1/31/05 - 7:25 pm
Here's how I transended from being a Strictly Cat Person to being a Dog (and cat) Person: I fell in love.
No, not with a dog. I fell in love with a man; a man who is a Bonified Dog Person. He converted me and here's how he did it.
A month before we began to date, I adopted two seal point siamese; a brother and sister; litter-mates. Jack and Shirley B. were too, too adorable. And then I began to "see" W.
As our relationship progressed, he began to recognise that for the first time he was going to be living with cats. They got on the bed and had to be chased away. They tried to get on his lap, and had to be cased away. They scratched, bit and had to be put outside; they purred and licked for hours and had to be put outside. They shed hair onto every chair I owned. Jack even left a big deposit of poo inside W.'s shoe one night and it's quite the testimony to his love for me that this wasn't our last date ever!
Inspite of this, we made plans to move in together. Ahhh, Love!
"You know," I reminded W. for the hundreth time, "Siamese live a long time. Sometimes till they're eighteen or even twenty!"
"And they're how old now?" he'd ask every time, perhaps hoping they were aging faster than he had noticed.
"They'll be a year in August."
The agreement soon was made, as so many decisions are, years before anyone expects that The Day Will Come when it's happening, so it sounds fine, because it's a long, long way off. At least that's how it was for me, The Cat Lover. The Decision was that, when Jack and Shirley B. did go to Kitty Heaven, they would be replaced by a dog. This would be W's reward for waiting, of course, and this Dog Period could last, oh, eighteen or twenty years!
Inspite of W's frequent postering of Cat Hating, he gave himself away whenever the cats wanted something, like a fishy smelling cat treat he had just happened to pick up for them at the store. He was always dropping small catnip-stuffed toys at their feet, pretending they'd fallen from his pocket by accident.
"Hey! What's that, Jack? Oh, you like it? Well, give some to Shirley. Here Shirley, you play too."
When Shirley dissapeared for several days, eventually turning up in our landlord's shed, no worse for wear, though a little hungry, it was W. who had driven around the neighborhood calling her name out the window, like he was searching for a dog, you know. He couldn't understand my Ho-Hum attitude, "Ahh, she'll turn up." And she did, but he was inside out with worry, pronouncing her dead in the gutter, then wondering if she was under the house? Did you hear that? Was it coming from that neighbor's bush? Climb the fence and see, he'd suggest.
Shirley disapeared other times and was ussually in one of our landlord's sheds! Instead of worrying for three days, we started just going there first. Oh, and the time Jack was gone, he did the same thing. We had moved by then and after driving around and around without finding Jack, W. just couldn't understand my lack of consern. Well, it got to be around 5 or 6 days and I was plenty worried then, also feeling like an idiot for not looking harder before this! If I had, certainly he'd have been found and---so on and so on.
When W. heard Jack's Siamese Howel coming from the house under construction next door, well, he didn't ask me what did I think he should do or anything, he just broke into the place and discovered that Jack was inside the wall! Yep, he may have gone in the basement, then hid from the noisy workmen, but not found his was out again and somehow they'd put up a wall without noticing him! I wish I knew what the workmen thought had happened, when they come to work the next day and found a six by six inch hole cut out of the wall, at the floor, as if by a sirrated knife.
Jack knew darn well who saved him, too. W. is still Jack's hero.
But W. still made jokes about how two stiff cat carcusses could be used for so many things around the house: window sill draft stops, slippers, oven mits, tire stops for his '67 Bronco that needed brake work,ear muffs, paint brushes and even lawndarts.
"How old are they now?" he'd ask every so often.
"Seven." Or,later, "Eleven.We've been together eleven years, remember?" Eventually,"Shut up! They're sixteen!" Then, a big sigh, "Sixteen years, Honey. We've been together sixteen years. The cats are sixteen."
That was the year Shirley B. died of some liver illness. She was sick for a long time and the vet thought Jack had it too, so it was something genetic or else they both ingested something toxic. Shirely rallied once after nearly sucoming. Jack seemed much better, but no one knew why. Then Shirley got much worse and we had to face facts.
Durring this time W. would say to me, "Don't do anything drastic. She's not that bad. She's going to rally again, you'll see."
I'd say the next day, watching her pant and hardly be able to walk across the room, "We have to take her in, Honey. The vet needs to put her to sleep, I think."
He'd answer, "No. Not yet. She's going to come back around and you don't want to rush anything, you know, perminant. Give her another day or two..."
We would look for any sign that she was doing better. If she spit at Jack, we applauded! If she rolled over on the dinningroom rug, we talked about it for hours, "Well, she has strenghth left, see? She couldn't do that yesterday and today, well, maybe she's better. What do you think?"
Finally, she had to go in. We went together, though I'd expected W. wouldn't accompany me. "I'm not going to watch though," he told me. "I can't do that."
We drove silently to the vet's, after standing over Shirley B. one last time, hoping she'd jump up and suddenly be well; we held hands, and Jack came over to sniff Shirley, then walked slowly away. We took her in and the vet said we were selfish for having waited so long. He said she was very ill and we should have come sooner to release her from her missery. We both felt horrible. I said, "We thought she might get better." and the vet looked at me like I was a moron or a stupid child. But then the same vet administored the medication very gently into Shirley's body was kind enough to leave us his office saying "take all the time you need." and I held her when she went to sleep and W. stood by me untill he couldn't stop sobbing and had to wait for me in the car.
On the way home, just the two of us: me still crying and him trying not to start again, I wanted to say, but I just knew it would sound too gross, so I waited a few days but then I HAD to say it, "So, do you want to get half a dog?"
I was mostly kidding.
But, geesh, the man had waited sixteen years! The more we batted around things like, could Jack survive, at his age, the coming of a dog into his home? Who'd walk this dog? Who's going to pick up the poop? Who's going to buy the food and whatever? What sort of dog can we agree on?
That last question almost quashed the whole thing, but that's another story. Finally the decision was made: We are getting a dog.
It took two months and a selection was only made, quite honestly, because he wanted to shut me up. I rather insisted on this one red dog that had multiple disapline problems and jumped around with what the shelter called "lots of energy." (That's shelter-eze for "never stops pestering you or getting into trouble.") But anyway, that's another story.
I read a stack of books about dogs in those two months that we hunted for Our Perfect Dog. Then, when she was in the house, our New Love, I read many more. Since I was unenployed at the time, I had nothing else to do but train the dog, read dog books and, oh yeah, search for a new means of employment.
Well, first things first! I read so many different ways of training your dog to sit, that I thought I was some sort of expert! I noticed that there were about three main schools of training and the books I was reading came down into The Koehler Method, The Woodhouse School, and Behaviourists Field Day. I tried to pick out the best of all three: even though the old German drill sargent Koehler is outdated by today's standards, there's still stuff I could learn from him: the best of Barbara Woodhouse is like a strict mother who is going to make you eat your brussel sprouts until you enjoy brussel sprouts and actually ask for more; and the Behaviourists, well, I just dig them. They are full of studies that show this and tests with monkeys that show that and when you tweek the left brain response of XYZ it is always contingent on the element of D and it's proxsimity to M! Of Course!
Anywho, I got all this book-learnin' in my head and my man, who had grown up with dogs and raised dogs (or was raised by them, I'm not sure, but that's another story) he said he just wanted our dog to do three things: stay in the truck while he bought beer at the 7-11, come when he whistled and, oh-- not jump on his friends, only folks he doesn't like. And the dog, our dear new little red dog, she would know how to do these things, W. said, "She'll figure it out." This seemed to be his own training method, as I couldn't find it covered in any book. The "She'll figure it out" Method had never been written about, as best as I could tell.
So I trained her myself, ahhem, yah, after looking for work each and every day, of course. Still, that left a lot of time to work on the dog. And, boy, did she need working.
Yes, that's another story.
My life was changed by our getting a dog. This dog taught me more about myself than I'm sure I taught her in commands, though she knows some fourty different commands, by my count, anyhow. I found a new career-- as a dog groomer, of all things! Dogs are what I do every day now!
I'm amazed sometimes that only two years ago I thought dogs were just smelly beasts who stuck their noses in the wrong places. I hadn't made the leap from Cat World to Dog World yet and had no idea the huge number of people that are in The Dog World. Maybe there are just as many Cat People, but they are at home, alone with their cats, reading books or taking a nap, not out romping around together in big parks and at beaches!
I meet people who, for different reasons, have just accuired a dog, and they confess, they whisper to me, "I've all ways been a Cat Person, until now..." and their eyes widden with the fear and the excitement of crossing over the divide. They don't know what to do, but they know they can't go back!
We were lucky to get the dog we did. She's perfect for us both. She lets me train her on walks and at play to whatever thing I can dream up or find in a book. She does obedience for her dinner and for treats and when I leave the house and when I come home, when people are around or when it's just the two of us. She's great!
And still, W. just wants those three things...and he has one of them, for sure. She always waits paitiently in the truck while he gets beer.