As a kid, I realized that you want a good dog on your side in an emergency. Fed by a tale of a Swiss ancestor who was a guide in the Alps, I dreamed of having a St. Bernard to lead a rescue of stranded victims of an avalanche. There was also the famed war dog and cinema hero Rin Tin Tin to consider an ally in the event of an enemy attack, which the Cold War had me believing was imminent. The television star Lassie seemed the best dog for all occasions: floods, tornados, kidnappings, and even an occasional bank robbery or boar attack. Lassie was there, saving Timmy and his family every Sunday night in black and white.
But would my parents get a collie? Not on your life. We were stuck with our black cat, Pudge, who could somehow figure out which room you were in, so he could jump on the window screen to announce that he wanted to be let into the house. If, however, some burglar was trying to cut the window screen to get into the house, our cat would be the first to use that window as an escape route, leaving us to fend for ourselves.
If you ever needed to know that the refrigerator door had been opened, our guinea pig would squeak the alarm. Hey, it might help if your spouse was on a diet and needed protection from those deadly doughnuts in there!
Dogs can be trained to find survivors of earthquakes and floods. They can assist people with disabilities, being their eyes and ears. They can be trained to bring a phone or medication to someone immobilized by a fall or a seizure. What can’t be explained is how dogs know when help is needed, even though humans can’t sense it themselves, but scientists believe a lot depends on the bond between the dog and its owner.
What deep psychic bond do we have with our cats? The two-foot snowfall of last week didn’t concern the felines in our abode one bit. The electricity was out for a few hours but they still could find their food and water, so, not to worry. Not venturing out in any weather, they were exceedingly calm, even nonchalant. They took a few paw-steps out on the back porch, sniffed around, and yawned. Then they ambled back inside to sit by their food bowls.
“Heavens,” they seemed to say, “if we’re going to be snowed in, let’s at least be well-fed.”
Would our cats care if there was an avalanche that buried our house under many feet of snow? Would they lead a brigade to dig us out? Probably not. They might get up from their favorite napping spots, stretch, have a bite to eat and go in search of a human lap to curl up on.
Indeed, they have us well-trained. If we have another weather catastrophe to deal with, as long as the cats can find a lap to sit on, at least we’ll all be warm.