Turns out my late husband was wrong when he divided the world into cat people and dog people. There are bird people, fish people, people people, all kinds of people. I know, because I heard from each kind after last week's column about some of my feline friends.
Mostly, I heard from dog people. Most of my friends are dog people. So I'm devoting this week's column to canines. Equal time and all that.
It's not that I don't like dogs; I just prefer cats. But I have a soft spot for all domesticated creatures. Except birds. I've only met one bird that I liked and felt comfortable enough to hold. His name is Kuuipo, and he really is a sweetheart, treating me to a serenade each time I visit his humans' house. When Dorothy and Les first acquired this little cockatiel, he would perch on my wrist and tug at my Hawaiian bracelet. But now that he's full grown, he shies away from my touch and will only sing to me from inside his cage. I guess he figured out I'm a cat person.
But I digress. Sorry, dog people. As I was saying, I'm actually quite fond of dogs. I even owned one once; a fluffy, cream-white terrier mix with a tiny stub where her tail should have been. Jingles was my most cherished childhood Christmas present. My parents gave her to me after I pleaded with them for years to let me have a puppy. She was my first real pet, preceded by turtles Tommy and Tubby, Karla the Koi and probably hundreds of guppies. I even had a tilapia named Tillie. Yes, a tilapia.
Oops, got off the dog track again. I'll save the fish stories for another column. Back to Jingles. Besides being sweet-tempered and unbearably adorable, she was an award-winning dog. When she was 2, I entered her in the Maui County Fair's annual Poi Dog Contest. I spent weeks teaching her to jump through a hula hoop, like a circus pup. We'd start with the hoop about 6 inches off the ground, then raise it a little more each week. By the time the big day rolled around, I knew she was sure to win the trophy for Mutt with the Best Trick.
There were at least a dozen other contestants, and I don't even remember what their talents were. Jingles sailed through her neon pink hoop on the warm-up runs: 6 inches, 12 inches, no problem. When I held the hoop 2 feet off the ground (her personal best), she took a running start, stopped abruptly at the point where she should have begun her spring, and calmly walked under the hoop. My dad thought it showed superior intelligence, but the judges were not impressed. We went home with the trophy for Mutt with the Shortest Tail.
In my adolescence, Jingles really was my best friend, though it was my mother who actually took care of her. And Mom is definitely not a dog person, so I owe her a deep debt of gratitude.
I never owned another dog, but like Mom, I became the caretaker by default for one poor pooch whose owner had good intentions but little sense of responsibility. Twenty-five years ago, at the remote beach home where I acquired my cat colony, our landlord became the reluctant owner of a scrawny young pit bull, the runt of his litter. Brah was bowlegged and had the most forlorn eyes I'd ever seen. He was kept chained near the driveway and served as an unenthusiastic watchdog. Eventually, with the landlord's permission, I started walking Brah daily and bathing him occasionally. He seemed to appreciate the attention, but he wasn't very affectionate, nor energetic.
One day, when I was alone at the house, a strange car pulled into the driveway just as I was coming to get Brah for a walk on the beach. The young men in the car were rowdy and loud, and I informed them they were on private property and needed to leave. Brah lay on the ground, seemingly oblivious. The driver stepped up his attitude, and I suddenly felt threatened. At that moment, Brah exploded into action, as if we were of one mind. He sprang at the car, snarling viciously, straining at his chain, snapping at the tires. The boys peeled out of the driveway, and Brah gave them a parting bark before trotting back to me. He licked my face for the first time and gazed at me with those sweet soulful eyes. That was the closest I've ever come to being a dog person.
* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.