There are two kinds of people in this world: Dog people and cat people. Three, if you count ferret or hamster people, which I don’t.
While you can have both cats and dogs in your domicile, you can pay allegiance to only one. Dogs will offer their allegiance to you no matter how many cats you might have. Cats don’t really care about you unless you’re opening a can of tuna.
I am a dog guy. There are many reasons for this that my therapist and I are working on. One issue might be control. Another might be that if a cat doesn’t much like me, why should I like it?
Geri and I each brought a dog into our marriage. Her dog, Kona, was a pure white, husky-lab mix whose favorite food was salad and whose mood was exuberant, bordering on ultra-exuberant. My dog, Sappho, was a Cairn terrier who was sweet in her own mean-spirited way. They co-existed warily, though Sappho was clearly in charge.
And then there was a weekend getaway to San Luis Obispo County. After dinner at A J Spurs Saloon & Dining Hall in Templeton, we returned to our motel in Paso Robles. It was dark. I could hear a faint meow. It came from near the dumpsters. I approached it gingerly, reaching out to find a tiny kitten, apparently abandoned or lost.
We took the shivering little kitten into our room. I left to find it some food and when I returned it was obvious that by then we had a cat.
We named her Bird, after the jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, and knew right away that we had to find her a playmate, which we did. We named him Dizzy.
The four of them and the two of us got along just fine. The dogs had a big backyard to play in, though they kept trying to dig their ways out from under the tall wood fence. The cats stayed in the house we had rented—a single-story, four-room cinder block structure painted brown. We called it the Bomb Shelter. The cats seemed happy to sleep on the back of the sofa or on the windowsill, from which they could watch our neighbor’s dogs escape from his backyard to come play at our house. At that point they would hide until they heard one of us open a can of tuna.
After a couple of years in the Bomb Shelter, we moved two blocks away into our own Bomb Shelter. It was painted blue, and had two more rooms than the first one did. And there we were—the six of us. Soon there were seven, with Sappho refusing to stray more than four feet away from Courtney and growling menacingly at anybody who dared to venture near her. When Daniel came along, we moved to a large suburban house with a block-enclosed backyard about the size of a postage stamp. It had a lemon tree.
By then, Sappho had died. We went to the shelter near our new house and adopted Trusty, a golden retriever-type who years later Tim Cahill thought bore a striking resemblance to Bertrand Russell, the British philosopher and historian. Tim made Trusty famous when he detailed her near-death experience and subsequent brain damage in Outside magazine.
But before Trusty’s fifteen minutes of fame, we acquired Pongo, a purebred dalmatian who was tortured by the kid next door. He would pelt Pongo with lemons from our tree. At his first opportunity, Pongo lunged at the kid and bit him on the arm. His mother insisted the dog be destroyed, despite his being vaccinated.
And then came Aja, a mixed-breed dog that knew no boundaries. He could escape from any enclosure, or over any fence. On his first day at our house, he ate the bathroom’s walls and woodwork.
We all made it to Montana. The brain-damaged Trusty would stare intently at a piece of cellophane that fluttered when the refrigerator’s condenser kicked on. In our backyard, she’d contemplate a single leaf for hours. Aja continued his Houdini behavior, for which we’d have to bail him out of doggy jail. As if life wasn’t complicated enough, we got OP, a beagle/Shar-Pei mix who was born with fewer brain cells than Trusty had. During the fifteen years we had OP, it seemed she was never even sure of her name.
Somewhere during all of this, we acquired a cat we named Gypsy. Bird and Dizzy just left the house—at different times—and never returned. Another cat for whom everybody seemed to have a different name came to live with us. She had been cruelly dosed with LSD and her entire existence seemed like an endless Grateful Dead song.
Then there was Buddy, the bichon frise who was the best dog I’ve ever had. When he died, we got Beau, a blind little dog whose shrill barking is relentless. To keep Beau company, we got Romeo, a silky terrier who spends much of his time hiding toys and leading the blind dog into walls and furniture. Romeo is a bit of a jackass.
When the kids moved in, they brought two large dogs and two cats with them. Micco is a sweet border collie who suffers from an inferiority complex. He readily accepts blame for anything that happens, which makes me think he might be Jewish. His partner in crime is a blue heeler, Kitchi, whose frequent vocalizations are an eerie cross between a hyena and Yoko Ono.
Cottonwood is a sweet cat whose days are numbered due to feline leukemia. He spends his days sitting on the dining room table.
And then there is Mușcă, a clumsy cat that is about the size of an SUV. He is kind of a dirty blond cat who frequently misses landing on whatever surface he has chosen for a perch. He knocks over stuff, falls down, and frequently awakens me when he annoys Romeo, who starts barking at the annoyance. It seems that I can’t go anywhere in the house without Mușcă, which is Romanian for bite, racing in front of me and slowing down to make me slow down. He has figured out that Beau is blind and he likes to attack him.
Mușcă has realized I’m a dog person and he’s making me pay.
And I’m re-thinking the whole ferret/hamster thing.
Photo Illustration by Courtney A. Liska
I have always loved Greek cuisine, dating back to my childhood when my family would dine at Diana’s Grocery on South Halsted Street on Chicago’s West Side. This recipe works well as a side dish to chicken or fish.
1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin oil (or butter)
1 clove garlic, minced
½ onion, finely chopped
1-1/2 cups long grain white rice (uncooked)
1-1/4 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1 large lemon (1 tsp. zest and 3-4 Tbs. juice)
3 Tbs. finely chopped parsley
1-1/2 Tbs. dried oregano
Salt and pepper
Heat oil over medium heat in large saucepan or small pot.
Add garlic and onion. Cook for 5 minutes or until translucent.
Add rice and stir until rice turns mostly translucent.
Add broth and water. Place lid on, bring to simmer then turn heat down to low.
Cook for 12 minutes or until water is evaporated.
Remove from stove and rest for 10 minutes (keep the lid on).
Remove lid. stir in lemon zest, lemon juice and herbs. Season with salt and pepper.