Guest post by Max

I’ve lived a pretty good life since my human family took me in as a puppy. My humans pet me, brush me, and feed me dog food. If I can work the sympathy look well enough, they even give me their food. They take me for walks and to the Great Latrine and Sniffing Paradise they call the hunting shack. I also get to run around the yard and chase inferior species such as squirrels and rabbits. I had the humans all to myself for a number of years and had them pretty well wrapped around my paw. Life was good. 

But then one summer day, life changed. I was minding my own lazy thoughts in the yard when the human called Ryan, emerged on the porch. I thought maybe he wanted to throw a tennis ball for me or maybe he had some food on him that I could dislodge to the ground. Instead, he was holding what seemed like a domestic squirrel. I thought that was odd but figured that, as the superior species, I could chase the domestic squirrel away or at least have some fun intimidating the heck out of it. But as I approached the little gray creature, it hissed and stood its ground.  I figured, “ok, this one wants to give me a challenge”. So I upped my canine game and started trying to sniff its butt and generally try to get it to run away so I could chase it. 

Bad choice on my part. That thing had claws and sharp teeth and an alpha attitude. It also had a name. Dexter. My humans had gotten something called a cat and it wasn’t willing to take its proper spot in the hierarchy of the pack. 

At first, I didn’t want the cat around. Maybe I had been listening too much to the orange guy on TV. I mean, my understanding was it’s not like we should show compassion to strangers or love our enemies or stuff like that. That seemed so…weak. 

But then I watched my Ryan, the most quiet and gentle of my humans, interact with the cat. He welcomed that little puff of fur. He held it and petted it and gave it a warm, comfortable place to sleep. The gentle human didn’t seem to expect anything back from it. Then I remembered my puppyhood and how scared I was the first night in my new human home. I needed the kindness and the acceptance. I knew I would be ok when I came to understand I was welcomed and that I belonged here. 

So I resolved that Dexter was not a threat to me and that I would befriend him. That wasn’t easy. I mean, he always fell for that stupid laser dot chase thing. Plus he tried to jump up on the counter and eat the butter. Not that there is anything wrong with that but I lacked his vertical jump and his gracefulness. The least he could’ve done was to knock the butter dish to the floor so that I could have some. And then when he was growing as a kitten, he would dash out from behind something and jump on me and tried to claw me. Geez, I hated that. But I suppose my constant butt sniffing of him was adequate pay back. 

Over time, Dexter and I actually got to be pretty good friends. It’s not like we forgot that we were different species. But we kind of managed to leave our speciesism behind us once we got to know each other. In fact, our relationship became symbiotic. He would pester the humans every few minutes when his food dish wasn’t completely full and they would top it off. He’d eat a bit and walk away. When the coast was clear, I’d sneak in and finish his food. It worked beautifully. 

Other times he would lick me. I admit, that seemed pretty weird at first and I wasn’t sure that I should trust the little guy. But he actually seemed to be treating me with kindness, for no reason other than to be kind. Other times he just seemed happy and I stopped minding if he got petted because I knew he enjoyed getting some attention and there were still human hands for me. Plus, he made this weird motor sound when he was getting petted and I thought it sounded pretty cool. 

I also learned something else from Dexter. I’m glad he and I decided to get beyond our initial antipathy and become friends. We could’ve continued our battles as dog and cat. After all, we were different. But eventually it seemed like being different was just fine and that we both gained something from dropping the whole tough guy act. If we had waited to become friends and had stayed in our own respective comfort zones, our friendship would’ve never happened. I would’ve missed out on some delicious cat food. And he wouldn’t have had a big brown heater to nuzzle into. 

A few days ago Dexter went outside at night to go potty. He didn’t come back.  Yesterday, Ryan found Dexter’s body along the road. That little domestic squirrel brought a lot of joy into the hearts of my humans, as well as to mine. None of us can do that motor sound thing that Dexter did but we will all have to do our best to fill his void. 

As a dog, I admit I can’t read so maybe I’m missing something. But so far as I can tell, the Bible says nothing about pets being excluded from heaven. So I hope I see the little guy again, so long as he doesn’t do that jump out and claw me thing again. If I don’t see him again, at least I learned something from him. And it’s made me a better dog. RIP Dexter, May 2017-February 2019.  

Copyright February 2019 by Max, the dog and Daniel Blake

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