Monday, May 18, 2009

The Truth About Cats and Dogs


My mom just left with her dog, the inimitable Mollie, a hyperactive golden retriever with a penchant for getting into trouble. Mollie has a basic sweetness, and she's calmed down a lot, believe it or not, as she's grown out of her puppyhood a bit. However, she's still kind of high-maintenance, so there's a kind of peace that radiates my house after she leaves and I'm left with my own two animal "babies".

Going in this direction has got me thinking about how most people seem to be either dog people or cat people. There isn't necessarily any rhyme or reason to why this is, at least as much as I can figure--I mean, I can't walk down the street and be like, "Dog. Dog. Cat. Dog. Cat. Neither. Cat. Cat. Dog."

I was raised a dog person, in large part because my mother is a dog person so we always had dogs. I was never a cat fan, finding them to be solitary and unfriendly when I encountered them at the homes of friends or relatives. Dogs always struck me as friendlier.

And then Charlie came along. I got Charlie by accident in a weak, sucker-written-on-my-forehead moment when one of my coworkers said her husband was going to flush the one kitten she hadn't been able to find a home for after her cat had a litter down the toilet if she didn't find someone to take it. I don't know if she was serious--I'd like to think she wasn't, but anyway, we ended up with a little orange kitten that we'd never planned on.

We got our black lab, Sonja, in much the same way. She'd been abandoned, abused, and in need of leg surgery as the result of being hit by a dirt bike. The humane society wouldn't take her, unless it was to exercise euthanasia. We decided that she deserved a better fate than that, so we adopted her as a year old puppy.

The thing is, Charlie and Sonja are very much alike. Both are sitting at the door, tails wagging (yes, Charlie wags her tail ... I think it's a learned behavior), when we get home. Sonja sleeps on my feet every night, Charlie on my head (well, sort of next to, but really ... yeah, on my head). They both come running when you call them, and they follow the four of us around to a degree where it's moderately annoying. It breaks my heart that they are both so grateful all the time--while it's true they'll never be flushed down a toilet or run over with a inappropriately handled motor vehicle here, they do get snapped at (mostly by Addie, who is not an animal person), not walked or played with as much as they deserve, and are forced to play dress-up with Belle (they actually like this ... go figure).

But my animals are an exception, I think, in large part because of the early trauma they suffered. It's my understanding that most dogs share a similar set of characteristics, and the same can be said for cats. Clearly, Sonja and Charlie are just freaks of nature : )

Which leads me, of course, to the human beings who make the choice to own one (or the other ... or both). What makes either a cat or a dog preferable to you? Is the thought of a cat as a stereotypical loner and a dog as a friendly pal accurate? Do you think you can tell something about a person by whether they prefer dogs or cats (note--Pythagorus prefers Sonja, Addie prefers Charlie when pressed, Belle prefers Sonja, and I love them both equally)?