A COLLECTION OF STORIES BY LUKE TAGG
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SMOKE: The Dog Versus Cat War

Originally published: 9 May 2003

According to an Associated Press story out of Salt Lake City, Utah's highest court has ruled that cat owners cannot be held to the same liabilities as dog owners.

The ruling came as a result of a lawsuit brought by a woman against her neighbours, in which she claimed their cat had bit her.

Her attorney argued that if it had been a dog that had bitten his client, she would have had a case and that human contact with cats is "fraught with danger".

The judge disagreed - he said that firstly cats are not the same as dogs, and secondly contact with cats is in no way as dangerous as contact with dogs.

And that bastard cat is sitting back fatly with a shit-eating grin all over his evil, over-fed face, plotting the next crime he can get away with just because he's a cat.

I'm sick and tired of dogs getting the bad rap and cats getting away with the crimes they do, so I'm here to set the record straight.

There are four types of people: those who love dogs, those who love cats, those who love both and those who love neither. I'm a dog lover, and fail to see the attraction of cats.

Don't get me wrong - I've had many a good laugh at a young kitten finding its feet, and during their playful months they are indeed Excellent Okes. But the moment they mature they turn into cold-hearted pigs, who no matter how much love you bestow upon them fail to reciprocate in the slightest.

If it's a warm, loving cat you're looking for to lie on your lap while you watch a video on some cold evening, it's the last thing you'll find. The bastard knows you want him to lie with you, which means he is compelled not to accommodate you.

If you give him supper he will take one look and head off in the opposite direction, as though to say: "I'm not touching that shit, mate". But if you lie down for an afternoon nap, he will instantly go into the kitchen and start crying and performing until you get up and give him something.

He'll time his meowing to begin at the point where you just start to drift into dreamland, just so as to catch you on the cusp of sleep, without letting you ease over the hurdle into proper sleep.

It's just vindictive, man. Why not be pleasant about things? No matter how much you try and get a cat to do something it will only ever do the opposite, and forget about trying to make them come when you call, or sit down, or stuff. They only do things on their terms.

Dogs, on the other hand, start out cute and maintain that friendly nature, provided they've been given a decent amount of love and care. They never relinquish their playful nature, and if trained right will always be obedient.

I used to hate dogs with a passion as a kid - I lived in Pretoria in the early eighties, when "swart gevaar" was at its height, and as such the all-white neighbourhood of very verkrampte people was filled with all manner of vicious, black-hating curs.

My problem was I had a job doing a newspaper round for the Pretoria News, delivering papers on a set route which spanned quite some distance. I was always being chased by dogs, and occasionally bitten by them, and I lived in permanent terror and fear of these vicious, snarling brutes.

At the same time we were always around dogs which were owned by us or our relatives, so I was able to put the ravening beasts outside into perspective.

Then we moved to Cape Town, where the dogs are far more chilled out and groovy, preferring a warm patch of sun and a bellyful of Beenos to the rougher, up-and-kill-em attitude of their compatriots up north.

As I grew bigger I came to realise that I could defend myself in an attack by a dog and lost my fear of them. I'm still not overly fond of those grey, ghost-dog types who slink around behind you and stare at you with emotionless, red eyes, but I'd back myself to survive most dog attacks.

More to the point - I've come to learn why dogs behave the way they do, after taking my young Jack Russell (the first dog I have ever owned myself) for training when she was a puppy.

She was just eight weeks old and fitted into the palm of my hand, yet she held her own against the biggest and most frightening dogs there.

A big part of the training was to allow the puppies (they are split up into age groups) to play together in a paddock - all shapes, sizes and breeds - for at least 20 minutes each training session.

Doing this allowed them to learn how to interact with each other and it was fascinating watching them play games of submission/domination and learning the roles they felt most comfortable with.

Each of them had such clear personalities and interestingly the smallest dog there (my JR, Mischka) and the biggest dog there (a puppy Great Dane) were the best of friends.

Her favourite play was to grab one of his huge ears and hang on as he galumphed around the paddock, with her swinging gaily a few inches off the ground.


Training Mischka made me realise how much she needed that direction in her life, and she is a very contented dog as a result. I got sick of giving up my Saturday afternoon to train her, but by then she had learned who Da Boss was, and I had learned how to get her to do pretty much anything I want.

To this day (she's almost three) I can train her to do anything with nought but a tasty treat, which makes both of our lives a lot easier.

The love I get in return for my attention makes it all worth it - I put in the investment, I reap the reward of a bloody cool dog.

But it's just not the same with cats - no matter how much love and attention you give them it's a complete lottery as to how they're going to turn out when they get older.

My oldest sister has a brilliant cat, called Miff - she was always loving and playful, and years later still comes to purr and greet whenever you go a-visiting.

But to my mind my sister got lucky - that cat could just as easily have turned out to be some neighbourhood tsotsi with only his own interests at heart.

I dunno - I just like having control over my animal, and an animal which can show you how intelligent they are. Cats are smart, but they never let on, so you never know where you stand with them. Dogs, however, will happily do whatever you require them to do, when you require them to do it.

So in the words of poet Peter Porter, in his poem Mort Aux Chats: "Death to all cats! The rule of dogs shall last a thousand years!"

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
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