As I type, a furry striped tail rhythmically brushes my laptop keyboard and intermittently blocks the screen. My cat, Walter, is lying on my desk lengthwise, intruding into my workspace.
But I don’t mind. I am a cat person. I’m crazy about this tabby cat who looks at me with a hint of disgust and meows loudly when I gently push him a little further.
We used to be a house for two cats, but Arnold died in May. So now my husband and I just have Walter.
My friends, with very few exceptions, are dog lovers. They have labs, golden retrievers, and other big-legged dogs that obey commands and look up to them with unconditional love. Two of my adult children also have dogs.
Sometimes I feel like a strange person because I don’t have a dog. Dogs are cooler and more esteemed than cats. If you have a dog, it’s okay to dress it up in a themed collar, bandana, or sweater. It’s okay to take it on vacation, float with it on your paddle board (like a friend of mine recently did), and include it in family portraits.
If you have a cat and you do these things, well, you’re weird. Also, most cats aren’t interested in fancy dress, travel, and water sports, although they don’t mind being photographed as long as they’re in the center of the frame.
Sometimes I think about adopting a dog, especially when I witness the sweet and intense relationships that my children have with their good-natured dogs. However, when I bring this up with my husband, he reminds me that having a dog is like having a baby. It’s a lot of responsibility.
Yet it stays in my head. But I’m afraid I don’t have the right type of personality. I can get a little nervous around dogs – horses too – because they want me to be in charge. They want me to be the alpha animal. Although I’m tall with a carrying voice, I’m not always comfortable in this role.
Two decades ago, while riding with a large group, I found myself on top of a runaway horse named Goldie. She was at full gallop and I couldn’t stop her. A more experienced rider caught up with me and told me to pull on the reins.
“I am,” I shouted.
“I mean really pull on the reins, as hard as you can,” this young woman shouted from her mount.
I brought them back with 100% more power and Goldie finally stopped. But this horse made me understand. She could sense that I wasn’t sure. She knew I was not responsible.
Unlike horses and dogs, cats don’t want you to be the alpha. They don’t care if you are uncertain and vulnerable. They prefer it that way.
I wonder if people who love dogs have an easier time becoming parents. Children also seem to want adults who move forward with confidence. While I firmly took the lead in a few areas when raising my offspring, I was soft on many things. I wonder if I held those reins too loosely too.
As a cat, I was mainly trying to be there for my children. I wanted them to know that I was there for them no matter what. But I didn’t force it. They could sniff around me, ignore me, and at their own pace jump into my lap, literally or figuratively.
I’m a sucker for any innocent creature with pleading eyes, so I might one day end up with a dog. He’ll just have to accept that I’m not responsible. Walter is.