

        “I remember when we first met,” she said, “it was a lovely time.”  Kuruk smiled and held Ekaterina even more tightly.


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