I never thought of myself as a species-specific pet. I’ve had dogs, cats, ducks, chickens, a gerbil and even an iguana as pets. For full disclosure, I draw the line at goats – long story – and parrots and similar birds – several longer stories.
The one thing I’ve never tried is having a dog and a cat at the same time. I’ve always turned to Bill Murray’s line from “Ghostbusters” whenever someone told me it was possible. “…dogs and cats living together…mass hysteria!”
But I know people who have been able to create a relaxed atmosphere in a dog-cat household. Despite the occasional act of hostility, everyone adheres to any interspecies treaty or peace agreement that was established at the time of union.
I recently tried to widen the circle of friends of Sophie the border collie, which has only one today. She wasn’t exactly a social butterfly before the pandemic, and the past few years have only made things worse. So when a family of farm cats decided to move in with my parents, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to broaden Sophie’s horizons.
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Sophie, this is Mama C, Fuzzbutt and Spaz.
Mama C is the matriarch, and she’s a pure hunter. I had never seen a black-tipped weasel until she left one as an offering at the back door. She is friendly, but she is not afraid of anything. She initially had four kittens, but nature arrived.
The two survivors were Fuzzbutt, a very friendly cat with fluffy, mottled fur who likes to sit in the lawn mower seat or strike a “Lion King” pose on the back porch, and Spaz, a speed demon solid black that freaks out and disappears. at the slightest weird noise, literally a frightened cat.
So far, Mama C and Fuzzbutt are the only two to show even frosty interest in Sophie. She, on the other hand, has far too much interest in them.
A border collie is an incredible dog with an instinctive – and very intense – ability to move other animals, including humans. Essentially, they go into stalking mode, and once that switch is on, it’s hard to turn it off. It’s okay if the skills are developed from an early age, but there weren’t many farms located in the middle of Winston-Salem for Sophie to hone her puppy instincts. She is now 4 years old, basically a teenager with a teenage attitude. Getting the teenager to behave and ignore her instincts wasn’t easy.
The presentations were tense. Think of it as a business meeting without knowing if you’re going to get a handshake or a punch in the face.
The cats have found their escape routes and hiding places, and luckily they’re faster than Sophie. What often begins as a gentle hello nose to nose quickly turns into an ironclad goodbye.
Getting Sophie used to my parents’ cows was a little easier. First, the cows are bigger than her, and they know it. Second, they have bodyguards – four donkeys who don’t mess around with any kind of craziness. Once the donkey alarm goes off, it’s time to go.
We start slowly. I know it’s going to take time, and it’s going to take some serious hours of work. But in the end, I think it will be worth it. A dog with friends and a job is a happier dog. What more could a dog dad ask for?