The When and Why of Showing Your Belly

This morning I ran into Julep as usual when I went out for my first pee of the day, which are two things I eagerly look forward to in the morning.  Julep, who is a beagle mix is my oldest friend. I love her so much that even the mention of her name makes me prick up my ears. But, now I am wondering why we always have to start out with a confrontation. She greets me with a lot of growling and mock biting until I roll over and show her my belly. I do nothing but signal my pleasure at seeing her, and yet she fights me until I show her my near hairless, eight nippled belly, my legs folded up harmlessly and my muzzle frozen sideways on the ground.

After I show her who is boss (that would be she), only then can we play. Except for this initial violent display, we are a good fit. I am a Puggle with a little Lab thrown in and I am the russet color of fallen leaves.  Julep is black like my sister, who I haven’t seen since we were weaned, and we are the same size and almost the same age. We like to stand together and hold the same pose and freeze like statues.  We also like to wrestle and chase each other, and maybe its the beagle in us, but nothing is more fun than sniffing things and digging holes. We have a lot in common.

So, why the charade? I think it is more a Julep issue than a Gracie May issue. Because we are such good friends, I let her have this little victory. It is no skin off my nose and in the balance, it is an acceptable trade. No friendship is without its faults, so I play along.

Sam is a dog I sometimes walk with. He is cranky, maybe on his last leg, and he has lived a long time.  He’s lived in the deserts of New Mexico and in the suburbs of Chicago without being eaten by a coyote or run down by a car, so there is much to learn from Sam. I didn’t even know squirrels were interesting until he showed me how to spot them.  He is not a friend. He is more of a mentor.  Sometimes I forget that and go a little puppy on him, and he will remind me we are not in the same place by snarling and biting me. I respond quickly by flipping over and showing him my underside by way of apology and to show him respect.

Talking of showing my belly reminds me of another time I have to do this, but I’m not very comfortable talking about this.  There are times you submit because you’re afraid not to, and I’m not proud of that. I live with, Lucille Bell, the tabby cat. I have to admit something a dog hates to admit, but I am completely kitty whipped.

Sure, she was here first and I get that, but I have tried to be friends, and failing that I just stay out of her way. Avoiding each other would be a workable solution, but there are times she seeks me out for no other reason than to be mean to me. Sometimes she’ll trap me in a room or worse a shower stall and stand glaring at me, ready to swipe at me if I try to escape. I have to wait for someone to rescue me. There are even times I am napping, minding my own business and she will sneak up on me and hit me a few times with her claws out. I am like “Lucille Belle, what the f..k, man?” Even more disturbing to me are the times when she acts like she wants to play with me and is all friendly, but as soon as I play along she gets mean again and hurts me. It is very confusing.

What is most painful to me is that everyone else loves Lucile Belle and they call her the perfect pet. Of course, she is the perfect pet to them.  She never gives anyone else any grief and is all sweetness and silky fluffiness. Its not like she’s even being sneaky about her attacks on me, carrying them out in the open, except nobody seems to hold it against her. If they were the object of her hostility, they’d feel differently. They have their own experience of her.

All I can do is roll over and show her my belly even though I know we don’t even speak the same language. Showing your belly to a cat is only giving them a better target. They don’t see it as a sign of submission, which is what it means in my language. I know this, but I have no other tools in my tool kit to work with. Even while I am rolling over and displaying my vulnerable underside, I know it is a stupid response, but I can’t stop myself. I am not a violent creature by nature, so I do the only thing I can think to do. Roll over. Roll over rather than risk going for a counter attack and being called a “bad dog” or getting scratched worse.

I will never be friends with the cat, I know that now. I think it is more a Lucille Bell issue than a Gracie May issue. I just wish I could think of a different way to handle it.

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