By Dorothy Dobbie


There is nothing wrong with dogs. For the most part, we get along just fine, despite the fact that they are a lot of work. They are also very demanding . . . and nosy. They poke their noses in places where you would rather they did not! And they bark! And they are just a little too eager to please.

Cats, on the other hand, know how to respect your space. Cats are independent and self-sustaining. They live and let live but reward the attentive owner with a pleasant purr when you treat them to petting. They like to play but do it gently, chasing a piece of crumpled paper around a tile floor, or in the case of my friend’s cat, hiding paper clips in unlikely places. They meow politely when you come home after a hard day’s work, and they don’t accost visitors when they come to the door.

I have had both cats and dogs, but all my early memories were of dogs. My grandfather had the only cats I knew, always a tabby named Timothy and always the bane of my grandmother’s existence, so my first cat impressions were not favourable. My earliest pet was a German shepherd dog named Laddie. I much preferred his lady friend, Lassie, a mixed breed blonde who was softer and gentler. There were two cocker spaniels, Tootsie and Sheik, who were with us briefly when my maternal grandmother died, but they were lap dogs, not kid friendly. As for cats, we lived on a farm back then and the cats were restricted to the barn. I never had a chance to get to know them.

The next dog I remember adopted us. He was a purebred black and white spotted Dalmatian hunter we cleverly named Spot. He just showed up and refused to leave. Turns out he was a runaway and, one day, his owner showed up on horseback to claim his property. We felt bad but said goodbye to Spot. A week or so passed, and then Spot was back. We had to call his owner even though we suspected that he was not a kind man.

The next dog I particularly remember was a golden lab called Buster who used to go fishing with me early in the mornings in the icy cold mountain creeks of the East Kootenays in B.C. He was a nice companion, but I felt no personal commitment.

I was 15, before a pet cat entered my life. The cat was a caramel spotted short hair my mother named Peanuts. I hated the name but loved the cat and to this day, I feel guilty for punishing poor Peanuts for chasing a bird. Well, I was only 15.

We had two more dogs after that: a little white, part-coyote farm dog who was stolen one wintery night right off the street. By this time, I was married, and Glenn and I were heartbroken. We called the radio stations to get the word out and did whatever we could to get Suzie back, but to no avail. Then about a month later, a scratch at the door revealed a very sad looking Suzie, her coat and paws covered in ice. Somehow, she had escaped her abductors and had come right home.

We moved and at last, I could get a cat. Her name was Josephine, JoCat for short. She was a black and white house cat that we illegally harboured in our main floor apartment where she could enter and exit through the window. She was our eldest daughter’s nursemaid. JoCat would admonish Lori by batting her hands away from dangerous things such as the electrical wall outlet. JoCat kept a close eye on her when she was sleeping and was always patient with the clumsy attentions of a very small child. She had kittens once and she would bring the father in through the window in the middle of the night to see his offspring once they got bigger.

Alas, we ultimately had to leave that apartment for a bigger one that was on the second floor. JoCat had to go back to the farm – or so we told the girls.

Finally, we moved into a house, and it was time for a family pet. This was our last dog, Trelawney, a golden retriever we bought for our girls, although he was mainly Glenn’s dog. He was with us for many years until at last he had to be put down because he had cancer.

At that time, I also realized a dream: a purebred chocolate point Siamese cat, a female, chosen because she was supposed to be hypoallergenic. You could have fooled Shauna who was allergic. We named her Tuktoyaktuk, Tuk for short. She was sleek and beautiful and well behaved, and she also had kittens. Sadly, we believe an owl got her when we were out camping.

Later, there was a pretty little female named Lilac, a gift my allergic mother-in-law returned to us. She became Lori’s best friend.

My last cat was also a Siamese, this time a lilac point and a male. He had very large ears, so I named him Charlie for Prince Charles who was similarly endowed. Charlie was a very commanding cat. He resented my leaving him when I got elected and had to spend so much time in Ottawa. One time, when Glen was coming to join me for a weekend, Charlie watched him get ready then left Glenn a message – “spraying” his briefcase, an act that only became evident on the plane when Glenn could distinctly smell cat!

Now I have no cats. I travel too much, and I have nowhere to leave a pet when I go, but If I ever settle down and get a pet, it will be a cat. For the time being, I have to settle with the feral cat who lives under my front steps in winter and shares her food with the blue jays in spring.