Cat-dog dynamic a never-ending source of amusement
"In a cat's eye, all things belong to cats." -- English Proverb
Scratch, Scratch, Scratch. I continued to pour my cup of coffee. For heaven's sake, only moments earlier I had been in my warm cozy bed on a cool fall morning. I needed to at least get a few sips of caffeine to strengthen my resolve before I let the hurricane into the house.
Sip, sip, sip. Deep inhale. "Okay," I say to just myself, since I am the only one awake in the house, "let's do this."
Scratch. Scratch. Scratch. "Lord, have mercy. I'm coming, you big ol' lug."
Turn the handle. Slowly open the door. Feel the crisp, fresh air rush through the door as the big, red tsunami surges into our house.
"Good Morning, Rusty." Our dog ignores me. This is because I am technically not "his." Rusty loves John, my husband, best. Next, comes Maddie, our daughter, in his doggy pecking order. Finally, I am last in line in order of affection.
I am not hurt by this fact. I've come to realize that dogs have this sixth sense when it comes to humans. Rusty, I am certain, can sense, I am not truly a "dog person" by natural inclination. I am a "cat person." While I am learning to admire certain qualities about dogs, I still have a hard time accepting other qualities. We can get into that later, Dear Reader.
In the meantime, Rusty dashes through our back door, located between the kitchen and dining areas of our house. Head goes from one side to other. Then, he gallops in his frumpy, short-legged style to the couch and scans it from one end to the other. No John. He pauses to catch his breath. Those 10 seconds of exertion are hard on our chubby-bubby dog.
Simultaneously, LJ, the newest member of our pet family, had been stationed in the family-room bay window practicing his best bird watching. Upon hearing the back door open and Rusty's stormy entrance, he leaped, far and long, like a flying squirrel, off his perch and landed with great ease on the floor. He half walked, half hopped in his prissy, happy cadence toward Rusty, who was now catching his breath. Then, with dramatic flair, he performed what we affectionately call, the "flop and roll" mere inches from Rusty's face. Lying on his back, showing Rusty his belly, LJ was beckoning Rusty to pet his stomach. Yet, if I was reading Rusty's expression correctly, I'm convinced Rusty was responding to LJ with the same catch-phrase my 13-year-old daughter uses, "as if."
"As if I would ever pet your belly, even if I had hands." "As if you would ever be considered more adorable than me." "As if your 'flop and roll' will ever be considered more delightful than the way I can chase my tail." "Ooo, feel the burn, as my human, Maddie says." "In fact, watch me."
I watch, wondering if my coffee has been spiked with some hallucinogenic drug as Rusty begins to spin and chase his tail in front of LJ, still splayed on his back. LJ cocks his backward, giving his long, black cat body a contorted look. Rusty spins and spins and spins. "I'm gonna catch you yet, tail." Ah, but to no immediate success. Exhausted from his display, Rusty plops on the floor. Then, he immediately raises his head off his front paws, tilts his head and eyes LJ. "See what I mean, dude?"
LJ promptly rolls to his belly-side and stands up. Then, in cat-like fashion, walks over to Rusty's head that has now returned to laying on his front paws and rubs the side of Rusty's head. "Yeah, whatever, you still belong to me, Mr. Dog. Keep on chasing that tail if it works for you. I'll still be the coolest animal in the house." As LJ hops toward the bird-singing, bay window, Rusty lifts his head and seems to almost raise an eyebrow watching LJ walk away.
"I'll show you," chuffs Rusty.
By this point, I am shaking my head, grabbing my laptop and readying myself to write. Yet, something gives me pause. "What is that sound? What does it mean?" I get up hoping I am not hearing what I think I am hearing. I walk back toward the laundry room and the half-bathroom within it that holds the litter boxes. "Rusty, so help me, you better not be eating out of the litter box." I say this in a sharp tone. Nothing happens. "Rusty!" I am almost to the bathroom door. "Get outta there right now, you nasty dog!"
Head held low, tail tucked, Rusty steps out of the bathroom, guilty expression written all over him. This is where, Dear Reader, Rusty probably gets that I am not yet a complete dog-lover. Ugh! This is one of those "dog qualities" for which I've never acquired, dare I say, "a taste for" (pun absolutely intended!).
And he licks John and Maddie's face with that mouth?
Leaving the laundry room with head held low, Rusty runs back toward the family room area. Once again, LJ, flying-squirrel style, leaps out of the window and runs back toward Rusty. Nearing Rusty, LJ begins that cat-marking/rubbing against Rusty's face. Then, they come nose-to-nose, as if kissing. Good grief. What is LJ thinking?
I suppose Rusty believes he belongs to us and is our beloved family pet. Meanwhile, LJ must believe our family, including Rusty, belongs to him. In fact, if LJ could talk, he might say that Rusty was simply helping him out by keeping the litter box free from, shall I say, debris.
LJ turns. Rusty sniffs LJ's backside. "Just keepin' it real, Dude. Just keepin' it real."
May we all find joy in the "realness" of our animals.
Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and an eighth-grade reading and writing teacher at South Point Middle School. She is also a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.