About Cats, Dogs, and Preconceived Notions

 

 

 

Thirteen years ago, a tiny white kitten slipped through our backyard fence and adopted Vick, our male collie/shepherd mix, as his “mom.” He’d trot after Vick wherever the dog went, struggling to keep up with him, and nuzzling him whenever possible. Vick, whose gentle nature belied his large size, was gracious and accepting of this feline interloper.

When torrential rains came, we moved the kitten into our garage while we pondered what to do with him. Keeping him was out of the question: we were unabashed dog lovers, but cats were different. I could tolerate them (and who can resist a kitten?), but my husband was emphatic: “I hate cats,” he said.

That was then. Now, having recently euthanized our beloved, very large cat, who’d become extremely ill and deteriorated quickly from a lymphoma, we are both slowly adjusting to his absence and to the void that absence created. But Monty has also left us with some fresh insights about reexamining preconceived notions, exploring the potential for human/animal communication, and opening our hearts and accepting a new source of wonder.

We had arranged for our dog walker, a veterinary assistant, to find a home for the kitten—if we promised to take him to the vet for his shots. We agreed. The tide changed one evening when we were out to dinner with friends who had two cats. They knew I’d been lobbying for another dog. We had our “main dog,” but I also wanted what the humorist Dave Barry has called “a small, emergency backup dog.” Our friends said, “Why don’t you just keep the kitten? Cats are great.” I assume the idea had been floating in my husband’s mind, because he turned to me and asked, “What’ll we name him?”

We named him “Monty,” after Monty Woolley, an actor who had played the title role in the play “The Man Who Came to Dinner.” Woolley’s character arrived, and stayed, and stayed. So did our Monty.IMG_0674

Fortunately for us, and perhaps because of Vick’s influence, he was a rather doglike cat—sweet, gentle, and affectionate, happy and purring, and in the years before Vick died at age 16-1/2, perfectly content to roll around and wrestle with his 80-pound companion. He was a well-adjusted indoor cat that seemed to lack any predatory instincts: on the few occasions a field mouse scampered across our kitchen floor, he remained uninterested.

And he became my cat-hating spouse’s cat: An early riser, he fed him, and it was he who cut Monty’s nails, stroking him gently between clips as he said, beaming, “I hate cats; I hate cats.” From my bed in the early morning, I could hear them having what sounded like conversations. Monty didn’t just “meow’: he vocalized, and he had a lot to say—often. Unlike with the companion animals that preceded him, Monty and we just seemed to understand each others’ vocalizations on a whole other level.

His ashes are now buried in our backyard, next to those of his buddy Vick. Though we miss our daily conversations with Monty and thought we’d have many more years together, we are grateful for the happy accident that led him, thirteen years ago, to wriggle his tiny body through our fence and awaken in us both a new capacity to love.

Note: I wrote this piece at the close of a course I’d taken in mindfulness: our final assignment was to bring in something we found meaningful. When several of my fellow participants came up to me afterward and said, “My husband also says he’d never have a cat in the house,” I began to wonder how widespread this sentiment is—and whether it’s gender-related. Many people love both cats and dogs, but other animal lovers choose sides, sometimes zealously, and perhaps stereotyping people whose animal choice differs from their own.

Our experience with Monty also led me to wonder whether it might be a little parable about how willing we are to challenge ourselves more broadly—not only about cats, dogs, and other animals, but also about the people we meet. In these woefully polarized times, can we/will we/do we ever reexamine our preconceived notions based on race, religion, gender and sexual orientation, and the very sticky, difficult issue of political attitudes? If so, how do we do that? Your thoughts? Examples? Please leave a reply below. Note: If the “Leave a Reply” box isn’t visible, click on the title of the posting above (“About Cats, Dogs, and Preconceived Notions”), and it will appear–all the way down, below the previously posted comments.

And if you’d like to share stories about your own companion animals–their distinct natures and/or your bond with them–I’d love to hear those as well.

ADDENDUM: Since posting this blog a little over a week ago, I have set to work designing a Home page. (I’ve no idea how long it will take my non-techie self to pull that together.) As I went through Google images seeking appropriate selections, I noticed two very familiar photos: Vick and Monty, just as you see them above, have been reincarnated in the vast universe of cyberspace.

How did they get there? At first I thought it was done by WordPress, but I learned that the photos had, in fact, been swept up by Googlebot, which is using the Google search engine to index my site, with its images, and make it searchable for others. If I didn’t want the photos on Google images, I could either remove them from my blog or bar Google from my site. Neither option appealed to me, so Vick and Monty remain available to anyone who cares to adopt them photographically.

As I love the photos and our memories of our boys, I am actually quite pleased with this turn of events–and amused that while I’m slowly building a community with my blog, Vick and Monty probably now have a fan base in the thousands.

 

 

24 thoughts on “About Cats, Dogs, and Preconceived Notions

  1. My love affair with cats began in New York City in the early 70s when my aunt went to the hospital and someone needed to care for her six-toed Persian named Elavil. From that time forward I have always had cats. For the last 20 years I have had only black cats. They are wonderful companions and I have whittled it down from 6 to 3 which seems manageable at my age considering the care they need and the kitty litter changing. I also have three feral cats that come to my front door twice a day and I recently volunteered to take over the feeding of the feral cat colony at our local post office from a neighbor who moved away. I feed 20 cats a day and it is breaking my retirement fund. I don’t know what to say except that I guess I’ll do it as long as I can. Meow.

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    1. That’s quite a love affair on your part, and I’m sure your aunt found Elavil uplifting.

      I hope you and everyone else receiving this email will go to the site to view the blog there. As a novice, I didn’t realize that I could just write an excerpt for the email notifications–the email doesn’t do justice to the photos of our boys. The link to the site is https://annieasksyou.com.

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      1. Hi Anne,
        Good job caring for and appreciating your pets into their advanced ages. I often found that people who wanted nothing to do with cats became, as did your husband , cat lovers after owning one. This applied to both women and men.

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      2. Ah, I’d forgotten we had an expert on the topic! What a lucky break for me. Thank you for educating me on the gender issue (I was only partially serious, but it did seem odd–small sampling though it was). And that brings me back to the idea of preconceived notions more broadly. Any thoughts about the questions I raise? So good to hear from you!

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      3. Hi Anne,
        Guess we all have our share of preconceived ideas on lots of different subjects. It may be a stretch, though, to consider tying in someone who chooses a certain type of pet as a prediction of other of their choices in life, eg political, social, baseball team,etc.
        It is an interesting idea though and maybe does have some basis.

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  2. We, too, are dog lovers. Currently we have two dogs, Ollie, a golden doodle, and Mellie, a retriever mix. Prior to these two, we had two other dogs, Yo Yo and Tex. They both lived long lives but when we had to euthanize them I was a basket case. It took me a very long time to get over their deaths and I said that was it for me. Well, it wasn’t.
    When we moved to south Florida we decide to get another dog. We met a few people who had golden doodles and fell in love with the breed. Ollie was our first non-rescue. We belonged to Lab Rescue of south Florida and we received a call asking if we could foster a lab mix that had been given up. Ollie and Bear got along great, but when he was adopted Ollie went into a funk. He didn’t eat for a few days and was depressed. He snapped out of it, but I told Sharon that we can’t go through this again. And that was it. Kind of.
    Three years ago, my wife picked me up from the airport and Ollie wasn’t in the car. When I asked where he was, she said that he was at home. About halfway home she caved and told me that Ollie has a new friend at home. Lab Rescue had called again when I was in New Jersey and begged Sharon to foster another dog that had been dropped off at the Broward County Shelter. She agreed and I was just finding it out. I wasn’t happy.
    Long story, short, we fell in love with her and all four of us are living happily ever after.
    For those of you that are dog lovers you have to read or listen to the book, The Art Of Racing In The Rain by Garth Stein. You won’t be sorry. I think that it’s the greatest book about dogs ever written.

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    1. We have always been a dog family. Growing up in Englewood with a beagle mix, raising a son with two bearded collies (sequentially, not simultaneously) and finally after he moved out we adopted a pit bull mix (an 80 pound dog with lap-dog aspirations). So it came as a surprise when two years ago my son decided to adopt two feral kittens. They make a great foursome with my two grandsons but whenever I come over to stay with the boys when Matthew and Megan go out for the evening, the cats run and hide. As soon as M&M come home the cats come out run over to them and want to be played with. I have nothing against cats but perhaps they sense I’m just not a cat person.

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      1. Based on Don Jacobs’ comment and my husband’s experience, I wonder if it’s because these are your “grand cats,” rather than your own. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with living your life as a “not-cat” person.

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  3. I loved reading this piece. I am not a cat lover or a cat hater. I have however been struggling with trying to understand what is going on in our country. I’m trying to release my better angels.

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    1. I think we’re all struggling—on all sides of the many divisions. I do believe that shouting and name-calling are exacerbating those divisions. To me, an important question is how/whether we can get past the demonization of those with whom we disagree.

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  4. i remember getting my first dog,no cat at about.His name was taffy because he was brown.I was the only family member who really loved him even sleeping with him under my covers..Probably the best gift my father ever gave me..I have now had eight dogs over the years named Uzi, you be my neighbor, don’t ask, atlas, Einstein, tonka, like to toy, fudgie,andf one more..They have been labs..My present is Einstein a black lab who failed the Guie Dog program and I got him at 11/2 years. very much loved..I even take him to my office 2Xweek.
    You should see the movie Mr. Rodgers, woun’t you be my neighbor. A great story about children and the use animal puppets to convey love and understanding…Thanks for doing this

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    1. Wait: you named your dog(s) after an Israeli weapon? (That’s a frequent crossword puzzle word.) Or is there some other derivation? Anyway, I enjoyed hearing about all your pets (as I have the stories from everyone who’s provided these important windows into their lives). And I very much appreciate your urging us to view “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” The emphasis on love and understanding is sorely needed today. Mr. Rogers was a favorite in our household, and I must admit I had a preconceived notion about parents who didn’t share my enthusiasm about his low-keyed, loving humanity.

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  5. Those of us who relocated to the sunny (HOT) South have the opportunity to share our family with several animals; We currently have a 13 year old Springer Spaniel (I don’t know who’s having the most problems with growing old.), an 18 year old horse which I haven’t ridden in 3 years (We’re both out of shape.), a cat, our second, that has shared the same house with the Springer. Everybody was doing great until my granddaughter brought a pitbull mix home from college. He is a serious bully! Personally, I take the Springer above them all! My horse is really not in the mix, he just takes time and money. I find the downside of pets, in general, is that they require you to make special plans before traveling or include them in your travel plans.

    Dennis

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    1. Sounds like you have quite the crew there, and some challenges. Any thoughts on how to handle a serious bully? It’s true that pets make you deal with logistical issues–and require varying amounts of $$. I can imagine a horse really runs up the bills. But they’re worth it, yes? So glad you’re on this new journey with me, Dennis.

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  6. We had always had basset hounds, so when a cat followed my husband home while walking one of our dogs, I went to the store and bought some food for the kitty. Little did I know, that when you feed a cat, she is yours! Neither my husband or I had ever had a cat. Well, Marshmallow quickly became a part of our family and we never regretted it for the 14 years she lived. In fact, we called her our “basset cat”. Our basset, Pixel, actually adopted her as her baby, cuddled with her, licked her and generally took the responsibility of watching over her. Adopting a cat taught me that I could expand my thinking and love a being I thought I could never really love. We do not have a basset presently and rescued a shih tzu three years ago who is the love of our lives. We so miss our bassets and hope to rescue one soon and miss our Marshmallow so much as well. There is certainly a lesson in here somewhere…..

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    1. So many similarities with our experiences, and I love the “basset cat.” And I certainly see lessons for us in the happy relationships between dogs and cats, who don’t automatically fight like cats and dogs…Best of luck with your rescue efforts.

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    1. On my screen, although “slokr” previously appeared, I’m now seeing “Sally Russell,” so perhaps you don’t have to do anything. If your next comment (and I’m hoping for many…) shows “slokr,” I’ll give you the link that describes how to change what’s called your “display name.” The process is a bit annoying.

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  7. I was a “cat hater” and, I must admit, I was afraid of them. They seemed to be unpredictable and aloof. But when a cat wandered into our neighborhood and subsequently had kittens, my children begged to give one of them a home. We had a large afghan hound at the time and I was afraid that she might hurt a tiny kitten but I finally relented and Solomon the kitten joined Sheba the dog. Sheba went over to sniff him and he reached out his paw and smacked her across the face. From then on he ruled the house. He was friendly and affectionate and converted me to a cat and dog person. We have had cats ever since. Our current rescue cat, Duchess McKenzie, acts a lot like a dog. She greets us at the door and talks to us. We adore her.

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    1. Ah, another vocalizing cat! That was one of the wondrous surprises with our late, lamented Monty (who also greeted us at the door). And you probably feel, as we did with Monty, that you understand what she’s trying to tell you.

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