Four Legs Good
Do cats have a national anthem? I say they do. I say they keep it secret. We hear snatches of it, perhaps a couple of bars of duet sung outside the window in the tiny hours, but never the whole thing. Until today. Today, a choir of cats has gathered to sing you the song of their people.
You'll have to, uh, imagine what it sounds like. This blog has no sound system, so it'll be a picture of a song (what a novelty!). But I'll try to help by describing it.
Like any stadium stemwinder, the song starts quietly. (Axel)
A delicate melody is introduced. (Shortbread)
Emma is a beautiful Greyhound who helps people simply by being what she is. Every couple of weeks, she brings her sweet nature, calmness and beauty to an Alzheimer's "club" in Wellington - and the other day, I was lucky enough to see her do her magic.
The club's members and a few guests sat in a circle in the sunny front room of a bungalow. Emma's owner, Claire, held the leash while leading the dog from person to person. There were a lot of smiles and a lot of gentle pats for Emma, who responded with dignified tail-wags and glances from her soulful eyes. Besides being beautiful to look at, Emma was lovely to touch - the blue velour of her coat felt just like fine cloth.
Just by being there, Emma brought warmth, strength and calm to the group.
The visits are part of the programme of Canine Friends Pet Therapy. Claire has been a volunteer for the group for seven years, starting with her Greyhound Millie and then, on Millie's death in 2012, with Emma.
Emma was shy at first, says Claire. "But when she realised that people were very keen to stroke her and make a fuss of her, she learned to love visiting." Emma seems to know when it's a visiting day, Claire says, and she can't wait to be with the group.
If you're like most of the country, you're in shock about the reports of a girl attacked by four dogs.
What can a dog owner do to stop this kind of thing happening?
First, ensure when you have children visiting your home that your dogs are supervised. Your dog may be used to your children and won't harm them, but visiting children are seen differently through your dog's eyes. Don't think "my dog would never do that", think "better keep an eye out just in case". I have two Golden Retrievers that are wonderful around children but I still keep a very close eye on them with other children present.
Next, make sure you know the signs that your dog is uncomfortable. If your dog gets up and moves on when the child comes near, place your dog somewhere out of the way so it can relax.
Ensure that you take away all the dog's toys, bones and food that's lying around. You may be able to pick up your dog's bone, but your dog may be unsure about someone else picking it up.
When I watch two pets interacting with each other, I start channelling a whispering David Attenborough. "The small dog, lively and incautious, advances on the apparently sleeping cat. For a moment, the supine feline shows no reaction as the brazen interloper invades its space. Soon, however, the encounter stirs up intense territorial jealousies as the two creatures battle to assert sovereignty over a contested squeaky pompom..."
Indeed, when two pets get together in one place, the result can be unpredictable. They can play merrily, or coexist coolly. They can conspire to cause havoc, or simply steal a bit of body heat from each other. As the Facebook status says, it's complicated.
Behold, pets in pairs.
This week's cover-cats are the beautifully named Bismarck and Verity, six-month-old Siamese/Orientals. They seem to be of one mind.
Which are the best pet photographs? Well, the ones I like most are those that I recognise something in - something true about the cats or dogs (or rabbits, or guinea pigs...) that I've known.
Those are the photos that make me think "Ha, my cat does that," or "Just like my dog," or "That reminds me of..." Somehow, they capture part of the essence of a pet species.
Inevitably, because I'm choosing the pictures, every edition of Furry Friday has some of those kinds of photos, whatever the overall theme. This week, instead of "box" photos or "kitten" photos or "sleepy" photos, I've chosen a lineup of what I think are "true essence" pictures. I hope you agree that, between them, they capture a lot of what makes us love cats and dogs.
Today's cover-cat is Zozo, who's tired of this so-called human entertainment. However, Zozo's not surrendering control...
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