Our Furry Friends #4

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Karen Eisenbrey, who is today’s woman of choice to tell us about her pet experiences, lives in Seattle, so naturally she isn’t just a writer but also a drummer and backup singer in a garage band.

Karen donated two stories and a few haikus to our upcoming anthology, Paws & Claws.

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Cat People Adopt a Dog

We had always been cat people.
By “always,” I mean my lifetime, which at that time was about nine years. In those days, we had two cats, a petite longhaired calico named Calico and her son, a lanky longhaired orange tabby named Rover.
We’d had short-lived starter pets before: goldfish and a guinea pig. I didn’t know other pets were even an option until my older sister campaigned successfully for a dog.
One day we went to the Humane Society and came home with the world’s cutest puppy. White with black spots, freckled paws, floppy black ears, and one black spot on the top of his head. Because he had hairy feet, a round belly, and ate six meals a day, we named him Bilbo.
Upon first meeting, Calico swatted Bilbo on the nose. He bowed down, said “Yes, Ma’am!” and even as he grew to five times her size, he deferred to her. The dog and both cats romped and played and were great friends, but Calico was always the boss.
So cats weren’t the problem; people were. We cat people had unknowingly brought home a pup with at least three kinds of herd dog in his mongrel pedigree. A herd dog with nothing to herd will find something. Bilbo had natural talent at herding chickens. We didn’t have chickens, but a neighbor a few blocks away did. More than once we found a hen in our yard, harassed and exhausted but unhurt.
He was a dog of strong opinions, too. If he liked someone, he really liked them; if he disliked them, woe be unto them. His likes and dislikes lined up with mine for the most part; I’m still not sure who influenced whom.
While Bilbo was still a puppy, we bought a dog-training book and began to teach him basic commands and a few tricks. He quickly learned to sit, roll over, and shake hands. He would sometimes consent to stay. He would never come when called. I don’t think we even tried to make him stay off the furniture. Because my sister slept in the top bunk and I in the bottom, Bilbo slept on my bed, though I preferred cats. He liked to ride in cars, and loved to ride in our battered old pickup. If we really needed him to come, we’d open the truck door, shout, “Go for a ride?” and he’d leap right in. He was smart about so many things, but he fell for that trick every time.
Sadly, our too-smart dog was more advanced than amateur dog trainers could handle. He was meant to be a working dog, not a spoiled pet. Between the herding and the hostility toward a select few, it got to where we couldn’t let him out of the yard lest he kill a chicken or bite a person. We didn’t have adequate fencing to keep him in, so he had to be tied up. No one was happy, and it was apparently too late for rehab.
Bilbo was put down in his prime because of his owners’ incompetence. Forty years later, I still feel guilty even though it wasn’t my fault. I never wanted a dog but I loved the only one I ever had. I will never have another.

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