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Kathy Tofflemire, Published April 06 2010

Parenting Perspectives: True tales of cats and dogs and kids

I have shared my home with only one man and one child, but I’ve never been without at least one critter in my house since 1969.

I had pet dogs for short periods of time when I was growing up. The first one my parents had to get rid of because he tended to bite people – the paper boy, for instance. The second one was hit by a car.

But since then I’ve had dogs and cats, bunnies, hamsters and fish – the latter three my daughter’s idea.

I’ve lived with big dogs and little dogs and an assortment of cats, which if nothing else taught me how different feline personalities can be.

My relationship with pets hasn’t always been warm and fuzzy. I had a cat that, by pulling out drawers, “locked” itself in the bathroom. Another one lost the tip of its tail when I accidently stepped on it while wearing thick-heeled boots.

That was traumatic enough, but during that same time frame, I killed the neighbor’s cat that had climbed up into the engine of my car. I’m quite sure I felt far worse about that than its owners did.

And I’ve had the adventure of traveling with cats. My two Minot shelter cats moved with me to Fargo, to Connecticut and back to Fargo.

One of them started the first leg of every trip by getting carsick – one time right into the hamster cage. He would spend the rest of the trip, no matter how long, in a nearly comatose state in his carrier. The other preferred to admire the scenery from the vantage point of the back of my neck. The Chicago skyline caused him to repeatedly utter what sounded like “wow.”

I’ve even “stolen” a dog. When my daughter’s father and I first separated, he took the dog and I took the cat. I don’t know why I let the dog go: He was a small dog and no longer young. When I found him tied up in a garage with my ex’s German shepherd, I volunteered to take him home for a much-needed bath. I never returned him.

While I don’t encourage dognapping, I think pets are good for kids. They teach them kindness and responsibility, if you can hold them to that vow: “Please, Mom, I’ll take care of it. I promise.”

My grandsons have a dog, a Shih Tzu/Pekingese cross. My older grandson must walk him as part of his phone-cost chores.

But let’s face it, the dog isn’t really the boys’. My daughter is the alpha female, and she and that pup are best buddies. Oh, he likes the rest of us well enough, but not the way he adores her.

I now share my condo with an older cat. She was actually my daughter’s, but I took her in when she and their other cat began to have issues with each other.

She’s grumpy and antisocial, kind of like her caregiver. But she’s waiting at the top of the entryway stairs every night when I come home.

I always say that when she’s gone, that’s it. No more animals. No more awakening in the dead of night to the sound of a cat coughing up a hairball. No more trying to run from the closet to the front door without attracting cat hair.

But 40-plus years is a long time with furry companions and having another heart beating in the house.

Kathy Tofflemire is a copy editor at The Forum. Readers can reach

her at (701) 241-5514 or ktofflemire@forumcomm.com