The barn was crowded that evening. All the dogs bar the young and infirm had responded to the call for the council meeting. It was a momentous occasion and they all knew it. Just one thing on the agenda and it had been a long time coming.
The Chief Hound, in his role as Chairdog, lumbered up to the central barking spot and began his address:
“You all know why we are here tonight. There has been enough speculation and gossip going on through the alleyways and over kitchen howls. Now it is time to make decisions and sort out, once and for all, the growing problem of the cats.”
Instantly there was loud murmurings from the pack; yaps and barks intermingling with threatening growls. The Chief Hound continued:
“We are all aware that the number of cats in the area have rapidly increased over the last few years and so have the levels of violent incidents. We cannot tolerate this takeover as a society any longer.”
“Hear, hear, Mr Chairdog!” said one of the elder dogs, a venerable and respected former alpha male. “I have always maintained that the cats are just not the kind of creatures we want in our towns, villages and farms in this area. It is time they were removed or, if they won’t go peaceably…” he waited a second for effect, “…destroyed.”
This remark brought a cacophony of barks from all around the barn, so much so that the Chief Hound had to bring the pack to order and indicate speakers one by one. Many points were raised:
- Cats were increasing to such an extent that dogs couldn’t even go for a walk in peace any longer without having their peaceful daily business ruined by the over-excitement of seeing a cat.
- The number of injuries to noses had multiplied beyond all proportions as more cats were standing up to the rights of dogs to attack them and using ‘vicious and barbarian’ claws to savage snouts.
- Cats had disgusting customs such as bringing home dead mice and birds.
- Cats gave nothing of value to society. Dogs had a long and proud tradition of being there for their masters when they got home and making them feel loved and needed. By contrast, Cats made use of their masters and dismissed them with a snobbery and disrespect to both humans and the clear natural order of things.
- Dogs were victims of prejudice by suffering the ignominy of having their faeces picked up by masters on walks and having to wear leads, whereas cats could come and go as they pleased and never had to clear up after themselves.
- Worst of all, there were increasing thefts of hens, ducks and other small farm animals causing great distress to farmers and the dogs who worked under them. It was the increase of these incidents that had turned age-old murmurings of discontent into barks of outrage.
The lone voice against these complaints came from one elderly dog who, it must be said, was generally considered a wise old soul and one that many of the young canines came to for advice. For this reason alone he was given the floor to speak. This Wise Old Dog said:
“Gentle hounds and lady bitches, I can understand much of what you complain but I have been around a long time and experienced many things with my nose and ears.
Cats have been our neighbours for many centuries and have never caused us problems in the past. Yes, they may be different to us but many of us here today live with a cat or two in our own homes and have never had conflict with them. For generations we have lived in peace – why would the cats have changed so much all of a sudden? Think about it! It doesn’t make sense.
Both species do things differently. Cats prowl at night; dogs sleep. Cats roam but keep themselves clean; dogs stay mostly on leads and always under command but get themselves dirty and need to be bathed. Cats show affection differently to us but if the humans did not find them pleasing then they would not keep them. Not every human likes an animal to cling to their heel, put muddy paws on their laps and pant drool all over their hands.
It has always been the time-honoured tradition that dogs will chase cats and cats, if they can’t skip up a tree in time, will use their claws for defence. If our own youth are simply more lazy and far too well-pampered to avoid a good swipe on the snout then more fool them! This is nothing new. Merely the new generation not knowing how easy they have it these days.
Chickens and ducks have indeed been stolen but we’re ignoring the fact that foxes have always done this and always will. Some of the increase is indeed down to cats, but not the domestic ones we’ve lived with for so long.
In fact, the real issue is that stray wild cats have moved into our area in recent years. Not only do they attack our farms but they have often wounded or even killed our own cats. They are bigger, more aggressive and do not live by the time-honoured rules of society. These are our true enemy and one that all of us – man, dog and cat together – should face in unity to drive them out. Brothers! I implore you – do not seek an easy way out to blame innocent creatures just as beloved by humans as ourselves when the true perpetrators won’t be touched at all.”
The words of the Wise Old Dog quieted the pack for a moment as they considered his words but it wasn’t long before the louder, larger and stronger dogs managed to rouse them all back into a murderous frenzy.
They argued that a cat is a cat is a cat. Wild or not, cats were all the same and they would never change. Cats may have lived peacefully enough in the past but they had no place in today’s modern society. They simply weren’t fit, as a species, to serve their masters properly. The very few who lived in homes peacefully side by side with dogs were exceptions to the rule; not the norm. It was not in the nature of a cat to be good.
They downplayed the role of foxes in the thefts of livestock and instead emphasised the gruesome nature of their deaths. When a fox stole and ate a hen it would bite its neck and kill it quickly. But a cat loves to play with its food. There was evidence of hens torn apart piece by piece before they died. This was barbaric and the acts degraded animal kind. And don’t all cats play with their food this way? Sure evidence that no cat was fit to live a moment longer and must be driven from their homes or killed swiftly and with mercy as is the right and proper canine way to do things.
And so a vote was taken and the decision made: the cats must go. War was declared and those dogs who had lived in peace with cats, even knowing some as friends, left the barn with murder in their hearts and revenge on their minds. They were doing this to restore the honour of their masters and would surely be rewarded in time. It was the right thing to do. Only the Wise Old Dog remained and sat, forlornly, by himself shaking his head. He was too old to follow the pack and had no desire to join them.
From the top of the barn watched a large wild cat. He peered from the roof through a crack in the slats and had listened to every word of the council. He grinned to himself and when the dogs left he sat there preening himself with pride and pleasure. It was all going so well. The plan was working perfectly.
Writer and journalist D K Powell is the author of the bestselling collection of literary short stories “The Old Man on the Beach“. His first book, ‘Sonali’ is a photo-memoir journal of life in Bangladesh and has been highly praised by the Bangladeshi diaspora worldwide. Students learning the Bengali language have also valued the English/Bengali translations on every page.
Both ‘The Old Man on the Beach’ and ‘Sonali’ are available on Amazon for kindle and paperback. Published by Shopno Sriti Media.
D K Powell is available to speak at events (see his TEDx talk here) and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org