In a tribute to In a tribute to the late Muhammad Ali I am reflagging this excerpt from my book Rope Burns, which is to be republished in September 2016. By now you should not be remotely surprised to learn that one fine evening back in 1980 I somehow conspired to find myself perched on […]
When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we see
No I won’t be afraid
No I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me
John Lennon: Stand By Me.
Surprise! Surprise! It’s me… Bilbo (Rowena’s original dog). I can’t believe I’m back from the very brink after surviving what became a highly controversial campaign to unite cats and dogs. Talk about setting a match to a fuse!!
You might recall that I’d jumped onto Mum’s brand new Twitter account with my infamous hashtag: #cats and dogs are friends. Much to my horror, rather than building bridges between cats and dogs, I actually attracted the wrath of both species and received multiple, very nasty, terrifying death threats.
Yet, against the odds, I have survived. I’ve been attacked by dogs. Attacked by cats. Yet, Lady, my fearless canine companion, has stood by me. She not only brought me food during my darkest hours of need, she also spoke out and refused to be a bystander. She wanted to take my message of peace to the masses and help them see reason. Where I had drawn all sorts of fancy equations all over my chalk board which made perfect sense to me but evidently to no one else, Lady was much more direct. Quite simply, as the cats and dogs were viciously fighting; gnashing their teeth, scratching, screeching, barking and growling; she very simply said:
“Are you proud of yourselves?”
After all, sometimes even the most noble-minded among us can get caught up in our own cause and lose all sense of perspective.
Lady’s intelligent, quick thinking stopped everyone in their tracks. Don’t ask me how because such brawls between old foes have never stopped like this before. Suddenly and quite inexplicably, all eyes both feline and canine were fixed on my scruffy black and white friend, who although she’s called Lady, really is more of a “ruff ruff” in so many, many ways.
Lady called out again to emphasise her point.
“Are you proud of yourselves?”
A unified sense of shame descended upon the rabble and there was absolute silence.
“We’ve been fighting long enough. It’s time for cats and dogs to mend our smashed and broken fences and build a new way forward based on tolerance and understanding. We have been fighting since the very dawn of time and yet we don’t even know why. What is our cause? We live in our separate worlds, apart from the odd exceptions who somehow manage to live in harmony, without any form of interaction or communication. Most dogs know no cats and most cats know no dogs. Indeed, this war has become some dreadful form of genetic hatred passed on from one generation to the next… just like our DNA. Indeed, we’ve even assumed it’s in our genes. That hating each other is who we are.” Lady said.
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Lady declared and then paused. There was still absolute silence and all ears and eyes were on her and yet nobody really understood why. Lady was just a scruffy little black and white dog with more of a reputation for food thievery than an good example.
“Perhaps, Bilbo took his peace efforts too far too soon. Indeed, it might be too early for dogs and cats to become friends. However, as he said… small steps. He probably just got a little over-enthusiastic. We dogs do have a habit of that.”
“I do think, however, that Bilbo was on the right track trying to bring about change by applying the Golden Rule. I think we’ve all forgotten what that is.
The Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated.
Bilbo also touched on an revision of the Golden Rule:
The Inverse Golden Rule: Treat others as they would like to be treated.
This is perhaps more useful for improving relations between cats and dogs. After all, we’re actually quite different and don’t really like most of the same things. Rather than being a stumbling block, these differences could actually be a good thing for friendship. We’re not actually competing for the same things. We’d be equal but different.”
It soon became clear that this once terrifying, violent mob of cats and dogs had somehow fallen under Lady’s spell.
Then she added: “If cats and dogs can mend fences, perhaps then those humans might even get along better as well. They can be an arrogant bunch…so convinced they have all the answers and are far superior to the likes of us but you never know. Seeing cats and dogs finally living together in peace might just give them the jolt they need. Then, we’ll all finally be able to sleep at night, instead of waiting for the bomb to go off.”
“I guess you could call it enlightened self-interest.”
Wow! I was stonkered by this transition in Lady. There I was thinking she was purely decorative and not any use at all. While I was hard at work, she was just battering her puppy dog eyes to get more treats. Then out of nowhere, she becomes the change which I’d been writing so much about. I was only ever able to theorise and philosophise but Lady could act and act she did. Firstly, by feeding me in hiding and keeping me safe. Then, she rallied behind the cause. Courageously confronting a dangerously out of control mob of angry cats and dogs, she brought about peace. They actually stopped fighting and from what I can see, we’ve all changed. Cats and dogs might never be friends but at least we’ve come to realise that this war is a choice. It’s not part of who we are. It’s not etched in our DNA. It can stop.
Lady had been only one dog and very much a lone voice calling out through a very hostile wilderness. Yet, good triumphed over evil. Love and tolerance overcame hate, violence and judgement. We will never be cats and cats will never be dogs but it doesn’t have to be war and I can even sense forgiveness.
I’ve also learned a few things. While it’s good to have friends with the same interests and who are just like me, it’s also good to have some differences. I’d never thought of this before. As much as I love Lady, especially after all of this, we do compete over so many things such as: pats from the family, dinner, bones and tennis balls. On the other hand, that pesky cat… oops, I mean the nice cat from next door, leaves all of them alone. I could have them all to myself. That really should make us the best of friends.
Cats and dogs have been fighting for so long that we’ve become blinded to everything we have in common. Although I’m struggling to think of anything right off the cuff, I’m sure there had to be something. If only I could meet a cat and have some form of meaningful dialogue before it runs away, I could elaborate. Well, at least we have four legs, a tail and red blood.
Thinking about how Lady was able to achieve so much, perhaps Eisenhower was right after all:
“What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
Now, I am almost a happy dog. That’s pretty darn good for an old dog whose food bowl always seems to be empty. Forget about this half full business. Now, perhaps you’ll understand why I struggle to find the bright side. However, it’s good to be thinking about food again, instead of being being: “The Hunted”.
Yes, our world definitely needs a lot more love and a lot less hate!!!
When I got home, I sang Lady this song and we finished it together:
When you’re down and troubled
And you need some loving care
And nothing, nothing is going right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night
You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend
If the sky above you
Grows dark and full of clouds
And that old north wind begins to blow
Keep your head together
And call my name out loud
Soon you’ll hear me knocking at your door…
Carol King: You’ve Got A Friend.
PS: All donations to my food bowl will be gratefully accepted!!
PS: If you are interested in reading my research into the Golden Rule, my posts start here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/greetings-from-good-dog/
If you are interested in hearing from Lady, click here for some of her posts:
This is Mum’s post: A Portrait of a Lady, which tells a few truths about my little friend.