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Cats and dogs

It’s no secret that our nation has become deeply divided. We are riven by profound emotions, feelings that are so strong that they have resulted in the installation of regrettable tattoos by numerous members on both sides of the chasm.

This pervasive contentiousness can be boiled down to one question: are you a cat person or a dog person?

There are some who will answer “none of the above” or “I have a pet skink that fulfills all of my emotional needs, which are obviously extremely low because skinks are about as affectionate as a dried twig.”

I was raised on a bilingual farm, so I can empathize with both sides of the cat vs. dog issue.

But that’s not the complete picture. Our farm had a polyglot of species, so I also grew up amidst the chattering of chickens, the blathering of bovines and the prattling of pigs. Learning all of those dialects was a challenge, but it’s easier to pick up new languages when you’re a kid.

Each species had its own verbal quirks. For example, chickens are probably the worst gossips on the farm. If you heard it from a hen, you’d better check double check the information, especially if it involved far-fetched, panic-stricken exclamations about the sky falling.

Pigs would grunt out meandering, long-winded stories that went nowhere. These swine soliloquies would end the moment a fresh supply of grain appeared in their trough.

Cattle are fairly taciturn. They seldom voice an opinion unless it has something to do with their alfalfa arriving late or if the person who’s milking them has ice-cold hands. Bovines are adept at nonverbal forms of communication that involves the angle of their ears or the violent application of a wet tail to a person’s face.

This leads us to dogs and cats. Our farm was home to an ever-changing cast of barn cats and an assortment of dogs whose pedigrees were best described as “mongrel.”

Cats are much better than dogs at keeping secrets. If you tell a cat something, you know that the information will remain secure. If you shared that same info with a dog, he would blab about it to anyone who will listen. Crime levels would plummet if more law enforcement people knew how to speak dog.

Felines can be sneaky and deceitful. For instance, my wife and I might be watching TV when our cat, Sparkles, will noiselessly materialize in the middle of our living room. She will sit on the floor near one of us and meow in a manner that says, “I see that you have an empty lap. You may pick me up and pet me now.”

A dog will never knowingly lie to you, but canines can be gullible.

We once had a Blue Heeler named Pepper. Pepper hated mice and rats with a passion that could only be categorized as “fanatical.” I could stand in the middle of the driveway and say in an animated voice, “Where’s the mouse? There it is! Go get it!”

I would then make squeaky noises with my mouth and point at a random spot on the driveway. Whining with excitement, Pepper would begin to dig furiously in the driveway even though it was apparent that there were no mice there and that I was making the mousey sounds.

I thus duped Pepper numerous times, but she always forgave me. Pepper never faltered in her choleric crusade against repulsive rodents.

Its been said that dogs have masters, but cats have staff. This is absolutely true.

Whenever Sparkles is in the house and wants out or is outside and wants in, she will sit by the door and mew expectantly until the butler (me) or the maid (my wife) opens the door for her. As she saunters through the doorway, Sparkles will say, “Meow, meow!” in a manner that clearly means, “It’s about time! What took you so long?”

When I go outdoors, Sandy, our golden retriever, will greet me with infectiously joyful enthusiasm. He will scurry around excitedly, whining a little, stopping every so often to lick my hand. He might bring me one of his tattered toys or some disgusting dead thing, wearing an expression on his face that says, “Look what I found! Isn’t this great? You can chew on it if you want!”

“Fighting like cats and dogs” is a timeworn truism. It’s also frequently false.

Sparkles and Sandy like to accompany me when I go for my walks. Despite their deep differences, it’s obvious that they have managed to remain fast friends.

Which is a lesson that we can all take to heart.

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