Dogs are like girlfriends; cats are like wives

I’m going to catch hell if I really use that for a title, so remind me to change it to: Dogs are obedient children; cats are thieves and vandals. The former eagerly intuits your feelings and lives in endless gratitude for your patronage. The latter coldly observes your actions and ponders your motives so he can more efficiently thwart your desires and demolish your property. This is the bad news about cats; the good news is that the sneaky little bastards are entertaining, and the fur on their bellies is delectably soft and fragrant and atones for numerous sins. Brewsky even prostitutes his belly in a cynical—yet successful—attempt to avoid punishment, but more about that later.

I bring greater intelligence to our contests, but he brings speed, agility, perseverance, and unrelenting focus—at least during the few hours of the day he’s actually awake. For it is then that his scheming little brain is working overtime to obtain some object that I don’t want him to have, or to con me into feeding him early, or to find a three second window of opportunity in which to sneak into the garage and thence to the attic where I have to lure him down with treats. Such dastardly behavior as he regularly exhibits (including the premeditated murder of a large peace lily that lived atop the refrigerator) would almost justify shooting a dog because even one such outrage—much less an hourly repetition of them—would violate the trust and integrity that makes a dog man’s best friend and distinguishes him from a rabid wolverine. But a cat, being a psychopathic felon at heart, requires that we show it endless mercy, or else there would be no cats.

And I do—show mercy. Just last night, I was chasing Brewsky with a towel when he suddenly rolled over on his back, stretched his front legs straight forward and his hind legs straight backwards, and began to squirm slowly from side to side, brazenly exposing every color and pattern on his wonderful belly. Humiliating as it was, I had no choice but to kneel and rub that belly, me laughing, and him looking at me with intense curiosity about what such a display could possibly mean. For the 15 months that I have known him, he has devoted scores of hours to understanding the human phenomenon of laugher but without the least indication of progress.

It was only this year that I could say an unreserved yes to having a cat, and I still feel treasonous at times for bringing home the worst enemy of the many generations of dogs that I have been privileged to love. I saw the movie Cool Hand Luke last month for the first time in 42 years, and I must give it some credit for my growing acceptance of life with a cat. As you might recall, “Luke” was a convict who was murdered by his guards because he was insubordinate and prone to escape. The escalating punishments that he brought upon himself combined with the fact that he was in prison for the ridiculous crime of vandalizing parking meters, made him look stupid. Yet, it soon became apparent that his problem wasn’t a deficit in intelligence but an inherent inability to accept authority. He himself chafed under this inability, and railed against God for having made him that way. Outwardly, the movie changed nothing about how I interact with Brewsky, but inwardly it gave me a greater sympathy for him.

People debate the imagined superiority of cats over dogs or dogs over cats, but the truth is that, like ourselves, they are simply what evolution made them. Dogs hunt in packs, and therefore regard love and cooperation as essential; cats are solitary hunters to whom love of family (except for a mother for her kittens) and cooperation for the common good just aren’t terribly important. Maybe this is why many dogs—and many people—hate cats. We humans can see ourselves in dogs, but cats are as disturbingly strange as space aliens.

Yet, there’s no sweeter time in my day than when Brewsky lies in my lap in bed while I’m reading. I’m sterner with that cat than I’ve ever been with any dog, yet when I go somewhere, he comes to see me off, and when I return, he’s there to greet me. When I get up in the morning, he’s standing joyfully outside my door, and many times throughout the day, he comes to me for a cuddle. Nothing impresses me more than the fact that’s he sees through my gruffness and trusts my love. I can’t hold a creature like that at a distance.