Are you a dog or cat person?

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My mother was a dog person who had a lifelong distrust of cats. Whenever the subject of cats came up, she would get a disgusted look on her face and tell us they could not be trusted. Then in the same solemn voice she used when she warned us not to talk to strangers, she would say, “The minute you turn your back on a cat, it will jump on the counter and lick the butter.”

Although we never left butter unattended on the counter or even knew anyone who did, this made perfect sense to us when we were young. I was always slightly horrified when we visited people who had cats and wondered what it was like to eat cat-licked butter on toast.

For most of the last decade of her life, mother lived with my brother. She had raised him right and he had two dogs, miniature Doberman Pinschers called Axle and Alexander. Mother was particularly fond of Axle, who followed her everywhere and was always sitting at her feet. She loved telling my brother that Axle loved her best.

The chair in the living room by the front window was mother’s favorite place to sit and read a book. Every day she would get up early, bring her book and a glass of milk and spend the morning reading. And Axle, her faithful companion, was always there at her feet.

One morning my brother was at the top of the stairs when mother set her book down to go to the bathroom. Axle stood up and watched her go. As soon as the bathroom door shut, he hopped on the ledge where she kept her glass of milk, stuck his snout in, and drank as much as he could. When he heard the toilet flush, he jumped down, licked his lips, and stood at attention, waiting for the one he loved best.

Butter? What butter?

When mother came out of the bathroom, my brother was laughing so hard it took him a few minutes to explain what Axle had done.

I don’t know if mother ever got over that betrayal. She never bragged again about how much Axle loved her. And along with the butter, she never left her milk unattended again.

24 thoughts on “Are you a dog or cat person?

  1. Cat person here:) I love this story! My mother was the same way. She told me for years about how sneaky cats were and how you cannot trust them. Then for reasons I still cannot explain, my father brought home a tiny baby calico. I proceeded to fall madly in love with this creature and so my mother allowed her to stay as long as I would oversee the kitten’s care completely. She softened, very, very slowly over the years before I got married and left home taking Callie with me. I would not say that she likes cats but she is not terrified of them which is good since I have two at the house and she visits often.

    • Mother never reconciled with cats. She believed they could jump into cribs and suck out the breath of a newborn. I’m sure this was some early explanation of SIDS that she heard as a child. She could not be argued out of her opinion.

  2. I can’t argue my Mum out of anything, not even evoking the power of the Internet. After all, how smart can the Internet be, its hasn’t been around as long as Mum.

    We always had both cats and dogs around, but I’d have to go with dog person. There is just something about the 24/7 unconditional love that a dog gives. I was also a big dog (as in size) person until someone left a little black tribble in my care. We called him Dawg so he would know what he was. I had him for 11 years. I now have a lhasa apso that loves everyone and everything. He has even learned to leave the people food untouched no matter we might leave it within his reach.

  3. I love the devotion of dogs, too. We had a collie named King when I was a child who was very protective of us. So I’ve always had a thing for collies. Because we are renting, we don’t have any pets (unless you count Buster, my bladder, who is fully house-trained and so allowed). That said, I think I would consider a cat. I had one once and I loved her very much, except for the annoying habit she had of suckling on my neck at night. I am so not kidding. I would be lying in bed asleep and suddenly she would jump on the bed and start nursing on my neck. Perhaps she had been weaned too soon.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it. It’s one of my favorite stories about my mom – it makes me laugh and also miss her very much. I woke up thinking about her today, which prompted me to write it.

  4. I have grown up with both and have one of each to this day, but I must confess that I have discovered neither can be trusted. They are much like children who never age. No matter where you put that butter or milk, they will inevitably find something else to sneak, ruin, eat, chew, or lick. Cats seem to be less dependent on humans which comes in handy if you travel.

  5. I, too, am a dog person. However we once had a dog that thought it was a cat. And, yes, she would jump up on the table and eat the butter…and the napkins…and the flowers.

    Great story!

  6. Cats… but I love big dogs, too. Dogs are great travelling companions, I’d rarely leave the house if I didn’t feel the need to walk Herself. But cats win for me, despite eating more than my fair share of butter that looked like someone used sandpaper rather than a knife to cut it.

    • Now that I’m older, I find myself a bit more interested in cats. I like their sense of independence. Also, if I had a dog it would have to learn to take its walks on the treadmill like I do. Winters are brutal in Wisconsin.

  7. Definitely a cat person. I like dogs in moderation, but can’t quite understand why someone would want to live with one full time.

    Cats sometimes demand attention and will get it by any means necessary. Once, when I was talking on the phone, my cat chewed through the phone cord, ending the conversation.

  8. Wonderful story! And wonderfully written – you have a real talent.

    PS: I have a dog and I’m much more of a dog person, but I have also owned cats and there are times when I really miss having a cat. But I won’t allow myself to get one for the same reason your mother had. My dog may pull over the trash can from time to time, but it’s my fault for leaving it out with “good stuff” just calling his name. He cannot, however, reach any of my counters…or the top of the fridge…or any table top or shelf. My plants and my nick nacks and my clean counters and – as long as I don’t put it on the floor – my milk are safe from him.

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