Courtney’s opinion: Team Dog all the way (but I do love cats too)
I’m allergic to cats. It didn’t prevent me from adopting one in 1997, when my landlord didn’t allow dogs (or cats for that matter, but, oh well, sue me). Skye slept on my chest for months, while I wheezed and sneezed. Eventually I built up my tolerance to her, and Bauer, and Belle who followed. And while I’ve had a collective 25 years with various cat companions, I don’t think I could pen enough words about any of them (may they rest in peace) to fill this column.
Because … as Gilda Radner said, “I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me, they are the role model for being alive.” Gosh, dogs just have my heart.
First it was Darby, circa 2004. I adopted him when he was just 6 months old. Darby was a little black lab mix who backflipped (literally) his way into my yard and my heart. His first year with me was in northern New Jersey, living in an isolated spot (one of my many bad decisions in life) where he (and I) didn’t get much in the way of socialization. He had plenty of land to roam, but rarely met other people or dogs. He did meet a black bear once, while I screamed bloody murder.
Once we moved to Bluffton in 2005, after a brutal and snowy winter (he loved to catch snowflakes), we walked every day. There was so much to sniff and explore. But the mark had been made early, he was a loner, and his preference was to growl at dogs versus make friends – and he didn’t have much adoration for other humans either. It’s me, I’m the problem. It’s me. He was spoiled. We bonded. I have no regrets.
Darby loved his stuffed animal collection – he knew them and would fetch them by name. He loved to swim – river, ocean, pool, he didn’t care. He generously lavished kisses and affection on me. Darby went to the big sandbar in the sky in 2013. Watching him slip away, in my lap, was the hardest thing I had ever done. Even harder than the many things that sweet boy helped me through.
I knew I couldn’t exist without a dog, so next came Blue. He was the exact opposite of Darby. Twice as big, but calm, and sweet, and utterly unfazed by almost everything. With the exception of the time he almost ate the Home Depot countertop guy, he never barked, growled, or chased a squirrel, a delivery truck, another dog, or even a tennis ball.
I met Blue through Lowcountry Lab Rescue and his foster mom, Janell, who is still a dear friend today – she saved him and ultimately me. Blue was indifferent to any noise that wasn’t thunder or the lid to the peanut butter jar. He was always chill.
We logged thousands and thousands of miles over the years and he loved our walks (I did too), but not as much as he loved his cookie when we returned home. He’d jump at the door knowing a snack was on the other side. He wouldn’t eat raw hide or play with toys. If anything was on his bed, he’d refuse to sleep in it. Blue had no time for nonsense.
He begged at the table and wouldn’t hesitate to take down an entire spread of Thanksgiving leftovers (just ask my sister). He had some hound in him and his ears were so long they served as curtains for his face. That one time he ate an entire bag of chocolate cookies and a few candy bars, I held back his ears while he puked.
He relished his naps, every meal, and lounging in the sun. He changed a man who “wasn’t a dog person” into his best friend who kept going to “tinker in the garage” during Blue’s last few days, so I wouldn’t see him cry.
Today, Lawson rules the roost. He joined our family in 2020, a couple months after we bid our tear-filled goodbye to Blue. Lowcountry Lab Rescue was our resource again and I began my mission to find our next family member. “Outlaw,” as he was known originally, was living in Horry County, after a “life on the streets.” His face was marked with scars, his front teeth were ground down to nothing, and he needed saving. I talked to his foster mom, Mrs. Christmas (no joke), who described a sweet temperament (despite previous abuse), and a penchant for naps and pepperoni. Naturally it was a perfect fit.
Changing his name was the first order of business and, seeing how it was the holiday season, Mrs. Christmas was his foster mom, and I didn’t want to confuse him too much, we went with Lawson – an ode to his history and Jude Law, who stars in The Holiday. It was meant to be.
Lawson still loves naps and adores our twice-daily walks. He leaps in the air when Duke, his across the street best friend, howls out a greeting. He doesn’t like swimming, dry food, the car, or anything that interrupts his slumber. Lawson will follow the sun around the yard and lounge all day, all the while watching deer and other wildlife roam, without a peep. He is polite and doesn’t beg, maybe because he knows Dad always makes him an extra steak.
I’ve been blessed with the love of a dog for decades. And even though our hearts break when they leave, it is never enough to not seek new love. If you know, you know.
Barry’s Opinon: Team Cat…Don’t come for me!
If I didn’t know better (and I rarely do), I’d think Courtney revived this column specifically to get me into trouble. Last month it was forcing my hand in broadcasting a slightly less-than-venerational opinion on Taylor Swift, which can be punishable by death in some states.
Now, this month she wants me to take a side in the great cat vs. dog debate.
Long-time readers of this column (Hi Mom!) may recall a few years back when Courtney and I weighed in on the long-standing “Should we kill all the cats?” debate. I opted to say that maybe we should kill some of the cats, triggering a deluge of fairly justified backlash and forcing CH2 to move their offices somewhere less flammable.
And now here I am taking the cats’ side. Monthly debate columns make for strange bedfellows.
Because ordinarily I am very pro-dog. I have two dogs – my senior dog, Roxy, and my associate dog, Hank – and have had dogs my whole life. I even named my youngest child after my favorite childhood dog (don’t tell my wife that – she still thinks we named her after one of her grandparents or something). I have a standing 3 p.m. appointment to remind my dogs that they are both good dogs and routinely cede upwards of three quarters of my sleeping space to dogs.
But Canis familiaris can breed contempt. And speaking of contempt, I also have four cats, all siblings. They’re fine, as far as cats go.
So while I probably like my dogs more, I also recognize the fact that they are far more irritating than my cats. The cats pretty much just keep to themselves. Occasionally they’ll do something hilariously weird like dart full tilt across the house in pursuit of absolutely nothing. But otherwise, they’re just kind of part of the furniture.
My dogs, on the other hand … Roxy has never done anything wrong in her life and she’s perfect. But Hank is really bringing down the average for the both of them.
As if he could tell I was going to need fodder for this column, Hank recently took it upon himself to eat an entire bag of Toll House morsels. Ordinarily we keep the kitchen under strict lockdown protocol, as Hank is notorious for sneaking packaged peanut butter crackers, saltines, granola bars and bags of Goldfish from my pantry. But some careless soul left out a party-sized bag of what is essentially dog poison, and since Hank is devoid of self-control, down his gullet it went.
When the chocolate finally arrived on the other side of Hank, it do so with aplomb, creating several impressive messes across the kitchen, master bedroom and the full length of our living room. He then followed up this feat by eating a fire log, most of the candy from my Christmas stocking, and several of the toys.
Yeah, I kind of breezed over that first one but it’s the God’s honest truth that my dog ate a fire log. Not an actual log, but one of those compressed bricks of wood pulp and volatile chemicals. This is why I don’t splurge on the expensive food for him. Why waste money on chicken and bone broth flavoring when all he really wants to taste is the possibility of an agonizing death?
This all happened, by the way, within two days of Courtney and I deciding on this topic. Hank is a devoted writing partner, I’ll give him that. But the fact remains that, as much as I love him and no matter how many times I remind him at 3 p.m. sharp that he’s a good boy, he’s kind of a jerk.
So I gotta give the edge to the cats on this one. Apologies to my dogs, or at least to Roxy.