Gavin Maxwell lived in a cottage in Camusfearna, in the West Highlands in Scotland. He was fond of keeping pets. After the death of his pet dog Jennie, he was too sad to think of a dog again. The author was in Basra city of Iraq on a visit. There, one of his friends presented him an otter. He took his otter to England where he had a flat of his own. He had some interesting experiences during his air journey from Basra to Paris and London.
Early in 1956, Gavin Maxwell went to Southern Iraq. He decided to keep an otter as a pet instead of a dog as the place, he was living in Camusfearna, was ringed by water. The author’s friend suggested that he should get one from ‘The Tigris Marshes’ as there were plenty of otters there. They went to Basra to collect their mail but the author’s mail had not arrived. When his mail finally arrived, he went to his room and found two Arabs there. They had brought an otter for him.
The otter which looked more like a dragon, completely changed his life. He was covered with mud, which took months to shed.
The author named it Mijbil.
Aloof at first, he soon started taking an interest in his surroundings. He enjoyed playing with water in the bath tub.
Mijbil soon started answering to his name. He would play for hours with a rubber ball. He would often lie on his back and juggle with small objects between his paws.
The author feared how he would fly with Mijbil to England as the British Airlines would not allow animals. Finally, he booked a flight to Paris and from there to London. Mijbil had to travel in a box.
Mijbil was not used to that and tried to get out by tearing the inner lining. In the process, he had cut himself badly and was covered with blood. The author had to take him on the flight in that very way. He took air hostess in his confidence and she advised him to keep Mijbil on his knee.
Soon Mijbil disappeared from his box and created a commotion in the plane as people thought it was a rat.
Mijbil and the author stayed in London for a month. Mijbil played for hours with toys like ping-pong balls, marbles, rubber, fruits, etc. The author used to exercise Mijbil on a lead outside. Mijbil would often take the author towards a primary school and gallop on its outer wall, much to the amusement of the pupils and distraction of the teacher. People wondered what kind of animal he was. Some thought it was a seal, others a squirrel or walrus, a hippo, a leopard etc.
The author, however, awarded the highest marks to a labourer who stared at Mijbil and demanded to know exactly what it supposed to be.