Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cats vs Dogs

Many people seem to fall into one of two camps; they either like cats or dogs.  I have no doubt there are some who adore both, and even some weird soulless folk who can’t abide either, but the truism is true’ish.  As for my own allegiance, I’m a dog man through and through.

Now don’t get the wrong idea; I have nothing against cats.  I quite like cats, in fact about the time we got married my wife and I used to have one called Captain Pugwash.  He was cute, playful, clean in his habits and like most cats pretty independent and therefore easy to care for.  We were really upset when he fell ill one day with what turned out to be a tumour, for which the vet assured us that euthanasia was the kindest course of action.  We were sad of course but we carried on over the next few years with an assortment of smaller animals, including hamsters, guinea pigs and a vicious bastard of a rabbit, who once tore my legs to shreds because he didn’t want to go back in his hutch.

But smaller animals don’t really float my boat; what I really wanted was a dog.  I’d had one as a small boy, purchased from the RSPCA by my dad for a quid in 1967.  We named him Tim, and I was so happy I wrote a poem which began:

I have a little dog, and his name is Tim,
He’s black and brown and white, and I’m very fond of him …

I’ve forgotten how the rest of this masterpiece went, but it was basically an epic chronicling Tim’s brilliance at begging for scraps and the way he would chase seagulls along the beach.  Never knowing when to shut up, I used to recite it to anyone who would listen and to quite a few who wouldn’t.

So about 12 years ago we bought a Labrador puppy and called him Dylan.  He was as cute as a button but infuriating at the same time.  There were 3 facts about Labradors we didn’t fully appreciate:

1.       They don’t have an ‘off’ button when it comes to eating. I’m convinced that left alone with a big sack of dog food, Dylan would have eaten his way through it until he burst at the seams.

2.       They like water, any water.  They have an oily coat, webbed feet and an otter-like tail which makes them great swimmers. Dylan would happily jump in the sea and dive under the water looking for stones thrown nearby.  Unfortunately he would also leap into muddy puddles, filthy canals, stinking ditches and no doubt a sewage farm given half a chance.

3.       They like pooh, any pooh.  They like to eat it and they like to roll in it.  Fox pooh was a real favourite for Dylan, but another dog’s pooh would do just as well.

And yet for all his questionable habits we adored him, and only my taking a job in Cyprus forced us to re-home him to a lovely family in Essex, who used to send us photos of him at Christmas.

Within 10 days of arriving in Cyprus, we were the proud owners of Sam, a 6 month old puppy who’d originally been rescued from a farm by a lady who wasn’t able to keep him in her apartment.  Sam was house trained, but that was all.  However he soon turned into a well behaved dog, apart from occasionally absconding from the garden and turning up at 2.00 in the morning like an errant teenager.  He had fabulous markings being part Doberman, part English pointer.  He was tall and had a tail so long he couldn’t wag it in the traditional way, rather it would go round like a windmill.

When our time in Cyprus was up we took advantage of the newly introduced Pet Passport scheme to bring him back to the UK with us.  It may have cost well over £1,000 but I would do it all again.  He was such a placid, affectionate, dopey dog.  We loved him to bits, and when he too succumbed to a tumour aged just eight, I held him at the vets for the last time and cried my eyes out.

Three months later we got a tricolour Cavalier King Charles puppy and called him Alfie.  He is a joy to have around, although very different from our other dogs.  He’s certainly the most intelligent of them all and the easiest to train, albeit with a stubborn streak.  Being so small, he is quite literally a lapdog and is even permitted to sit up on the sofa with us.  This would ordinarily go against all my beliefs in what dogs should be allowed to do.  The other dogs would have been unceremoniously chucked off the furniture, and neither of them would have dared go upstairs, but Alfie’s different somehow, or maybe I’m just getting softer.

Anyway, so much for the pet history.  Why do I go for dogs and not for cats?  Apart from the obvious things like a dog makes you get up and take some exercise now and then, I suppose it comes down to their different attitudes towards their owners.  Cats are notoriously independent; they don’t want to know you unless they’re after something, and I always feel they’re kind of looking down on you with ill disguised contempt.

Dogs on the other hand ‘need’ you.  They come back for affection even when they’ve been shouted at and give you affection in return.  They depend on you in a way which brings out an almost parental instinct.  A psychologist would have a fine old time analysing my need to control another creature in order to make me feel better about myself.  I don’t know if there’s any truth in that, but I do like knowing the dog needs me.  Well, we all want to be loved, don’t we?

Alfie. Not in the least bit spoilt or mollycoddled


  1. Enjoyed reading Nick, i am a bit of both. Cats are great to sit on your knee, as kittens they are very entertaining. But dogs, well, a true friend, unconditional love, plus i love walking. Both have there downsides, cats clawing and stealth pooing and dogs farting and eating everything and anything. Daz

  2. I am with you Nick, I am a dog person. We have the Buster, our minature schnauzer. Mad as a bag of spanners with world domination always in the forefront but we love him:)

    Great post,

    Lesley x