On Cats and Dogs by A.G. Gardiner
In On Cats and Dogs by A.G. Gardiner we have theme of loyalty, friendship, trust, companionship and independence. Taken from his Pebbles on the Shore collection the reader realises after reading the essay that Gardiner may be exploring the theme of loyalty. Gardiner believes that dogs are more loyal than any cat will ever be. They are always there for their owner even in times of difficulty. It is for this reason (and others) that Gardiner is prepared to pay the guinea in tax in order to keep Quilp. He also knows that dogs are a man’s best friend. Standing by his side in an hour of need and there to enjoy his owner’s happiness too. In reality Gardiner cannot stand cats nor does he trust them. For him cats are too independent of their master and in reality may be selfish and thinking only of themselves. Having no concern for their masters will. They cannot be controlled either. At least not in Gardiner’s eyes. Spending nights on roofs instead of staying at home as a dog does.
What is also interesting about the essay is just how strongly Gardiner feels. His likening for Mr McKenna is on the line and he would prefer to side with Quilp should Mr McKenna introduce a tax on dogs. He is prepared to forgo his positive opinion of Mr McKenna and remain on Quilp’s side. Something which many readers, particularly those who own dogs, might understand. The companionship the individual receives from a dog is far greater than what is shown or given by an independently minded cat. A cat will walk away from you while a dog will remain loyally by your side. Also a dog is easier to control considering that it is so loyal to its owner. A dog may have to be told something only once. Whereas a cat can be told countless times and they will still not follow instruction. All which is lost on Gardiner’s friend. For him cats remain the better animal to keep as a pet. He perhaps admires the independence of a cat and the fact a cat does not need as much attention as a dog.
A topic on which Gardiner does not approach. Which may leave some readers to suggest that Gardiner at times can be impractical to the benefits of owning a cat rather than a dog. In reality both animals have their positive attributes. Though most people will favour a dog due to its friendliness and loyalty. Two attributes that cats are not well known for. Cats are fiercely independent of humans and will rely on their own wits rather than their masters. They like to be free and not as confined as a dog might be. A dog can be walked once a day and remain happy. A cat however has the habits of a prowler and likes to roam the streets and local gardens without being hindered by their master. A cat may disappear for days were a dog will not. In fact cats may actually find a second home for themselves. Something that would be rare for a dog to do. To highlight how loyal Quilp actually is. Gardiner has him by his side for the entire essay. Though this shows obvious loyalty on Quilp’s part it also shows that dogs are easier to control.
Something which might please Gardiner. Who may prefer to limit Quilp’s freedom in order that Quilp knows his place. That being a place in whereby Gardiner remains in control whereas his friend may be quite willing to exercise as much freedom as possible with a cat. He does not need to exert as much control over an animal. He is happy to allow a cat roam as much as it likes. Gardiner on the other hand may find happiness knowing that he is able to control Quilp. Quilp at no time is the equal of Gardiner. Though he still brings a degree of happiness to Gardiner that Gardiner is willing to pay the guinea in tax. What is also interesting is how strongly Gardiner feels about cats. He has a disliking and distrust of them. Which may leave the reader wondering if Gardiner has had previous experience as an owner of a cat. Perhaps he is once bitten and twice shy. If this is the case then it would explain Gardiner’s position on the matter. However once a dog owner always a dog owner and an inability to switch to having a cat as a pet.