Wading into the Debate

It’s controversial, and some of you are going to be mad, but at the risk of offending sensibilities I feel compelled to take a stand on that age-old debate: dogs or cats?

Now, I love them both—don’t get me wrong—but when it comes to storytelling, dogs make worthier subjects. Forgive me cat lovers. This isn’t to say that cats aren’t fascinating in real life. Cats are softer, and I might even argue that kittens are cuter than puppies. But on the page, dogs rule.

Readers, come on, you’re with me, right? All kids love stories about dogs like Lassie, and we never really outgrow our affection for dogs as characters. Consider classic novels like Call of the Wild, by Jack London, and contemporary bestsellers like Suspect, by Robert Crais. Who didn’t love Marley and Me? And what about The Art of Racing in the Rain?

Can you imagine those stories with cats instead of dogs? No, I thought not.

The truth is that we can relate to dogs more, partly because they convey emotion in ways that cats cannot. Dogs smile. You know it’s true. Sure, some of you will accuse me of anthropomorphizing, but who hasn’t looked into a dog’s eyes and seen joy, or compassion, or pain?

The companionship of a dog has been shown to improve the health of humans and other animals. Even cats—even big cats, like cheetahs—can benefit from the company of a dog. But perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of our canine friends—along with their loyalty, which I’ll get to in a minute—is their heroism.

We never tire of reading news articles about courageous dogs, especially those who fight to defend small children. Recently, there was a story about a dog that took on an alligator to protect its master. Sacrifice, courage, and heroism reside at the heart of great storytelling.

We all respect trained, smart dogs. (Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about guard dogs and bomb-sniffing dogs. I sure wish that every airport, every nightclub, every public place now had a fulltime K-9 patrol.)

The statue of he famously loyal dog named Hachiko.

The statue of he famously loyal dog named Hachiko.

The loyalty of one dog, an Akita named Hachiko, has inspired movies in both Japanese and in English. Hachiko used to meet his master at a Tokyo train station at the same time every day. Then one day his master died at work and didn’t return, but Hachiko still waited at the station every day, for nine years, until the day he died. Today, a statue of the big Akita is a Tokyo landmark. If you got to Shibuya Station, just ask for the Hachiko exit, and you’ll find people gathered around the statue of Hachiko as a rendezvous point. Hachiko’s loyalty has inspired generations.

Before signing off, I’d like to thank all of you who have adopted dogs or cats, and also those who have donated to any and all charities that protect and care for animals. I hope you don’t mind if I suggest a couple more.

One group is Hero Dogs, which provides service dogs for veterans. Another is American Cold Nose Patriots, a wonderful group that provides protective gear such as Kevlar vests for military K9s.

I’ve never heard of any such group for cats… But still, cats are much better piano players.

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Carla Norton is a novelist, journalist, and true crime writer. Her debut fiction, The Edge of Normal, was a Thriller Award finalist and a Royal Palm Literary Award winner. The sequel, What Doesn’t Kill Her (titled Hunted overseas), was released last summer. Her true crime books include Disturbed Groundabout a notorious female serial killer, and Perfect Victim, which was put on the reading list for the FBI Behavioral Sciences Unit and became a #1 New York Times bestseller. For more, visit CarlaNorton.com and find her on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter.