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Cats and Dogs

March 7, 2012

Late in the spring of 1999, opportunity met a family legacy of hatred.  As ominous as that first appears – and, truthfully, this was not one of our prouder moments –  it nonetheless offered a humorous and somewhat revealing look at those involved……

One Saturday afternoon, as the breeze wafted through the house, a slight movement in the back yard caught my eye through the bathroom window.  A second look revealed a brown and yellow tabby cat wandering through the grass.  Our grass.

Raised in a dog-filled environment and trained from an early age to despise cats of any ilk, I had little personal experience to counteract the years of family culture.  With my father’s timeless philosophy (“You don’t own cats – they own you.”)  ringing in my ears, I could scarcely do anything but endeavor to rid my family of this filthy insult to my manhood.  What a vile creature!

At that particular moment, however, our protector and deterrent was inside – lounging on a carpet in the washroom.  Ben, our four-year old Australian Shepherd/Labrador mix, was the right size to ward off any and all interlopers, but he unfortunately had all the ferocity of a lioness after a big lunch.

But this was my opportunity to teach a object lesson on several levels –  I would show Ben how a Willis dog treats cats and, in the process,  pass The Legacy along to Matt and Kyle.   Gathering all the parties together, I laid out the battle plan:  We would go out the back door, quietly circle the house to where the filthy feline was frolicking, and watch the fur fly!

The plan seemed to be progressing with all the precision of a Navy Seal operation.  I even had time to pick up Ben’s dish….just in the event I had to protect my offspring, of course.  As the four of us quietly sneaked around the corner, the tabby came into view.   He froze in his tracks, uncertain what to make of this ambush.  Likewise, our eyes were fixated on him as well – except for Ben that is, who seemed oblivious to the gravity of the situation.

The cat seized our momentary hesitation to make his break for safety.   “Sic ‘em, Ben!  Sic ‘em!”, I yelled.  Ben, no one’s fool, realized this could be fun and sprinted after the cat.  To our surprise, rather than climbing over the nearby fence, the cat inexplicably doubled back and ran towards us – with Ben in hot pursuit.

“Go, Ben, Go!”, I yelled. “Go, Ben, Go!”   Adrenaline was raging – mine and Ben’s.  As the cat ran past us, I seized the chance to hurl the dog dish at the streaking fur ball.  It found its mark and knocked the cat off stride, enabling Ben to close the gap.  Ben’s hot breath was now searing its haunches.

The conclusion appeared inevitable.  This was going to be great!  In all my years of cat chasing, I’d never actually seen a dog catch a cat.  (Unless, that is, you ignore those three alley cats our Indonesian Boxer killed with his bare hands in one six-week stretch of 1969.)  But, I digress…

As the pair headed for our back fence, I urged Ben on.  “Go, Ben, Go!”

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a lady standing on the other side of the fence, her arms outstretched, her eyes wide, a look of horror on her face.  Her mouth was forming words, but without any sound coming out.

My exhortation instantly morphed: “Go, Ben…….No!  No, Ben, No!”

Suddenly struck with pangs of conscience, I rushed after them, grabbing Ben as the cat struggled to climb the fence into my neighbor’s arms.  Quite pleased with myself, thinking how fortunate the lady must feel that I was able to avert a disaster, the woman cradled her ruffled cat and said quite clearly, “She’s been de-clawed.  She can’t fight and can’t climb fences very well.”

I suddenly found myself the one with soundless words.  All I could manage was a weak “Oh….” as I backed away, head down.

Hoping to salvage some purpose from the episode, I turned around to see what lessons the boys had learned…. and I was by completely alone.  Matt and Kyle were nowhere to be seen.

Somewhere between “Go!” and “No!”, they had beat a hasty retreat to the safety of the house, leaving me to face the consequences alone.

I don’t know that any profound life lessons were learned that day, but I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 7:9: Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, For anger resides in the bosom of fools.

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