Welcome to the Mixed League   14 comments

Big internet fight: Are you team cat or team dog? (or something else?)

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Mildly Allergic

I am mildly allergic to dogs. They make my eyes itch. If I’m around them for a while, I stop being allergic to that particular dog, but this explains why my first pet as an adult was a cat. His name was Shakespeare and he was a long-haired Siamese who had an incredibly intelligent blue-eyed stare. Siamese are very people-oriented and he knew how to get attention. We’ve had five cats over the years, four males and a female. The males were much more friendly and kind of lazy compared to the female, who loved to go outside and hunt and was always bringing dead things to the deck. When she’d get bored in the winter, she’d hunt the dogs like they were gemsbok and she was a lioness. Fortunately, she didn’t have front claws, so she couldn’t actually kill them. The dogs thought she was playing and she never said a mumbling word.

He Brought Home a Guinea Pig

I came home from work one day and there was a guinea pig sleeping in a box. Only it wasn’t a guinea big. It was a four-week-old Lab-mix puppy my husband got as a tip at a furnace job. She had two stubby little teeth, she couldn’t really walk yet, and her eyes had just opened. Her mother was the product of two pure-bred guard dogs (a German Shepherd and a Doberman) who mated through a fence and her father was the prime breeding male Lab in this area. He broke a chain and climbed a 10-foot fence to get to her. For a mixed breed, she had a great pedigree. The mother had 16 pups on her first heat. The owners loved their dog and could see so many puppies were wearing her down, so they were giving them away in hopes of not having to drown half the litter. Since we lived in a tiny home at the time, Brad picked the smallest puppy. We called my brother, who owned a breeding kennel at the time, and asked him what we should do to keep her alive until she could eat regular food. “You picked the runt. It will be a miracle if she survives, but blended Puppy Chow and baby-food beef should get her through the next few weeks if she doesn’t die of hypothermia first.”

Cana became her name because that was the place of Jesus’ first miracle. She was our first baby. We had to get up in the middle of the night to feed her, change her blanket and rewarm her water bottle. Cana grew up to be a pretty big Labrador who had the longer legs and longer nose of her maternal grandparents. She mostly looked and acted like a Lab. She loved water, liked children, thought cats were awfully grumpy, and was always ready to have fun. She lived to be 14-1/2 years old. She hiked all over with us and wanted to play fetch until your arm fell off. She thought her job was to watch our kids and keep them from doing anything dangerous to themselves. She would try to rescue us when we swam (apparently she didn’t think we could).

Her best friend was Dickens, an old-type Siamese who probably weighed 25 pounds (muscle, not fat) and for some reason decided she wasn’t horrible. They would play together and lay together for hours. He would rub his ears on the inside of her canines because he trusted this dog who was three times his size.

When Dickens died, we got Cana a puppy — a Lab-Husky mix (Huskador) we named Good Friday (because that was the date of her birth). Friday turned out not to be a good dog. She ran away often, didn’t really care for children, stole other dogs; food (and pails of ice cream from neighbor’s porches), and had to be watched in the house or she’d climb on the table and eat whatever was there. We trained her the same way we trained Cana and nothing worked. My brother declared her untrainable. “She’s whip-smart and she will outwait you, so just learn to accommodate her.” Trying to outsmart our dog became a hobby. Our woodshed is impenetrable because it used to be Friday’s kennel and she was an escape artist. This winter as the price of diesel spirals up, we can be assured our wood isn’t at risk because “Good” Friday was a naughty dog.

When Cana died, we got Friday a puppy. Sunrise was an absolutely gorgeous yellow Lab with the sunniest personality possible. She wanted to please…Friday. When she was away from Friday, she was a great dog, but when she was with Friday she would cast us an apologetic look and do what her companion demanded. My husband was pretty sure she was stupid. But when Friday died (at 16), Sunrise took to hanging out with him. When he didn’t warm to her immediately, she stole his shoes — both of them and he found them in perfect condition in her rest area. She was clearly horrified that he was upset over his shoes going missing, but that cemented their bond and they spent a lot of time hiking, fishing, and driving around together. She also hung out with me as my combination footstool-muse when I was writing. And she adored our son. When Angel would try to hunt her in the winter, she’d mistake that as an invitation to play and come away all flustered by a left cross to the nose. Believing that “cats have claws” is a myth, she never really understood why Angel was so grumpy. She just wanted to be friends. She had a big enough heart even to love Friday and Angel.

And while Sunrise loved to chase sticks (or whatever you were willing to throw), she wouldn’t bring them back. This was part of the training she received from Friday, who would not allow her to return a fetch to us. Apparently, that was beneath Friday’s dignity, so Sunrise wasn’t allowed to do it either. She would bring the retrieving dummy back about five feet away, drop it on the ground, shake the water from her fur, and then just look at us like “You’re going to throw it again, aren’t you? Please, please, please.” Friday also taught Sunrise how to enjoy running full speed like a husky does, making her an odd one among Labs. She never lost her sense of humor. We once had her down by the river during spring migration. We heard honking and turned to find Sunrise with a Canadian goose in her mouth, too startled to fight back. Labs have really soft mouths and Sunrise was an excellent swimmer. The gander was alive and appeared merely ruffled when Brad made Sunrise release it. We watched for a while to assure it was uninjured while it told quite the tale to its mate.

Sunrise never got the memo that dogs grow old. Except for some grey in her muzzle, she was spry and bouncy at 14 years old. That summer, we discovered an old burn area on our remote property where hundreds of trees had fallen over in a giant pick-up-stick pile. We were picking our way across stepping from one tree trunk to another when I looked back to see Sunrise following us, jumping from one tree trunk to another and smiling like this was a grand adventure. Not bad for someone who was the equivalent of 100 years old.

She passed on July 4, looking like she’d jumped up from her dog bed to go do something fun and just keeled over. It was a pretty way to go and gave new meaning to Independent Day. I often think she’s probably running full tilt through the neighborhood as she did when Friday would orchestrate an escape.

Team ???

We talk about getting another pet sometimes. We like the independence and easy care of cats, but we also like the fact that dogs can go with us places. Neither of us really wants to clean up after a pet, but we do miss the companionship. We also have different philosophies on training. I want a dog that obeys us and he’s a bit of a pet anarchist. So, I don’t know if we’ll get another one or not. My guess is dogs nudge cats out of the running very slightly because of the indoor litterbox need in the winter, but truthfully, we’re fans of the mixed league. Cats and dogs raised together don’t know anything about hating the other species.

So welcome to the mixed league.

Posted November 21, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

Tagged with , , ,

14 responses to “Welcome to the Mixed League

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  1. Yeah, they’re a nuisance, and I doubt we’ll ever have another cat when this one, who is 14 and might make it t thirty goes. Irish Setters are class clowns, anarchists and counter surfers. They got a bad rap for being dumb when the truth is they’re highly intelligent. They could care less what we think they ought to do. Funny stories abound.

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    • Dogs suit our lifestyle if they’re properly trained. Cana never wandered in the woods. She knew her job was to have our backs and she suspected we were smarter than her, so she wanted to stay near. Friday, the husky, would disappear for hours and sometimes come back pin-cushioned by porcupine quills. Sunrise was a mix of the two, mainly because of Friday’s influence. There’s a litter of pups available now for only $650. Mom’s not AKC registered, but that doesn’t matter and it saves about $2000. But do we want to start all over again with a 15-year commitment? Hard to know.

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      • I asked the same question with Abbey who is now 2. She’s started pushing the needle back toward Yes. A man we see on the walk occasionally lost his boxer. Waffled for a few months, showed up one day with a puppy. “I forgot they’re worse than toddlers!” Get some gummies to cope with the first two years. The memories are worth the surprise brown squishies.

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      • Sunrise came to us potty trained by her own mother, although she did have a couple of accidents when she was made to wait longer than her bladder capacity. Friday was never completely house-broken. She saw no reason to put herself out for us. We learned to take her out often and leave her own overnight (which huskies LOVE the cold). And then Cana once got left indoors for 30 hours because we got stranded somewhere and she used the tub. You don’t get much better than that. How she figured it out always remained a mystery, but owing to her being hand-raised, she was a very human-oriented dog. She probably reasoned water somehow drains out of that thing, so they can’t be really mad at me using it instead of the floor. She was right. Oh but did she look guilty when we said “What’s that smell?”

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  2. That was beautiful to read, it reminded me so much of all the dogs that shared my life. All Labs, all different and all irresistible.

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    • Yeah – technically, Friday wasn’t a Lab, although her father was. She mostly looked like a Lab, which is why we selected her, but she had the husky personality. Huskies are — difficult. Very much closer to the wild in their personalities than Labs. And despite having paws as webbed as Cana’s and Sunrise’s, Friday was certain she couldn’t swim. There were a number of times we left her on the far bank of a river with our elementary-school children in tow and she’d stand there howling until she understood we were really leaving her behind and then she’d jump in and make it across, acting like she was dying. Meanwhile, Sunrise would be paddling around chasing beavers and trying to fetch trees. And Cana once swam the Chatanika River in spring flood because the wind caught her frizbee and took it to the far bank and she loved her frizbee. She got swept down river about a half mile, but she got her frizbee and came back the same way. There was a bridge not 30 feet from where she jumped in, but of course, dogs don’t think before they jump.

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  3. I had a co-worker who agrees with your assessment of Huskies. He had a problem finding Huskies that would live together without fighting, because they all wanted to be in charge.

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    • Yeah. My husband’s cousin who lives here is a dog musher and breeder. He says huskies have alphas and betas just like other breeds and the wolves they’re so closely related to. In a big yard like his (over 100), the alphas take charge and there’s usually only a few. You keep your lead dogs separated from one another and they’ll control the betas in their sphere of influence. It’s how he builds teams, which he rents to other dog mushers. You’ve got the alpha (lead dog), usually a runner-up who can lead if needed, and then the betas (line dogs and wheeldogs). But he agrees that in smaller groups like what we had (only two dogs at a time), the alpha personality becomes very dominant, even if the humans take the alpha position. We’d take Friday for walks late at night and she’d walk up to other dogs, on their territory, and they’d go into their dog houses while she ate their food. When she was too full to eat, she’d pee on their food. And we couldn’t make her not do it. She refused to listen to us and if we put her on a leash, she’d drag us. The only accommodation we could ever work with her is bike riding. She’d get into running to keep up and forget about dominating the neighbor dogs. But if she ever decided to ditch us, she was great at evasive tactics and would disappear for hours. With that dog, it was always an accommodation.

      That said, I know people who have had single huskies they loved. Usually these people were alphas themselves and the dog was probably a beta by nature.

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  4. I’m allergic to dogs, cats and rodents – itchy eyes and throat, sneezing, and weals on the skin. I’m happier being pet-free.

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  5. Such a sweet history of animal love. @samanthabwriter from
    Balancing Act

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