Katie isn’t much of a watch dog. She isn’t much of a guard dog, and she’s a complete washout as a huntress. But I still call her the wonder dog, not because she seems struck with wonder every she watches the chipmunks munch my zucchini blossoms, but because when it counts – when I’m about to have a close encounter with a bear, for example – she can demonstrate incredible bravery (it could be stupidity, but I’m giving her the benefit here).
But for all her bravery, this little hound-mix gets no respect from the feline members of our family. They eat out of her bowl – sometimes elbowing her out of the way to get the first taste. They often torment her for sport. In short, they seem to regard her as a lovable, but moronic, escaped mental patient, and most of the time she seems to be okay with this.
But yesterday her laid back nature had an unexpected consequence.
Katie is the proverbial kid who will get in a stranger’s car for the promise of a little ice cream, only she doesn’t need the ice cream, just the car – any car – and a pat on the head. She loves people. And two days ago, after breaking out of the prison that is our house, she decided that a ride in a car was the perfect way to cap off a swim at the river.
When she got back from our neighbor’s house the next morning, she was very happy to see us again, but I was still a little strung out from worry. I ushered her in the door and ordered her to go lie down. Her tail literally between her legs, she slunk to her cushion.
Much to her consternation Chuck, the leaner, meaner of our two cats (as far as Katie is concerned), was already lying in the only spot in the house that she calls her own. She looked at me, nervously wagging her tail and then sniffed at Chuck. Completely unconcerned and unsympathetic, he lazily rolled onto his back, maintaining eye contact with her at all times. She whimpered and sidled up to me.
My sympathies were stirring, and I got up to referee, but Chuck just glanced at me before curling up in a ball and closing his eyes. Katie hung her head and walked under the kitchen table, nervously settling herself under my chair. She’s a great foot-warmer, but it was 85 degrees out so instead of resuming my spot at the table, I went over to Chuck and started petting him. He responded as any king would to a slave, angling his head and body to enhance the pleasure of being served, but I surprised him by scooping him up for a minute of what I like to call Kiddie-Kitten-cuddle (taught to me by my then-two-year-old, it involves hugging the stuffing out of an ordinarily dignified cat). I put him back down on the cushion. Clearly offended, he glared at me and sauntered to the couch for a quick claw and then found a new perch.
My meek little puppy instantly sensed what had happened and excitedly got up and went over to lick Chuck on the couch, then came back to lick my hand in homage. Then, tail wagging furiously, she scuttled to her cushion, turned thrice, and plopped down. She made a few short muffled sounds to get my attention, thumped her tail a few times and then, training her eyes cautiously on Chuck, put her head down between her paws.
Sometimes picking the right ally is as important as picking the right battle and Katie had apparently learned how to do both.