We had talked about getting a watchdog for a long time. It wasn’t until our neighbors’ house was broken into that we decided it was finally time to do something. So, we took out an ad in the paper:
Watch Dog For Family Of Four
Free room and board
Affectionate daughters to play/cuddle with
Only housebroken pets need apply
We ended up hiring the very first applicant for the job, though he was not at all what we were expecting. The day the ad first ran in the paper, we heard a knock on the door. We opened it to find a cat.
“Hi there!” said the cat. “My name is Wayne. I’m here about the job.”
“Yeah. See, I have the clipping right here.” And, indeed, he did.
“Right, but, this ad is for a watch dog.”
“And…you’re a cat.”
“I know that, too. But I assumed you were an equal opportunity employer.”
“I mean, are you really going to discriminate against me because of my race?”
“Is being a cat a race?”
“I think so. I can do all the things a watchdog can do. Plus, I have my own watch.” He held up his paw to show me his wristwatch.
“Yeah, that’s great,” I said, “but are you sure you can do everything a watchdog does?”
“Of course. Here, I’ll show you…” (he cleared his throat) “Bark! Bark bark! Woof! Grrrr! Arf! Bark bark bark! Grrrr!” He then proceeded to sit up and beg, roll over and chase his own tail. “Also,” he said, “did I mention about the watch? See, when the big hand goes around…”
“Okay, okay. I guess we can try it for a night. You are housebroken, right?”
My wife wasn’t too pleased to come home from work and see a cat instead of a dog. But, she saw that Wayne was very eager, and agreed to give him a try. And it’s a lucky thing we did, because, that very night, we were nearly robbed!
We were all fast asleep while Wayne patrolled the front porch. Suddenly, I was awakened. It was partly because of the loud barking (Wayne was a surprisingly good barker for a cat) but also because of the loud sneezing. The burglar was allergic to cat hair. He couldn’t get within two feet of the house without his allergies going nuts.
And that’s how Wayne became our family’s official watch-cat.
It seemed strange at the time, hiring a cat to be a watchdog, but now we’re all so used to Wayne, it’s hard to imagine anyone else doing his job. It was a little embarrassing at first because we had bought things in expectation of a dog. A dog dish, a dog bed, a dog collar (they all had pictures of bones all over them). We offered to take it all back and get cat stuff, but Wayne said it was fine. So, we had the name “Wayne” printed on the tag on the collar, and that was that. Wayne was our cat.
But, a few weeks after he came to us, Wayne seemed kind of upset about something. I asked him what was wrong.
“Well,” he said, “I was talking to some other cats today and…never mind.”
“No, go on.”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
Wayne sighed and told me what had happened.
MY BAD DAY
I saw the cats all hanging out in the alley, and I went over to say hi. But they didn’t answer. I figured they hadn’t heard me, so I said hi again, a little louder.
“In case no one told you,” one of them said, “dogs don’t talk to cats.”
“What?” I said. “I’m not a dog. I’m a cat. See? Meow. Prrrrr. Cat. Just like you.”
“Oh yeah?” said the other cat. “What’s that around your neck?”
“With a bone-shaped tag.”
“What kind of bed do you sleep in?”
“A dog bed. But I’m—”
“And your food dish?”
“Well, it was made for a dog, but it still—”
“And you guard your humans’ house? And bark when there’s trouble?”
“Meowing isn’t very loud, so—”
“You act like a dog, you live like a dog…you are a dog.”
“And we cats don’t want anything to do with dogs.”
And they put their tails in the air and walked away.
I was deeply affected by Wayne’s story. Of course, my family and I, who knew Wayne, didn’t think there was anything wrong with his sleeping in a dog bed or doing the job of a dog. We understood Wayne and we liked him just the way he was. It never occurred to me that other people (or, indeed, cats) might have some kind of a problem with him.
“You know, Wayne,” I said. “If you want us to buy you cat stuff and get rid of the dog stuff, that’s not a problem.”
“Well…I like my bed! I don’t care that it has dog bones all over it. It’s comfy. And I like my collar. And I love being your watchcat. I’m happy with things the way they are.”
“Then you shouldn’t let what those other cats say bother you. As long as you know who you are, it doesn’t matter what anyone else says.”
Now, I’m not saying that Wayne never had any trouble again from other cats. And I’m not saying that he didn’t sometimes get his feelings hurt by people who didn’t understand. What I am saying is that, a few days later, I heard him talking to those same cats. He was standing his post on our front step when they came walking by.
“Hey, look at Fido!” one said.
“Here, Rover! C’mere, boy!” said the other.
“Oh, shut up!” said Wayne. “I’m a cat, not a dog.”
“If you do all the things that a dog does, how does that make you different from a dog?”
“Because I say I’m a cat! Yes, I bark when there’s trouble and I wear a collar with a bone on it. But I also take naps all day and purr and lick myself clean. What I do doesn’t make me a cat. How I feel is what makes me a cat. I can do whatever I want—I can act like a mongoose or a reindeer or a walrus—as long as I know I’m a cat! You don’t get to decide what it means to be a cat. And nobody gets to decide who or what I am except me. And I’m Wayne…and I’m a Watch Cat! Now get out of our yard!”
So, remember, you guys: If you know in your heart that you’re a cat, that’s all that matters. Doesn’t matter if the whole world tells you you’re a dog or a pig or a cashew or a chair or a boy or a girl. You get to decide who and what you are.