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Dogs Are Not at All Like Cats

B.J. in the Tracker nearing the air vent.

Some unseen force in Little Rock called out to my brother and his wife, and the two of them journeyed east for a pair of days this week, leaving me to run Tulsa all by myself. I was also asked to manage their household during their absence, and under that heading fell the task of managing the dog B.J.

Now all thinking people realize that a dog cannot be actually managed. Dogs are wild creatures of the forests, and in this way they are like cats. Along with having four legs and a tongue, it is the only way that the two are alike. Both sleep an inordinate amount, it is true. But during their waking hours, they abide by different codes.

I arrived at the Lance and Amy Tate mansion on the afternoon of Memorial Day. The traveling couple had quitted their residence an hour or two before and left B.J., according to custom, in his wire cage. The discerning reader will recognize in an instant a distinct difference here between the canine and the feline. Cats are not left in cages. Stated more accurately, cages do not stand up to cats.

B.J. barked, also according to custom, as I let myself into the house. Upon my approach, he looked up at me with large, dark eyes full of reproach and sorrow. After being released, rather than jump up and down with unbridled energy, the way he does when I come by for a visit, he slowly walked a few feet, stepped onto the rug, and crouched down in the traditional "I don't want you to leave and lock me in that blasted cage" position with one side of his head smashed down onto the floor.

No cat alive would go through this remarkable emotional display.

"B.J.!" I exclaimed, "I just let you out. Why do you think I'm going to put you back under lock and key, silly beast?"

B.J. said he didn't know. I had concluded long before that there was actually very little that B.J. does know apart from the sly tactics of emotional manipulation. Dogs manipulate people to feel sorry for them. Cats manipulate people to desire the rare gift of their company. Dogs are ecstatic when they get their way. Cats could not care less.

Before long I announced to B.J. that we were going for a walk. This produced no response, so I announced to B.J. that we were going for a ride. This caused B.J.'s blood pressure to soar, and he began running around like an idiot chicken. Assuredly, no cat would ever subject himself to anything so degrading. After pulling from a bag the new leash that I had just purchased (because B.J.'s step brother Bogey had eaten the previous one), B.J. proceeded to double the intensity of his zany behavior, then promptly he pulled up to my side and stood basically still for 1.6 seconds while I attached the leash. Of course I had hardly bent down to his level before the allotted time expired and he bolted off towards the door. However, he quickly realized that the leash was not attached, either due to a new design in leash attachment procedures or a slow and untrained uncle, and he came back for another try.

When the time comes to take a ride, one simply needs to lead B.J. up to a car - any car - and he will start jumping up and down like a demented pogo stick awaiting the opening of the door. We were soon in the Tracker and heading down the street when I began to wonder how he ever survives the two-hour trip from Tulsa to Tecumseh, where his grandparents live. B.J., once inside a moving vehicle, behaves in the most extraordinary manner. His heart rate, if it is anything like his breathing, shoots up three hundred percent. The creature's neck grows three to four inches in length, and his head protrudes so far out in front of his nervous body that it is a wonder he doesn't topple over. Actually he did when I nearly overshot the turn into the park, but I suspect centrifugal force, or some other trick of physics interfered.

The most remarkable symptom displayed in the car, however, is the desperate need to breathe the air coming from the air-conditioner vents. B.J. was in constant motion between one or the other of the two air vents dedicated to his seat. Apparently the act of riding in a car produces elevated temperatures in the canine body, and external means of cooling are required. I did not dare roll down the windows.

One will notice that the comparisons to the cat have trailed off. It is considered unnecessary to carry this theme to the extreme. Obviously, cats do not behave in these undignified ways, and further tedious statements to that effect are not required.

Now I will switch to present tense, because the following is not so much a historic account as a sketch. Upon reaching the park, B.J. has reached a zenith of wheezing, panting, fidgeting, shaking, gulping down cold air, and other dog-like activities. I fear for his life, so we instantly disembark and the walk through the park begins. B.J. strains at the leash for three seconds, then stops to sniff the first object rising vertically from the earth. It is a trash receptacle, which makes it pungent in its own right. But of course, the real attraction here (and every two and a half feet throughout the seventeen miles of park we have stretched before us) is the smell of a rival dog, and B.J. must make a careful catalog of this smell before adding his own to the long list. Once this is accomplished, we are free to resume our walk. During the thirteenth such stop, having made it across the parking lot and about two yards down the path, I calculate that the walk will terminate some time in the late afternoon of Thursday on the week following.

"Come on, B.J." I say and give a sharp tug on the leash, dragging the animal away from his investigations. "We came here to walk. There are two other dogs living at your house, and you can go around sniffing their smells when we get home."

B.J. is not convinced. He is continuously straining at the leash in a direction quite perpendicular to our forward motion. It is not long until he stops at a clump of short weeds, gives it a good sniffing, then proceeds to smash his face into the thing and look like he is going to go in for a full body rub when I snatch him away with force. I have been told by Amy on several recent occasions that B.J. loves nothing better than to find the remains of a dead animal or the remains of a live worm or slug and roll around in it until he can successfully haul that smell around with him and spread it to all the lucky world round about.

In time we make it back to the car where B.J. repeats his jumping bean act, start the drive home, breathe more cold air in copious amounts, and battle against the forces of physics. I find that I am very thirsty after the long trek, and I drink from my decidedly non-insulated water bottle. As much sweat from the outside of the bottle lands in my lap as does water from inside landing in my mouth. B.J., lapping up cold air like there is no tomorrow (because in B.J.'s mind there is never any tomorrow), spots the water beads on the outside of my bottle, and in a magnificent moment of intelligence, puts two and two together and begins licking them off. This is not as easy as it sounds, because the bottle is now in the console between the seats, and there are numerous places along the road of life that I am compelled to stop the car and start again with the impulsiveness of a Chicago taxi driver. Nonetheless, I can see that B.J. is rather proud of himself for this discovery in addition to having the pangs of thirst dulled a bit.

We make it home and B.J. returns with all the enthusiasm that he had leaving it an hour earlier. The water bowl is visited with relish, and then he plops down on the couch beside Uncle Dane to watch some riveting television show. Somewhere in the depths of his brain, a memory is stirred that suggests that he likes hanging out with his uncle. Or course, when the time comes to be locked away the next morning, all such memories are forgotten.

Now does any of this remind the reader of a cat?

5/30/13

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