If you think about it, the word “Dog” is a bit of a concept. I’d be hard-pressed to explain to you the difference between Dogs and Cats, but I surely can tell a French bulldog from a Siamese cat, and not just because of the accents.
Dogs have a certain “Dogginess,” and that’s how we know a Saint Bernard and a Chihuahua are both Dogs. Shimmer, having spent his early life in a cage, and only knowing other Greyhounds, had a big learning curve ahead once he moved in with Joan. He got to meet the outside world, and its Dogs of many coats, and colors, sizes, and smells.
He caught on pretty quickly, and the first rule about Dogginess was: if it was on a leash, it was most certainly Dog. (It turns out there are Dogs off leash as well, and they’re a bit harder to tell, but if it was tethered, it was Dog.) A rock solid rule, and one that made his life a bit easier, I imagine.
And, then he saw IT.
IT was a cat on a leash. And what’s more, it was walking. On. A. Leash. If you’ve never put a cat on a leash, this is quite an accomplishment, they absolutely hate it. But not this one. He was large, and black, sinuous and slinking through the park, eyes and ears alert in all directions, curious about everything. He seemed unconcerned he was in the middle of a dog park, full of dogs. What’s more, not a single dog had any interest in him. Not even the small yappy ones who are always up in every one’s business.
Shimmer could not grasp what he was looking at. He positively gawked, refusing to move, and it was getting awkward.
“So, is that a cat on a leash?” I said, and instantly knew his walker was going to think I was an idiot, crazy, or high, and blew my chances of learning more about this mysteriously, wonderful super-cat.
“Yeah, his name is Neptune,” he said, cutting to the chase, and looking for a way out of being trapped in a conversation with the doped-up, stupid guy.
“How’d you get him to do that?” I was now at full rube level. I just needed overalls.
“He always wanted to get out. So we put him on a leash and we went. He asks everyday to go out. All the dogs leave him alone. We don’t know why. C’mon, Neptune, we got to go.”
“Bye! Thank you. Nice to meet you, Neptune! Bye! Say ‘Bye,’ Shimmer!”
Neptune, who could never be bothered with mouth-breathing cretins like Shimmer and I, continued on his imperious stroll.
Two days later we saw a small kid on a leash, and Shimmer couldn’t have cared less.
I knew what he was thinking: Fine. If you want to live your life as a Dog, you’re a Dog. I’m still not smelling your pee.