From Barking to Bonding

By Sallie Boyles

Cats and dogs are natural foes, right?

Why, then, would felines and canines that have never met remain calm and quiet—no hissing or barking—upon being gathered up and placed in a shared, confined space by some human stranger? 

If you’re thinking of Noah’s Ark, you’re on the right track. 

Over recent years, in the aftermath of natural disasters, numerous photos and videos have documented cats, dogs, and other species as people rescued them. Peaceful interactions, even snuggling for comfort, were not uncommon among animals as they were placed in vehicles for safe transport and given shelter in barns and homes.

Notably, when Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas in 2019, one woman received international press by opening her home to 97 stray and abandoned dogs. In her remarkable account, she said they were all behaving well together. Under normal circumstances, many of them would have been growling, snarling, and barking. In this situation, instead of protecting themselves in aggressive or defensive ways, survival instincts must have triggered their cooperative response. They further seemed rewarded by a sense of security from being together.

Nothing reprioritizes a living creature’s hierarchy of needs like a do-or-die emergency! 

Whether a matter of survival, compassion, or both, humans also adjust their perspectives and behaviors during and after tragic happenings. For all the reasons they fight like cats and dogs over seemingly insurmountable issues, many cease their arguments in times of trouble. Dire conditions that require immediate action force them to choose between battling until there’s no tomorrow or uniting to see the light of dawn. Upon giving or receiving food, shelter, medical assistance, and/or emotional support, certain individuals and groups no longer find merit in arguing. Others apply the insights they’ve gained from managing and overcoming adversity together to address their differences productively. 

We often hear expressions like “the world has come together” and “people have united” over a crisis. While heartwarming, such acts and expressions of kindness and camaraderie are part of our DNA to ensure we continue as a species. 

Perhaps we shouldn’t wait for dark clouds to form as our cue to quit snarling and start making peace. With that in mind, standing by until some prominent figure or person of influence leads us by the nose—e.g., defines the terms by which we unify—might not end well either.

My best to you,

Sallie W. Boyles, a.k.a. Write Lady

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