|Shadow and my wife in Maine|
For most of my life I owned dogs. German Shepherds were my dog of choice because as far as dog intelligence is concerned they seemed to be the most intuitive. Shepherds are loyal and protective, and being close to the wolf line they have the instinct of the pack (the family is their pack and they don’t like or trust outsiders.)
|Shadow hauling water to our house in Maine|
For a short while, between my Shepherds, I own an Irish Wolfhound. It had a bat shit tea-party intellect and he would bolt at any loud sound and run for miles; I would have to be chased down. It would walk through the house and knock things over and then go ballistics – it had absolutely no sense. The only saving grace was she liked whiskey and water: we would sit in front of our house and drink together and then stagger inside and take a nap.
I also owned a couple of Basset Hounds that I hunted. They were affectionate animals with a great nose.
I loved my dogs, bonded with them and enjoyed them but now I have a cat.
Dogs are simple creatures and have a simple philosophy of life:
Pet me, pet me, pet me, pet me…
Throw the stick, throw the stick, throw the stick…
I smell piss on the pole – I want to piss on the pole, I want to piss on the pole…
Another dog – I want to smell his ass, I want to smell his ass, I want to smell his ass…
Feed me, feed me, feed me…
I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, throw the stick, throw the stick…
Dogs desire to be with you and desire to please you; they can be trained to perform certain functions – but they are not the brightest light bulb on the animal tree.
I got my first cat when I was forty-nine and living in Alaska. My wife and I were bush teachers and we had been transferred to an Indian village with no district housing, which meant we had a job but no place to live. I knew one of the old Natives in the village and he offered to help. He owned an old abandon one room (16x16’) cabin that he had lived in before the government came in and built commercial log homes for all the Natives. The cabin was a derelict and had no windows and no door; the roof was leaking and was in terrible shape; of course, no electricity, water or sewerage.
He told me that my wife and I could live in the cabin if I would fix it up. The cabin was full of spiders and small animals including a community of voles.
From a cat rescue group in Fairbanks we found a large Maine Coon Cat. He was about two years old and had a tattoo in his ear, but it was smudged and they had not been able to connect with the owner. It was thought that he might have escaped from a motor home passing through Fairbanks.
It took a few months to bond with Hobby but 20 pounds of Maine Coon Cat immediately took care of our small animal problem. After about six months he accepted that we were his people and that he would have to put up with us.
At the end of the year in the cabin we left Alaska for the lower forty-eight and Hobby left with us.
People with a control problem can’t own cats. If you can accept that a cat is its own person then you can enjoy a unique equality of friendship. Just because cats refuse to be trained, some people resent them and believe them less intelligent than dogs. Actually the opposite is true.
Hobby accepted my wife but bonded with me. He wanted to be with me most of the time. He was curious: I would open my tool box and he would immediately sort through it and check out everything. If I was up on the ladder painting or hanging sheet rock he would be up on the ladder with me. If I would try to read a book or the paper he would come up and lay on top whatever I was reading - if I was on the computer he would be up trying to walk on the keyboard. He played a little alpha male game with me: he would saunter through the room very nonchalant then nip at my ankle and take off running. Highly intelligent – he could communicate what he wanted and what he liked. He was a good friend, but always his own person. I owned a number of dogs, but Hobby was my friend. He died in 2002, after ten years with us, and I still miss him.
Dogs are slaves to their owners, but cats are independent; as a result, many dog owners feel resentment toward cats. That’s fine, we all have our druthers.
I don’t dislike dogs, but I feel about them the same way I feel about kids: if you want them fine, but don’t inflict them on me. Just because you tie a bandana around pooches neck doesn’t make me want to pet him; I don’t appreciate him pissing on the wheels of my truck, I don’t want to walk in his crap, I don’t want to have to put up with his barking and I damn well better not get bitten. If I wanted to clean up crap in my yard I would go out and buy a dog. Keep your dog at home and the same goes for your cat. People who let their animals wander are thoughtless and egocentric asses.
We now have a fourteen year old Rag Doll cat that has been my wife’s shadow since we brought her home at twelve weeks old. She has the same unique bond with my wife that I had with Hobby.
I dread the time when we will loose her, but at my age I look at death as fact of life – the final tribute that we owe to nature.
I remember my dogs fondly, but I feel privileged to have had a cat for a friend.