I’m a dog person. I always vote for the dogs during Pet Wars on public radio. They’re man’s best friend and obviously better companions.

So what am I doing with a cat?

I adopted Rudy, a purebred red Dachshund, from the Bitter Root Humane Society eight years ago. He was 7 at the time, but certainly in his prime. He peed all over my carpets for a couple of years, marking every inch of his new territory. But he is the sweetest dog I’ve ever known, and I don’t know how I could live without him.

Sadly, Rudy is getting on in age. He’s had to have most his lower teeth removed, and I know he’s almost blind.

People have said I should get a puppy, that a puppy would be playful and keep Rudy young. But I don’t want him to feel he has to compete for my affection. I don’t want him to feel displaced.

My son knows we are a team; he has promised to take care of Rudy if anything happens to me. He is worried about how I will do if anything happens to Rudy. He and his girlfriend have a cat, “Tiny,” whom they adopted in California. Tiny is a “tortie” and a holy terror. They suggested I get a cat.

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Sometimes you simply find yourself compelled to do things, and one day last January I found myself driving down Broadway searching for AniMeals, Missoula’s no-kill cat adoption center. The place was obviously once a warehouse, with concrete floors and no windows or outdoor access. I announced to the friendly staff member who greeted me, “I want a cat for my dog.”

I was encouraged to go in and get to know the cats, but the woman I spoke to already had picked out one for me, a little 8-month-old tiger kitty found in the Walmart parking lot. They called her “Lizzie Ann.” She seemed very gentle and sat on my lap and purred. Making a decision seemed impossible, so I left and said I’d have to think about it.

A couple days later, I found myself again involuntarily heading back to AniMeals. “I’ve saved ‘Lizzie Ann’ for you,” the same greeter said. The little grey-striped kitty with the distinctive “M” on her forehead was adorable. The woman must have known that kitty was the one for Rudy. I left in a daze and found myself on a buying spree, getting cat food, a litter box and toys. The next day I was back at AniMeals, walking out the door with a newly christened “LillyBelle” in a borrowed carrying cage.

Fast forward five months, LillyBelle and Rudy are best buds. “LBelle” sleeps on top of the bed, while Rudy burrows underneath. In the morning, the first thing they do is touch noses and run madcap down the stairs. They have their own chair and nap together in the sun. LillyBelle will reach out with her paw and touch Rudy to start playing.

Otherwise, the kingdom is peaceful. LillyBelle is easy to care for. She spends her days looking out the windows, yearning to go outside, but I’m not convinced that’s safe. She does like to occasionally scratch the arm of the couch, but I think that’s to get my attention. I’ll just put her in the garage for a time out, which she enjoys.

So now that I am retired, I have discovered I am also a cat person. It is never too late to discover something new and wonderful or to have found new love in your heart.

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Virginia Braun of Missoula is a long-time dog lover, more recent cat-lover, and committed supporter of AniMeals No-Kill Adoption Center and Animal Food Bank.

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