Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Adult dogs raising kittens (It's true! It's true!)

Seamus the Boston terrier and his tiny kitten
Twice during his all-too-short life, I brought home small, ill kittens and Seamus helped me raise them. Seamus was not particularly good with cats in general. He liked to chase Eamon and Maggie, lie on top of them until they shrieked, and chew on their ears. But something about the kittens brought out his softer side.

Perhaps their extremely small size helped him realize that they weren't adults and weren't to be treated as such. Or perhaps the kittens themselves initiated the change.

Very small, weak kittens don't seem fearful. They trundle toward anything that is warm or smells like food. Seamus was always warm, and since his jaw cancer left him with less-than-perfect table manners, he often smelled like food. Seamus allowed these small, weak kittens to sleep with him, to nurse on him, and to use his feet and ears as toys. He never groomed them or disciplined them. He acted more like a dog jungle gym.

I would chalk this up to the inherent goodness of Seamus, but the same thing happened when I brought home blind little Lucy and she met Liam. Again, she slept with him, nursed on him, and played with his tail.  Never once did he harm her.

I would never suggest that everyone bring home small kittens to their resident dogs, especially if you're unsure of how your dogs will react. But there is something so charming, so tender, about watching your dog help the smallest, most helpless, of creatures get well and learn to get along in the world.

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