Monday, September 5, 2016

The Truth About Cats and Dogs: Adventures in Puppy-sitting

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Are you a cat person or a dog person? Or both? (Or neither—no judgment.)

Here is our cat, five-year-old Lola, with her homemade "whack-a-mole" toy. No, she's not spoiled at all!

I’ve always been a cat person, but I’ve fallen in love with my share of (other people’s) dogs. Much to Kiddo’s delight, we are able to babysit a friend’s puppy last weekend, a miniature poodle/King Charles spaniel named Addison—Addie, for short. Addie is nine weeks old and about fifteen pounds. 

She is adorable.

Since cats, even as kittens, are fairly self-reliant, I was unprepared for much stuff Addie came with. There was the crate, the travel crate, the food and water bowls, the kibble, the blanket, the toys, the baby safety gate…. This puppy travels with more luggage than Cher.

I was also not exactly cognizant of how many times Addie would need to go out. Every two hours, to be exact. And there were accidents. Yes, it was a lot like potty-training a toddler.
Addie also had separation anxiety. If one of us wasn’t in sight at all times, she began to cry. We set up her crate in Kiddo’s room, facing him so she could see him during the night.

Our cat, Lola, has met Addie before, and has basically ignored her. This time, though, when Addie didn’t leave, she got a bit more territorial, starting down at Addie from high places, ignoring the little wagging tail and pleading yaps for friendship.

At the end of the weekend, Kiddo absolutely wanted a dog—aaaaand Noel and I weren’t so sure. We’d done the baby thing once—and that was enough. Addie is adorable, but at this point, we’re delighted to be doggie godparents, called on for the odd weekend. And yet—yet—I find myself online, researching hypoallergenic dogs, such as poodles and Portuguese water dogs….

Reds, are you dog people or cat people? 

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Oh, we are both, have always been both, at least as adults. Neither Rick's mom or mine liked cats, so we didn't grow up with them. One of my first out-of-the-house gestures of independence was the acquisition of a kitten (who turned out to be THE CAT FROM HELL, by the way.) Kiddo is the perfect age for a dog, such fun, such great bonding, and such emotional support for those trying pre-teen years.

I have to admit that puppies are a lot of trouble, but they grow up so fast, and they are so worth the time and work. We have a houseful of cats and dogs now, with the two German shepherds (who are two and almost four) and three cats. It is the cats who are sometimes guilty of unspeakable behavior, not the dogs!

HALLIE EPHRON: Susan, that one doggie sounds like it's got as much paraphernalia as a baby. 
I like other people's pets, though I was mad about our two (then three, then briefly four... it's easy to find strays in NYC apartment building basements) cats. Eloise and Soot looked remarkably like my daughter Molly's current cats, Alistair and Bernice. Eloise was a muscular black and white male (we found out too late to change the name) who hated most everyone but us. As I unlocked our apartment door Eloise would meow from the other side, and when I got in an bent to pet her she'd jump up on my shoulder. We kept her in the bedroom during parties; if she got out she'd make a bee-line for the most cat-averse person in the room. We would have kept them but I'm allergic and ended up hospitalized. 

LUCY BURDETTE: Two paws firmly in each camp! (And as an aside, Addison/Addie is the name of the character I'm currently writing--a girl, not a dog.)
We had German shepherds growing up--they were not technically my dogs, but family dogs. (And unfortunately not very well trained.) My mom was animal crazy so we also had cats, mice, guinea pigs--any creature we wanted really, except for reptiles or birds. When I turned 13, I desperately wanted my own cat. January in Detroit is not kitten season at all. But my mother prevailed and found a yellow tiger in the Detroit pound. He'd already been turned back in once, so the three dollar receipt was stamped NO REFUND. That little yellow terror became Tigger, the first in a long line of cats leading to my current oldster, Yoda. We are also on our second Australian shepherd, Tonka. He is so mine--ask Hallie. He follows me everywhere and watches me very carefully. John sometimes forgets we have a dog, because he's always by my side. And there is the difference between cats and dogs in a nutshell--one you can always find, the other you have to hunt down and reach out. And I love them both!

RHYS BOWEN: Adore them both! Unfortunately we travel so much that having an animal isn't practical. I refuse to become one of those annoying women who brings a dog on the plane with them in the guise of therapy/comfort animal. One was in the seat behind me on Sunday and it let out the most overwhelming farts (unless that was the woman herself, but I don't think so). Growing up we always had dogs including a bull terrier and my favorite, a dachshund who understood every word we said. But when our kids were growing up we had Marmalade, a big ginger cat who was dog-like. He'd walk the kids to school, come running back when he heard my car, sit up and beg and want to join in every family activity, especially lying sprawled across the board of any board game we were trying to play. Such a people cat! I still miss him.

Cats and dogs automatically like me, including my daughter's cat Cupcake, who attacks most people and has fought off a pack of coyotes. If I sit down at her house the cat finds me and sprawls with a contented sigh onto my lap. And I do get to be dog-grandma to Sunny and Oscar, which is always lovely.  If I travel less in the future I fantasize about having a little dog--a Yorkie, maybe. But John likes only big dogs, so.....

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Well, growing up we had both: Irish Setters named Penny, and Rusty, and Roderick St. John Erin Sean, as we got more original-ish. Cats? Mrs. Purdy, and Picnic, Rosemary, and F.Scott and Zelda, who were Rosemary's babies.  I've only had cats, since, like Rhys, my career just wouldn't allow dogs. As you know, we have an invisible dog, a very lovely Wheaten Terrier named Wheatie. Being invisible, she is very easy to care for.

I will never be able to top my two cats: the incredible Lola, who I got in 1978 at the humane society. She died in 1998. And as you can see here, adored Jonathan. Who is, as Lola well knew, deathly allergic to cats.

And here is my adorable Leon, who lived to be 14. Those two lived together for 14 years, and NEVER acknowledged the other's existence.

SO anyway. We couldn't possibly have a real dog. EXCEPT the other day I say a Llewellin setter puppy, and just about swiped it from the owner.

RHYS: Hank, we also had a dog called St John. An English setter, so beautiful but so dumb. The most untrainable dog ever. Alas, we had to find him a home on a farm as he kept escaping.  

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Lucy—the late, great Xander was a cat who never left my side, much like your dog. I so miss that—Lola is delightful, but more independent. OK, I can't resist more pictures! Here is Lola looking down on Addie:

And here is Addie, looking up at Lola:

Lovely readers, are you cat people or dog people? Or both? Or neither? Tell us in the comments!


  1. Growing up, we had dogs . . . Labrador retrievers and other big dogs; when John and I got married, he had two golden retrievers and we inherited a most temperamental cat. Long story short, the dogs stayed, the cat got another home.
    The children grew up with dogs; then the cats came along and made themselves at home and we had both for several years. The girls are still have both dogs and cats so I guess we are, like Lucy, firmly entrenched in both camps . . . .

  2. Cats! Even though I'm slightly allergic and have to wash my hands promptly after petting them. Wouldn't live without them. Our crew of Preston, Cristabel, and Birdy have been with Hugh and me the entire time we've been together, and each is the leading cat in one of my mystery series (one each), not even fictionalized or with a pseudonym. I love giving them their moments of fame.

    There are so many ill-trained dogs in the the world that I have grown to dislike them (well, really, their owners) more as I've grown older.

    1. A breeder we once knew said she (and her dogs) could size up a person on how he/she approached a dog for the first time. Found this to be true from our own experiences.Seems like you have had a similar experience in that the dogs you've met reflected the owners' character.

    2. Alas severe allergies have restricted our household to short haired dogs...beagles and terries worked best for us. When cared for with love and understanding they become fierce protectors of yoir domaine until you welcome strangers into your circle. They also can sense your moods and are always at the ready to brighten your day. Tried cat once but when constant red eyes and sneezing ruled we sadly had to seek an adoption for thd furry feline.

  3. Yes, I firmly believe there are no bad dogs, just bad dog guardians.... Kiddo's asthma issues make getting a dog, even a hypoallergenic one, complicated, but it is tempting....

  4. Addie is SO cute! Wow.
    And Rhys, it's so funny about "dumb "dogs… My producer has two huge yellow Labs, they are completely in love with her, and so devoted, but they are always doing something like poking their heads into a beehive, or eating something disgusting.

  5. But yes, dogs only do what their taught, don't they? And it is very sad when owners say things like "oh, sorry, she just jumps on people." So frustrating for all of all involved!

  6. I like dogs and have had Kerry blue terriers and soaniels over the years, but they are high maintenance and I am averse to drool, poop and muddy feet. I love cats; something in their independent, sinuous souls answers to mine. We have had a series of Himalayans: the males are very dog like, affectionate, a little lazy and somewhat unkempt, not overly bright and will go on walks with you; the females are a breed apart, fiercely loyal to a single human, almost invisible to anyone else, good hunters, fastidious and territorial. Both shed profusely and love to rub up against your black slacks. We have had a Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, Poe, Kipling, and our current 11-year-old Jane Austen.

  7. Deborah, "independent sinuous souls" re: cats — yes! Although, again, Xander was very dog-like in his devotion. He seriously followed me everywhere. Miss him so much.

  8. I've gotten to the point where I'm okay with cats. They're warm and fuzzy, the like you in their own way. But we can't have a cat because The Hubby is allergic. Fortunately, our neighbors have two cats and my kids can play with them any time.

    But I adore dogs. I was almost bereft when our dog Casey died (I had him before I had kids) and I long for another dog. I really want a rescue greyhound. But like Rhys, hubby says we aren't home enough to make having a dog practical. Doesn't keep me from really wanting one. I have to hold myself back from pictures. We get to dog-sit my brother's little Yorkie-poo, so that's our dog fix. office has become pretty dog friendly and while most of the dogs people bring are small, one guy brought a pretty big dog one day. Greyhounds are pretty quiet. I could do this, right?

  9. Although I have no pets, I adore dogs. Nearly every dog I've ever met has adored me back, including dogs that even their owner was a little afraid of. I'm a little afraid of cats - as a kid I was scratched by a cat I was ignoring - and I think I'm allergic to them.At times, I've experienced sneezing, itchy eyes, mild rash, or wheezing when around cats. I can put up with it when I'm a house guest with cat owners but I would not want to experience these discomforts full-time.
    I'd love to get a dog but because of orthopedic issues I have problems walking on snow and ice, and would be worried about walking the dog during the winter.

    Mary Sutton, one of my neighbors has had rescue Greyhounds over the years. They have all been gentle and sweet. I used to think that former race dogs would be constantly in motion but that couldn't be farther from the truth. Each of hers has appeared to be walking in slow motion. One of them would just plop herself down in the grass as soon as she brought the dog outside for a walk, and then turn her head away from her owner! She sat there until she was good and ready to move again. It looked like the dog just wanted to take time to smell the flowers! Sometimes I'm the middle of a walk she would stop and stretch out!

    Deb Romano

  10. Love the photos! And Susan, just saying--you don't have to get a puppy..... an older rescue would be less work! ;-)

    But that's why I currently don't have a dog(s)--poop patrol! Everyone is too busy. So, two cats--PK and Munch--rule the roost. Our first cat was a rescue named Murphy--indoor/outdoor as he refused to use a litter box--but he disappeared this past winter and we miss him terribly--he was a laid-back kind of guy who loved sitting on you or by you. These two? Not really lap cats--except sometimes PK and only if I'm sitting at the computer on deadline.

  11. Deb Romano - that's what I've heard. World's fastest couch potato! LOL

  12. So many fun stories. I'm severely allergic to cats, so we've had one stray adoption, but she had to live outside. The girls named her Peaches and Cream Tiger Lily Maslowski. And we briefly had a dog named Knife, since he was meant to be my protector while Steve was away on lecture you. No dog was more ill-named, but he was infamous in the neighborhood.

    These days, I'm happy to have grand dogs, Otis, Barli, and Samson.

  13. Mary Sutton, yes! You can totally do it!

    FChurch, all of our cats have been rescue and of course I'd love to adopt an older dog -- the thing is we would need hypo-allergenic (like the Obamas!), so there's that.... Since Addie is hypo-allergenic, we're set.

  14. I fall firmly into the both camp, although having grown up in no pet apartments we had only cats growing up. My parents were co-conspirators in the smuggling operations required to keep cats where they were banned. My great grandparents had working dogs on the farm that actually allowed themselves to be seduced by me so I had the best of both worlds.

    As an adult I had cats and dogs. I also ran a cat rescue when I lived in Northern Maine so my "tribe" grew from two to eight at its peak. Right now we have six, three young cats that were dumped on our land and three of the original tribe who are all in their teens. We're talking about going back to Maine and I'm talking about a German Shepherd if we do. We'll have to land there and it's country. Can't wait!

  15. We are both - since Ross and I got married, we've always had a cat and a dog, or two dogs and one cat, or two of each. Our current configuration is one dog (Louis the Shih Tzu) and two cats (Neko and Juno.) Juno's the "free" cat who's cost us well over a thousand at this point.

    I think of myself as a dog person, but since I'm literally writing this while petting Neko, who has decided the spot next to my laptop on the new desk belongs to her, you can take that with a grain of salt.

    Susan, one rule I've held to: NO puppies or kittens. All of our dogs and cats have been adopted from shelters, and they've all been old enough to come pre-house-trained. I figure I've done enough potty training in my life. I don't need to repeat the experience.

  16. Oh, and "dumb dog" stories: we had a Newfoundland/lab mix named Jake that was SO sweet and amiable and SO dumb. Seriously, there are rock walls more intelligent than Jake was. Every fall, without fail, he would once again go after the skunks finding their winter hidey-holes. Ever fall, without fail, he got sprayed. He always wound up having a tomato-juice bath and having to sleep on the porch for several nights (which he hated) but he never learned.

    He's the only dog I ever heard of who got porcupined TWICE.

  17. Loving these pet stories. Definitely a side of life I'v missed out on.

  18. Susan, Addie is adorable!!! Did your friends get her from someone who is breeding Cavalier/poodle crosses? Our former neighbors have a cocker/poodle cross. Very cute, too, but this one is very dog aggressive, which is a cocker spaniel trait. (I know this because our first family dog was a beloved cocker.)

    Companion animals... As I'm writing this, Jasmine is curled up on her dog bed one side of my desk, and Yasu is curled up in her kitty cube on the other.

  19. I came from a dog loving family, though most of my childhood was pet-free because we were trying an experiment of moving with my dad's work rather than having him leave each week, thus we lived in apartments. My first husband and I had a cat that I brought home and I fed each day, who was totally devoted to him. Needless to say, he got custody when we split.

    My husband of 29 years and I are firmly dog people, but we have never had one because we believe our lifestyle would make a sad life for a dog. But we envision getting one when we're older, retired, and ready to limit our travels more. It will DEFINITELY be a rescue dog, not a puppy.

    Susan, I second the vote that you might want to consider a rescue dog as well. No need to go through the difficult puppy years to provide kiddo (and yourselves) the joys of a dog in the house.

  20. ANd one more thing about the Llewellin Setter--I went so far as to look up the breed characteristics.(no no no we aren't getting a dog.) And one of the descriptions of the dog was: "The Llewellin is an adequate watchdog."

    Whoa. "adequate." Not exactly what you'd want. Poor thing, dissed in the description. xoxo

  21. I grew up with a dog, a collie, wonderful but a lot of coat brushing involved. Then a Kerry Blue Terrier, wonder dog! But as an adult I'm a cat person. Most of the cats I've had have been people cats, rescued from shelters. The trick is to get on the floor with several, especially a kitten litter, and take the one that comes and cuddles to you. Recently I lost one of my best ever, a Bengal, the first purebred cat I ever had, He was like a dog, always near me, played fetch, loved water. I still have two, and love 'em lots.

  22. I'm a dog person who had a cat for 23 years. My dog days started back when I was in about the third grade. My mother was in the hospital for some reason, and one of the neighborhood dogs had puppies during that time. My next door neighbor best friend Jimmy was getting one of the puppies, which were free. I desperately wanted one, even though my mother had said no, but, unbelievably, my father let me bring one of the puppies home. I named it Spot, and my friend named his Snowball. When my mother got home from the hospital, she had quite the surprise, but, of course, she fell in love with Spot, too. After Spot went missing a few years later, I didn't have another dog until I was married. Before we had children, my husband and I had a Cocker Spaniel found by my sister-in-law wandering the streets of Louisville. It was truly our baby until we had babies. Barry the Cocker Spaniel died before we had kids, the victim of poisoning, and I swear that I grieved for that sweet baby like I would have any other family member.

    We have had a lovely mutt, an English Setter, and a German Short-haired Pointer. The last two were mainly my husband's dogs. My daughter got an Australian Cattle Dog (mixed with a little something else), and I inherited Abbie when my daughter went to college. Abbie died a year ago last spring, and I miss her still. Like Tonka, Lucy, Abbie followed me everywhere. I'm finally get interested in getting another dog, but with some traveling I want to do, I'll probably wait until my husband retires.

  23. I had a cat, that I loved dearly, but I am definitely a dog person. I read a Dodie Smith book (not 101 Dalmatians, but I can't remember the title), where there are children living with an eccentric Aunt. As they are driving away from their home, a dog is chasing the car. The Aunt stops the car and tells the dog where they are going and the dog barks and goes back home. I always thought that was kind of neat, that the dog just wants to know where you're going...

  24. Oh, my goodness, I love hearing all the stories! Of to look up hypo-allergenic rescue dogs....

  25. Susan, you might check out poodles. They are supposed to be good choices for folks with allergies and they're smart little guys too. We are dog people although we have been acquainted with some nice cats. Dad was allergic to cats and so is my husband. The last puppies we acquired were airemutts, half Airedale, half mystery. We got two puppies and I thought I wouldn't live through it. Oh, how I loved those dogs. We were given an adult Airedale in our first year of marriage by friends of my inlaws. They were downsizing and needed a home for George. I was newly married and a bit lonely so I happily adopted him. George was quite a character and hooked me on Airedales. We had George, Grover (who died suddenly from parvo when it first came to the U.S.), and Maurice. Then our airemutts, Elliot and Reilly. Those mutts lived so much longer than the purebreds. Then we adopted a 14 year old terrier mix who looked like a junior version of Elliot. He'd been abandoned when his owners auctioned their farm. Bless his heart he had arthritis bad so you couldn't pick him up. I bought a ramp so he could ride in the car with me. He would sit on the back seat and look out the window for hours. He loved traveling. Which was fortunate as we moved from Minnesota to Texas. We had him only 14 months but he was special. Our current dog is a border terrier mix, Boo, and is 13. He has so much character and personality that even my husband acknowledges he is one of a kind. He can't go on the long walks anymore and my husband laments that. He has gotten very sentimental in his older age and tolerates all sorts of mishaps with older dogs that he wouldn't have in his "youth." He babies that dog! We also have 9 year old Jack, a jack Russell mix I got for my father-in-law from the shelter. My FIL is gone but we took Jack in, like we promised. Jack is extremely sweet and extremely hyper. Sometimes Jack is short for JackAss. We're managing though.

  26. That's really the trick--finding a dog--or cat--that suits your temperament, needs, abilities--I live in the country and people still drop off unwanted pets as if they will miraculously learn to live on their own or be adopted by the locals. For some reason, most of the drop-offs occur in my neighbor's yard. The last one was a beautiful butterscotch-colored boxer. I love that dog!! He's quiet, laid-back, and loving. And the feeling is mutual--until they got the invisible fence fixed, he'd come over to visit. If he'd landed in my yard, I'd be a dog/cat person right now!

  27. Your "whack a mole" game reminds me of my Baby Kitten's game of hide and pounce, which she played from inside a banana box. The ventilation holes were perfect for reaching a paw through. She was delivered Caesarian after two others were stillborn to a stray cat the vet said was too young to spay -- apparently the tom cat hadn't asked. I had named her Max because the neighbor who found her declared her a male, changed to Maxi, which means I should have named the baby Mini. When the allergist declared "a 4+ reaction on a scale of 1-4, you must get rid of the cats," I cried, and found Mom and Baby a new home.
    I do enjoy others' photos and stories, and neighbors' pets, and I have a robotic Petster cat if I get too lonely.
    I recently offered to pet sit for my neighbor's geriatric dog -- all was well until I tried to put her in her kennel. I heal fast . . . but in future might just admire from afar.
    I did let Prince the Eastern Gray Tree Frog spend a winter here; I'm not allergic to frogs. He earned his crickets by helping with a storytelling CD, allowing me to record his chirping. more at