A snow leopard almost tore his way out of the plastic bag he was in, complaining that his paws were cramped, and his tail was stiff.  he said he'd had

a most uncomfortable journey, and that he was stiff and aching from nose to tail.  Struggling stiffly from the travelling box, the leopard informed everyone

loudly that some person had stuck a tag through his ear as if he were some kind of plaything.  one of the Shetland ponies whinnied that he'd had a tag

once too, and that they were all escapees from somewhere or other, so tagging wasn't unusual.  Matilda told the snow leopard that he should be grateful he ended up where he did,

for she'd heard that in some places, it was considered the form to keep the tags on the animals, so they would always remember that they were purchased

for the sake of their possible monetary value at a later date, than for the plain fact they were worth giving homes to.  the leopard looked round the room

searching for tags, and finding none, looked at a large human  coming at him with a huge pair of scissors!  screaming with terror, the leopard

threw his forepaws up to protect his face.


        "Those scissors are going to be used to remove your tag,"  Dotty said to the snow leopard.  Whimpering with fear, the male snow leopard shook and

trembled while the human gently removed his tag.  Once that was done, a male tiger looked up at the snow leopard and said:


      "I wonder where you'll be living.  down here is pretty crowded, and upstairs there are only two rooms suitable for us.  the other one is a store room.

 Upstairs there are bears and dogs, as well as a snow tigress, they call her Snowy half tail by the way.  There's also a female snow leopard with her two

cubs."  At the mention of a female snow leopard, the male leopard's ears pricked up.


      "I had a mate once,"  he said, "but she went looking for her cubs over six months back.  I probably won't see her ever again.  so, well, if this female

snow leopard will let me stay with her, but then she's got cubs, and they aren't very nice to male leopards once they've got cubs.  I remember my mate

lost her cubs some time back, and she went looking for them.  they most likely are all dead now.  I went looking for her, only to be captured and stuffed

into a plastic bag!  they said it was for quarantine reasons!  then I got shoved into a box!  I was curled so tightly, I could tickle my nose with the

tip of my tail!  Well now, I must try and start again, for my mate is lost, and so are our two cubs."  Sparky, who missed nothing, remarked that the male

snow leopard's tale and that of the female snow leopard matched in several details.  the only difference being that she'd roamed for months, and he'd been

shovelled into a bag and bundled into a crate.  Maybe the female snow leopard lying on the quilt was indeed the male snow leopard's mate.


      "She can't be,"  the snow leopard said miserably, "she would have been killed wandering about the world looking for her cubs.  Our cubs too, they

were both blind, they never opened their eyes.  they've probably been eaten by some inconsiderate animal who didn't give two hoots for two blind snow leopards."


      "those two cubs sound like Whitie and Blanche,"  the Bengal tigress said sleepily.


       "But, those were the names of my cubs!"  the male snow leopard yelled, "this must be some sick joke!  I have a stiff tail, and now you're playing

a horrible, sick game!"


      "No we aren't!"  Sparky barked, "I play with Whitie quite a bit, she and I are good friends.  her sister's a bit more nervous than Whitie, but she's

coming round slowly."


      "Amber said Blanche hugged Isaac only yesterday,"  Matilda said.


      "Wow!"  Foster said, "that is a turn up for the books.  Isaac’s about ten times the size of her, more even!"  the mention of the name Amber made the

male snow leopard almost burst into tears.


       "Amber's my mate's name!"  he wailed, "this is some sick joke!"


the sound of scuffling paws on the upper landing made everyone listen hard.  the scuffing of pads on carpet continued, and then there was a thud as someone

misjudged a step down.


     "something's crawling along the carpet,"  dotty said, "Snowy’s cubs aren't that adventurous, so it must be one of the snow leopard cubs."  then Blanche's

voice, complaining that:


      "I'm on my back!  I fell off the step and can't roll over onto my paws!  can someone help?"  the male snow leopard nearly leapt off the table and

onto the carpet.


     "let her find her own way,"  Skip said, "Isaac will probably help Blanche out of her fix."  Indeed, the heavy sound of Isaac’s huge paws on the carpet

of the study was soon heard, and then the polar bear saying a few words to Blanche before allowing her to clamber onto his back before he slid backwards

down the stairs, his hind paws meeting the hall carpet with a muffled thud.  Whipping round, Isaac placed his forepaws on the carpet and lumbered into

the living room.  the male snow leopard lost control, sprang off the table and scooped Blanche off Isaac's back with both forepaws.  blanche mewed with

fear, but soon calmed down when the scent of the thing who'd snatched her off Isaac's back came to her.  the male snow leopard lay down and began to examine

his cub from nose to tail, and from ears to paws.  Blanche laughed as the male leopard's whiskers tickled her paws as he fussed over her.


        "What are you doing to my cub!"  amber yelled, bursting into the living room.  When she saw the male snow leopard cradling Blanche in his paws,

Amber stopped dead, her next threat dying in her throat.


       "but how, how on earth did you make it here!"  Amber demanded, "I thought I'd lost you forever."


      "Same here,"  the male snow leopard replied, "but not only do I find my mate here, I find my cubs too!"


      "Whitie's upstairs, staying with one of the otters.  I asked the otter to look after Whitie when I heard blanche mewing with fear,"  Amber replied,

"now I come flying down here, and find my mate hugging my cub!  Blanche was always more your cub than mine,"  amber admitted, "and now we're all back together

again.  I never knew your name before today, but here we will give you one."


      "How about Stifftail,"  Foster suggested.


      "I'm not being called Stifftail!"  The male leopard protested.


     "Why Stifftail,"  Amber asked.


      "That was the first thing he said when he came out of that box,"  the raccoon replied.


meanwhile, blanche had crawled to her sire's tail, and was feeling it with both forepaws.  She found the stiff muscles which gave his tail a permanent kink,

and taking the tail in both forepaws, straightened it.  the male leopard screeched with pain, and instinctively curled his tail into his body, sweeping

Blanche off her paws and sending her flying!  blanche somersaulted and landed at Amber's feet.


      "what happened?"  foster asked, having seen everything.


      "Something grabbed hold of my tail and broke it!"  the male snow leopard wailed.


       "blanche didn't break your tail!"  Skip whooped, "she unstiffened it."  the male leopard looked sternly at his cub, who was picking herself up off

the carpet.


      "next time you do that blanche, warn me first!"  he remonstrated.


      "if she'd done that,"  amber said reasonably, "would you have let her near your tail?"


       "um, no,"  the leopard replied.


       "Stifftail’s still quite a good name for him I think,"  foster said.


      "oh all right,"  the male snow leopard replied, "Stifftail it is."  Amber laughed and hugged her mate.


     "Let’s go and meet the rest of the family,"  she said.


      "You make our family sound large,"  Stifftail replied, "there's only Whitie left to meet isn't there?"


      "then there's Isaac, Bruin, Brunetta, snowy half tail and many more,"  blanche said.  Stifftail gently curled and uncurled his now lithe tail and

looked at Isaac, the huge polar bear gazing amiably back at him.


       "Let's start with Isaac,"  Amber said.


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