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new friends, a cat and a dog


NEW FRIENDS
by TERESA MASK

My husband already had a great girl in his life when we started dating.

And I had a guy I was head-over-heels for.

But we were determined to make it work.

We introduced them once the two of us were engaged . . . and whoever said dogs and cats can't eventually become friends, obviously never met Pica and Brody.

The night they were to meet, I loaded Brody - my striking year-old brown, black and white tabby - in the car and headed to Ron's apartment.

After being reassured that Pica, a playful 6-year-old black Lab mix, wouldn't mistake my Brody for a rabbit she'd chase and bite, I opened the carrier.

When I adopted Brody, he came with a note that read: "Loves dripping water. Hates dogs."

Still, I was not prepared for the loud hiss that came from his tiny mouth after seeing his future roommate. Brody's back arched high and hair literally shot out from his body.

As I scooped him up, his limbs flailing, I had serious doubts whether our four-legged friends would hit it off as well as the two of us had.

So the research began.

Some people said it took years - years we didn't exactly have - for their animals to begin tolerating each other. Others were resigned to the fact that their pets would never happily coexist. There had to be a better way.

A plan

A quick online search indicated that throwing them together as we did was a major no-no.

But it also gave me the tools I needed to come up with our 3-week merger plan.

I was so confident it would work that Ron and I went ahead and got married.

When Ron and Pica moved in with Brody and me, we put our plan into action. And it worked - so well that our friends constantly comment on how amazed they are that our furry friends get along.

We used what we called the scent, sight and touch approach.

Rather than throw them together, we first let them get used to the smell of the other without allowing a face-to-face encounter. During Week 2, the pets finally were allowed in the same room together. And in the last week, they were monitored as Brody was allowed to approach Pica, who was on a short leash.

Alone at last

The first time we left the animals alone together I was a bit nervous that one of them would get hurt. But we returned and everybody was in one piece.

We've had just one scare since blending our family: Pica had major surgery after swallowing one of Brody's small toys.

Other than that, things have been smooth. They take turns sleeping in the other's bed, and Pica has taught Brody that if he sits at our feet during mealtime, he might be lucky enough to get a scrap.

Three years after their first encounter, Brody, on occasion will give Pica a "pat, pat, pat" on the head when he wants to play. And while there is no hissing and no protruding claws, it's annoying enough to elicit a small growl from Pica.

In moments of tenderness, Brody rubs against Pica and she'll lick his ears.
They certainly do more than tolerate each other. I'd venture to say they are buddies . . . passing the time together when their owners are putting in long hours at work.
Mission accomplished.

Now we have a new challenge: a baby, due this fall. So it's back to the books to ensure that Pica and Brody accept our new family member as quickly and easily as they did each other.

TERESA'S TIPS

•  Put away cat toys. Dogs can easily swallow them.

•  Put cat food on a shelf, where the cat has access, but not the dog. Ingredients in the food can be harmful to canines.

•  Dogs like the taste of cat litter, but it is not good for them. Make sure the dog cannot access the litter. Keep it in the basement or other place she can't enter.

•  Give all your animals individual attention and exercise daily.

•  Allow your pets to see you playing with the other, and if you can . . . try to get them to play together.

•  Scold an animal if it appears he is trying to harm the other.


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