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Living With Animals: A Wonderful Madness
by Marjorie Dorfman

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cat and dogI’ll start with cats because they comprise most of my first-hand experience. There are two rules to remember when sharing a home with felines; one is that they know what they are doing and the other is that they also know what their owners are doing. Cattitude is not unlike the divine right of kings. It grants the imperious ability to be both loving and ambivalent at the same time. My cats won’t talk to me for hours after I’ve returned from a trip. They let me know that they didn’t approve of my departure, company, destination and return time. I’m of age, but they can’t be reasoned with. They are pretty independent though, much more so than dogs or even horses. You can leave food out for a cat and it will eat as it gets hungry. You can’t do that with a dog or a horse. Cats make their own company, games and rules while you are away. Just leave some party hats near the chandeliers and tell your neighbors to watch the action after you leave if you don’t believe me.

cat and dogDogs are wonderful creatures who have the unique capacity to actually resemble their owners after a few years of ownership. (It may be the other way around, but it’s a secret assimilation process that occurs at night and I cannot say for sure.) It is said that man never actually sees his god, but that a dog sees his or her’s every day. A dog is a faithful servant and will live or die for its master’s approval and protection. I can make this point with only one story. (If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the following words will surely be worth more than a thousand pictures.) Maybe I didn’t get the math right, but read on anyway.

When I was about 16, there was a story in the local paper about a woman whose pregnant Chihuahua killed an intruder. The woman had been home alone when a man in a uniform with phony credentials knocked on the door and told her that he needed to inspect her boiler. She led the man into the basement, the Chihuahua following noiselessly behind. When the man attempted to rape her a few moments later, the dog attacked him and ripped out his jugular vein. The man was dead before he hit the floor. As far as good things coming in small packages, would anyone like to say that again? The woman later capitalized on the incident by advertising the sale of her courageous dog’s "killer puppies" in the very same newspaper a few months later! (The Chihuahua was acquitted and lived to wallow in the eternal gratitude of its owner. The woman was cited by the Better Business Bureau. That’s America!)

I think that my love affair with horses coincided with the very first moment I laid eyes upon one at the age of three or four. Most people don’t realize that horses need nurturing and comforting and bonding with their owners just as much (if not more) than your average Fido or Sylvester. Perhaps their size fosters this delusion. They are big animals with big hearts and spirits to match, but they are also very vulnerable and need humans to care for them. Horses fare poorly in the wild, sometimes not living more than two or three years.

cats playEven though someone else fed my horse and cleaned out her stall every day of her life, my Sadie Mae still needed emotional and physical bonding with me as her owner. Horses are pack animals and very social, although they are not so gregarious at cocktail parties. Unless a horse has not been socialized correctly, it will usually enjoy being touched, petted and curried. This contact between human and horse is akin to soothing that itchy spot on your back that you can’t quite reach. Horses charge an atmosphere with beauty, mystery and strength. Riding one’s own horse creates an intimate alchemy comparable only to that of a long-term love relationship where each partner knows and respects the other’s sensitivities and responses. They are mystical creatures, whose unfettered energy symbolizes the beauty and vitality of the human spirit. Living among them means much space, work, cost and attention, but feeling their proximity compensates with the generation of a magical bond that is like no other.

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