I grew up with cats. We always had at least one, sometimes two. My childhood memories include oft-repeated, hilarious tales of the family cat falling into the fish bowl, getting stuck in the dryer, or comically attempting to chase a chattering squirrel up the giant fir tree in the front yard.
Dogs, however, remained a mystery to me for decades. Dog owners were constantly worried about vacations (“We’d love to go to Puerto Vallarta with you. But who’s going to watch Baxter?”), comparing prices on expensive fencing, containment devices, and microchips (“What if Bethsheba runs off? How will we ever get her back?”), monstrous vet bills (“Lulu stepped on a nail. Now she needs nine shots and surgery on that missing middle toe. We had to cancel our trip to Bermuda”), or they’d spent hours researching doggie obedience tips with the thoroughness of parents whose awkward toddlers didn’t play well with others. Dogs, quite frankly, seemed like a lot of work, and less like pets than children who were never going to move out.
When Hubs and I bought our first house, however, I decided he needed a dog. He’s always had one, and for some then-inexplicable reason, he thought they were the It pet of all time. What I didn’t know about dogs could fill the forum, but I love Hubs and Hubs loves dogs, so a dog he was going to get.
My first choice was a gorgeous, purebred St. Bernard. Seriously, these dogs have an off-the-charts cool factor. Hubs is kind of a “big statement” guy, so I thought he should have an appropriately big statement dog. At six months, Sophie was well on her way to 100 pounds, which would be fifty pounds shy of her adult weight. She could take out an entire living room chasing a ball. Within a few weeks, my first Great Idea went to live with a friend on five acres. First dog-lesson: 150-pound dogs are not recommended as indoor pets. Good to know.
My next choice was a darling tan & blonde Chihuahua. I dropped $400 and took her home. She and Hubs were instantly besotted with each other and life was good. A short time later, Chi Chi was up to 14 pounds. Concerned that we were doing something wrong, we took her to the vet, where I held her up like Simba on the mountain top and asked the doc if she was, in fact, a Chihuahua. After he quit laughing, he replied, “Nope. That’s a Rat Terrier-Chihuahua mix.” “Well,” I said, “I paid $400 for a Chihuahua.” By now, Doc was teary-eyed from mirth. Finally he spit out, “You got hosed. That’s a Rat-Cha, and you can have the pick of the litter in any WalMart parking lot for about thirty bucks.” Oh well, Hubs loved her and she ruled the house. He forever referred to her as his “faux Chihuahua.”
To keep Chi Chi company during the day while we were both at work, we got her a real Chihuahua play buddy named Paco. Paco was Chi Chi’s personal chew toy, and they were crazy about each other. We were now a two-dog household.
Ten years later, I’m an unabashed dog person. Who would’ve thought? When my cat-loving sister asks why I’m batting for the other team, this is what I tell her:
Dogs like to play. If he sees you pick up a throwable object (ball, Frisbee, a smaller dog), a dog will immediately launch into back spasms wagging his tail so hard, waiting for you to throw it so he can go get it and bring it back to you. This game never gets old to your dog. Throw a ball for a cat, and he’ll just give you a look, unmistakably saying “Well, that was stupid. You threw it. You go get it. And on your way back, get me a snack.”
Dogs can be trained to sit, stay, sniff out drugs (tell that to your teenager), and detect cancer in humans. Cats can be trained to crap in a box. Anything else you try to teach them will simply make you look like an idiot.
Dogs are great workout buddies. Ever tried to run with a cat? They’re faster than you, and whatever direction you’re running in, Pretty Kitty will go in the other one.
You can walk a dog. Grab a leash from the hall closet, and Sir Duke’s whole body will start vibrating and his face will say “Oh boy! Oh boy! We’re going for a walk! Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” A cat will open one eye from his nap perch in the sun and say, “Oh, hell no. Only one of us is going to wear that harness, pal, and it ain’t gonna be me.”
Dogs will not eat the family gerbil, little Jenny’s parakeet, or young Rutger’s goldfish. Leave a cat unattended for the day, and you’ll spend the next day frantically searching every pet shop within a sixty-mile radius for a matching hamster that Baby Bitsy won’t know is a ringer, to replace the one Bad Kitty ate while accidentally locked in Bitsy’s bedroom for eight hours.
Dogs love you back. Unconditionally. Dogs forgive almost anything if they feel loved. Cats forgive nothing. And the little hairballs have minds like steel traps. Accidentally toss your cat into the dryer, and you’ll never get him out of the house through the laundry room again, ever.
Dogs do their business outside, in wide open spaces. Cats prefer litter boxes. Inside the house. This reason could stand alone.
Whether you’ve been gone twenty minutes or two weeks, a dog is always thrilled to see you. Chi Chi had ears like a fruit bat, and whenever she heard Hubs’ truck in the driveway, she’d tear out of the doggie door and launch herself over the kennel fence with hang time that would make Michael Jordon wish he were a Chihuahua, just in time to land on Hubs’ shoulder with perfect precision timing. She never missed. Not once in fourteen years. Cats are a bit more, “Oh, you’re home. Were you gone?”
Dogs aren’t nocturnal. In fact, a dog will sleep pretty much whenever, and wherever, you do. Cats often prefer to sleep during the day and prowl at night. (And God help you if Horny Kitty starts trolling for a partner at 2:30 a.m. during mating season. A feline booty call can cut through earplugs designed to drown out 747s landing at Chicago O’Hare.)
Dogs can protect you. Sometimes just the sound of a large, barking dog can keep a would-be burglar away. When was the last time a thief was deterred by the sound of twelve meowing cats?
But I must admit, every now and then my inner Crazy Cat Lady surfaces, and I miss the sleek fur and sultry purring of a pussycat on my lap. My son’s generation embraced the concept of “Friends with Benefits.” You get together with someone with the same agenda that you have, do your business, then go back to your separate lives. I just need Friends with Cats.