As I’ve said before, the old saying “fight like cats and dogs” is not only a cliché, but highly overblown. It’s a great device for cartoonists and certain cheaply made comedies, but in real life, cats and dogs are as likely to get along with each other as they are with other members of their respective species. At least, such is my experience.
Boots’ job is to help the kittens adapt to the idea of being around dogs, making them more adoptable. “By increasing our kittens’ comfort level with dogs, we increase the adoptability of our kittens, since they’ll be more likely to adapt to homes with dogs in them,” Liz Truitt from AHS told The Huffington Post. “This also decreases the chances that the kittens/cats will be surrendered later in life due to problems between the cats and other pets.”
Buzzfeed describes the setup, saying “Basically, it’s a manners school for kitten orphans, and Boots is their headmaster.” That makes the situation sound a lot harsher than you would guess from looking at the pictures AHS has put up on its Facebook page. “Headmaster” sounds like some stern-looking figure between rows of desks with a cane in one hand, closely watching for any sign of disobedience. (I freely admit that this image may be the result of having listened to an excessive amount of Pink Floyd in my youth.) In the pictures here, Boots seems gentle, tolerant of being climbed on by curious cats, and frankly, pretty damn adorable.
Getting to this point was a long trip for Boots, longer than just a simple count of the 12 years he’s been alive. He was first rescued by AHS nine years ago when its volunteers were in New Orleans, helping out after Hurricane Katrina. He was adopted by a volunteer, and only recently started volunteering himself.
Boots may be gentle and mellow, but he’s a big dog, so the process of introducing him to kittens is a gradual one, according to Bretta Nelson, AHS public relations manager. “We first see how they respond to him while they are in their kennels … He will enter the nursery and just go up to them in their areas and will lay down and sniff them while he lets them sniff him,” she told The Huffington Post. “Then, based on their responses to Boots — whether it be curiosity, shyness, uncertainty, or pure adoration — we will have him lay down, and we will take each kitten out of their kennel or play tent and introduce them slowly that way.”
It sounds like a good setup for all involved, and we hope that lots of kittens find happy homes with Boots’ help.
Check out more cuteness on Dogster: