If you work at BookPage, you’re on one side or the other: You’re either a cat person or a dog person, and there’s not much middle ground. So our ears perked up when we heard that Nashville author Jim Harwell had staged a metaphorical contest between the two pets and written a book about it: Cats N ’Dogs: A Tail of Two Opposites. We asked Harwell for details on one of the book’s comparisons: Which is linked to more place names? Cats or dogs? The answer will leave some of us growling.
Location, Location, Location!
by Jim Harwell
So, what places are on your dream vacation bucket list? How about a European Mediterranean paradise like Cataluna in Spain…maybe an Italian jaunt to Catania or Catanzaro…or perhaps a South American adventure to Catamarca, Catanduva or Catamayo? Yes, those are all real places. Notice a trend here?
One thing is clear: no places with ‘dog’ in the name will be on your list. Unless you want to visit Red Dog Mine, Alaska (pop.: 300), and its hazardous zinc mine. Or Dogtown, Calif., (pop.: 8, not including dogs.)
For my book A Tail of Two Opposites, our committee of cat and dog lovers conducted what we feel is the most comprehensive cat-dog competition series ever, with 70+ contests of all types. The book is a fun, educational and inspirational satire about our two favorite pets.
The results of the contests categorically confirm our general thesis: cat references in our culture are extremely positive, while dog references are very negative; in fact, they’re depressing, onerous and galling.
Yet, it’s all so ironical. We are know that dogs are among the most noble of creatures. Why the antagonism? (rhetorical question).
The Names of Places Contest was one of the most lopsided in favor of cats. The 63+ ‘Cat’-named places (name beginning with ‘cat’) around the world are wonderful, stupendous and spectacular. On the other hand, any place with ‘dog’ in the name—and there are very few—is basically cursed. It’s almost comical.
Reader reactions have been mixed. Cats have seemed somewhat aloof about the results, while dogs don’t seem to mind, though owners of Labradors and Newfoundlands are wondering why ‘dog’ is so avoided.
The ‘cat’ locations are almost from another catosphere! The list is a where’s where of mystical, enchanting areas around the world that most of us only dream of visiting. It’s a categorical (excellent) collection of locales, purrfect for that dream vacation both in the USA and internationally. How about a weekend trip to Catalina Island off the coast of LA or Cat Island in the Bahamas? Maybe that’s what cats dream about when they sleep their 16 to 20 hours a day.
But the places with dog in the name? Oh my God . . . grr, Dog. It’s been a literal dog’s life (wretched existence) for any place named for the dog. There are approximately four areas in the U.S. with ‘dog’ in the name that have people. Only one, Red Dog Mine, is an official census-designated place.
To dogs credit, there have been 24 total ‘dog’ locales in history. However, the sad news is that they have been dogged with every conceivable doggish (dismal, oppressive, glum) existence and dog-hearted (cruel) fate a humble place can experience: slums, abandoned settlements, ghost towns, closed parks, forgotten existences, ignored areas, even death. Dogtown in Arkansas died in 1965, complete with a burial and tombstone.
For some fun reading, perhaps take along A Tail of Two Opposites. Both cats and dogs will enjoy it, too.
Illustrations from Cats N' Dogs: A Tail of Two Opposites by Dean Tomasek.