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  Volume No. 17 Issue No. 2 February 2020  

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Bill Radford

  Unlikely companions
  By Bill Radford

   Longtime local journalist Bill Radford and his wife, Margaret, live on 5 acres in the Falcon area with chickens, rabbits, dogs, cats, two noisy parrots, goats and two horses. Contact Bill at billradford3@gmail.com.

   So much for fighting like cats and dogs.
   
   Blue, our not-so-cleverly-named blue heeler, is a dog with issues. Despite several rounds and types of training, he still can't be trusted around strangers; he's too eager to bite, or at least nip at them. While it is a natural behavior for a blue heeler, it is still a problem.
   
   As explained on dogster.com: "Blue heelers may 'herd' family members or nip lightly at heels if they want something. They don't bark too much, but they are still very protective of the home. Blue heelers can be cautious and wary — qualities that make them excellent guard dogs."
   
   There is a thin line between wary and fearful, though. And whether it is fear or that instinct to protect, he takes forever to warm up to new people. Our daughter was home for an extended stay over the holidays; and, even by the end, we couldn't trust him enough for them to engage freely unless he had a muzzle on. Blue also is not likely to make friends with new dogs; thus, he can't be trusted at the dog park, although we are able to keep him under control around other dogs when he is in a training environment.
   
   And Blue has bonded with our two Boston terriers. When we got him from the Humane Society a year or so ago, he was a puppy and no bigger than the Bostons; now he is a giant compared to them. However, Abby, our Boston-boxer mix, clearly remains in charge. It is always amusing to see Abby, who weighs 25 pounds at most, correct the 70-pound-plus Blue as he throws himself on his back to beg for forgiveness for whatever transgression Abby has determined.
   
   Blue also is good around cats. He and our younger cat, Babu, who has yet to outgrow the kitten stage, like to wrestle, although we have to monitor to make sure the horseplay (dog and cat play?) doesn't get too rough.
   
   But his best friend, his true bud, is the appropriately named Buddy-Bud.
   
   Buddy-Bud is from the feral cat colony that our across-the-street neighbor, Shirley, maintains. (She feeds them, provides outdoor housing and gets them all spayed or neutered with the help of the nonprofit Wild Blue Cats.) Like many of Shirley's cats, he just showed up at her place one day. He's not really feral, though; he is willing to be petted and enjoys short stays in Shirley's house, mostly to dine. But for the most part, he is outside –- and more often than not, you'll find him in our barn or yard.
   
   And if Blue is outside, it is practically guaranteed that Buddy-Bud will show up at his side at some point. When Margaret and I are at work, Blue will typically spend his days outside in his pen. (And before you think how terrible it is that he's stuck out in a pen, I'll point out that it is 32 feet long and 8 feet wide, with walls to protect him from the wind, an igloo-type doghouse, a heated bed and plenty of toys; when we go outside, he'll often run to his pen as if to say, "OK, I'm ready for my day.")
   
   Blue has "horse TV" –- that is, horses to watch out in the pasture. And he is rarely alone. If Buddy-Bud isn't already there near the pen waiting for Blue to arrive in the morning, you can count on him to wander in before long. It was amazing the first time we saw Buddy-Bud climb the 6-foot-tall dog pen to hop inside and hang out with Blue; now it is like, "OK, Buddy-Bud's here to play."
   
   There's also an unnamed orange kitty that hangs out at our place at times and will visit with Blue; that kitty, though, seems more interested in Blue's heated dog bed. It is Blue himself that seems to be the attraction for Buddy-Bud; we've also seen him hop the fence when Blue is out in our side yard and start rubbing against him. They've also been known to rest together on the deck in the side yard and monitor the world around them.
   
   Blue can't necessarily be trusted with all cats, however. There is yet another cat, a longhaired gray kitty, that has been lounging in our barn a lot lately, and Blue likes to chase him away. We've seen Bubby-Bud and this new cat fighting, though, so it is possible Buddy-Bud has been badmouthing the new kitty to Blue.
  
Buddy-Bud, the black cat, is best friends with Blue. Buddy-Bud will hop the fence when Blue is out in his side yard area. Photo by Bill Radford
 
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