Of Cats and Dogs

Some people divide the world into two groups: cat people and dog people. I think that the distinction is too stark. I know people who love both dogs and cats. I also know of people who don’t like either. In The Reivers, William Faulkner, without expressly stating a personal preference, rated cats as more intelligent than dogs (though less intelligent than rats and mules.)

Cats, he explains, are total parasites. They do whatever they want and cannot be bothered to lend a hand. They contribute nothing to your household by way of work. They don’t help with the chores. They don’t sweep the house or bring home groceries. (Although in my experience, cats will bring home a mouse or mole occasionally, which certainly gives the appearance of attempting to chip in.) Still, “the cat lives with you, is completely dependent on you for food and shelter but lifts no paw for you and loves you not.”

Although many dog breeds were selected for labor, the vast majority of dogs are every bit the parasite that cats are. They too are totally dependent for food and shelter. The difference is that they don’t have the good sense to resent you for it. For your approval, they will perform all manner of demeaning “tricks”. As Faulkner says, “[a dog] will debase and violate his own dignity for your amusement; he fawns in return for a kick, he will give his life for you in battle and grieve himself to starvation over your bones.”

Nobody can ever accuse a cat of being so foolish as to actually care what his owner thinks.

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Beer of the Week: Pegas New Zealand IPA – This local brew from Brno, Czech Republic is pretty darn good. As far as I can tell, it is an American-style IPA brewed with New Zealand hops, and plenty of them. The alcohol content is a bit lower than most American IPAs at 5%, but the flavor is dead on. This golden beer has a nice, thick head and a very strong aroma of hops. The bitter hops dominate the flavor as well, but there is some good bready malt in the finish to round out the taste. With the quality of this beer, I would not be surprised if Pegas expands beyond Brno soon.

Reading for the Week: The Reivers by William Faulkner – During this comedic novella, the narrator goes on a few interesting digressions about the history of his part of Mississippi and on the nature of animals. In this excerpt, he ranks animals based on intelligence and usefulness and explains why he holds mules in such high regard.

Question for the week: Is Faulkner’s ranking of animals based on intelligence (rat, mule, cat, dog) the reverse order of how these animals would rank in terms of companionship? If so, what about the inclusion of the horse as the least intelligent?

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One Comment on “Of Cats and Dogs”

  1. In my humble opinion, it goes thusly:
    1) Dog
    [large gap]
    2) mule
    3) cat
    4) rat

    We dogs are without question the most useful and the most companionable. I would take issue with Mr. William Faulkner’s assessment of our intelligence.
    Mules are useful. I cannot speak to their intelligence, as I have never met a mule.
    I do not understand the appeal of cats, but while they may not do much work, they might at least keep you warm if they are willing to sit on your lap.
    Rats, though intelligent, can be companions. But they don’t really provide any help around the house.

    Sincerely,

    Albert the Dog


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