Cats dominate my life. They grossly outnumber the human family members in my house. I don’t remember searching for a cat to add to my life for many years and yet, here they are. They lounge on couches, have food bowls of a higher quality than my own dinnerware and are clearly in charge of anyone in possession of a lap.
I started to think that the continued presence of cats in my life meant that I was feline in nature. I pondered the concept that I might have inner grace that was yet untapped. I could really use the ability to nap during the day without distraction. It was possible that I secretly have the confidence seen only in cats. I was wrong.
A few days ago, I got a chance to play with my friend’s black lab, Boomer. He is an older dog but his age does not dampen his enthusiasm for fetch. Like most dogs, his version of fetch is a little flexible. He would really like me to chase him around and struggle with the ball as he coats my fingers with dog slime.
Boomer’s favorite ball has a little hole in it that is just big enough for a human finger to get stuck in. I knew this existed before I grabbed the ball while it was still in his mouth. My finger fit nicely in the hole and I clenched my hand as I playfully tried to wrestle the ball from his mouth.
The neighbor dog chose this moment to bark at an imaginary predator. Boomer turned his head and started to lop towards the fence. I was jerked off my feet. Thanks to my lack of foresight, I was doomed to drag along along behind a much stronger and energetic animal. My arm was bent in an awkward angle under his muzzle. I yelped as he figured out that part of his doggy dream of having a human chase him around the yard and hold tightly to slobber filled toy was coming true.
Boomer drug me in a joyful little circle in the middle of the yard before I cried out in pain. This is not the kind of situation that a cat gets itself into. I was covered in grass and dirt and was twisted into a question mark shape on the lawn.
Despite himself, the dog quickly figured out that something was going horribly wrong. He cast me a questioning look and froze just long enough for me to pop my finger out of the toy.
Boomer’s ears dropped and his face fell. He jumped from thrilled to worried in less than a heart beat. I sat on the ground holding my wrist. It was time for some good, old fashioned doggy medicine.
He stuck his nose in my face. This is a dog’s way of taking your emotional temperature.
“It’s okay, buddy.” I said patted his head. “You’re good. I am an idiot.”
Boomer was skeptical. He licked my face a few times. I chuckled and pushed him away gently. He rolled on his back and wiggled closer to me.
It was at this point that I realized that he was feeling guilty for something that was not entirely his fault. I was feeling guilty for ruining his game by being clumsy. I was having a guilt competition with a dog.
If I had an inner cat, I would not be apologizing to a dog. I would certainly not be caught apologizing to anyone. I would be filled with self confidence and walk away scornfully. My inner cat would never question my own version of reality. Instead, I was laying on the ground with debris in hair, mud ground into my knees wiping goo from my face and hands apologizing to a creature that does not speak my language.
My inner dog wants to please people. My inner dog gets distracted. My inner dog forgets that I am not a tiny puppy. My inner dog blames herself for every thing that others get upset about. My inner dog forgives others.
I love my inner dog but once and a while, when I am laying on the ground, sprawled on the lawn, praying that I missed the questionable looking brown pile in the grass, I wish I had an inner cat too. I could use a nap.