SNIFF NOTES: A Tale of Cats and Dogs

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My best friend is a cat. I’m a 9-year-old chocolate Lab named Duke and it’s difficult for the dog friends I’ve made over the years to understand it, but it’s true.

Felix and I have been together for five years. I’ve got to admit, at first I wasn’t too sure about him. I’d been with Mom and Dad for two years before he came around and he was super tiny. Mom and Dad found him outside and brought him in and he was loud (for a little creature he could holler like nothing I’d ever heard before) and he got into everything.

Kittens, man. They’re pretty crazy.

Although when he first saw me – I’m a pretty rotund Lab (I can’t help it. I like those treats Mom gives me when I’m good) – he jumped and puffed out his tail and made this odd sound almost like a balloon slowly losing air.

I remember Mom said, “Wow, Felix, that was quite a hiss!” and I thought that’s a hiss? I’m supposed to be scared of that?

We danced around each other those first few days, but eventually Felix started to wander up to my dog bed when I was napping and poke around at me. He was sneaky about at first. He’d slowly creep up (I pretended like I couldn’t see him even though I knew he was there) and when he ran out of wall to hide behind, he’d race up to me, boop my nose and race back.

He got braver the more he realized I wasn’t going to retaliate. By the end of the first week, he was using my ears as a chew toy and my tail as an article of real entertainment. He had the tiniest claws and smallest teeth and they didn’t make a dent in my fur or skin and I thought the whole thing was pretty cute, I’m not going to lie to you.

During one of his play sessions with my ear, he got sleepy. He yawned and this little pink tongue curled up in his open mouth and his eyes drooped and the next thing I knew he was curled around my chin and purring himself to sleep.

As soon as he woke up, he starting kicking the skin around my neck and raced around the room like he’d never even been unconscious in the first place.

Like I said, kittens, man. They are completely nuts.

I think it was that little nap that sealed the deal for me, though. The fact that the new little creature in our house trusted me enough to fall asleep that close to my mouth warmed my heart. I mean he was only a little bigger than one of my paws. That was a lot of trust.

From that moment on, we were inseparable and still are.

We eat together, we share a dog bed (Mom and Dad got a bigger one so both of us can fit), we play together, we watch the passersby on the street outside the house. Not a day of my life goes by that doesn’t include Felix.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The other day at the dog park I was hanging out with all my friends when a new visitor showed up. We’d never seen her before. She was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and she was a real looker.

Buddy, another Lab, said he’d known a dog like that a few years ago who was super cool, so we all ran up to greet her and found out her name was Delilah and got to know one another.

We talked about where we all lived and pointed out our humans and gave each other a run-down of our lives.

When I mentioned Felix and said he was a cat, Delilah basically bristled. I saw her fur shiver.

She couldn’t believe I would be friends with a cat. She said cats aren’t worth a minute of a dog’s valuable time. She basically thought they were garbage-eating cretins that belonged in alleyways and drainage ditches.

She said, “I wouldn’t be found anywhere near a cat and I certainly wouldn’t say one was my best friend. Really, Duke, what are you thinking?”

That’s when Milo piped in with, “Yeah, there’s a cat in my house, but she’s real uppity. Puts her nose in the air every time she sees me. I never did understand why you like this Felix so much, Duke.”

The others started telling stories about cats they’d known and agreed that felines were really below dogs and always would be.

I frowned and kind of backed away from the group. Buddy came up to me and told me not to let the razzing on cats get to me. Maybe Felix wasn’t like other cats.

But the whole ride home, I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe I was messed up. If so many of my friends at the dog park didn’t have much good to say about cats, should I have made friends with Felix in the first place? Maybe there was something wrong with me for being so nice to him. Was I ignoring my ancestry and instincts? Were dogs not supposed to be friends with cats?

When we got home, Dad opened the back door and Felix raced up to me with a story about what happened on the sidewalk when I was gone and he said how good it was that I was home and he was purring and he rubbed against my chest and I leaned down and sniffed his head.

He smelled like Felix. My friend. My brother from another species. The family member who seemed to always know when I wanted to play or talk or just hang out.

As I listened to him go on and on about the neighbor who was watering her plants when she somehow lost control of the hose and water sprayed everywhere like that commercial we see for the amusement park on the television, I smiled to myself when that warm feeling came back to my heart.

Felix is freaking awesome and he is my best friend and always will be. I decided right then and there, in the kitchen of our house, while Felix related the water-soaking story, that anyone who didn’t understand us wasn’t my problem.

The dogs at the park can have their opinions – that’s fine, we’re all entitled to them – but I’m friends with a cat who is thoughtful and kind and funny and…loves me.

Yeah. Felix loves me. And the connection we found isn’t something that should be questioned.

Because like Mom and Dad told me years ago, true love, in any form, should be treasured and valued and honored.

So if Delilah and Milo and the others want to think I’m weird for having Felix as a best friend, that’s fine. Because at the end of the day, when we curl up together to go to sleep and his purrs help me drift off, I know I’m one lucky dog.

Because my best friend is a cat.

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Jennifer Vanderau is the Publications and Promotions Consultant for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter and can be reached at cvascomm@cvas-pets.org. The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at 263-5791 or visit the website www.cvas-pets.org. CVAS also operates a thrift store in Chambersburg. Help support the animals at the shelter by donating to or shopping at the store.