Dogs are “HE” and Cats are “SHE.” Or, are they?


I’ve recently found myself in conversations with other writers about male vs. female wording in writing. We’ve discussed what dialogue or point of view narrative sounds male and what sounds female.

I have a female “voice,” and so my male characters suffer with gender identity. I’m working on it. I’m also a little fussed by it because part of me doesn’t want to profile males or females that way. I think women can think in clipped, unemotional, factual ways. I believe men can be emotional, feeling, and long winded. I could look up poems by Longfellow and Frost or Nebraska’s own Kooser, and it would point out nicely how emotional a fellow can be.

kooser11But I’d only prove myself wrong. Read Ted Kooser’s Tattoo. See if this doesn’t make the point for men writing like men even when they write with feeling and emotion.

I got thinking this morning about cats and dogs. I do this every day because they surround me. I have many theories about how these two species and their personalities, quirks, and little lives can so often be compared to our own.


I’m one of those people who have always identified cats as female and dogs as male. But, upon deeper thought this morning over my bowl of cereal, I decided for lo these many years, I’ve been wrong.

You see, I think most men seem to be born with some kind of inborn confidence and inner respect for themselves. They lean to the understanding they must be right. They believe they can solve the issue at hand (that they have the ability). Even when they end up being wrong, they don’t beat themselves up about it. They shrug it off. Say it probably wasn’t their fault. Fault doesn’t seem to be a part of their DNA.

I don’t think this is the case with most women. We doubt ourselves. Constantly. It’s as though we’re born apologizing. We assume we have a lot to learn, and we mix emotions in with every issue, complicating things. Fault is innate. Thanks a lot, Eve.

Of course, this is just my humble opinion and could be right or wrong and only applies to some and not all… (Not something a man would say, I suspect.) I’ll just go ahead and take this moment to apologize. (I’m guessing you expected me to say those things, but I could be wrong. Sorry again.)

This is my new take on the issue of cats and dogs and what gender pronouns I should be giving them.

Cats are actually far more like men than dogs. Cats don’t seem to have guilt or remorse. You can’t shame a cat. I can shake my finger and speak sternly to my cats when they knock over a glass of water or dump a potted plant on the floor or dismantle an entire Christmas tree. All they do as I scold them is lay on the floor with a smug expression as they twitch their tail. They then raise a leg and lick their private parts in comment… “Yeah, Lady. This is what I think about what you’re sayin’.”

If a dog made a mess, he’d (note the gender pronoun I chose there?) be hiding under the table with the most regretful expression. All you would have to say is, “Did you do this?” I know my dog would avert his eyes in humiliation. He’d probably hide under the bed all day just thinking about what he’d done.

So, from now on when choosing a pronoun to describe cats and dogs, cats will be “he” and dogs will be “she.” I will try to think more like a cat when I’m writing my male characters. Or I could just ask my husband, “What would you say in this situation?” That would work, too.


A Dream Too Special to Ignore

Last night I had a dream so real and comforting, I have no choice but to wonder if it wasn’t a sign or a truth of some kind. Something the universe wants me to pay attention to.

I’m not sure I did it justice, but the scene and feeling the dream left me with was so incredibly powerful, I jotted it out this morning. I want this image, this idea, saved forever.

Snow On The Leaves 11192010I wake in a pile of cold wet autumn leaves. As I look around, I have a sense of pain and isolation. Thrown here like trash, is what my heart remembers. Left like the core of an apple—the heart of me still strong, yet my flesh battered to exhaustion.

Plucking away the damp leaves pasted to my skin, I force myself to rise, weary, but sensing I must go. Something pushes me on.

Snow falls lightly from the gray sky, and winding around a distant corner in one direction, long and straight in the other, an open road is before me. Both choices are a mystery as to their destination.

Which way should I go?

I know choosing one path will take me forward and the other will take me back. Something in me tells me which way is which. I choose forward and go toward the curve—somewhere I’m sure I’ve never been.

Each step leaves a footprint, black in the dusting of newly fallen snow. When I check behind me, I see the trail of steps I’ve taken disappearing, covered by flakes now falling steadily. Life goes on as though my paces didn’t matter. It occurs to me that maybe the destination is what has always been most important. 

But, I am not cold to the bone. If anything, I become more renewed with each step. The moisture in the air refreshes me like a drink of cool water, and the sight of purest white on evergreen cleanses me—erases the memories of being discarded and alone.

The walk is long, but I finally approach the bend in the road. I’m about to see my destination. 

A sparkle of music touches my ears. A rhythmic beat. Soulful voices. Quiet, but growing as I go forward. Not just one voice, but three, do I distinguish. I recognize the sound of a guitar and piano. The strings and keys played by fingers that know the tune like an old friend.

The song grows strong and true in its honesty. It’s a genuine greeting, a welcome made for me. The music hugs me and holds me so tight and so lovingly, my heart swells and my throat tightens. This is a love so true and pure, so consuming and deep, it warms me more than any sunshine.

I stop and stand in the path, big round flakes falling around me, and I bask in complete acceptance.

It takes my breath away.

It becomes the breath I take.

It’s so much more than air.


The snow creates a dense fog, but then the scene opens before me—pine trees heavy laden with wet pillows of snow on each bough. A small house sits in the clearing, abandoned and old, weathered, but still standing strong.

On the front porch, is a small band. An old man playing guitar, a girl in a woolen red coat, clapping her hands and singing with all her might, and a young man at an old upright piano, playing with big hands and long knowing fingers, his voice sure and loud. Conviction and truth belt out in his warm tenor and his bluesy melody grabs my mind and holds me in a trance as I gaze through the big wet flakes.

I don’t know what he’s singing, but I believe every word without a doubt. It’s Gospel. It’s the only tune, the only lyrics I’ll ever need again, and I know this is where I want to be—in this wood, at this place, on this road, where I can hear this powerful song of truth.

The young girl’s face shines, and the old man nods, wise and knowing. The younger man beams with joy as he sings the words the old man surely taught him. These three exist forever here, welcoming anyone who can feel the song deeply in their heart.

I am home.