Weekend Assignment #123: Dogs. Cats. There can be only one! Choose which you prefer and tell us why. No weaseling out, people -- you can't say "oh, I like them both." You must choose! Don't worry: In real life all the cats or dogs won't disappear if you choose the other species. Honestly, as long as you keep to food coming, everything will be groovy with your pets. So pick one, already. We promise we won't tell. And pets can't read. Extra credit: Isn't it obvious? Cat pictures! Dog pictures! Go nuts!
Somewhere in this house, probably in one of the many white banker's boxes full of stuff for which we currently have no shelf space, is a book I've owned for forty years. I don't quite remember anymore whether I bought it from a remaindered books catalog, or from Economy Books at Shoppingtown, back before it was Shoppingtown Mall. The dust jacket is long gone, and the gray-beige cover is broken and loose. The title on the spine, back when it still had a spine, was Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs. Does that tell you anything? It should.
This was a coffee table book, a compendium of miscellaneous stuff on the subject of dogs. It had a few bits about the dog Flush, and a couple of Thurber pieces, pictures of the first dogs in space, something about dog training and something else about the RSPCA, the news that Lassie's original name was Pal, the story of Greyfriars Bobby, pictures of ancient dog sculptures and the volcanic remains of a dog from Pompeii, and paintings of dogs by Sir Edwin Landseer. (Mind you, I've just rattled all this off from memory, not having seen the book in years.)
I think my friend Cindy R. had Cats Cats Cats Cats Cats. I know she had Horses Horses Horses Horses Horses. We were in elementary school then, and horse crazy, like most girls our age. But I was even crazier about dogs, something that hasn't changed in all the years since. When I was about seven years old, I used to play with the springer spaniels next door, Sleepy and Molly. When a car-chasing collie turned up in my yard a few years later, Brad S. and I named her "Frank" and tried to teach her to stop chasing cars. (Her real name was Stormy, she lived around the corner, and, if I recall correctly, she eventually became a tripod dog.) When my mom took us to Europe when I was fifteen, Steve teased me that I came all the way to Europe to pet dogs.
But my dad was terribly allergic to dogs, so I had to get in my dog petting whenever and wherever I could, or pretend and plan and dream of the future. Cindy's family had two purebred golden retrievers, Brandy and Alexander. She understood about dogs. We both had bone china dogs to display and play with, and made up stories about the kennels we would own someday. I was going to get some pomeranians, and breed them back up to sled dog size. I frequently checked the price of AKC collie puppies in the local paper: $75 for years and years, $80 when I stopped looking.
It frustrated me that I still couldn't get a dog during my first three years in college. First I lived at home, and then I was in University housing: dorms and then The Vincent Apartments, where no dogs were allowed. But when I moved into one of ex-boyfriend Bob's rental properties on Westcott Street, my opportunity to have a dog of my own came at last. About a week later, Bob turned up with a bundle of fur under his jacket, a mixed-breed puppy he called Princess. I promptly renamed her Princess Guinevere of Westcott Street - Jenny for short.
John Scalzi can claim that Kodi is currently the best dog in the world, but Jenny held that title during her lifetime. She was smart, affectionate, and loyal. She loved to play with balloons, and would fetch sticks on request. She obeyed voice commands, gestures, and even whistles, all without obedience school. She hung out with me at Rockarama in Columbus, and came with John and me on our 1986 wanderings around the U.S. and eastern Canada. At the end she had Cushing's Disease, and eventually cancer on top of that. The day I had to have her euthanized, with John hundreds of miles away and not reachable by phone, was the second worst day of my life.
For about a month during my senior year in college (the first time around) I had a puppy I called Wafer, short for Wayfarer. She turned up at my apartment door one morning, and I took her in. Two puppies in a one-room apartment are one too many, though, and I gave her up to the Humane Association. When I called later, full of regret, they told me she'd already been adopted. Good.
Our next dog was Noodle. I got her from the pound in March, 1987, while Jenny was still alive but not terribly well. Noodle was a trash hound, a big, dumb dog, except for being a genius at getting a loaf of bread off the counter or yummy trash out of the cupboard. She didn't care for balloons or sticks, and didn't do terribly well with dog training. But she was affectionate, always glad to see everyone.
You know who this is. Tuffy isn't quite as smart as Jenny, nor as affectionate as Noodle, but she does all right. She's ten years old now. Her eyes are a little milky with cataracts, and I think she's slowing down a bit. John and I know that it's almost time to start breaking in a new dog.
Cats seem cute enough from a distance, but that's where I have to keep them - at a distance. Give me an hour in a house with a cat, and I'll have an asthma attack, even with medication and a freshly-vacuumed carpet. Cats probably won't rescue you from a burning building or pull you from the pond, and I doubt that they care whether Timmy's in the well. I'm not sure Tuffy would rescue me from anything, but I think she would at least bark, or go see John about it. The barking of Jenny and Wafer once helped me get out of a burning building, so I know that real-life dogs have at least the potential of doing something helpful.
So yeah. You can have a universe full of cats if you like, but if it's got to be one or the other, give me a universe of dogs any day. After all those dogless childhood years, I'm not giving them up now!