The Cohabitation of Cats and Dogs
Dr. Andy's reflections on peace and de-escalation
The only litmus test I have for candidates for friendship is kindness.
I have friends who vote Republican, friends who hunt, friends who smoke, friends who support different Davis City Council candidates than I do. Some friends support rival sports teams of those that I supported in my youth.
Speaking for a moment about sports, I wonder if the Sacramento Kings feel, as I do, that they have no rivals because none of the other teams are competing with Sacramento’s spot in the rankings. Perhaps the Kings agree with musician Roger Waters who said, “I'm in competition with myself and I'm losing.”
OK, back to my friends. I have friends who have neglected to invite me to parties, friends who have ghosted me, and even a friend who once jokingly responded to my instructional design faculty forum invitations with a plea to “please stop meddling in my classes.” Actually, none of that sounds particularly kind, but I am a forgiving sort.
Sometimes there are schisms in academic departments or in other units on campus. When this happens, I’m typically seen as friendly to people in all the factions. Whenever I consider taking sides, I wonder “What would Jukie do?” And then I take a long nature walk. I like theatre, but I’m not drawn to drama.
Even the Sacramento poetry scene has endured a split. People’s terms on boards were ended without ceremony. Hard feelings were expressed. Old friendships dissolved. Some of us on the outside wondered if there are enough poetry-lovers to support two competing Sacramento poetry scene offshoots. Luckily, the region has enough talent to draw audiences even during the ongoing feud. As for me, I attend some of the weekend outdoor events, and drop in via Zoom when I can.
Sometimes chess pieces stand in for arguments among friends. Every day I play remote games of chess with poets whom I deeply respect. One of them I have missed every day since he moved to North Carolina about 20 years ago. Before he moved away, we used to play chess OTB (over the board) at the Weatherstone Café in Boulevard Park, Sacramento. The other, a cancer survivor, impresses me with the quality of his poetic works and performances – he will be reading from his new book in my poetry series in January.
I know some women who meet regularly for lunch to catch up with each other’s lives and to offer mutual support. Sometimes men get together to compete with each other in sporting events, the way that my Sacramento professor friend and I do over the chess board. Each new war across the board (via Chess.com – here’s my profile -- rather than OTB) strengthens our friendship.
Sometimes the conflicts are closer to home. We all might remember when Dr. Peter Venkman warned a fictional Mayor of New York City that releasing captured ghosts into the city will lead to “Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... MASS HYSTERIA!” Well, on a recent morning I tried out my diplomatic powers on helping a dog and a cat get along.
Almost every day this year, Charlie the neighborhood orange tabby cat has spent a few hours on our property – mostly lounging in our back yard where he can find fresh water, shade, and a trampoline. Our French bulldog, Margot, initially chased him out of her territory, but soon Charlie figured out that Margot treats visiting cats the way she treats members of our household – with harmless playful exuberance.
On the morning depicted in the photograph, the two animals engaged in what child development experts call “parallel play.” Each reveled in the physical attention they received from me, and each did a relatively good job of not aggressively sniffing or smacking the other.
Reflecting on conflicts in the world, our country, and our city, I conclude that if these two species of beast can co-exist, then surely we can find a way to spend some social time with people who differ from us in almost every way, except for in their need for eye contact, compassionate connection and, we someday hope, an indoor drink together.
I hope you get to see this week’s Pub Quiz. Thanks to all the supporters on Patreon who make all this happen, especially the Outside Agitators, the Original Vincibles, and Quizimodo. I’m always grateful to players who pledge for their entire team. Please subscribe so you can share the fun of the Pub Quiz with your friends and neighbors!
P.S. Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:
Film. Set in a small Sicilian town, what film that centers on the friendship between a young boy and an aging film projectionist revitalized the Italian film industry in 1988?
Countries of the World. Sharing Lake Victoria with Kenya and Tanzania, what landlocked country in east Africa has been named the likely fastest-growing African economy of the coming decade?
Sylvester Stallone. Against his wishes, which of Stallone’s movie characters was made into both action figures and an animated TV show for children: Rocky Balboa, Judge Dredd, John Rambo, or Barney Ross from The Expendables?
P.P.S. Thursday I host another outdoor poetry reading. It would be fun to see you at one of my typically fortnightly events.