By Tracy Ahrens
I crawled into bed one night and my dog, Trucker, crawled in behind me to be covered up with an afghan. Within seconds, up hopped my cat, Jack, who stepped cautiously with his motor running onto Trucker’s back.
The feeling of being stepped on by 18-pound Jack startled Trucker who raised his head to look and then with my words of, “It’s ok,” dropped his head back down to the bed. The two settled in; Jack partially lying on Trucker and both of them covered up with blankets.
The fact that Jack and Trucker, both 10, have bonded so strongly brought a smile to my heart. That evening I studied their happiness between reading a book before sleep.
Jack was 5 years old when Trucker came into our lives. Two years prior marked the death of my Brittany spaniel, Speckles, at the age of 12. Jack was Speckles’ buddy, sleeping in the big dog crate, rubbing on him, sitting beside him on a cedar chest to watch out of a picture window and following him on patrol around our fenced-in backyard. Jack mourned deeply when Speckles died.
I fostered two Brittany spaniels in those two years and had to make sure they didn’t chase Jack, which would traumatize him more. I waited for the right “one” to come my way before adopting again. Trucker, who was cat-tested in a big cat room at the shelter, picked me.
If the mood strikes Trucker to chase my cat, Forest, in a pouncing manner, Forest will meow while turning around to face him. He’ll show Trucker his claws and Trucker backs away. The same isn’t true for Jack. If Trucker chases him, Jack runs away and submits. I gently remind Trucker, “Be careful, he’s soft and squishy.” These words seem to end the pursuit.
Sometimes Trucker will dash after Jack when they are in our fenced-in yard, corralling him back to a window where Jack can hop inside of the house. If I tell Trucker to “Find Jackie” while we are outside, he will search for Jack until he finds him and chase him back to the window.
It has been routine for Trucker to lap fresh water from birdbaths in my garden – birdbaths consisting of a large saucer on top of an upside down flowerpot. Jack started to follow the lead and sometimes I see them both drinking together from one of three saucers in my garden. Because of their love for chest-level water sources to drink from, I also placed a bright red saucer on an upside down flowerpot in my kitchen.
I think that Jack feels protection being with his big doggie brother. I have watched Trucker crawl through an open window at home to sit on a flat porch roof, making sure all is clear before Jack joins him.
When they are on the roof I have seen Jack rubbing on Trucker’s legs and meowing gently for his attention while Trucker watches the neighborhood. Soon they settle in to lie in the sun.
Time and time again I found Jack curled up in Trucker’s big, soft dog bed, leaving Trucker to lie on the floor. In order to accommodate them both, I bought more beds. Altogether we have four now; one in the bedroom, one in the office and two in the living room in front of my reclining chair.
When I sit in my recliner, Trucker and Jack methodically take their places in each bed to sleep.
Both Trucker and Jack love sunbathing and both like to be covered up with fleece blankets. It is now my routine to cover each of them with a blanket every time they settle in to a bed.
Jack also learned that when Trucker gets up from one of his beds, warmth from his body remains. If Jack is nearby when Trucker rises, he slides into the bed to soak up residual body heat.
Never have I seen Trucker or Jack push the other out of a bed to take over. In fact, one day after I brought home a new donut-shaped dog bed, I found Jack in the middle of it and Trucker lying on the carpet beside it.
It struck me one evening to find Jack and Trucker lying in the same body positions on my bed. I took a photograph to share their newfound love of sleeping in sync. This sleep choreography has taken place several times since.
There is one thing that both Jack and Trucker are afraid of – thunderstorms. While Trucker sticks close to me during storms, Jack slinks away to the basement until they pass. Sometimes I’ll walk Trucker down to the basement to see Jack and provide comfort. Trucker will sniff Jack’s face to let him know we love him.
Jack now tolerates Trucker’s big, wet nose sniffing his face and ears. There are times I also catch Trucker cleaning Jack’s bottom like he is Trucker’s puppy.
Their most recent bonding behavior brought tears to my eyes.
One afternoon when I came home from work and prepared food for their din-din time, I looked down at Trucker’s bowl and he and Jack were sitting side by side in front of it, looking up at me. Jack was purring and I swear he was smiling. I now have to give Jack a couple of cat treats to munch on while Trucker eats dinner from his big dog bowl.
Both sporting a vivid black-and-white pattern, I joke that Trucker and Jack are my Holsteins, orcas, chinch bugs or Ho Hos.
I think that Trucker and Jack have helped heal each other and they both bring me joy. I often hug them simultaneously when they are sitting together. I kiss their heads and tell them, “I love my little men.”
Tracy Ahrens is a veteran journalist, author, artist and mom to three rescued cats and one dog. See her web site at www.tracyahrens.weebly.com and add her book, “Raising My Furry Children,” to your collection. Visit www.raisingmyfurrychildren.weebly.com