Once upon a time, though truly not so very long ago as all that, a dog and a cat shared the same family. But for all of that they lived apart, and saw each other only through panes of glass.
The cat was an indoor cat, you see, a pampered ball of long white fur who lived in the family's big white house. She had never set foot outdoors. She ate and drank daintily from glass bowls in the kitchen, and slept on soft cushions, in her very own bed in the living room. But her favorite place of all was the back porch. She would sit on the windowsill for hours, looking out into the back yard. She was looking at the dog.
The family dog was a large and friendly brown St. Bernard who lived in the big yard behind the house, in a fine wooden house all his own. He had warm blankets to sleep on, a tin plate for his food, and a nice big bucket that the family's little boy usually kept brimming with fresh water.
The dog had never been inside the big white house. His favorite place of all was at the entrance of his doghouse in the back yard, where he could lie in the shade with his head on his paws and watch the cat on the windowsill.
For although the cat and the dog had very different lives, they each had the same thought: "I wonder what it's like over there?"
One sunny fall day they got a chance to find out, and here is how it happened.
The family was very excited; they had received last-minute tickets to a big show and had to leave the house in a hurry. The mother, father and sister piled into the family's big brown station wagon, but the little boy had one more job to do. He filled the dog's water bucket as he'd already been told to do more than once, and ran back through the house, the back porch's screen door banging behind him. He grabbed his jacket on the fly, and ran out the front door. His mother made him go back and carefully close and lock the front door before his father started the station wagon and they left for the show... but nobody thought to make sure the back door was closed.
The cat and the dog were in their usual places, watching each other through the back porch's windows, when the boy came running through. As the noise of the car leaving the driveway faded, they each looked at the open door, and they each thought the very same thought. Now was their chance!
The cat and the dog passed each other on the back porch steps, hardly looking at each other in their eagerness to trade places.
The dog was very happy to be in the house. He wandered from room to room, sniffing at everything within reach of his nose. The smell of the cat was everywhere, of course, but there were also wonderful food smells, and exciting smells of furniture and shoes to explore. The sunshine streamed in through the windows, making the big house warm and bright, and the dog decided he never wanted to leave.
The cat was also very happy to be out of the house. The yard was full of corners to poke into and exciting smells of living things to smell. She nibbled daintily at the dog's food (she didn't like it much), and spent much time trying to catch a bird or a butterfly. The squirrels that lived in the oak tree in the back yard were fat and tempting, too, but not too fat to escape the pampered cat. The sunshine made the whole yard into a garden, and the cat decided she never wanted to leave.
Neither of them noticed the clouds that were gathering right in the sun's path.
After a long time playing in the sun, the cat found a warm, dry spot near the tree where she could curl up and watch the squirrels (she'd never succeeded in catching one, but you never know...), and she fell asleep.
At about the same time, the dog had tired himself out romping around with the father's leather shoes, and discovered how soft the couch cushions were in the living room. He curled up in a sunbeam to take a nap.
A flash of lightning and crash of thunder woke them both! The sky was dark and the sun had retreated behind the heavy clouds. Fat drops of rain began to fall, turning quickly into a roaring downpour that almost drowned out the thunder that kept crashing every second. Panicked and wet, the cat streaked for the safety of the big white house.
The dog wasn't getting wet, but the dark house was scary and the noises and flashing coming in through the windows were even more so. He was frightened to wake up in an unfamiliar place and went running for the back door.
Just as the dog and cat saw each other, though, a gust of wind blew the back door closed! They were trapped, looking through the door at each other but unable to get through, and neither one was happy at all. The dog howled and howled, and the cat yowled and yowled, but no one came to help them.
It seemed like lifetimes to the dog and cat before the family finally drove back in their station wagon and came tromping through the muddy front yard into the house. The little boy was the first into the house. He quickly figured out what had happened. Unfortunately for him, his mother was right behind him and also quickly figured out what he'd done. He had to clean up all the messes the dog had made all over the house. But first, he opened the back door. The dog raced out to his own house and ran inside, and the cat streaked into her family's house and ran under the sofa, and neither of them came out until it was dinnertime.
Before long, though, everything was back to normal. The cat went back to spending all her time on the windowsill in the back room, looking out over the back yard and the dog. And the dog liked to stay where he could see the cat through the window. They still shared the same thought whenever they looked at each other, but now the thought they shared was different: "How glad I am to be right where I am!"
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©2000, 2001 Alan P. Scott. All rights reserved.
Last updated February 7, 2001.