Clippings: Dog is sending mixed signals to cat

I live in a house divided. It is kind of an “Upstairs/Downstairs” thing. You remember that classic television show from the 1970s? Servants downstairs, wealthy ruling class upstairs. For the record I do not have a butler and a cook living in my basement (though I am not opposed to the idea). Nor am I slaving away cooking and cleaning for a wealthy family living in my upstairs bedrooms (though I do slave away for two teenage girls who live upstairs). No, the division in my house is not one of class, it is one of species. Instead of “Upstairs/Downstairs,” think “Feline/Canine.”
It all started almost exactly five years ago when I started dating Nikki. It was kind of a “Brady Bunch” thing. Nikki was a lovely lady who was bringing up two very lovely cats. I was busy with one dog of my own. We, and the four kids between us, knew that this group must somehow form a family. When we married in 2011 and moved in together we thought the toughest challenge would be navigating all of our new roles as either step-parents or step-siblings. Turned out it was the animals that got the fur flying, and it started even before they ever met.
My dog, Cosmo, a white Highland terrier, is very attached to me and when introduced to Nikki he seemed a little put out. He would bark at us whenever we got too close and he took to dragging his bed around the house trying to draw attention to himself whenever Nikki was around. One of Nikki’s cats, Marius, liked me right away, but Cosette avoided me at all costs. The cats were older, fragile, quiet and refined. The dog was wild, puppy-like and seemed content to try to fulfill his destiny of chasing smaller, furry animals into their holes and then ripping them to bits.
We came up with a very sound plan. We put Cosmo in the kennel for the first couple of days after the cats moved in. Then we put the cats upstairs with a gate at the top of the stairwell and returned Cosmo to the house, confined to the first floor. Every couple of days we would bring Cosmo upstairs to get used to the cats. He got used to them all right. He got used to chasing them down the hall and under beds. He got used to the taste of the backs of their necks, which he liked to bite into. He got used to the mouthful of fur he would end up with by nipping at their tails. And he got used to staring them down as they cowered behind furniture, puffed up in terror.
Over time Nikki and I stopped letting Cosmo upstairs. We got used to the idea that there would be no peace between the species. No accord could be reached. No deal struck. No offering could calm Cosmo’s savage heart. We were resigned to an “Upstairs/Downstairs” existence.
We lost Marius a couple of years ago (no, not to Cosmo’s abuses) and so now it is just Cosmo and Cosette. She is content to hang out upstairs. She sleeps on my and Nikki’s bed, gets some sunshine in my son’s old room, watches the world from an accessible window, and lets out a somber howl now and then when she is lonely. Sometimes, when Cosmo is out of the house, Nikki will bring Cosette downstairs, but she always scampers immediately back upstairs when she is set down. She knows that Cosmo prowls the downstairs keeping watch over his domain.
The interesting thing, the thing that gives me hope, is that the gate at the top of the stairs is not attached to anything. It just rests against the opening, and occasionally Cosmo will follow someone up the stairs, push the gate over and rush into our bedroom for some good, healthy barking at Cosette. What is interesting is that he never pushes over the gate when he and Cosette are alone in the house. He could, but he doesn’t. He only runs in to see her when supervised.
I think Cosmo is nervous around Cosette. Nervous because he doesn’t know how to handle the strange stirrings he feels whenever he is around her. Is it his primal instincts kicking in? Or is it something else? Is he, perhaps, in love? I think so. He doesn’t want to spend his days barking at passing runners and delivery trucks anymore. He is ready to settle down. He just wants to be with his one and only, Cosette. If only he could tell her. If only he could stop going crazy, like a middle schooler, every time he sees her. He wants so badly to keep his cool. He keeps trying to say “I love you, my dearest Cosette.” But all that comes out is “BARK, BARK, BARK!” It isn’t easy being a dog when your heart is set on a cat.

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