June 10, 2009

Cat People, Dog People

I've always considered myself to be a cat person, probably because I've always had cats. I like cats and I have trouble understanding why some people don't. Cats crack me up. They are graceful but unwilling to act within the bounds of grace. And if you have a pack of cats, you have a whole that adds up--in ways that can actually be kind of creepy--to something more than the sum of its parts. It can be ominous, if cats can be ominous.

Some people, apparently, hate cats. I don't get that. I love cats.

And yet, as it turns out, I'm also a dog person. I had a friend in graduate school--and so did many of you--who claimed, credibly, to prefer dogs to people, and who claimed, not so credibly, that if she had to choose between running over a dog or running over a person, she'd probably hit the person. This was all the more perplexing to me because her dog was the one dog I've ever met that didn't like me.

But, you'll say, that dog didn't like anybody. That's not the point. Animals love me, dammit. Did you ever see a statue of St. Francis with his hands outstretched and birds flying around him? Well, I can assure you that birds are more likely to crap on the statue of St. Francis than they are to crap on me. So there.

I resisted letting my family get a dog, because I knew from experience that dogs are a lot of trouble. They have to be outside a lot, and their interactions with strangers can be problematic (as I experienced as a youth when my dog Max, a rescued doberman, had an altercation first with a horse, and then with the angry Amishman whose buggy the horse was pulling). Funny looking back on it, and a little funny even at the time ...

Everybody in the family insisted that the dog would be no trouble to me ... they'd walk it, they'd feed it, they'd clean up after it, etc. Suuure. But I knew that I'd be hearing that "my dad wouldn't let us have a dog" line for the next 50 years, so I relented.

Well, Annie (how did we end up naming our dog after the one dog I've ever met who didn't like me?) sure was a cute puppy, and I held the family to their promise. And of course fell in love with the dog. A year or so later, the family took a vote and said that the dog was too much trouble, that I had been right, that they wouldn't mind giving her away. My response was this: "If we start getting rid of things that are too much trouble in this house, we're NOT starting with the dog." I glared significantly and waggled my significant, even Dickensian eyebrows (ah, the joys of ageing), and everyone got the point. The dog stayed, and so did they ... so far.

And so, seven or so years later, I'm an animal person, not a cat person. The dog is sweet-natured and not overly brave, so I'm all the more impressed when she responds assertively to perceived threats (a noise on the porch that isn't somebody ringing the doorbell, for instance ... or the wheelbarrow in the yard, which she apparently thinks is a very slow-moving three-legged bear). She maintains order amongst the cats by breaking up their wrestling matches and naps. She recognizes about five words, and if you say one of them, you can watch her slowly checking down through her short list of concepts to see which one might be relevant: Out? Treat? Snack? Cookie? Toy?

So while I guess I continue to value human life over animal life in general, I do find myself prefering the company of animals. They might be sneaky, but they're honestly and frankly sneaky. They don't lie, and they don't want more than they need. And they're not big complainers.

Hooray for animals!

Birds, though ... I'm not big on birds.


Rosemary said...

I agree about cat packs--having two now, I don't know if I'd ever want just one again. They're way too much fun in tandem.

A friend of ours in Colorado also had a problematic beagle--differently problematic than Annie I, but problematic nonetheless. At the friend's wedding, we sat with her boss, the chair of the history department, and the subject of Oliver (the beagle) came up. "That dog's an asshole," the boss opined.

As you note, generally, animals are preferable company...but sometimes, they, too, can be assholes.

I hope you're going to blog about the dog, the horse, and the Amishman (all walked into a bar?) sometime. That's a story I want to hear.

yarmando said...

Problematic Annie didn't hate everybody; just men. Particularly men in ball caps. I was enormously thrilled when it turned out that our cat Dodger liked everybody except women in jumpers.

Tom said...

Three of the words that dog knows are "treat," "snack," and "cookie"? At least the dog won't go hungry, I'm guessing.

JB said...

Oddly, the dog is rather skinny, in spite of her bad eating habits. And maybe the fact that the cats--in particular The Doctor--periodically bat her food around the floor.