There are very few objects in history or daily life that bear the imprint of canine thinking. Canines are creatures of action and response. They are pack animals, who cooperate with each other, sharing the responsibility for the welfare of all. This does not make them creative or innovative animals and for this reason about the only objects or ideas in our world that have come from dogs are “doggerel” and “doggone it.”
Cats, on the other hand, being independent thinkers, spend their time on their own rather than caring for their pack-mates or their humans. They have come up with many interesting ideas and objects.
Two that are most striking are the “catapult” and the “catamaran.” I want to talk specifically about the catapult and how and why felines invented it. The catamaran is obvious. Felines dislike water and they needed a way to get across a river. But the catapult has a more interesting — and less obvious — story and it involves a canine/feline relationship.
As everyone familiar with felines knows, they like to climb. Many felines are willing to climb very high and leap off, almost taking flight, before they land perfectly on four paws. This is something canines also enjoy, but differently from felines. We like to jump so that we can see over walls and fences.
Long ago, many thousands of human years ago, a canine and feline were walking past a city wall. Their noses were sniffing eagerly because they smelled fish on the other side of the wall. The wall was too high even for the cat to climb and the dog, of course, could only jump a couple of meters straight up into the air.
The cat decided to take a nap and think about it while the dog ran back and forth along the wall barking, digging and sniffing. You might think the dog barking would keep the cat awake, but it didn’t.
When the cat woke up, she had figured it out. They would build a machine that would send her over the wall. Once on the other side, she would throw fish over the wall to the dog. The cat sent telepathic blueprints to the dog who immediately set about gathering sticks, old tires, worn socks and gunny sacks to build the machine. In just a couple of days — even without opposable thumbs — they had built the machine. In truth, the dog built it, but the feline gave directions.
“We only have one shot,” said the dog. “It had better work!”
“How can you doubt my powers?” responded the feline, in a snit, feeling insulted.
“I’m sorry. I just meant…”
“It doesn’t matter what you meant, dog. Did you think of this? No. I thought not.”
The feline often took an imperious tone with the dog which was not fair. While the cat was a decent hunter, the dog was better at it and was able to catch bigger things than the cat and he always shared. She never shared. “Share does not exist in any feline vocabulary,” she would say refusing to part out the miniscule mouse she’d killed one afternoon after playing with it for several hours.
“Keep your mouse,” the canine replied. “I’m going after a rabbit.”
“Ooooh! Rabbit! Will you share it with me?”
“Of course. Sharing is a canine’s purpose.”
Anyhooo… The feline jumped up in the bucket from which she would be sent over the wall. “Pull down on this with all your strength, dog,” she said.
“What if you’re hurt?”
“I won’t be hurt. I’m a feline, remember? I will land in the city and find the fish.”
“All right.” The canine pushed down on the bucket with all his strength and when he couldn’t push it any lower, he let go. The feline went flying over the wall.
The canine never knew how his friend fared. No fish ever came back over the wall and he never heard from her again.