Toby Jug by Denis O'Connor is a picture of a year in the life of Toby Jug, the Maine Coon Denis rescued and whose life he saved. If you like a gentle, peaceful, sometimes amusing read that will transport you to the English country side, this is the book for you. This isn't to imply that you won't need a tissue sometime while reading about their year, but this is by no means a sad book. Denis and Toby live in the Northumbrian village of West Thirston. The man and his cat are nearly inseparable. Denis is as much a champion of the English country side and its creatures as he is a cat lover. An hour spent with this book and I feel like I have been visiting Denis' cozy cottage, an old place with thick walls and a lovely garden surrounding it. Together Denis and Toby roam the seacoast, enjoy good food (Denis knows his food and wines), and it is together that they meet a mare named Lady May. Denis wins her trust and her love as well. He, Toby and Lady May spend many happy hours together. Those of us who have animals know that they love deeply, unconditionally and feel loss often more keenly than humans do and certainly more than most humans give them credit for. This proves true in the story of Lady May..
There is a bit of intrigue as Denis seeks to save the local otters from being killed. Being a bit of a "monkey wrencher" myself, I loved reading about Denis foiling of the otters’ would-be killers. Denis and Toby make new friends, not only in the owners of Lady May, but in a minister and his wife who are going to travel out of the country and need some one to look after their two ponies and take them for drives. This new experience for Denis, who is a lover of horses, lends another aspect to his equine encounters. As a horse trainer, myself, I appreciate Denis' calm, respectful manner with Lady May as well as the two ponies.
Running throughout the book is always Denis' observations of the countryside,the trees, the flowers, the weather, the birds and the wildlife he encounters as he and Toby explore their particular corner of Northumbria. Denis loves the land and the wild creatures who make it their home. Not one to beat his readers over the head, Denis is, nonetheless, a staunch environmentalist.
If you want to visit Denis and Toby during one particular year of their lives, find a deep, comfortable chair, preferably in front of a crackling fire in the fireplace. Sip a cup of tea or hoist a mug of ale or even a Waterford stemware of Bordeaux. Denis is an opera fan. The only thing I like about opera is, in the words of Groucho Marx, "the chandelier". Some good music to have playing softly in the background as you journey via your armchair and this book to Northumbria, might be any of the flute music of Carlos Nakai, George Winston's "December" album, any of the Secret Garden cds, "The Renaissance of the Celtic Harp" by Alan Stivell, or possibly "Ancient Aires and Dances" by Antonin Respighi. Hopefully one or more of your cats will nap on your lap as you read. Having just created for you my own idea of peace, let me also say that this book will fill you with delight. Encompassing a year in the lives of Denis and Toby Jug, I don't know about you, but when the book and the year ended, I wanted them to go on and on, in word-imagery as vivid, delicate and ephemeral as a cobweb hung with dew.
Toby Jug can be found on Amazon, possibly Kindle, in most libraries, used book stores or Barnes and Noble. As a person who lives to read, I find, when I encounter a book like this one that I also read to live! Get acquainted with Denis and Toby, or reacquainted if you've read Paw Tracks in the Moonlight. You'll find they've become old friends, and you'll be gently reminded to cherish and protect the very things and creatures we hold most dear. Each day is a gift, as is reading this book.
LFFAC adventures, stories and maybe even a cute cat video every now & then.