Karla's Kolumn: Learning from the animal kingdom


February 27, 2020

One recent event and one recent statement got me thinking about the animal kingdom and the myths we are told in childhood and what is the reality.

First, was last month the town of Greybull tried to pass a breed specific ban, specifically wanting to ban pitbulls in the community. Proponents and animal lovers came out in opposition to the ban, citing it's not the animal it's the owners who make the animals vicious.

The statement I read was on this week's devotional (found on page A8). "Who says dogs and cats can't get along? It's all in how they are raised."

But that's just it, growing up you learn cats and dogs are natural enemies, but in watching my own dogs and cats they may be natural enemies but they can also become best buds.

Growing up we had cats and dogs in our house and I always felt the dogs tolerated the cats. Never friends but the dogs knew the cats were pets too so they best leave them alone.

My dog Jake, (the first fur kid I had as an adult) loved to try and chase cats, being the natural enemies that they are, of course.

I didn't have a fenced yard at my first rental so if he wanted to spend time outside and I couldn't be there he would have to be on a chain. A neighborhood cat seemed to know exactly how long that chain was and would walk back and forth in the alley tormenting my dog. (I have learned that cats do like to torture things, but that's a column for another time.)

But, then I got new downstairs neighbors, who had a cat, a cat with a typical cat attitude, basically daring my dog to try and chase it. This is when I first learned if the cat doesn't run the dog sees no fun and basically ignores the cat.

My dog would run down the stairs toward the cat and the cat would not budge. The first time, Jake pulled up short and just looked at the cat like "what are you doing, you're supposed to run. It's the natural order of things." But that cat had other ideas in mind.

The two became "friends" if you will with my dog even sharing his doghouse with the cat on occasion.

However, I thought well if they can be friends then perhaps I can bring a cat home. Wrong. Jake thought the cat was fine if it was outside but not if it invaded his domain inside the house. So, the kitten I adopted was returned about an hour after I picked it up.

I was not going to fight nature or try to nurture that relationship. Sometimes, just as we humans, we know if a relationship is worth salvaging or not.

Now, we have Chuck and Buddy, our outdoor cats, and Ivy and Shadow, our dogs.

We got Ivy when she was about 17 months old and we lived in Basin. We found out quickly that she loved to chase cats. We, again didn't have a fenced yard and if she got loose and saw a cat it was off to the races.

So when we got our cats we wondered how Ivy would do and we had to introduce them slowly and under strict supervision. Ivy knows she doesn't chase Chuck and Buddy now. Is she allowed to run off stray, feral cats who invade Chuck and Buddy's turf, absolutely. Ivy knows the difference because we have taught her the difference and because she has developed a relationship with Chuck and Buddy.

Shadow was different. She was a puppy and well the cats didn't know what to make of this puppy about their same size and the puppy didn't know what to make of the cats. Now, Chuck and Shadow are the best of pals. I'm not kidding. Chuck will come to the back window and wait for Shadow to be let out and then will follow Shadow everywhere. Both cats have been known to cuddle up with one of the dogs on a lazy summer afternoon.

To get along and be friends, the cats have to accept that the dogs are just that ... dogs and that is why Shadow breaks up their catfights. They may not like it but they accept that is who Shadow is and what Shadow does, which is why sometimes before they tussle you'll see the cats look around to see if Shadow is watching.

And dogs have to accept that cats are cats and will do cat-like things, like chase and kill mice, but not necessarily eat them. (There are more cats like Garfield than we have been led to believe.)

People can learn from animal kingdoms. Mortal enemies can become lifelong friends by nurturing a relationship and getting to know one another and embracing their differences.


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