Cat or dog? Strong feelings about one or the other? Which is the best pet? For many, a strong opinion prevails—I’m not one of them. I like them both and see the advantage of each. Here’s my pet history in two parts: my dogs this week and then my cat next!
When I was growing up in a rural country town, Dad felt dogs belonged outside, so we lost many of my early childhood dogs to people running over them—you know how dogs like to chase vehicles! Then my uncle gave us Kimo, a Chihuahua, and Dad finally agreed to an inside dog. This little one won all of our hearts. He didn’t last long though because he got hit by a semi-truck right in front of our house!
My half-sisters and half-brother lived in Denver, Colorado and brought a stray cat with them any time they came to visit. Dad counted at one time, and we were responsible for about 35 feral cats roaming our little village. Dad didn’t want cats inside either.
Nameless, my last childhood dog, had a fun-loving personality and roamed our town freely. He loved to follow us everywhere we went. On a hike to Brown Springs in the mesa above our town, he tangled with a porcupine. I ran to the nearest house and told our family friend, Fred Smith, “Nameless got quilted!” He immediately knew what I meant.
To deal with this disaster, Dad took the front gate off of its hinges and placed it on top of Patches so he could remove the quills. This wasn’t Nameless’ first meeting with a porcupine. The first time, Dad tried to just kneel on him and pull out the quills, but Nameless bit Dad, so the gate served as protection.
Nameless had a bad habit of raiding the neighbor’s chicken coop, so our angry friend shot our dog, and Dad couldn’t defend him. I still felt bad with this loss!
For the majority of my adult life I have had dogs.
My first husband’s grandmother raised miniature poodles, so she gave us Windy as a puppy—a black haired ten pound ball of energy. Really that’s the reason she gave him to us; he was too much for her to handle. What a joy he was to us, and no, he was not a “yappy poodle.”
When my husband and I divorced, we each made a list of what possessions we wanted, prioritizing them. Windy topped my list; my husband wanted our water bed as his first choice.
Windy loved to travel with me, so when we went to Branson, he curled up in the seat and slept until we neared home, then he whined and barked, knowing we were close. He enjoyed going out on the ranch with Dad, Mom and me with his head out the window and his ears blowing in the wind.
When I moved to Raton, New Mexico and lived in a mobile home, I didn’t have a fenced yard, so when I let Windy outside, I had to put him on a chain I had attached to the steps. One morning, I let him out like usual, but he didn’t scratch at the door as quickly as he normally did.
I opened the door to see if he was okay, and he was hanging from the chain unconscious—I thought he was dead, so I called my folks sobbing. He came to before I arrived at the vet’s. He seemed to be okay, but within a couple weeks, my all black poodle’s eyebrows turned white. The vet thought it was because of lack of oxygen.
Windy lived seventeen years. I made the choice to put him to sleep because he had become senile and couldn’t control his bowels anymore. Mom went with me when I took him to the vet. That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. He’s buried in the backyard in Branson.
While I had Windy, my second husband and I rescued an Australian Shepherd/Blue Heeler mix puppy who had one blue eye and one brown. When we got Patches, ticks covered his body, so we had our work cut out for us.
I remember a funny experience with him. Even as a pup, Patches exhibited his natural herding instinct. We had a big backyard in our home, and one afternoon, he herded Windy and a friend’s Great Pyrenees clear to the back of the yard. We watched him do the work systemically. He didn’t care he was a third the size of the Great Pyrenees!
Patches never wanted to be an inside dog except when the thunder and lightning crashed. He required little care but gave so much love.
My mom volunteered often to take care of him when my third husband I traveled, so they had a special relationship.
At the end of his life, Patches faced numerous cancerous tumors, and we agreed to spend the money to treat him, no matter the cost. He died in April 2003 in our living room between us. I cut a piece of his multi-colored fur and still have it stashed away in an envelope in my desk. What a gorgeous dog he was!
We waited until November 2003 to look for another dog because we had a big square dance festival commitment for Labor Day that required lots of travel during that summer. After several visits to the Humane Society, we had identified three dogs as our future possible pet, but we ended up with Kita, who was supposed to be an Akita/Chow mix.
On our final visit, a volunteer noticed a yappy puppy had caught our eye and redirected us to Kita. She said, “That puppy will drive you crazy. Look at this quiet one.”
Kita laid silent and almost blended into the concrete with his coloring. With big solemn eyes, he just looked at us. We took him outside to see how he would be with us, and he attacked a leaf and entertained himself easily, so we went home with our new pet.
As Kita grew, we realized he had been misclassified. On a trip to the wolf sanctuary in southeastern Colorado, they confirmed our suspicions. Kita was a wolf hybrid. We became aware afterwards that the Humane Society couldn’t identify him as a wolf. We took him to another wolf sanctuary in New Mexico and they agreed with the other one—we had a wolf on our hands.
Kita demanded a lot of attention, so my ex-husband wrestled with him nightly. Once, I watched Kita drag a lounge chair around our back yard—he needed activity. He demanded a daily walk and lots of rough-housing!
Losing Kita in the divorce devastated me, but I couldn’t manage him, so I let him go. Yet I yearned for a pet.
Next week, I’ll tell you about my change over to the cat world and how that went! So dogs or cats? Which is it for you?
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