Cats and Dog
neighbours live half a mile down the lane and when they moved
in some two years ago, they introduced two kittens to our mountain. The
creatures were only a few weeks old and one was
black and the other white. They both are males - well, they had
been at any rate.
The white cat was called Caspar and the black one was Nazeem - though for reasons that are not likely to become obvious in a hurry, for purposes of this narrative, Nazeem will be referred to as Murgatroyd or Murg.
It occurred to me almost immediately that the kittens were at an age when they were easily impressed. As nature does not seem to have evolved cats and dogs to form lasting and happy relationships, and as I didn't really want my dog to chase the neighbour's cats, I decided to indoctrinate all three of them with the milk of human kindness.
The job proved easier than originally anticipated.
Tudor was eight years old but very civilised and not given to hunt other creatures unless he had permission and they were white and went 'baaaah' a lot and as he is a border collie, he always does what he is told to do. The kittens didn't know any better, were brimful of curiosity and willing to learn. Every day, when we walked past the house, we let the animals sniff and tolerate each other. The kittens had no hesitation, they had never seen a dog before and this new creature seemed large and friendly.
Tudor had more trouble. He was older and had formed certain opinions a long time ago. He quickly found out that the two places where male animals should smell interesting were somewhat dull and wrong with both kittens. For a long time though he persisted in his belief that cats must have an anal gland, so at times it looked as if the collie was pushing the kittens along the lane with his nose. Finally he gave up: these cats smelled boring, hence the best policy was to say politely hello and then ignore them.
Murg and Caspar on the other hand quickly elevated Tudor to the status of a mighty king. Both would come and greet him without fail, every time they met him. These greetings always start with the cats lying down in front of the dog, rolling onto their backs and exposing their all to this toothsome large creature above them. Tudor finds this ritual rather boring and prefers to go off and mark some territory, but he is polite enough to hold still when others greet him.
The problem is of course one of linguistics. Cats talk cat - and Tudor only understands dog - and the cats have the same problem in reverse. If a dog wants to say: "Come on, I want to play" he does it in a doggy fashion, which makes no sense at all to a self respecting cat. When the cat invites the dog to a friendly tussle, he is as clueless as the cat was earlier on. However, both races are convinced that their own behaviour is the only correct one - and that if they persist for long enough, every one else is bound to get the idea in the end.
The cats developed two different ways of interacting with Tudor, once the first roll in the dirt was finished. Caspar - the white cat - will try and rub against Tudor from every direction possible. Tudor of course doesn't know what this means - border collies don't rub a lot - and he tends to move away - closely followed by Caspar still determined to rub with anything rub-againstable.
Murg on the other hand will try to rub against Tudor, but when he gets close enough he hits Tudor a paik across the nose - sometimes with one sharply equipped paw but more often with both. These friendly little slaps hurt, so Tudor tends to keep his distance whenever Murg comes near him - watching those tiny front paws at all times - ready to jump should they come too close. Murg of course tries to move closer, so that the two perform a funny little dance, every time they meet.
What exactly the cats think Tudor is, I do not know. But I do know that they feel that he is a highly important person of great significance. An example of this was given us the other day.
While Murg tends to stay at home during the day, Caspar has become the terror of the mountain. He hunts for days on end - usually rabbits - and because he is so white one can watch him from miles away. He is the only cat I have ever seen streaking across the mountainside closely followed by an enraged fox. The encounter ended with Caspar high on a shrub washing his face and the fox pacing below, giving a nasty scream every once in a while.
The other day on our walk, I spotted Caspar in the field below us. I greeted him and noticed that he had just caught a small rabbit. When the cat saw Tudor, he instantly picked up the rabbit, climbed over a drystone wall, crawled through the barbed wire fence and instantly dropped the little morsel in front of Tudor. He then started to rub against the side of his large friend and purr in a friendly fashion. I have seen cats do this to their owners - people they meet every day but this is the first time I've seen it done to a dog.
Tender souls will be happy to hear that this story has a happy ending. Tudor is a civilized dog and took no interest in the offered rabbit, which is when we noticed that the creature was still alive but in deep shock. Whilst Caspar was rubbing against Tudor, his attention slipped. The little rabbit managed to hobble away, but hadn't the strength to climb to a place of safety - the bank along the side of the lane is very steep. I picked the little rabbit up without a struggle. A short examination showed that it had no visible wounds and once I released in in a safe place, it quickly recovered and hopped away. Caspar was so busy with his canine friend that he never noticed the evil trick I played on him.
When he finally remembered to look for his afternoon snack, he looked for it in the totally different direction. For all I know the rabbit is still happily hopping about - if the fox or the buzzards haven't caught it.
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The healing touch