For those who buy into the whole “cats rule, dogs drool” concept, it seemed like a perfect scenario when my dog Tucker split his toenail, exposing the extremely sensitive quick, and was sentenced by Evil Vet to several days wearing the dreaded “cone of shame.”
Tucker is a terrier – one of the terrier-est terriers around – ever-active, chasing balls, chewing bones, no off switch. The kind of dog who cats don’t get, don’t like, and don’t understand why they have to share their country, let alone their home with.
Tucker came home from the vet with a cone so large that NASA called to see if it could use it in its search for extraterrestrial life; Tucker had outsmarted, outreached, and outlicked shorter cones. My two other dogs – Jasper and Lilah – swirled around Tucker, performing a thorough examination of their brother. The cats drifted around his legs, their delicate noses twitching with the uncomfortable memories triggered by Vet Smell.
Collared by the cone of shame, Tucker banged around the house, knocking into chairs, slamming into the backs of my knees, and once almost scooping up our smallest cat – Elsa Clair – who meowed her irritation and fled upstairs.
After a few days, we all learned to deal with the cone; it was part of Tucker now.
Except for my cat Calvin. Fascinated by the cone, he kept finding reasons to investigate it. Sometimes he stuck his head all the way inside.
Tucker loves to cuddle real close with his dog and human family, but he’s wary of the cats. When he’s in our bedroom and his feline siblings walk in, the dog will jump down from his preferred spot on the bed and army crawl his way under it, squeezing himself into the darkness.
If I were to guess, this precaution is related to the “ambush the dog” game our cat Athena plays when the mood strikes her. Positioning herself on the corner of the family room table, she waits for Tucker to walk by in an attempt to get someone to throw his ball. (A true terrier lives to play ball.) If Tucker gets close enough to the cat, she delivers a formidable hiss/swat combination.
I swear she held Tucker’s ball for ransom once.
Tucker has learned to proceed with caution when the cats are around.
But now here was Calvin. In. His. Space.
About as in his space as one can get.
Tucker seemed a little concerned, but Calvin is the one among the cats who truly seems to like the dogs. He’ll curl up next to them and rub their heads when he can reach.
In case you’re wondering – or even if you’re not – the only reason I let Calvin continue to poke his head in Tucker’s personal space is because I was within grabbing distance of them, and because I am a serious student of dog and cat behavior. I study my pets so I can understand their body language. If Tucker had displayed the slightest cue that he was stressed by Calvin’s attention — ears back, whites of his eyes showing, yawning, shifting his position — I would have stopped it immediately. I am a firm believer in not putting my pets in situations that can lead to unfortunate consequences.
One night, Tucker was feeling a particularly sad; he hated the cone, his paw hurt, and it was raining outside. He had suffered the further indignity of having a plastic bag tied around his foot when we went outside. Worse, he couldn’t play ball.
Calvin jumped up on the ottoman and leaned in far enough to reach Tucker’s head.
He buried his nose in the dog’s scruffy fur. Then he slipped his tiny pink tongue out of his little cat mouth and began grooming him. Tucker closed his eyes and relaxed.
Calvin had never groomed Tucker before. And it had been years since he and his sister, Elsa Clair, got along well enough to stand next to each other, let alone tolerate tongue-in-fur contact.
This was special. This was different.
Perhaps I’m reading too much into this action. But I know Calvin was showing love for his brother. And I also know that Tucker understood that.
Sometimes your pets will surprise you. And sometimes you’ll realize they had it in them all along.
Do your pets know when someone in the family – canine, feline, human – aren’t feeling well or are hurt? Tell us about it in the comments!
Read more about interspecies love:
About the author: Susan C. Willett is a writer, photographer, and blogger whose award-winning original stories, photography, poetry, and humor can be found at Life With Dogs and Cats. She lives in New Jersey with four cats and three dogs (all rescues) and at least a couple of humans — all of whom provide inspiration for her work. Refusing to take sides in the interweb’s dogs vs. cats debate, Susan enjoys observing the interspecies interaction among the varied inhabitants of her home — like living in a reality TV show, only furrier. In addition to Life With Dogs and Cats, you can find more Dawn, Athena, Calvin and Elsa Clair (and the rest of the gang) on Haiku by Dog™, Haiku by Cat™, and Dogs and Cats Texting.