Joanne Palmer's Life in the 'Boat column appears Wednesdays in the Steamboat Today. Email her at email@example.com
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"What are you doing?" I yelled irritably, as I watched my dog, Kizzy, barking and jumping at the trunk of a tree. I was late leaving the house, and her behavior would only delay me more.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," I apologized to the cat high up in the tree as I dragged Kizzy's bristling 30-pound body back across the street.
As I drove away, I scolded her, "That is not an OK thing to do. No one is going to like you if you chase cats." She sat smugly in the back seat, glancing out the car window at the poor cat cowering in the tree.
Kizzy is a bearded collie, a breed which resembles a miniature sheep dog : or a mop. If she were a character in "The Wizard of Oz" she would definitely be the cowardly lion. She is terrified of all loud noises, including, but not limited to: thunderstorms, snow plows, snow blowers, lawn mowers, diesel trucks, garbage trucks and loud sounds from the TV, video games or my 11-year-old son. Her pink dog bed is in the closet, and more often than not, that is where I'll find her.
Other than chasing cats, Kizzy doesn't do anything particularly dog-like. She doesn't fetch, hates to swim and dislikes chew toys. Her greatest joy in life is to accompany me wherever I go and eat an alarming number of dog treats.
Although I am a big animal lover, I am not a cat person. I feel about cats the way some people feel about children. I like other people's cats; I just don't want one of my own. Cats confuse me. I don't understand them the way I think I understand dogs. Cats are sneaky, aloof and can be found on my dining room table. Their idea of a good time is to deposit a dead mouse or bird at my feet. Yuck.
Despite my feelings toward cats, I'd agreed to feed two cats for a friend who was out of town. These were barn cats, an older male and a young kitty my son nicknamed "Taco." Taco was a small, fluffy, gray ball of love. Fearless and funny, he stole my heart from the moment I met him. At the sound of my car, he raced to greet me. He entertained me daily with his kitty antics and escapades. I laughed as I watched him leap on the older cat's tail, bat a piece of twine or chase after a piece of hay blowing in the wind.
On this day when I was running late, and the dog had treed a cat, I got out of my car and in my haste, left the car door open. Taco rushed to greet me just as my dog jumped out. Every muscle in my body tensed, but before I could grab either animal a surprising thing happened. Fearlessly, Taco greeted Kizzy, weaving in and out of her legs, purring wildly. My dog froze. Her face had a comical, confused look on it. She looked at the gray fluff ball between her legs and seemed to think, "How can I chase you if you won't run away?" Kizzy dropped her tail between her legs and jumped back in the car. Undaunted, Taco jumped right in after her and continued to purr and rub up against her.
As I write this now - on the eve of an historic presidential Inauguration - I think about the two of them in the back seat and believe, yes we can. Yes we can come together as a nation if, like Taco, we let go of our fear and open our hearts.