I understand cats, at least somewhat. Over the years we have shared our home with several cats. I won’t say we owned any of them because the phrase, “cat ownership” is an oxymoron. We live with them, feed them, pet them (on their terms, of course), give them good health care and love them. We do not own them any more than one can own the wind.

A cat is an interesting blend of feral and tractable. Her wild ancestors, hunting on the African plains, are fully present in the eyes of a house cat as she stalks a bird or a grasshopper. On the other hand, when the mood hits, that same cat will settle on a convenient lap with loud purrs, closing her eyes in sweet contentment. To the point that I’ve learned their habits and enjoy their often erratic behavior, I understand and admire cats.

What I don’t understand is dogs — Pierre in particular. Dogs amaze me. We train service dogs, therapy dogs, hunters, watch dogs, drug-sniffing dogs, rescue dogs and show dogs. Most dogs earn their keep, if only by becoming loving companions to the family members with whom they live.

Then there’s Pierre. I admit that he is a loving companion, but always on his own terms. When we settle in the family room for an evening of television, Pierre usually spreads his great length on the sectional couch with his head on my lap. That would be fine if he rested there in quiet contentment, but no such luck.

Not only does he require constant petting, but, at the slightest outside noise, or when the spirit moves him, he jumps up barking. He demands to go out to the back yard and investigate. I let him out, settle back on the couch and there he is at the door demanding to come inside. In and out he goes until he tires himself enough to fall asleep. The strange thing is, he only does this in-out dance in the evening when we are in relaxation mode.

Pierre gets a little cooked chicken with his meals. One morning I mixed his kibble with some chicken, set the dish down. He sniffed at his breakfast, sampled a bite of chicken, then strolled over to the breakfast table, grabbed a used paper napkin and ran off to the family room to eat it. After polishing off his paper napkin appetizer, he came back to finish his breakfast.

Now, why would a dog turn up his nose at chicken, yet wolf down a paper napkin with such obvious enjoyment?

Pierre likes to walk ahead of us on trails or in the woods. If he sees something unusual in the distance, a large tree branch or boulder he has not noticed before, he goes into attack mode, growling, barking at this dangerous unknown object. Then he runs back and gets behind me. Peeking out, he pushes me with his nose, clearly indicating, “You go first and check it out.”

I’m never sure what he is thinking. Yesterday he dragged a large, 10-foot tree branch from our neighbor’s front yard all the way down the street to our house. He deposited it carefully in the middle of our driveway, then looked up at Rob, fully expecting to be praised for a deed well done. Was he intent on clearing the neighbor’s yard? Was he bringing us more firewood? Who knows?

I’ve given up hope of ever understanding what goes on in that curly head, but never mind. He is our own, our dear Pierre, and that makes it all right.

Irene Marinelli writes a weekly column for The Dominion Post. Write her at columns@dominionpost.com.