Time to paws by the pool.



Tigger and the pool party settled back into the house, the other animals keen to find out where they’d been.  Theo and Snowy recounted what they knew of the day’s events, Fleur and Bianca filling in the rest.  Winifred whistled through her teeth as she listened.

     “A water slide?”  She asked, “like a bank down which us otters would slide for fun?”

      “Um, yes,”  Snowy replied, for she knew a little about this, “it’s like that, but better.  Winifred rubbed her paws together with excitement!

     “Bring it on!”  she yinnied.

      “We can’t go there for a few days,”  Tigger mewed, “I’m having a new slide fitted, it’s one that goes into the main pool instead of having its own contained run out.”

      “Let’s go as soon as possible!”  Winifred yinnied, almost dancing with excitement.

       “I forgot how excitable otters are,”  Hop along said.

      “Won’t you join us when we go there Hop along?”  Winifred asked.

     “Me?”  Hop along asked, “um, no.  water slides aren’t for me Winifred.  I couldn’t walk up the stairs to get to the top anyway.”

       “there’s a lift,”  Theo mewed, “it’s a room that will lift you up to the top of the slide, then it’s a short, but level  walk to the top.  Hop along knew what a lift was, he’d been in one at his former place, and wasn’t frightened by the prospect of going in another.

      “Okay,”  he said, “but the other bit, the pool, what good would that do me?”

    “the world of good Hop along,”  Tigger mewed, “hydrotherapy may help your leg grow stronger.”

     “Hydro what?”  The huge Bengal tiger asked.

      “Hydrotherapy Hop along.  Swimming in other words,”  Snowy purred.

      “would it involve paw massage?”  Hop along asked.

      “Yes, it can,”  Snowy purred, knowing it was most likely to be she who would be administering hop along’s treatment.

      “All right,”  Hop along said, “where is it, and when can we start?”

      “The work on the new slide will be completed within a couple of days,”  Tigger mewed, “we’ll go then.


Word spread about Tigger’s swimming pool.  Everyone wanted to take a look, everyone except Kalahari the meerkat, the Shetland ponies Brydy and Domino, and Brock and Constance the two badgers.  Rosie, Brydy’s foal was up for a swim in the pool, and was very annoyed when she was told she couldn’t go on the slides.

      “That’s not fair!”  she whinnied.

      “Sorry,”  Tigger mewed, “but only bears, big cats and those other animals that can retract their claws and tuck their paws either beneath their bodies, or hold them out in front and out behind them can ride.”

      “Rosie could wear some rubber shoes,”  snowy mewed, “but then she’d have to go down the slide on her chest, and no horse can do that without serious injury.”  Rosie snorted with disgust and pronounced herself out of the game.

     “You miserable lot!”  she yelled, “you paws are a really inconsiderate bunch!  I hate you!”

      “I would help if I could,”  Tigger mewed, now very upset.

      “No you wouldn’t!”  Rosie squealed, running out of the house and back to the stables.]


Arki and Nanuq were especially glad to hear of the new slide, but not very happy to hear the manner of Fleur’s first encounter with one.

     “Tigger is a silly tiger,”  Arki said, “not to have closed that gate.  Well, no harm done I suppose.”

     “I’ll bet he’ll close those gates religiously from now on though Arki,”  Kodiak said.

     “He will,”  Nanuq replied, “he’d better anyway.”


The day dawned when Tigger got the go ahead from the boss to use the new slide.  The boss had taught Tigger how to use the new slide.  There was a crucial difference between this new slide and the old tube, in that the slide was of open design, rather than being a closed tube.  The lights and bell system still applied.  This slide was a long one, but emptied into the main pool.  One could get up to terrific speeds on it, which was the whole idea.  Tigger, as part of his training, had to ride the slide.  This he did, finding the slide entered the water in a very strange manner.  Instead of dumping the rider into the water, the bottom section of the slide ended beneath the water so cubs didn’t fall out of the end of the slide and fall into the water.


Tigger rode the slide twice during his training.  It curled round gently to the left, then to the right, and then angled sharply downwards.  This bit was the worst for him, as Tigger lost all sense of direction!  All he knew was he was heading hind paws first down a steep slide, the water spraying up from the disturbance caused by his hind paws, and running into his mouth.  Spitting and mewing with terror, Tigger finished his first run, the slide carrying him ever faster, until with a tremendous splash, Tigger found himself in the pool, his hind paws sinking rapidly.  Swimming, Tigger made it to the side of the pool and scrambled out.


Tigger’s training took place during the morning of the day after the work was completed on the new slide.  So by the beginning of the afternoon, he was ready to show the other animals the delights of his watery domain.


Tigger gathered all the animals who were interested in the pool and it’s other delights.  All the polar and brown bears were present with their cubs, along with the otters and  tigers, including Hop along, and of course the lions, including Clarence, with their cubs.  Snowy brought Bianca, and wherever Bianca went, fleur followed.  Amber arrived last with her cubs Whitie and Blanche.


Trooping out into the main part of the pool complex, the animals stared round them in wonder.  This place was huge!  Tigger took them to the main pool, where he left Clarence in charge of the main body of animals, while Tigger himself took two animals at a time to see the slides.  The first two animals to go to the top of the tower were Kodiak and Brunetta.  Tigger took them up to the top of the slides and let them look down the tube, and down the open slide.

      “Do you want to slide down them?”  Tigger asked the bears.  While he was doing this, Simba crept up the slope, slunk round Tigger and the two huge brown bears, sometimes just inches from their paws, and then made a dash for the tube slide!

      “You are too slow Tigger, you stupid blind idiot!”  Simba yelled, throwing himself down the slide.  Fleur came panting up the slope seconds after the lion cub had disappeared down the slide!

       “Where’s Simba?”  Fleur gasped.

       “he’s just gone down that tube thing!”  Kodiak replied, waving his paw at the tube slide.  Fleur swore viciously.

      “that cub’s a real pain!”  she mewed, “I look away for one second and he’s gone! I’m going down after him!”  Fleur yelled.

      “I’d take the stairs or the lift Fleur,”  Tigger mewed, wondering if things could get any worse.

      “Right, where’s the stairs!”  Fleur yelled.  Tigger waved his paw at the door, and Fleur disappeared through it.  Fleur’s paws skidded as she took the corner at a run, fury driving her on down the stairs!  She exploded into the open, racing towards the bottom of the slide!  Suddenly she was falling!  Fleur hit the floor with considerable force!

        “You won’t catch me!”  Simba taunted, disappearing down the corridor towards the main part of the pool.  Fleur lay winded and disorientated on the floor.  Her legs ached, her left forepaw was sore, and her head thumped with the most tremendous headache she’d ever had.  Mewing with pain, Fleur dragged herself to the bottom of the slide and rested her paws on the raised lip of the side of the slide, resting her head on them and giving up the struggle, dissolving into tears of rage and pain.  Fleur felt like the cub she really was, and wanted to be taken in Theo’s paws and hugged.  Fleur was woken by water hitting her in the face.  Then she saw Brunetta struggling from the bottom of the slide.  Brunetta was so caught up with the excitement of the whole thing she nearly whacked Fleur with one huge forepaw before she realised the cross bred cub was there.

       “Oh Fleur!”  Brunetta exclaimed.

     “Get out of the slide!”  Fleur mewed, “quickly Brunetta!”  Brunetta scrambled from the slide and got down beside Fleur.

      “What’s wrong Fleur?”  She asked.

      “Simba tripped me,”  Fleur sobbed, “and, and now I’m hurt, I think I am anyway!  My left paw hurts, so does my head!”  Brunetta checked Fleur over very gently, looking at her head first.  Finding nothing amiss, she then checked the rest of her, from her nose to her toes.  When the brown bear came to Fleur’s left forepaw, Brunetta saw her toes were badly bruised.  Simba was a heavy cub, and stamping on Fleur’s paws would have done them a lot of damage.  Fleur whimpered with pain as Brunetta gently examined her injured paw.

       “I give up,”  Fleur whimpered.  By now Theo, Tigger, Elsa, Bianca and Snowy had arrived, along with Leo, who was furious and ready to rip Simba to shreds!

      “I’ll tear that cub apart if I get my paws on him!”  Leo yelled.  Elsa, like all mothers, at first made calming motions to Leo with her paw, until she saw Fleur’s distressed state.  Then she slammed her paw on the floor, digging her toes into the flooring to control her fury!

      “I’ll join you Leo!”  She yelled, nearly weeping.

       “I’d like to see you try!”  Simba yelled, waving his paw at the group.  Bianca spotted him in the doorway of the lift and, snarling with anger,  ran at full speed towards him!  Bianca got to the lift just as the doors were closing, Simba frantically banging the door close button in an attempt to shut Bianca out!  Without thought for her own safety, Bianca jammed her tiny paw between the closing doors, Simba laughing manically as he imagined the doors crushing the cub’s paw.  Instead, to Simba’s  surprise and horror, the doors shot open, Bianca barrelling in and slamming Simba into the back wall of the lift, the tiger cub’s momentum smashing his head hard against the wall!  Simba crumpled and lay unconscious on the floor of the lift, Bianca standing over him, wondering what she’d done.

      “Oh no!”  she mewed, “he’s, he’s on the floor!”  Bianca looked helplessly down at Simba.

       “What have I done!”  she sobbed.  Bianca heard the wining of the door sensor, but didn’t know what it was.  she was brought out of her shock by Fleur touching her paw.

        “It’s okay,”  Fleur whispered, “Bianca my dear cub, it’s okay!”  Bianca looked at Fleur, seeing dreadful pain in her eyes.

      “Thank you Bianca,”  Fleur said.  Bianca threw her paws round Fleur, and gently hugged her.

      “I wan’a go home!”  Bianca sobbed.  Fleur hugged the weeping tiger cub as tightly as her bruised body would allow.

      “now do you really want to go home Bianca sweet cub?”  Fleur asked.

     “No,”  Bianca sobbed, “but I want to stay with you!”

      “You can Bianca dear,”  Fleur replied.  Bianca touched Fleur’s nose with her paw.

       “You need a paw massage Fleur,”  Bianca said.  Fleur nuzzled the pads of Bianca’s paw.

      “I’ll be okay,”  Fleur replied.  Bianca looked Fleur over from her nose to the pads on the soles of her huge spotted paws.

      “You look injured,”  Bianca mewed.

      “I am,”  Fleur replied, “but I’ll survive.  Now let’s get out of here, and deal with Simba.  Elsa and Theo watched the two cubs, knowing Bianca had done the most natural thing in the world, defending her friend from harm.


Fleur led Bianca from the lift, holding her tiny paw gently in the toes of her bruised left forepaw.  Bianca heard Fleur’s toes crack as she curled them, and heard her gasp with the sharp pain of realigning bones.

     “Let’s go to the top of the slide and ride the new slide,”  Fleur said to Bianca, trying desperately to make the situation as normal as possible.


Fleur limped with Bianca to the bottom of the ramp to the slide.  Then she crawled like a cub.  Bianca decided she would lead, then Fleur could follow her.  Bianca crawled up the slope, Fleur keeping in constant touch with her by keeping one forepaw on the sole of one of Bianca’s hind paws.  This way, they got to the top of the slides.  Tigger and Kodiak were nowhere to be seen, having gone down the slide long before they arrived.  Bianca could feel Fleur’s pain in the touch of her forepaw on the pads of her hind, and it distressed her.

      “If you can’t go down the slide Fleur, I won’t,”  Bianca said, trying not to cry.  Fleur patted the pads of Bianca’s left hind paw and gently squeezed  the tiger cub’s toes in reassurance.  Bianca wiggled her toes, telling Fleur she understood.

      “Let’s go then,”  Fleur said.  Bianca crawled over to the open slide, Fleur following her.

      “I’ll go first,”  Bianca said, Fleur releasing her right hind paw.  Fleur watched as the tiny cub clambered into the slide’s tray and disappeared from view.  Fleur raised her head and watched Bianca disappearing down the slide.  Then, painfully, Fleur scrambled over the lip, crawled towards the edge of the slide, then turned onto her back and felt with her hind paws, until her heels angled downwards and touched the slippery bed of the slide.  Fleur wriggled, twisted, and then felt her body taken by the water.  She shot down the slide, the water disturbed by her huge hind paws shooting up and over her toes, landing on her belly and sloshing into her mouth.  Fleur gave up looking between her hind paws to see where she was going, as she couldn’t see anything due to the spray.  Fleur felt her body twisting and turning as the slide gently curled right then left.  Then, suddenly, Fleur was shooting downwards!  Fleur’s body shot hind paws first down the slide, until she landed in the water with a huge splash!  Fleur paddled painfully towards the side of the pool, feeling a tiny paw take hers half way and pull her along as best it could.

     “Swim Fleur, swim!”  Bianca gasped, “push with those hind paws!  Come on!”  Fleur felt drained, weak and useless.

       “I must, must keep going!”  she thought.  The two cubs struggled towards the side of the pool, snowy and Theo ready to leap in at the first sign of real trouble, for Bianca had insisted on going in alone to rescue her friend.  Bianca’s hind paws touched the side of the pool and she turned side on, dragging Fleur towards the side, snowy and Theo helping the large cub out onto the side of the pool.  Bianca turned and scrambled out unaided.


Meanwhile, Leo and Elsa were dealing with Simba.  Leo dragged the disgraced lion cub from the lift, Simba now semi conscious.

     “How dare you injure Fleur!”  Leo yelled at Simba, whacking him with his paw.

      “She’s a stupid cub!”  Simba mewed.

      “Fleur’s gentle and kind,”  Elsa mewed, “and she’s not stupid!”

      “I hope she dies!”  Simba yelled.

      “Now that’s totally outrageous!”  Leo yelled.

     “Oh, “outrageous” is it Leo?  Well it’s my view and I won’t change it!”  Simba snapped.

      “It’s true I can’t force you to change your views,”  Leo mewed, “but I can shut you up!”  With that he clobbered Simba across his nose!  Simba howled with pain as Leo’s paw nearly broke his nose!

       “You, you horrid creature!”  Simba cried.

      “I will do much worse to you if you don’t keep your paws to yourself!”  Leo snarled.  Elsa looked at Leo’s face, and saw the lion was murderous.

       “Leo, please,”  she begged, “don’t!”  Leo began to cry.

      “Fleur’s only a cub!”  Leo sobbed, “she doesn’t need this!”

       “We forget she is because of her size,”  Elsa mewed, “I think we’re all guilty of that.”

     “Bianca did a very brave thing chasing Simba down like she did,”  Leo sobbed, “that’s the mark of a true friend that is.  May she and Fleur be friends forever!”

       “Bianca’s horrid too!”  Simba spat, “she’s a horrid scrap, who thinks she’s so advanced because she can wash her face and extend her claws!”

      “shut up!”  Leo screamed.

       “this visit to the pool’s not going too well I see,”  salty mewed, padding up to the three lions.  Elsa glanced at him.

      “It’s a total mess!”  Elsa replied, “what happened to us having a good time?”

      Simba ruined that by attacking Fleur,”  Leo snarled.


Salty snarled and kicked Simba, the cub groaning with pain.

     “We’d better go back to Tigger,”  Salty said, “he wants to see us.”

      “We haven’t exactly had a good time here Salty,”  Elsa mewed.  Salty padded back to the main part of the pool, Elsa following the snow leopard with Simba dangling from her mouth by the scruff of his neck.


When they reached the main pool, Elsa dumped Simba on the rubber flooring.

       “We came here for some fun!”  Tigger snapped, “now certain individuals have ruined it for everyone else!”

       “It’s not my fault!”  Candy whimpered.

       “Be quiet!”  Tigger yelled.

      “Now, if certain animals find it difficult to behave, we’ll end up losing this place, the boss won’t allow us in here any more!”

        “I think there’s been more trouble than just the episode with Simba,”  Leo mewed, “Tigger wouldn’t get angry like this just over what he did.  I think there’s more to it.”


Indeed there was.  Tigger had arrived in the pool area after returning there from showing some of the other animals the slide, just in time to find Candy and, Vagus, one of the cubs from Snowy’s first family, fighting.  The polar bear and snow tiger were going at it hammer and tongs!  Tigger was about to break it up when Candy threw Vagus into the pool!

      “You Candy are the worst!”  Tigger snapped, “how dare you use your weight against a snow tiger cub!”

     “Vagus was saying horrid things about Sam!”  Candy snarled, speaking of her sire, who’d stayed behind at the house.  Tigger had told them both to leave it at that.


Now with everyone present, things were flaring up again.

     “Your sire’s a dreadful creature candy,”  Vagus snarled.

    “Right!”  Candy yelled, now you’re for it!”  She ran over to Vagus and hurled him into the pool once more!  Tigger grabbed Candy as she sprinted past him!

     Now Candy, you listen to me!”  He growled, “you have put your paw in it big time!  You will get out of this place, and go back to your living space!  Now get out!”  Tigger pushed Candy away roughly, the polar bear cub losing her footing and falling into the pool with a tremendous splash.

      “Clarence,”  Tigger commanded, make sure Candy leaves here, and come back to me to tell me she’s where I want her!”

       “Isn’t disciplining the cubs Theo’s job?”  Clarence asked.

     “Dam Theodore!”  Tigger snapped, “it’s not his place this, it’s mine! I make the rules here!”  Theo growled deep in his throat.

      “Watch it Tigger,”  he snarled, “you might know this place, but I can just as easily take it from you.”  Tigger realised what he’d said and fell silent.

      “Just get Candy upstairs,”  Theo said softly.  Tigger, his paws clenched, suddenly exploded!

     “You think you’re all so dam powerful Theo!”  Tigger yelled, “well here you aren’t!  This is my place, my domain, governed by my rules!  You have no power here!”  Theo crawled up to Tigger and stood nose to nose with him.

      “You would do well to keep your mouth shut,”  Theo said softly, “for I am your leader by election.  You might know about the water, about the slide, about the lift, but I know the community, and I know you Tigger.  You are nothing but a cub when compared to someone like Fleur.  You know nothing!  You have all the technical knowledge, but it deserts you when the time is needed for you to use it.  You forget how to birth a cub safely, you get angry with a snow tigress when she’s in labour.  You also leave doors essential to the safety of others open! You do not know as much as you like to think.”  Tigger began to shake with fear

      “I’m, so, so, sorry Theo!”  Tigger stammered.

      “You are here because you are loved and respected,”  Theo said, “now I don’t mind disagreement with my views, but what I won’t have is people insulting me for no reason at all!”

       “Who’s going to bathe the cubs and other animals if Tigger’s sacked?”  Snowy asked.

      “Can’t you guess?”  Leo asked.

     “Not, not Fleur?”  Elsa said, “surely not her Leo?”

     “Why not?”  Leo asked, “she and Bianca, what a team those two would make.”  Tigger didn’t like this kind of talk.

      “I think maybe you shouldn’t talk about those things,”  he said finally.

      “And why not?”  Elsa asked, “for you’ve made some dreadful mistakes Tigger.  You might be knowledgeable, you might be gentle, you might have the long service behind you on which to fall back upon.  But you can be, and are increasingly out of touch, set in your ways, ill at ease during cubbings, all that.  Tigger, you are the closest we have to a medical professional here, and if you can’t cope with a cubbing then that’s pretty poor beans.”  Tigger felt his paws become damp with sweat, he knew he was nearly beaten!

       “You Don’t know about the herbs, about the oils, about the remedies for stress and for healing sore paws!”  Tigger mewed at Theo.

     “I can learn quickly though,”  Theo mewed, “anyway, “who said it would be me who would take your job?  I think the job may go to a younger animal than yourself.  One whom has shown since time out of mind how kind and compassionate she is.  An animal with the softest paws, the gentlest hug, the most beautiful soft fur, and one of the sweetest natures of any cub here today.  One who can inspire a cub, and gain the loyalty and respect of the youngest cub or the oldest adult animal here.  It should be she who governs this place.  Tigger, you know many things, but you do not know the new knowledge, the new spiritual connection.”

      “I could learn, I could try!”  Tigger mewed, now desperate.

      “You can’t learn spiritual things until you learn practical ones, and you can’t even yet master closing a door,”  Theo replied, “so how are you going to open other doors?”  Tigger howled with misery.

     “that was one mistake, one mistake!”  he yelled, “and you want to sack me for it!”

      “That one mistake could have cost Fleur her life!”  Theo growled, “how would you have liked that on your conscience!  No Tigger, you have shown you are intolerant of the needs of others, easily angered, and would push a cub around like she was a plaything!”  Tigger mewed piteously, knowing his time as warden of the water was up.  He knew he aught to study cubbing and foaling, as well as the herbs and other potions of his trade, but the cubbing and foaling study never got done.  This was because he hated the thought of cubbing and foaling.  Tigger learned the Theory, but not the emergency intervention bit, like how to pull a cub or foal.  Tigger had never pulled a cub or foal, had never got his paws dirty in that way.  Theo had, and so had Fleur.  Tigger knew one feared cubbing with good reason, but helped anyway, and the other had only just learned about it, but still helped when needed.  Tigger lay down, feeling suddenly weak and useless.

      “You have taken a job from a blind tiger Theo!”  Clarence yelled, returning from dropping Candy off at the house, “how dare you!”

       “during my reasons for sacking him, I said nothing about his disability Clarence,”  Theo replied.  Clarence spat at Theo.

      “You are horrid!”  he yelled.

      “I am not horrid,”  Theo replied, “Tigger just couldn’t hack the job he was given.  Clarence, he never studied foaling or cubbing, he doesn’t know how to pull a cub or foal.  He doesn’t know how to cope with a breach cub or foal.  Fleur knows both those skills, as well as good communication and interpersonal skills.  Fleur would pull a cub or foal with the best of them.”  Clarence snarled his anger, but could do nothing.”

      “All this spiritual stuff is totally unproven!  It’s stupid cubs stuff!” Clarence growled, looking pointedly at Theo, “what happened to a good cuffing for some of these stupid cubs is what I’d like to know!”  Suddenly Elsa’s paw landed with a smack across Clarence’s face!

      “Nothing happened to a good cuffing!”  Elsa snarled.  Clarence whimpered with shock and pain, he’d never been hit by a lioness before!

      “You disrespectful wench!”  Clarence yelled, “Elsa, you are not allowed to hit a lion!”

      “Oh lord Clarence,”  Elsa mewed in mock submission, “I kneel down before you and kiss your paws!”  Clarence knew she was mocking him and worse, that the others found the situation hilariously funny.  Clarence raised a paw to hit Elsa, but before he could, a huge paw grabbed his and squeezed it with enough force to make him lower his paw, but not quite enough to cause him pain. Leo growled into Clarence’s ear:

     “Listen my friend, you don’t want to be saying, or doing things like that.”  Clarence whimpered with fear.

      “What did I say?  What did I do?”  he asked.

     “When you spoke of spiritual things and of cubs getting a good cuffing, you looked at my brother,”  Leo snarled, “I saw you Clarence!”  Clarence couldn’t deny it.

      “You are the cub round here!”  Elsa snapped at Clarence, “that’s why I hit you!”


Meanwhile, Winifred and her mate Tarquil ran up to the top of the open topped slide, and whistling with excitement, slid down the slide.  Tarquil and Winifred  made a chain, Tarquil holding onto Winifred’s hind paws with his forepaws.  They watched for the lights, then, when they went green, Winifred dropped to her belly, paddling with her forepaws to allow Tarquil to get hold of her hind paws before she slid down the slide.  Winifred felt Tarquil grip her heels with the toes of his forepaws, and she pressed the pads of the toes of both her hind paws into the heels of Tarquil’s forepaws, trying not to dig in her claws.  Tarquil locked his paws on Winifred’s, and the two otters slid down the slide nose to tail.  Both of them screamed with delight as they shot down the slide, their combined weight adding speed in value added portions!  Tarquil hung onto Winifred’s paws while his mate tried to keep most of her own paws off the slide to increase their collective speed by making sure as little of her paw was in contact with the slide.  Tarquil did the same by curling the toes of both his hind paws in an attempt to stop them dragging on the slide.  The otters splashed round the two bends in the open slide, then Tarquil felt the soles of his mate’s paws angle upwards, he knew they were going straight down, and were in for a hell of a ride!  Shooting down the slide, Tarquil realised he would land smack on top of Winifred if he didn’t do something soon!  Winifred hit the water, and dove to the bottom of the pool, Tarquil slamming into the water half a second after her.


Fleur heard the splashing of the two otters as they hit the water, and instantly knew they’d broken safety rules.  Realising she had the chance to prove her credentials for the potential new job, she sprinted towards the pool where the slide emptied as fast as her bruised body and sore paw would allow.  She arrived at the pool edge to find the two otters clambering out.

     “You two, get over here now!”  She snarled.  Winifred  and Tarquil padded over to Fleur, knowing what she wanted.

     “Don’t ever go down the slide in a chain!”  Fleur yelled, raising a paw to emphasise her point, “you nearly ended up landing on top of Winifred  didn’t you Tarquil!”  The two otters looked at each other, knowing something was up, for Fleur was only a cub, and from what they’d heard of her, wasn’t known for treading on others territory with her huge paws.

      “yes Fleur, that’s right,”  Tarquil replied, “may I ask why you are suddenly stamping your paw prints all over this place?”

      “I’m not!”  Fleur mewed, sounding like the cub she was, “It, it’s, well, just that I saw what was going on and knew it was dangerous!”

      “No Fleur, there’s more to it than that,”  Winifred  said, “something’s happened hasn’t it.”

       “Tigger’s been a bit stupid,”  Fleur admitted, “so has Clarence.  Tigger’s lost his job because Theo realised he was incompetent at many things, not just running this place, but other things too, like cubbings and foalings.  He’d not read a manual in years, and didn’t know how to pull a cub or foal, or to help at a breach cubbing or foaling!”

       “Do you know how to?”  Winifred asked.

      “yes!”  Fleur mewed, “I know all that, and I’ve only just started learning!”

     “Good,”  Winifred replied, “for my cubs are due soon.”

     “Your cubs?”  Fleur asked, “you’re having cubs?”

      “yes,”  Winifred replied.

     “Well then!”  Fleur snapped, now more angry than ever, “you shouldn’t endanger them by making chains down water slides should you!”  Winifred  looked down at her paws.  Fleur turned and walked away, the end of her long thick tail angrily twitching.

        “She’s right Winifred,”  Tarquil mewed, “we shouldn’t have done that.”  Winifred  felt her cubs moving inside her.

     “I know,”  she replied.


Fleur padded back to the main group, where Tigger was still getting the worst of it.  He soon slunk away, weeping pitifully and cursing his lot.


Clarence was also feeling the worse for wear, having been given a proper tongue lashing by Elsa, and death stares from Theo over his comments about the spiritual dimension of life.  His paws feeling hot and uncomfortable, Clarence padded to the pool to cool them.  Fleur arrived, saw Clarence and slipped into the pool with the grace of an otter.  Swimming towards the lion, she drew level with him, taking his paw in hers.  The instant the cub’s well padded paw closed over his, Clarence wanted to cry.

      “You could learn so much,”  Fleur purred, “Clarence, it’s not difficult to learn.”

      “Why was Tigger sacked?”  Clarence asked.

      “he thought he knew everything, and refused to learn new things,”  Fleur mewed, “Tigger wouldn’t learn new things, as he thought he knew it all.  That was why he lost his job Clarence, it had nothing to do with him being blind.”  Clarence knew the cub was speaking the truth.

       “I’m sorry for what I said about the spiritual side,”  Clarence mewed, “I shouldn’t comment on things I know nothing about.”

       “Tigger can better himself,”  Fleur replied, “and so can you Clarence.  It’s just, that, well, we can’t let Tigger carry on losing his cool at cubs.  Candy is a sensitive cub, and he forgot that.  She doesn’t need slapping with hard paws to make her see sense.  Tarker now, he did, for a gentle solution wasn’t applicable to him in any shape or form.”

      “Fleur,”  Clarence said, “could, could I stroke your paw?  Please?”  Fleur paddled to the side of the pool where there was a set of steps built into the wall.  Settling her hind paws, she gave Clarence her right forepaw to stroke, the lion gently taking it in his.  Fleur’s paw was soft and warm to Clarence’s touch, who felt the cub’s soft undamaged pads against his rougher life hardened ones.  Clarence looked down at the muddy brown fur of Fleur’s paw, and the black spots which adorned it.  He then turned her paw onto its side and looked at the sole, noticing black spots between Fleur’s pads.  Fleur curled her toes, making the spots disappear in the folds of fur and pad as she curled her toes and clenched her pads.

      “How could anyone hate you Fleur?”  Clarence whispered, looking into her face.

       “Easily if you look on the surface,”  Fleur replied.

     “No,”  Clarence mewed, “no Fleur, you’re beautiful!  Your fur is perfect, your spots are perfect, your stripes are exquisite, your eyes are gentle, your face is kind, your tail’s lovely, your paws are gorgeous!”

      “You really do think that don’t you Clarence,”  Fleur said.

      “I’ve never been more sincere in my life,”  Clarence mewed.  Fleur knew it.

       “thank you Clarence,”  she said, kissing his nose, making Clarence catch his breath.

      “Oh Fleur,”  he sniffed, “oh sweet cub!”  He threw his paws round Fleur and hugged her fiercely.  Fleur let go of the step with her hind paws and let herself drift, the air in her fur acting like that caught in an otter’s fur, making her float on the water.  There was so much air, that even Clarence floated, his weight supported by the water and by Fleur’s ready made floatation aid.  Clarence gently kicked with his hind paws, feeling his toes brush Fleur’s, the cub curling her toes round his and briefly holding them.

      “What do you feel little cub?”  Clarence asked.

       “A frightened lion Clarence,”  she replied.  Clarence nuzzled Fleur’s whiskers, feeling her tail curl round him.  Clarence felt his hind paws pressed flat against Fleur’s, his toes and pads flat against the cub’s.  Fleur gently curled her toes round the lion’s, so they were both unable to paddle with their hind paws.

     “How are we staying afloat?”  Clarence asked.

      “my fur is water resistant, and I can trap air in it,”  Fleur replied, “that’s how we’re staying afloat.  Clarence realised he was totally relaxed, despite the strangeness of his situation.

     “Let yourself drift,”  Fleur said.  Clarence released Fleur and she hugged him so she held Clarence by his hind paws and had her forepaws wrapped round him. Clarence let himself drift in a dream, trusting to Fleur’s air filled fur’s capability to hold both their heads above water.

      “You can learn about the spiritual side Clarence,”  Fleur mewed, “for I know your comments were just ill advised, not serious.”  Clarence suddenly wanted contact with this cub as if she were his own.  He felt as close to Fleur as he did to Petra.

      “forgive me Fleur!”  Clarence sobbed, “I am a stupid cub, really I am!”

       “Have the curiosity of a cub always,”  Fleur said, “but let your mind grow Clarence, let your paws and whiskers find the way, let the cub in you guide your mind to greater understanding.”

      “I will Fleur, “I will!”  Clarence mewed.  He touched her nose with his paw, Fleur nuzzling his pads.

      You are so gentle Fleur,”  Clarence mewed.  Fleur smiled.

      “I try to be,”  she replied.

Clarence tickled Fleur’s ears, the cub laughing helplessly and raising her paw to playfully swipe at his paw.

      “tickling my ears now Clarence?”  Are my paws not good enough?”  Fleur asked. Clarence smiled and touched her nose with his.

     “I forgot how much you trust your paws,”  he said, you know what Fleur?  I’ve never tried just trusting my paws.”  Fleur let go of Clarence, and swam to the edge of the pool, Clarence following.  Clarence watched as Fleur scrambled out of the pool, pretending she couldn’t lift herself out of the water.  Struggling feebly to leave the water, Fleur mewed to Clarence for help.  Clarence lifted Fleur’s body up, the cub scrabbling with her forepaws, until her hind paws were almost level with the side of the pool.  Smiling, Fleur wiggled her toes, encouraging Clarence to tickle her paw, which to her delight, he did.  Fleur laughed helplessly.

      “Let’s go Clarence,”  she mewed.  Clarence followed her from the water, crawling along beside Fleur.  Tigger met them, padded up to Clarence, and touched his paw.

       “coming for a ride on the slide?”  Tigger asked.

       “I’m not invited?”  Fleur mewed.  Bianca crawled up to Fleur and hugged her.

      “I’ll go with you to the slide,”  she mewed, taking Fleur’s huge paw in her tiny one.  Fleur crawled away, Clarence watching her go.

       “I love that cub,”  Clarence mewed.

       “Which one?”  Tigger asked, knowing the answer.

      “Fleur, Bianca, both of them,”  Clarence replied.

     “Fleur’s very good at swimming, that’s for sure,”  Tigger mewed, having seen his cub swimming in the main pool, her huge paws aiding her in blasting through the water with hardly a ripple.

     “I wouldn’t know about her swimming ability,”  Clarence said, “but she’s got a neat trick she does with her fur, it’s so thick and traps so much air, that she can float on the water.  She even took my hind paws in hers, and wrapped her forepaws round my neck to show me that it would hold both of us up.  It’s amazing!”

      “I’ve not seen that,”  Tigger mewed.  Joyous yelling, followed by a huge splash announced Fleur’s arrival in the pool after a ride on the open slide.  The huge cub swam to the edge of the pool, resting one huge paw on the side and looking up at her sire and his friend.

      “come on in,”  she said.

       “You know this part of the pool isn’t’ for general swimming,”  Tigger mewed, “and you think you’re taking my job Fleur?”

     “I knew that,”  she said, “just testing you.”  Then she was gone, swimming towards the shallow end of the pool, where Arki stood in the shallow water, enjoying the sensation of running water against the pads of her paw as she propped it against one of the filter outlets.  Fleur swam down, and crept along the bottom of the pool, until she could reach the pads of Arki’s paw.  Fleur tickled Arki’s pads, the polar bear screaming with surprise and fear!

      “What’s that!”  She yelled, whipping her paw away.

     “What’s what?”  Kodiak asked, catching sight of Fleur, but playing the cub’s game all the same.

     “Something, something tickled my paw!”  Arki yelled.

      “It was the sea monster I told you about I’ll bet,”  Kodiak said, Arki screaming and leaving the water as fast as she could.  Fleur drifted away, not wanting to be associated with the assault on Arki’s paw.  Fleur cruised the water, like the world’s most ungainly submarine, looking for victims with ticklish paws.  She had to be careful not to let her long tail give her away, so she curled it round one hind leg, catching the end between the toes of her right hind paw.  This kept it out of the way, all right it was a bit difficult for Fleur to swim with the toes of one hind paw curled round the end of her extremely long tail, but she managed it, somehow.  Fleur took her cue from the otters, only raising her nose above the surface to take on air, rather than putting her whole head out into the open.  Then she would dive, check her tail was securely held in the toes of her right hind paw, then paddle away.  Fleur had to be extra careful not to get her long tail trodden on by unsuspecting paws.  This was not only painful, but dangerous, as she might drown if she wasn’t quick enough to extricate herself.  Cruising the pool underwater, Fleur saw four golden brown legs adorned with stripes in the water, and glancing down, saw the legs ended in huge, fat, tiger sized paws.   Fleur knew these paws, and their owner well.  Hop along, having had therapy from Snowy for his injured paw for years, either in the house or now in the pool, waited for someone to come and help him.  Looking sleepily into the water, he was surprised to feel two paws take hold of his left forepaw, the toes of which he was resting on a ledge, and begin to stroke it.  The stroking continued, then stopped.  Hop along was wondering what on earth could have done this, when Fleur surfaced beside him.  Hop along stared at her and then shook his head.

      “who are you?”  Hop along asked the cub who was now looking at him.

     “My name’s Fleur,”  Fleur replied.

     “and it was you who was just stroking my paw?”  Hop along asked.

      “Well, yes,”  Fleur admitted.

      “I have a very special way in which my paws are stroked!”  Hop along snapped, ”it’s not to be attempted by cubs, especially ones with dirty brown fur and spotted paws!  Ugh yuck!  What the hell are you?  You’re, oh, I can’t think, a Bengal tiger and snow leopard cross bred cub!  How horrid!  Who’s offspring are you!?”

       “I’m sorry?”  Fleur asked, “I don’t know what you mean.”

     “Who are your mother and father you disgusting cub!”  Hop along snapped, swiping at Fleur with his paw.

       “Hey!”  Fleur mewed, “that’s not fair!”

      “You shouldn’t have stroked my paw without asking then should you!”  Hop along snarled, lunging at Fleur with bared teeth.

      “Okay, I’m sorry, so sorry!”  Fleur mewed.  Hop along swore at her, telling her where she could stick her fat spotty paws.

       “Hop along!”  Snowy snapped, “stop saying that!”  Hop along whirled round on the snow tigress.

      “Why?”  He asked, “do you know this horrid animal?”

      “I do, and she’s not horrid,”  Snowy mewed, “her name’s Fleur, and I saw what she did.  Fleur’s a lovely creature, her nature is the sweetest, her paws are the softest, her tail’s the longest, her fur’s the most cuddly fur.  Granted Fleur might have done well to have asked you before she stroked your paw, but she’s a cub, and cub’s sometimes don’t ask!”

       “I hate her!”  Hop along mewed.

     “Why?”  snowy asked.

     “She’s, she’s horrid!  She’s got fat paws, and dirty fur, and her paws look as if they’ve not been washed for ages!”

      “Fleur,”  Snowy mewed, “please, come over here will you?”  Fleur, now very upset, paddled up to snowy.

     “Give me your paw dear Fleur,”  snowy purred.  Fleur gave Snowy her paw, and Snowy showed it to the large Bengal tiger.

     “Here’s Fleur’s paw,”  snowy mewed, “it’s one of your so called dirty paws, which you accuse Fleur of having.  I will now rub at her paw.”  Snowy dipped Fleur’s paw in the water and gently rubbed her pads and toes with her own paw.

       “here, look,”  snowy mewed, showing Hop along the sole of Fleur’s paw.  Nothing had changed.  Hop along smashed his paw down into the water!

      “I hate that cub!”  he yelled.  Fleur mewed with fear, angering Hop along further.

     “Will you shut that thing up Snowy!”  he yelled, splashing fleur so much she choked on the water.

      “Fleur’s only a cub!”  Snowy mewed, trying to shelter Fleur from any further attack.

     “Who would give birth to an oversized misfit like that!”  Hop along yelled, “it’s horrible!”

      “Fleur’s lovely in her own way Hop along,”  Bianca mewed.

     “Ay?”  Hop along asked, “you don’t like that, that fat lump do you Bianca?”

     “Now listen to me!”  Bianca snarled, “you say one more word against Fleur, and, I’ll, I’ll rip your paws off, then your tail, then your head!”  Hop along spat at Bianca.

      “So, that horrid bundle of dirty, stripy, spotty fur has got a friend,”  the tiger scoffed, “how sweet, how very sweet!”  Then he made a grab for fleur!  Hop along had big paws, and one shot out to scoop fleur towards the enraged and disgusted Bengal tiger.

      “I will save your parents the trouble of putting you out of your misery fleur!”  Hop along snarled.  Fleur, large though she was, could not compete with Hop along’s huge stature and massive paws!  Snowy, scared for her own cub, but also for Fleur, screamed for help!  Hop along dragged Fleur towards him, the large cub now blinded and choked by the water.

       “I’m going to break your neck!”  Hop along yelled.  Fleur suddenly looped her tail over her back, throwing it round Hop along’s mouth and nose, clamping his mouth shut, his teeth biting down on his tongue!  The tiger, surprised by this, threw up his paws to tear at her tail with his claws!  Hop along’s tongue was bitten half through, and he wanted to scream with pain, but couldn’t because Fleur’s tail still clamped his mouth shut!  Fleur then quickly clawed her way up Hop along’s shoulder, digging her claws into his fur until she was lying on his back.  Hop along now floundering in the water, Fleur began with clenched paws to smash down on his neck!  Hop along wriggled and twisted, but couldn’t throw her off!”  Now Leo, Theo and the bears were closing in, and Hop along’s time was nearly up.  Theo and Leo bowled the Bengal tiger over, Sending Fleur tumbling into the water, where, reclaiming her tail, she sank away like a shadow, not wanting to meet the enraged tiger any more.  Fleur crawled along the bottom of the pool, weaving her way between the legs of the other lions and tigers.  She touched Hop along’s right hind paw during this, and the tiger, feeling her touch, curled his toes, then relaxed his paw.  Those who could see Hop along’s face, saw his eyes grow wet, and the tiger begin to cry.

     “What’s going on down there!”  Bianca asked.  Hop along was now weeping uncontrollably.

     “something’s stroking my paw, and it’s lovely!”  he sobbed.  Suddenly Fleur popped up beside Hop along’s tail, took a breath and then dove back down to stroke his hind paws once more.  Hop along, still crying, pressed his paws against Fleur’s, the cub rubbing and stroking as best she could while holding her breath.

      “the animal with the paws who can move me to tears must be a great healer,”  Hop along mewed, “for my pain is totally gone!”

       “that animal with the paws is the same one whom you were insulting five minutes ago,”  Theo said to Hop along.

      “Not, not that dirty brown thing?”  Hop along asked.

     “the same,”  Theo mewed, “the trouble was Hop along, you went on what she looked like and the fact she touched your paw without asking.  Fleur shouldn’t have touched your paw, but now she’s won you over by touching your paw, so I won’t punish her.”  Hop along sobbed pitifully.

       “I’m sorry Fleur!”  Hop along mewed.  Fleur felt the tiger’s mood in the pulse flowing through his paw, and surfaced by his head.

      “Here I am,”  she mewed, holding out her paw.  Hop along licked Fleur’s nose and kissed her paw.

     “I’m sorry, so Sorry Fleur!”  he sobbed.

      “This paw, the same one you told me was a dirty paw was the one which soothed your pain Hop along,”  fleur mewed.  Hop along shook his head, gulped, then looked at fleur.

     “Please,”  he said, “when we leave here Fleur, would you look at and stroke my [paws?, then, then, could I look at yours and  maybe stroke them too?”  Fleur touched Hop along’s left forepaw.

      “Why the sudden change in attitude?”  she asked, “you hated me, tried to choke me with water, insulted me, and now this.”

       “I saw what love the others had for you in the way they reacted to your situation,”  Hop along mewed, “and then, then when I felt that paw, that paw, stroking the pads of my hind paw, I knew, knew I was wrong about you.  For no matter what I did to you, you would still carry on trying to stroke my paws.  There must be only one or two reasons for you to keep at this, and one is you want to give me pain relief.  My paws are yours Fleur,”  Hop along mewed.

     “the other reason might be that I know that deep down you long not to hate me,”  fleur said.  Hop along choked on his tears.

      “I don’t want to hate you!”  he sobbed, “it’s, just, just that I was scared by you, and when I’m scared, I get angry, and I’ve been so stupid!”  the tiger wept.  Fleur held Hop along’s paw until he was quite calm.

     “Let’s go into the large bathtub,”  fleur suggested, there you can lie comfortably, and I can get to your paws.”  Hop along followed fleur to the main bathtub in the complex, the same one where Simba had taunted Tigger.  Hop along lay down in the luxuriously warm water.

     “My paws are yours dear Fleur, all yours,”  he mewed.


Fleur carefully examined Hop along, from his nose to his toes.  She saw old injuries, as well as wear and tear on his coat and paws.  Fleur noticed Hop along watching her, as, lying on his side as he was, he did in comfort.

      “I don’t think examining my face or my eyes has anything to do with massaging my paws,”  Hop along yawned.

     “No,”  Fleur replied, “but I like to really get to know those who give me permission to handle their paws.  Hop along stretched his toes, the claws quickly extending and then retracting just as quickly as he relaxed his paws.  Fleur took a look at Hop along’s forepaws, then his hind, noticing he had different numbers of toes on his fore and hind paws.  He had five toes on his forepaws, and four on his hind.  Fleur realised she didn’t know how many toes she had, a fact which she felt she really aught to know, as she relied so much on her paws.  Fleur stroked her fat spotted left forepaw along Hop along’s belly, the tiger making a grunting, whistling sound deep in his throat, which Fleur knew well from when snowy was feeling pleasure.  She knew she was doing the right thing for the Bengal tiger.

      “Is that okay?”  She asked, stroking the tiger’s left forepaw.  Hop along, his eyes half closed, purred that it was very much okay.

     “You are badly injured Hop along,”  fleur said gently.  The tiger seemed to catch his breath, his whole body jerking as he did so.

     “I am,”  he said, tears welling in his eyes, “I am injured, and it will never heal, not really.”  Fleur hugged the weeping Bengal tiger as best she could.

     “Oh Hop along, dear Hop along, what’s the matter?”  fleur asked.

      “I sometimes get really upset, when the pain’s at its worst, like today, and I took it out on you little cub!”  Hop along sobbed.

      “but I stroked your paw without asking you, you were right to be angry,”  Fleur replied.

     “No,  fleur, no sweet cub, Not like that!”  the tiger choked, “I splashed you, tried to drown you, I wanted to kill you!  Why kill a defenceless cub?  Why even consider it?  Because my pain was so great I was ready to lash out at anything and rip it to shreds!  Now though, now,”  Hop along mewed, clasping his forepaws together, his toes so tightly clasped they were white, his tears splashing into the warm water, “now, now I’m so, so sorry!  Please forgive me Fleur!”  the tiger shouted, his voice full of years of pain, “for I can’t help myself sometimes, I go crazy!  This constant pain drives me mad, and it’s not my doing!  Most of the time I’m okay,”  Hop along whispered, the torrent now unstoppable, “most of the time I’m an amiable, even gentle tiger, but when the pain hits me I become a raging menace!  I don’t want to be like this fleur, believe me little cub, if I could have even a day without this constant pain, I’d give anything for it.”  Fleur stroked the tiger’s forepaws and examined his pads while listening to him.

      “I was handsome once,”  Hop along mewed, “then I was lord of all I knew.  Those days were too short, for then I got thrown into a place, where I was made to stand permanently, no sitting, no lying down.  I think that’s what did for my right hind paw, I can’t move that paw without pain now.”

       “Can you curl and flex your toes?”  Fleur asked.

     “yes,”  Hop along mewed, “but moving the paw as in flexing the joint is very painful.  It didn’t set right, and it is this which causes me the pain which drives me insane!  It was the pain you stopped by rubbing the sole of my paw with yours earlier today,”  Hop along whispered, “take me back there fleur!”  the tiger begged.  Fleur held Hop along while he cried into her fur.


the other animals watched in disbelief.  Hop along had never reacted to a massage like this, not with so much ranting and pleading.  Snowy was concerned the near wild tiger might injure Fleur, but fleur herself didn’t seem concerned.  Maybe she knew something Snowy didn’t.


Once Hop along’s tears had dried, he released fleur, and she started work on his hind paws.  Stroking his pads and counting his toes by touch, something which seemed to upset him.

        “What’s up Hop along?”  Fleur asked, while some of the other animals were getting rather fed up with the tiger’s tearful outbursts.

     “Let’s leave him to it!”  Amber spat, “that dam cub and stupid tiger can carry on their stupid game without us!”

      “that’s the most horrid thing I’ve heard all day!”  Arki snapped whacking Amber hard with her paw, “you don’t know what Hop along’s life has been, and maybe Fleur, without knowing it, is triggering memories from his cubhood.”  Leo and Theo held each other’s paws, for Arki’s words rang true with them.  Many a night went by with each stroking the other’s paws, and games of tag as well as paw massage would invariably reduce one or the other, or both to tears of longing for the old carefree days.  Unlike the lions, Hop along and Tigger were solitary animals, and though this was how they were brought up to be, Theo detected a need in both Tigger and Hop along to be loved, to be touched, and hugged.  Snowy demonstrated her need quite openly, but that was how she’d always been.


Fleur counted the toes on Hop along’s hind paws, taking each paw in her large ones and counting his toes, checking them for damage, which there was a lot.  Hop along sobbed quietly, conscious fleur might be tired of his whimpering.  He felt wretched, and in need of someone to love.  For Hop along was sure that if he had someone to love, it would take his mind off his aching paw, and maybe he’d weep for another reason entirely, because, without prompting, a fat cub, with a dirty brown coat and spots on her paws took his paw and stroked it with genuine love in her heart.  Hop along felt Fleur take hold of his other hind paw, and this made him want to cry even more.  She was so gentle, so gentle after all he’d done to her, she still treated him with kindness and gentleness.  Hop along knew snowy had probably described him to Fleur, so the cub probably knew his paws and their problems as well as Snowy did, even before they’d met.  Hop along wasn’t concerned about that however.

        “You have very worn paws Hop along dear,”  Fleur mewed.  Hop along sniffed hard, trying to control his emotions.

      “I do Fleur, I do,”  he sniffed, “I’m sorry!”  he sobbed.  Fleur stroked the tiger’s war worn right hind paw, the one which she’d touched earlier that day and given him pain relief.  Hop along felt his pain vanishing as the cross bred cub’s paw massaged his pads and toes.  Hop along relaxed, and Fleur knew she was doing a good job.

     “Fleur,”  Hop along said, “please, listen to me dear cub,”  fleur cocked an ear towards Hop along, but still stroked his paw.

        “Would, would you, please, please, would you, I, mean, I’d like,,,”

      “You want me to be your cub?”  Fleur asked gently.  Hop along’s reply was to curl his toes round Fleur’s and hold hers tight against his bunched pads.  Fleur knew what this meant, and she was deeply moved.

      “You could love a cub,”  Fleur said to Hop along, “I can feel it.”  The tiger, sobbing again, nodded.

      “I will be your cub Hop along,”  fleur whispered.  Suddenly there was a splash and a rush of golden fur and desperate reaching paws, and Fleur found herself clasped in the forepaws of a huge Bengal tiger as Hop along embraced her, weeping anew into her fur.

     “Show me peace Fleur, please!”  Hop along begged.  Fleur touched Hop along’s nose with her paw.

      “You can be at peace if you’d let yourself go there,”  Fleur mewed, “I can help, but it will have to be you who opens that particular door.”  Hop along cried into Fleur’s thick dirty brown fur.

     “I need you little cub,”  Hop along sobbed, “show me the way home fleur, please!  I know I said I need a cub to love, but then a cub needs love, even if she has many loving cubs and adults looking out for her, one more surely can’t hurt?  I will love you like my own cub,”  Hop along mewed, “if you could find it in your heart to love me, then that would be truly wonderful fleur, but I can’t ask it of you.”

       “Love is endless and there are many different kinds of love,”  Fleur replied, “I already love you Hop along, and I think you know it.  For if you couldn’t feel it, why ask me to be your adopted cub?”  Hop along clung to Fleur, holding her close, his tears wetting her fur.

        “now Hop along my dear tiger,”  Fleur said gently, “please, let me finish my work, and then maybe you can learn more about me too, for I like paw massages too you know, and you know what I say about paws.”

      “Follow your paws and whiskers because they’ll show you the way?”  Hop along asked.

     “yes,”  Fleur replied.

     “I know you cubs will sometimes touch each other’s paws for no other reason than it feels the right thing to do,”  Hop along mewed, “is that an okay thing to do?  Just touch another animal’s fore or hind paw without warning?”

     “It’s okay if you’re in a place where everyone is comfortable expressing themselves in that manner,”  Fleur replied, “for each knows the others feelings when their pads touch.  It’s all in the touch you see.  Sometimes, for instance,  Petra will touch the toes or pads of one or other of my hind paws with her forepaw, and I will curl my toes round hers, and not realise I’ve done it.  It’s an unconscious reaction, but no less meaningful for all that.”

      “So I could be lying on the floor with my head resting on my forepaws, my hind outstretched behind me, and you could place your forepaw on the pads of one of my hind paws, and I’d curl my toes round yours, just like that?”  Hop along asked.

      “yes,”  fleur replied, “and I’ll bet you, if you truly love me, your toes will curl round mine and hold my paw without you making a conscious choice.

     “Now I know why you played with Bianca so naturally!”  Hop along said, “you knew you both loved one another!”

       “Yup,”  Bianca said, running to Fleur and splashing into the water before hugging her.  this display of affection made hop along want to cry buckets.

      “that’s wonderful to see,”  he mewed.


“I thought you already had cubs Hop along?”  Theo asked.

      “Well,”  the tiger snorted, “I suppose I do, in that they carry my genes.  Tinka had the cubs, we didn’t.  She wanted me for sex and that was that.  I tried to talk her round to letting me have contact with my cubs, but she wouldn’t have it, and was adamant I wasn’t near her during their birth.”  Hop along suddenly looked very sad, “I wish I could have seen my cubs born,”  he said softly.

     “Pippa is one of your cubs though, isn’t she?”  Leo asked.

      “She is,”  Hop along mewed, his mood brightening a little, “but the others don’t want to know me.”

     “That’s terrible,”  Theo mewed.

      “Never a day goes past when I don’t think of my cubs,”  Hop along mewed, trying desperately not to cry, “I wan’a hug ‘em so much!”  he sobbed.  Fleur hugged Hop along, and this was a really big hug.  Hop along held her close, stroking her head and paws.

      “My dear Fleur, my sweet cub!”  he sobbed.  Fleur mewed like a newborn cub, and this had Hop along weeping for joy.

     “Why did Fleur go so far as to mew like a newborn cub?”  Tigger asked Clarence.

       “to Hop along, she’s just that,”  Clarence said, wiping his eyes with a paw, “she’s newborn to Hop along Tigger.”  Tigger didn’t notice Clarence’s state, but Elsa did, and hugged the lion tenderly.

      “You are so soppy sometimes Clarence,”  Elsa mewed, licking his ear.


Hop along and fleur left the large bath, and all the animals left the swimming pool building, drying their fur and paws thoroughly before entering the house.



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