They'd never seen anything like each other before, although the fixer-uppers sent jpegs. Neither was really consulted -- the fixer-uppers made a plan on the phone, and she was brought over to meet him. Suffice it to say, there was no kiss on the first date.
Blanca is a ten-week-old white German shepherd who is afraid to walk up and down stairs on her own. The Streamlined Cannonball is a four-and-a-half-month-old tabby kitten who likes to be on top of things. They didn't fight crime, at least not today, but they may have a lifelong friendship in the offing.
Ryan lives around the corner from me. He's a programmer who works at home and has raised dogs all his life. He surfs with a friend of mine. She told me a week ago that he has a new puppy and was hoping he could introduce her to my kitten. He wants to socialize her to cats, and I want to socialize my cat to all kinds of things, including dogs.
Our mutual friend has an exquisite dog herself, and we're planning to bring her over. Her dog is a great Dane / greyhound mix and one of the most beautiful animals I have ever seen. She has all the elegance of a greyhound with none of that cold, uncomfortable pinchedness, and almost all the size of a great Dane. When my friend mentioned Ryan's new puppy, it was immediately obvious to me that that would be a gentler introduction. My cat weighs barely six pounds, after all.
Blanca, Ryan's puppy, weighs about ten pounds and is about ten weeks old. She is adorable and very responsive to Ryan. Ryan kept her on a short leash, and within just a few minutes of their arrival, The Streamlined Cannonball was approaching her. She was remarkably quiet and calm in my apartment, although there were moments when she simply couldn't hold back, and she barked and jumped about a little.
Their arrival was a bit dramatic. When the doorbell rang, I picked up the kitten and took him in the hallway. We looked down through the stairwell and watched Blanca negotiate the stairs, which she has not mastered. When she got to my floor, she was thrilled at the sight of another animal and greeted him enthusiastically, putting her nose directly on his face and probably licking him. I didn't see clearly. He was surprised and, we cat owners assume, absolutely appalled. The monkeys were amused, if a bit sheepish.
The Streamlined Cannonball did spend the first few minutes under the bed with his fur standing on end. I drew him out from under the bed with a cat treat, and he spent the next hour or so making slow circles around Ryan and the puppy. He rushed her a couple of times. At moments, partly hiding behind me, he observed her minutely and moved his back legs, as if to pounce. Could he have regarded her as food?
His afternoon with Blanca was not his first date. He's been over to the next-door neighbor's a couple of times. That really is a love that should never be. We know that he and Blanca won't get up to any trouble, but the next-door neighbor's pet, Seven, is an unfixed female tabby about two years old. She'll probably go into heat any minute now.
Ryan said that he's been told that part of the reason cats are so hostile to dogs is that dogs do physical behaviors that, when done by other cats, indicate aggression. My kitten was, of course, offended by Blanca until his curiosity took over. I had to laugh, because she approached him exactly the way he approached Seven. I doubt he has the self-awareness to look back and think, hey, maybe that's why Seven was hissing and spitting at him.
When Ryan told me that Blanca would be on her "best leashed behavior," I remember thinking that shouldn't be necessary, that she should be able to be off leash in the apartment. The moment her nose touched his outside my apartment door, I realized how naive that was. She's a good, sweet puppy and not that much bigger than he is, but she has a very different idea of how to have a good time. As it was, they were remarkable together today. There was only one event of hissing in the very beginning and no growling whatsoever. Off-leash peace is a reasonable goal, perhaps sooner rather than later.
The Streamlined Cannonball kept an eye on Blanca, but he relaxed as the visit went on. Then she walked out the door, and it was back to business as usual. Within moments, he was lying in my arms, his eyes fluttering shut, purring and gently teething on my hand.
September 16, 2002