July 31, 2017

A Dog and a Cat

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A few months’ ago I confided in my friend Tim my desire to have a dog.

“I’m going to give you some advice,” he said. “Don’t. You’re a cat person.”

I positively bristled at this: You’re not the boss of me. Don’t tell me I can’t do something. Adults don’t tell other adults they can’t do things. When I want advice, I’ll ask for it.

I related all this to my friend Nancy who burst out laughing.

“You are a cat person,” she said. “You even bristle like a cat. You won’t see a dog bristle. And you’re self-contained like a cat.”

Fast forward to this week. I said to Tim, “I’m going to tell you something you’ll probably never hear again from me. So enjoy it while you can: you were right.”

My revelation came about because I am pet sitting for a friend this week. I have responsibilities for a dog, a cat, and a house alarm system. The cat is the only one that doesn’t bring with it both a steep learning curve and several shots of anxiety.

The animals I already know. I adore the cat. He’s a smooth, white cat with shell-shaped patches of gray and black, a soulful expression and a majestic bearing. His name—you’ll want to be sitting for this—the name of this dignified creature is Fang. He dislikes being picked up so of course I pick him up every time I visit. He protests plaintively while snuggling against me at the same time. So he’s hardly a Fang but Fang he is called. Fang needs to be visited and fed twice a day and I am fine with this. It’s the standard I’m used to.

Rocket, the dog, is a Silken Windhound. He looks like a whippet only with flowing fur and a long whispery tail. His face I can only describe as pretty. He’s a pretty dog and very sweet. He’s thin: when he lays in the yard smiling his sweet smile, his flowing fur is at one with the grass so his neck and head look like they are growing out of the earth. Rockets needs a chance to pee at least three times a day. This is a standard that dog owners understand but it was new to me.

I thought I could eliminate one pee visit a day if Rocket just stayed with me. Though I had all the infra-structure in place, it was my cat, Artemis who put the kibosh on that idea. She was fine with the kennel sitting in the front room, she just didn’t want a dog in it. Rocket sniffing around the house immediately put her off. She jumped on a scratch post that serves as a launch to an overhang and from there to crawl under an eave of the sun room. She hangs out there a lot, away from anyone or anything that might disturb her peace of mind.

Meantime I thought that Rocket would go around like a wind-up toy until he ran down and then he’d flop and be like a cat. A cat requires food and water and your presence should she desire it. The rest of the time she either doesn’t want you around or she has no hesitation in settling down, immovable, into whatever you are trying to do be it writing, reading, knitting, gardening, playing the piano, working on the computer, cooking with heat or sewing with sharp needles. Whatever she has interrupted, a cat is content as long as you work around and don’t inconvenience her.

A dog, it seems, wants you to invite his participation into everything you do. When I sat on the couch and tried to read, Rocket wanted to see what I was reading. He wanted me to share the funny bits with him. He wanted to gaze adoringly into my face. When I turned on the TV, he wanted to pace in front of it. He finally settled down on his blanket.

Then I got up for some fizzy water and Rocket came along. (What are we doing now? Oh goody, you’re getting a drink of water. I’m so glad you are careful about hydration. What? Now we’re closing a window. Oh yay!) It took some time to get him settled down again. Just in time for me to realize I needed to pee. Repeat.

If you unsettle a cat, in my experience, she stalks off in high dudgeon and that’s the end of the episode. Apparently not so with a dog. It would have been an education for me to have a dog here for a week. The reason I thought I wanted a dog in the first place was to have a pet that would ride in the car with me and greet me with rapture every time I came in the house even if I had only just been to the mail-box. Apart from that I thought a dog was pretty much like a cat in that it could keep its own counsel once in a while. I guess not.

And then there’s the thing about dog poop. It may be said at once that I decisively failed that course. I wore a latex glove on the scoop hand and inserted that into the plastic bag. I turned my head, managing as I’ve done with dead rats, to pick it up without actually looking at it. This serves the dual purpose of keeping my nose upwind.

Listen, I have been scooping out cat litter boxes since 1983 and hardly give it a thought, even when Winston in his arthritic old age missed the box completely. That seems positively dignified compared to picking it up in public while it’s still warm.Dogs will do it in the road. Cats require privacy. When I came around the corner as Fang was preparing to enter his litter box, he paused, one paw in mid-air. He gave me a quelling look such as my mother would do after I’d said something sacreligious.

My friend’s house is not that far away. I rolled down the hill on my bicycle and was greeted by both animals, one more rapturously than the other. Afterwards I pedalled home up-hill. Or I drove there with stuff to work on and hung out with the boys in the lovely back yard garden.

Rocket and Fang get along as long as it is understood that Fang runs the show. To the more self-contained go the spoils.


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