Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 8, 2013

Mixing things up at my house

Cathie Shaffer
The Independent

ASHLAND — Gracie is the new puppy at my daughter’s household, a Chauhau-dauschund mix that weighs just over six pounds now and won’t get much bigger. She is quite a change from the last dog they had, a black lab mix, but she’s quite sure she’s as big as any other canine in the neighborhood.

My Maggie is quite the opposite. At 40-something pounds, with Sheltie fur that makes her look even bigger, she is afraid of “big dogs” — as in cocker spaniels and some terriers. So when my daughter brought Gracie to visit the other day, I thought we might have a problem.

They’ve met before, of course, which has pretty much come down to one dog wanting to play and the other refusing with a growl or bark. But they were fine with each other on Gracie’s last visit.

The cats, however, about had a nervous breakdown. Bitsy, the smartest of the two half-grown kittens, headed upstairs and stayed there.

Batman, who is as big as Gracie and probably weighs more, was not at all sure about this brown bouncy thing. Gracie was in a mood for excitement. She played hide and seek around the cedar chest that doubles as a coffee table in the living room and jumped and barked to get Batman to engage in play, all to no avail.

Batman was fascinated but afraid. Bouncy and barky is something new and while she is curious, she also tends to err on the side of caution.

Not so with Tabby, my part-Siamese grown feline. Tabby comfortably believes that she rules the world and everything in it. If we underlings fail to obey, she knows a swipe of the claws or a bite on the ankle of her unsuspecting victim gets the message across.

She sat beneath the rocking chair in the living room watching as Gracie jumped, hopped and made us laugh. Unlike the wide-eyed Batman, who eventually did the scared stretch and hissed at the poor little dog, she didn’t seem fazed by Gracie at all. If anything, she seemed amused — or at least as amused as Tabby lets herself become.

After Batman retreated to a place of safety, Gracie began checking out the humans. She particularly doted on my son, who had come for Sunday dinner and was eating on the couch.

“Down, Gracie!” has yet to be effective, given her tender puppy age, but enough times of being pushed off onto the floor convinced her to find entertainment elsewhere.

I’m not sure Gracie knew Tabby was under the chair when she headed that way. She had spotted a foam curler that one of the cats had found some where and despite my daughter’s orders to leave it alone, kept trying to claim it for her own.

That process brought her within a whisker of Tabby, who maintained her stony presence. But once Gracie noticed the big cat, she made up her mind that she had a playmate.

Tabby, who is more of a spectator than a participant, found Gracie’s antics amusing. Not, of course, as much as we did; the room filled with laughter as the tiny dog practically begged for Tabby to notice her.

And then Gracie made her big mistake. She bounced into Tabby’s personal space.

As the Queen of Everything, Tabby did not take it well. But one serious hiss took care of the situation. Gracie retreated; Tabby offered as close to a Cheshire Cat grin as I’ve ever seen.

And I’m pretty sure Batman had found a pen and was taking notes.

CATHIE SHAFFER can be reached at cathieshaffer@zoominternet.net