Legba, dogs and me

For many years (up until I was in my 30s) I loved both cats and dogs equally. It didn’t matter whether it was house cats, pumas, terriers or wolves. As I grew older, I lived with cats for practical reasons; at that time it was a lot easier to find apartments that allowed cats rather than dogs. Plus cats fit my lifestyle better, as I worked long hours and went to school, and it would have been difficult to find time to walk a dog. But I still loved them.

While in art school, I met Anne and we began dating. Eventually we rented the lower level of a duplex together. Anne was severely allergic to cats at that time (she would immediately start sneezing the moment she stepped foot inside of my apartment), so I made arrangements to find new homes for my cats (which I will NEVER do again, but it is worth noting that if I had not given them up, I would never have investigated “hypoallergenic” cats, learned about Devon Rexes, or later adopted Puck).

In our new dank and musty basement home, we wanted to get a dog. We liked the way Schipperkes looked and impulsively decided to get one. We purchased Lucy from a local breeder; she was the runt of the litter so was a little bit cheaper than her litter mates. At first things went fairly well with our new puppy, but between Anne’s coddling and the dog’s physical/mental health, Lucy grew into a very anxious dog who eventually bit everyone who ever loved her.

Scary little Lucy

Lucy’s awful personality began to wear on me, and eventually I developed a distrust of canines. It wasn’t until the mid 90s, during a visit to Anne’s father’s house, that I began to change my mind. Her father had a Pit Bull/Blue Heeler mix named Bingo. He was a large muscular dog. Anne had met him on a previous visit.

I waited outside the front door while Anne’s father got hold of Bingo, I could hear the loud deep barking of a large dog. When they gave me the signal, I cautiously stepped inside and held out my hand with my fingers curled into my palm for him to sniff. And then suddenly, inexplicably, Bingo decided he LOVED me.

From then on, he whined and went crazy every time we visited and he heard my voice. He seemed to like me a little more than he liked Anne, which almost never happens (Anne is a total dog magnet). Although Bingo could easily bite my hand off, his extreme and unconditional love made me lose any fear of him. I began to enjoy dogs again, although I realized at heart I was and would always be a cat person.

Fun-loving Bingo

After Lucy crossed over several years ago, Anne delayed getting another dog. She had realized she was not the best dog trainer, and living with a problem dog had exhausted her and she needed a break. During Anne’s dog hiatus I was called to Vodou and eventually found out I was a child of Legba. Legba, who loves his dogs. And me being a cat person. (Although it is worth noting that when Legba first spoke to me via my medium friend Tracy Ann, my late cat Puck was with him. And Puck likes Legba a lot. So I have to assume that Legba also likes cats. This incident is described in more detail in Dogs and dreams of water.)

Eventually we did get another dog (and a Schipperke at that—go figure). I wrote about this last September (see A tale of two dogs). I had asked for Legba’s help in finding a nice dog, and he went even further than that and found us a wonderful dog. Stella is polite, gentle and quiet. Her only “flaw” is that she still does not really like the cats, but we are guessing it’s because she was not raised with them. Stella and Anne have a close bond, not surprisingly. Stella and I also have a good relationship, but we seem to have drawn closer over the past few months. This was especially made clear to me last Saturday.

Sweet Stella

Anne and I took Stella for a walk. While Anne waited with Stella in a nearby vacant lot, I walked across an adjoining parking lot to buy some items at a convenience store. When I came out of the store, I was surprised to find Anne holding Stella in the parking lot. Apparently Stella had become upset when she saw me walk away and had pulled so hard on the leash that Anne decided they would wait outside the store for me. This touched my heart, as I’ve never had a dog love me like that other than Bingo.

Keeping in mind that I am a cat person, there was another incident last March that was rather amusing. Tracy Ann and I made plans to go to lunch. She met me at work and had her dog Ursa with her. Ursa is a pretty large, powerful black dog. Tracy was walking her around the parking lot as I came outside, and Ursa proceeded to bark and bark at me. Loudly. She kept circling and barking despite Tracy’s scolding. It’s a canine behavior that Tracy has experienced with captive wolves; they circle you or bump against you, testing you for weaknesses. You have to stand your ground, and it would be a mistake to run or show fear. Tracy suggested I get into the truck first, then she would put Ursa in and we would go to the restaurant. Feeling a bit uneasy, but trusting Tracy, I did as she said. As we started to drive, Ursa’s head appeared over the front seat of the truck and she proceeded to bark some more. Loudly. Right in my ear. Now, I have sensitive hearing and it was not easy for me to grin and bear it.

However, as we got about halfway to the restaurant, something changed. Ursa stopped barking, clambered into the front seat, and then plopped down in my lap. Now, I am not a tall person, and Ursa is as tall or taller than me when she sits upright on my lap. She then proceeded to lick my face until I stroked her and scratched behind her ears.

Tracy was shocked. Apparently Ursa NEVER does this.

A couple of weeks later Tracy and I did the lunch thing again. I thought that this time Ursa would remember me and all would be fine, but when I went out to the parking lot, it was as though we had never met. We went through the entire who-are-you-bark-loudly-bark-in-ear-sit-in-lap-face-lick routine a second time.

At the restaurant, while Ursa waited in the truck, Tracy told me that she had recounted Ursa’s and my interaction to one of her other friends. Her friend had remarked, “Oh he [meaning me] must be a dog person.” Tracy had told her that no, I was a cat person.

I reminded Tracy about the time she saw Legba with Puck, and explained that Legba is a dog person. (Tracy has no knowledge of Vodou other than the little bits I have told her, and had none at all at the time she saw Legba.) So I am left wondering if it is because of Legba that Ursa sometimes likes me. So far neither Tracy nor I have come up with a better explanation.

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5 Responses to “Legba, dogs and me”

  1. Great post!! I get along well with most animals but Doggies are my favorite!!

    • cheshirecatman Says:

      The ironic thing for me is that cats are my favorite. I have a history of living with psycho dogs, so I’m really pleased that Stella came to live with us. She is, in some ways, rather cat-like (at least for a dog) in that she is quiet (rarely barks), clean, and often content just to be with us.

  2. I often wonder if Legba’s roll in my life has anything to do with the two dogs that I own now. I’ve had dogs in my house since I was a kid. I don’t think I’ve ever not had a dog. And I wonder if that’s part of his influence, or if he just really likes to see me with dogs…

    • cheshirecatman Says:

      Possibly both, although I expect Legba would like to see every home with a happy dog in it. I’ve lived with three dogs before Stella, two of them psycho (anxiety issues and biting), so I was a little soured on domestic dogs until recently, although I’ve always loved wild canines, in particular wolves and African wild dogs. If Anne didn’t want a dog so badly, likely we would not have one, but between her and Legba it seems I had little choice, but it’s worked out wonderfully with Stella.

      • I’m glad it’s working out. My youngest Dach is… well, she doesn’t have anxiety issues but she is very aggressive. She’s made it painfully aware (the vet bills prove this) that she believes she is the alpha bitch in this household. I don’t even want to bring her to obedience classes since she is so aggressive with other dogs. Luckily, my elder Dach is still kicking and as sweet as pie.

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