59: The Odd Couple

59: The Odd Couple

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Dog Did That!

The Odd Couple

The purpose of a liberal arts education is to learn that a person can like both cats and dogs!

~Author Unknown

Once I thought pet adoptions were only done by people. Never would I have dreamed that a pet might adopt another pet until our shaggy Collie-Shepherd, Chandu, chose a cat to be his very own.

Over summer, while walking Chandu the length of the alley that ran behind our block, we saw a large orange Persian cat in a back yard. She was exceptionally beautiful, that first time standing stiff-legged with fur fluffed up when she saw us. Chandu did not bark at her or strain at his leash. He merely muttered a soft sound of acknowledgment, and we continued walking. Later on when we walked down the alley, the cat hopped onto a gate to watch us and once followed us from a distance. It was most curious.

On an autumn afternoon when I came home from school, there sat the big orange cat on our front steps. Chandu was sprawled on the porch in his usual waiting-for-Marcia place. The cat jumped up and skittered away when she saw me approaching. Ears cocked, Chandu gave me a look that said, “Hey, I was just getting acquainted with her and you scared her off!”

A few days later my mother reported that she saw the cat drinking from Chandu’s outdoor water bowl and that the feline appeared to have lost weight. That evening when Dad and I walked Chandu down the alley to the vacant lot where all the neighborhood dogs were walked, we saw that the grass had not been cut at the house where we thought the cat lived and the curtains were gone from the windows.

“I think that orange cat’s people have moved away,” I said. “The house looks empty.”

Dad agreed and we saw no sign of the cat.

But the next day when I came home, Chandu was waiting on the porch to greet me and the big orange cat was sitting on the top step near him. This time she did not run away as I came up the steps. I noted that her thick coat was matted and she was definitely thinner. She meowed and I stooped to pet her. Chandu stood up proprietarily near the cat, his plumed tail wagging fast and friendly. When I opened the front door, he did not rush forward as usual but stood to one side watching the cat. He made a soft sound, as if urging the cat to go inside first. And she did, Chandu and I following. She warily circled the living room, one eye on us all the time.

Chandu proceeded to the kitchen, gave a small whuffle and nudged his food bowl. I opened a can of his dog food, filled his bowl, and expected him to rush forward and scarf down his food as he usually did. Instead, again he stood by as the cat, smelling food, came into the kitchen and attacked the dog food as if she had not eaten in days.

When she was full, Chandu advanced slowly and finished off what remained of his supper. The cat retreated to a corner under the table and washed her face, then walked to the front door to be let out. For a week we never knew where she spent her nights, but she appeared on our front porch each afternoon and the pattern was repeated.

Could such a beautiful cat have been abandoned? It would seem so, according to the neighbors we questioned. It was wartime and the huge army camp outside town had brought vast changes, including sudden moves by hundreds of people as troops were transferred. Wives and families followed, often with little notice. Others simply moved away from our small town to take high-paying defense factory jobs. It was not unknown for an occasional pet to be left behind.

There came an evening when both animals had filled their bellies, and after the meal the cat went close to Chandu and rubbed against his legs. The dog stood still, giving a sigh, obviously enamored with the attention. When he lay down on his regular evening spot on the living room rug, the cat came and curled up next to him.

From that moment Chandu had his pet and companion. The two became inseparable. Chandu frequently gave the cat, whom we named Fluffy, a bath with his long tongue. Fluffy tried to return the favor but her small cat tongue was no match for a big Collie-Shepherd with a thick coat of fur.

In those days in small towns like ours, most dogs and cats ran loose during the day. Chandu watched over Fluffy as one might a small child, flicking her gently across the face with his tail if she ventured too near the street or followed where he did not want her to go. He shared his favorite ball with her, the two of them bouncing and chasing it around the back yard. She accompanied us on the bedtime walks down the alley, often running ahead and then pouncing out from a bush in front of Chandu, who pretended great surprise. Although Fluffy now had her own food bowl, the two animals liked to have their meals side by side. In cold weather, when Chandu bedded down for the night beside my bed, Fluffy arranged herself in the warm middle of his curled body. When he chose to spend time in his doghouse in the back yard, Fluffy joined him. And in afternoons, she joined him on the porch to wait for me to come home from school, the two sitting side by side.

One Sunday afternoon when the two were playing in the back yard, two dogs strange to the neighborhood jumped over our fence and barked ferociously as they chased Fluffy. She leaped on top of Chandu’s doghouse and Chandu rushed to attack. Hearing the racket, I ran outside screaming at the intruders. Terrified, I watched the fight — which was over quickly — as the dogs were no match for Chandu, who moved like lightning. The strays were routed and sent howling back over the fence. Chandu chased them a short distance, gave a few parting barks, and returned to leap gracefully over the fence. He strolled across the lawn with all the dignity and pride of a conquering knight. He stood on his hind legs at the doghouse to check on his friend, who rubbed her face against his as he smoothed her fur with a slobbery tongue. In turn, Fluffy purred the loudest purr I ever heard from a cat.

All was well once more with our beloved dog and his cherished feline pet and pal, the odd couple.

~Marcia E. Brown

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