FORT KENT, Maine — There are two kinds of people in the world.
OK, so there are an endless variety of people in the world, but for the purposes of this week’s column, I am distilling it down to two: Dog people and cat people.
While both dogs and cats do reside in relative peace and harmony together here on Rusty Metal Farm, I have no problem admitting I am a fan of the former and just tolerate the latter.
I am not now, never have been and doubt I ever will be a cat person.
That’s not to say cats have not played a part in my life, and growing up there were always one or two felines around the house. But even as a child, I was drawn far more to the dogs we had.
Once I moved to Maine to attend college, there were a few pet-free years, but those ended when my late husband, Patrick, and I moved into a house near the St. John River and adopted an orange tiger-stripe kitten we named Darwin.
Darwin was, shall we say, special. He was a nice cat, but he was not the brightest kitty and seemed to go out of his way to prove his namesake’s evolutionary theories of natural selection.
If ever there was a cat destined to not evolve, it was Darwin.
Sadly, this proved out when we moved to Rusty Metal Farm, and within a week, something higher up the evolutionary food chain than Darwin selected him out.
Since then, there have been a series of cats here on the farm, all acquired with one job assignment — keeping down the rodent population.
The most recent feline additions to Rusty Metal Farm happen to be the longest lived.
Boris and Natasha — brother and sister — arrived as kittens 15 summers ago and have been hanging tough and — working as a team — driving me crazy ever since.
One of their favorite hobbies is driving the Rusty Metal sled dogs insane, especially if they can do so in the predawn hours and wake me up — it’s sort of a two-fer for them.
Starting at sunrise, which is very early in the summer, either Boris or Natasha will slowly and casually stroll up the driveway and plunk down in front of the kennel, sending all the dogs into a barking, howling frenzy.
About 20 minutes later, the cat moves along, the dogs settle back down and up the driveway comes the sibling to start the whole kennel cacophony over again, by which time I am wide and grumpily awake.
That suits Boris and Natasha just fine, as they are more than ready to come inside for their breakfast.
Sometimes they bring “gifts.” I’ve lost count of the squirrel, chipmunk, mole, mice and rat body parts left on the deck, usually in the path of my heading-to-get-the-newspaper bare feet.
Every so often they like to make things a bit more interactive by delivering their prey while it’s still very much alive.
One of the darkest times on Rusty Metal Farm was the last week of Patrick’s life when he was under hospice care here after losing his battle with cancer.
One night, as a friend and I sat quietly near his hospital bed in the living room, the cats — who frankly seemed oblivious to the tragedy that was taking place — began scratching at the door to be let in.
I opened the door, and in rushed Boris and Natasha, the later of which was carrying a very live field mouse that she proceeded to drop under the hospital bed.
While the two cats stood back and watched, you would have thought my friend and I were trying to defuse a live bomb considering the speed with which we went after that mouse.
We actually caught it pretty quickly and returned it to the wild, and afterward my friend turned to me and said, “When hospice calls in the morning and asks if you need anything, tell them you need a mousetrap.”
Even in the darkest hour on the darkest day on the farm — that was damn funny.
Just last week, after months of being lulled into a false sense of security, Natasha again surprised me with a live critter — this time a chipmunk that I swear to God she was looking to keep as her own pet.
I quickly vetoed that plan and was luckily able to “herd” the chipmunk out an open door and back into the woods where it belonged.
My friend Julie, who spent some time on the farm last winter, is very much a cat person and told me on several occasions, I just don’t understand cats and treat them like dogs.
Well, sure — dogs are cool. Dogs are loyal and, unlike cats, do not spend every waking hour trying to thwart your will.
I mean, come on — was it a team of cats or the brave and strong Rusty Metal sled dogs who got me through the 30-mile Can Am Crown sled dog race?
Julie had been somewhat taken aback by my consistent dispensing of treats to all canine residents on the farm, and my far more sporadic handouts to the cats.
When she discovered an unopened container of kitty treats that had been a Christmas gift to them from a friend months earlier, she immediately set about proving exactly how appreciative cats could be.
Looking on with great skepticism, I told Julie there was no way Boris and Natasha were going to do anything in return for a tasty morsel — other than perhaps claw her hands to ribbons to get at them.
Within two treats each, however, she had them proving me wrong as they were standing up on their hind legs and gently pulling individual morsels from her fingers.
By the smug looks on their faces, I just knew they were doing it to make me look bad.
But, maybe Julie’s right. Maybe I do expect too much dog-like behavior from cats, creatures who are their own unique and perplexing species.
Still, I doubt there are enough treats in the world to get a team of them to pull a sled.
Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award-winning writer and photographer, who writes part time for Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.