Fighting Like Cats and Dogs (feat. Boston Symphony Orchestra) | Ep. 177

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This episode is the first in a three-part series recorded live with musicians from the Boston Symphony Orchestra plus an all-star cast at Tanglewood in Lenox, Massachusetts.

Do you have any furry friends in your life?

A cat? A dog? A gerbil?

If so, do they get along with each other?

We’re about to meet two animals who used to be great friends – until something major – and magical – drove them apart!

Our story is called “Fighting Like Cats and Dogs.” Versions of this folktale originally come from the Korean people of East Asia.

Joining us on stage at Tanglewood was a quartet of musicians from the Boston Symphony Orchestra — Richel Childers on horn, Clint Foreman on flute, Ben Levy on double bass, and Suzanne Nelsen on bassoon — plus a quintet of all-star actors: William Christian, Josh Gondelman, Hrishikesh Hirway, Tina Packer, and Faith Salie.

About the actors:

William Christian is a Washington, D-C-born actor known for his roles in All My Children, Days of Our Lives, The January Man, and Prison Break.

Faith Salie recently starred in her own Off-Broadway solo show, Approval Junkie. She's a contributor to CBS Sunday Morning, a storyteller for The Moth, and a regular panelist on the NPR news quiz Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!

Josh Gondelman is also a Wait, Wait regular. The Emmy Award-winning writer and comedian has written for such shows as Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Desus & Mero. His debut standup special People Pleaser is available for streaming now.

Tina Packer was born in England, where she trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and played in television series for the BBC. In 1978, she co-founded the world-famous Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts, where she’s worked ever since. She has directed every single one of Shakespeare’s plays, and taught the entire canon at over thirty colleges.

Hrishikesh Hirway is a singer-songwriter who hosts the podcast and Netflix show Song Exploder. He’s also creator and co-host of the podcast Home Cooking, with chef Samin Nosrat; and the West Wing Weekly, with actor Josh Malina.

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by Supervising Producer Nora Saks. Original music and sound design is by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn. Sound-recording and engineering at Tanglewood provided by Emily Jankowski and David Corsello.

Coloring Page

ADULTS! PRINT THIS so everyone can color while listening. We’re also keeping an album so share your picture on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and tag it with #CircleRound. We'd love to see it! To access all the coloring pages for past episodes, click HERE. Our resident artist is Sabina Hahn and you can learn more about her HERE.

Things To Think About After Listening

Is there someone in your life you have trouble getting along with? A sibling? A classmate? Even a friend?

Believe it or not, grown-ups experience these things, too. So pick a grown-up in your life and ask them: have they struggled to get along with someone? If so, how did they sort things out? Hopefully, their advice can bring a little more harmony to your world.


NARRATOR: Back in another time… in a tiny cottage near a fast-running river and a sparkling blue sea… a man lived with his pet cat and dog.

CAT: Okay, we’re gonna stop you right there. Aren’t we, Dog?

DOG: Absolutely, Cat!

CAT: See, we’re not so big on that word you just used.

NARRATOR: Which word…?

DOG: Oh… ya know…


DOG: Yeah, we prefer the term “companion animal.”

CAT: “Pet” makes us feel more like property.

DOG: Like a chair.

CAT: Or a sweater.

NARRATOR: Okay… so how about this. Back in another time… in a tiny cottage near a fast-running river and a sparkling blue sea… a man lived with his companion animals, a cat and a dog.

CAT: Much better!

DOG: Thank you!

NARRATOR: Now… back in ‘this other time,’ the cat and dog were the very best of friends. But this is the tale of how cats and dogs across the world came to fight like… well… like cats and dogs.

CAT: “Fighting like cats and dogs”!?!??

DOG: Is that a real expression?

CAT: I mean, we’ve heard the expression “raining cats and dogs”...

DOG: …but “fighting”?

CAT: We’d never fight! Not in a million years!

DOG: Which is the equivalent of what? 142-thousand dog years?!??

NARRATOR: 142,857, to be exact. But pay attention to the rest of the story, and you’ll find out what I mean. It all began one morning when the man went to the seaside, to collect driftwood. He did this every morning, so he could sell the wood at the market. It was how he eked out a living – meager though it was.

MAN: Come on, Cat! Come on, Dog! We’re going to the seaside! The tide was especially high last night, so we should find plenty of wood washed up on the shore!

CAT: Meow!

DOG: Woof!

CAT: (stage whisper) We never talk when the man is around!

DOG: (stage whisper) It would be too weird for him!

NARRATOR: (stage whisper) Understood! (normal voice) So the man and his pets –

CAT: (stage whisper) Companion animals!

DOG: (stage whisper) Weren’t you listening before?

NARRATOR: (stage whisper) Sorry! (normal voice) So the man and his companion animals went to the seaside. But to the man’s dismay, in spite of the high tide the night before…

MAN: …there’s not one piece of driftwood on the shore! Oh dear! If I can’t find any driftwood, I can’t sell any driftwood! And if I can’t sell any driftwood, I can’t make any money! And if I can't make any money, then my cat, dog and I will starve!

NARRATOR: The man’s eyes welled up with tears as he frantically searched the beach for wood. The cat and dog joined him, scampering and sniffing to and fro. And then… all of a sudden…

CAT: (as if calling out to MAN) Meow!

DOG: (as if calling out MAN) Woof!

MAN: What is it, friends? Did you find something?

NARRATOR: The man rushed over to the cat and dog. Flipping and flopping on the wet sand between them was a huge, silver fish!

MAN: My goodness, friends! Would you look at this fish?! It’s nearly as big as both of you! (beat) Forget the driftwood! Food has been so scarce lately, I say we take this fish home and eat it for lunch! And dinner! And breakfast tomorrow! It’s so large and plump it’ll feed us for days and days and – (gets interrupted)

QUEEN OF THE SEA: (disguised as fish) (ad-lib crying/sobbing/weeping)

NARRATOR: The man fell silent. He cupped his hand to his ear.

MAN: Wait! Do you hear someone… crying? Who could it be?

NARRATOR: The man looked to his right, he looked to his left, and then… he looked down.

MAN: Well, I’ll be! (beat) It’s the fish!

NARRATOR: Sure enough, the huge, silver fish… was crying! Weeping! Streams of water were pouring from the creature’s bright, round eyes and running down its scaly cheeks.

MAN: Great heavens! I’ve never seen a fish shed tears before! It looks so sad!

NARRATOR: The man felt his heart go out to the creature. And all at once, he knew what he must do.

MAN: I may be hungry, but I’m not heartless. I’m throwing this fish back into the sea.

NARRATOR: The man scooped the fish into his arms, and tossed it into the waves, where it landed with a splash. Then the man turned on his heel and started toward home, with the cat and dog in tow.

MAN: Well, without any driftwood to sell or fish to eat, it’s going to be a long, hungry day. But I’d choose an empty stomach over a cruel heart any time!

QUEEN OF THE SEA: And for that… I thank you!

NARRATOR: The man froze and whirled around. Standing in the waves… at the very spot where the weeping fish had landed… was a woman! Her silvery hair hung all the way to her waist, and on her silvery head was a crown studded with luminous pearls. Immediately, the man realized who the woman was.

MAN: Goodness me! You’re the Queen of the Sea! Ruler of all the waters, from the oceans to the lakes to the rivers!

QUEEN OF THE SEA: That I am, my friend. But the high tide last night washed me up onto the shore. And once I was out of the water, I lost my powers, and I turned into a helpless, hopeless fish, trapped on the beach. (beat) But you… you took pity on me! You didn’t ignore me, or take me home and cook me up for lunch. Instead, you threw me back into the water, where I belong!

NARRATOR: The man could hardly believe his eyes – or ears! But he tried to hold it together as he flashed the Queen of the Sea a sheepish smile.

MAN: Well, to be honest, Your Highness… the thought of a fish feast did cross my mind. Times have been hard and food has been scarce. Everything has been scarce. But I had to do what was right. I had to save you!

QUEEN OF THE SEA: And I appreciate that. Which is why I want to give you something. (beat) Catch!

NARRATOR: The Queen of the Sea waved her arms and suddenly one of the pearls in her crown popped right off. The man reached out his hand and caught it.

QUEEN OF THE SEA: That pearl, good human, is magical! Hold it to your heart and it will give you anything you wish for. Anything at all!

NARRATOR: The man gazed at the pearl with amazement. Then he gazed at the Queen with appreciation.

MAN: Your Majesty! I haven’t had two coins to rub together lately and this pearl is just the thing to save me and my furry friends here! I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

QUEEN OF THE SEA: From the bottom of your kind heart, good human. You saved my life. And for that, I thank you!

NARRATOR: And with that, the Queen of the Sea sank beneath the waves… and disappeared. Now that the man has his wishing pearl, what do you think will happen next? And how will the cat and dog go from friends… to foes? We’ll find out… after a quick break.


NARRATOR: I’m Rebecca Sheir, and welcome back to Circle Round, live at Tanglewood! Today our story is called “Fighting Like Cats and Dogs.” Before the break, a poor man was searching for driftwood with his pet cat and dog when – (gets interrupted)

CAT: (interrupting) Okay, I know we just came back from a break and everything, but how many times do we have to remind you?

DOG: It’s not “pet”! It’s “companion animal”!

CAT: We’re not just pieces of property!

DOG: I mean, look at us! We’re cute!

CAT: We’re cuddly!

DOG: We even talk!

CAT: …When the man isn’t around, anyway.

NARRATOR: I know. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. I promise. (beat) So. Let me try again.

NARRATOR: The poor man was out on the beach with his companion animals, a cat and dog, when they found a huge, silver fish – which began to weep!
The sympathetic man threw the fish back into the water… but the creature was actually the Queen of the Sea, who’d gotten trapped on the beach! To reward the man’s kindness, the Queen gave him a pearl that granted wishes. The man thanked the Queen, then led his cat and dog back to their tiny cottage near the sea and the river.

MAN: Well, here we are, friends! Home sweet home!

NARRATOR: The man lifted the rusty latch on the rickety door and stepped inside. The cottage was small and square with rough floors and peeling walls. There were old wooden boxes serving as a chair and table, and a small, lumpy mattress which the man, cat, and dog all crowded onto at night.

MAN: The Queen of the Sea says if I hold this pearl to my heart, it will give me anything I wish for. Given how tiny and bare this cottage is, perhaps I could start by wishing for a new house! What do you say?

NARRATOR: The cat and dog leaped over and nuzzled the man’s leg.

CAT: (enthusiastic) Meow!

DOG: (enthusiastic) Woof!

CAT: (stage whisper) That means “yes”!

NARRATOR: (stage whisper) I figured as much! Thanks!

MAN: I’m glad you agree, friends. But no need to wish for a palace or anything. Just something big enough for the three of us. So, with that…

NARRATOR: The man clutched the pearl to his heart.

MAN: …I wish for a bigger house!

NARRATOR: No sooner did he say those words than he, the cat, and the dog were standing in, yes, ‘a bigger house’! There was a cheery sitting room and spacious kitchen downstairs, and two large bedrooms upstairs, each one equipped with a feather bed as soft as newly-fallen snow.

MAN: This house is incredible! It’s just what we need! I say we wish for a nice big meal so we can celebrate!

NARRATOR: So the man wished for a nice, big meal, and he and his furry friends spent the whole day celebrating. That night, after the cat and dog lay down on their cushy feather bed, the man heard a knock at the door.

MAN: (waking up) Hmmm... who could be paying a visit this late? Better go see!

NARRATOR: Standing at the door was the man’s one and only neighbor, a fellow who lived in a cottage across the river. The man couldn’t remember the last time the two of them had crossed paths.

NEIGHBOR: Good evening, neighbor! I caught sight of your incredible house across the river this evening and I simply had to come over!

NARRATOR: Without being invited, the neighbor barged inside and bustled into the sitting room.

NEIGHBOR: This is amazing! Is it just me, or did you redo this entire house in less than a day?

NARRATOR: The man shrugged. He decided not to tell his nosy neighbor about the wishing pearl.

MAN: Ummmm, yeah, I guess you could say I did a bit of a renovation… (quickly changing the subject) Can I offer you a drink?

NARRATOR: The neighbor plopped down on the couch and put his feet up.

NEIGHBOR: A drink would be marvelous! Do you have any tea?

MAN: Wouldn't you know it, I just ran out of tea yesterday. But I could offer you coffee, juice, or – (gasp as he remembers the pearl) Actually! I could offer you some tea! Hang on a minute!

NARRATOR: The man hurried into the kitchen. Once he thought he was out of the neighbor’s sight, he brought out the jam jar where he had placed the Queen’s pearl for safekeeping. He held the pearl to his heart.

MAN: (whispering so the NEIGHBOR won’t hear in the next room) I wish for some tea!

NARRATOR: And with that, a steaming kettle of tea appeared on the stove!

NEIGHBOR: How on earth did you do that?!?

NARRATOR: The man spun around. Standing behind him was his neighbor! The nosy fellow had followed the man into the kitchen!

NEIGHBOR: How did you make that kettle of tea appear? You must tell me everything!

NARRATOR: The man was stuck. What else could he do but tell his neighbor the whole story? When he finished his tale, the neighbor’s eyes were aglow.

NEIGHBOR: So you’re telling me the Queen of the Sea gave you this magic pearl…? And it grants wishes…? (beat) I must have it! How much do you want for it?

MAN: It’s not for sale, sir. It was a gift!

NARRATOR: The neighbor let out a big sigh.

NEIGHBOR: (putting on an act, unbeknownst to MAN) (big sigh) Very well. I see how much the pearl means to you, so I won’t ask about it again. But I will ask an itty-bitty favor. May I please spend the night? My eyesight isn’t what it used to be, and I’m afraid to row my boat across the river in the dark! I’ll just sleep on the couch and be out of your hair first thing tomorrow!

NARRATOR: The man hadn’t counted on having a guest, but he was too kind to turn his neighbor away.

MAN: Of course you can spend the night, sir. I’ll see you in the morning.

NARRATOR: Some time later, just after midnight, the man was awoken by a curious sound.

MAN: Was that a door slamming? The front door, perhaps?

NARRATOR: By the time the man made his way downstairs, he discovered that his nosy neighbor… was gone. And so was the wishing pearl. He raced outside, just in time to see the neighbor's boat reach the other shore.

MAN: (calling across the river) Come back! You stole my pearl! It doesn’t belong to you!

NARRATOR: But the neighbor paid him no mind. He just flashed the man a smug smirk and disappeared into his cottage. The man stumbled back inside and collapsed on the couch. He didn’t own a boat, so he had no way of getting across the river and reclaiming his treasure. Feeling helpless and hopeless, he put his head in his hands…

MAN: (crying) (continue long enough to cover the following action)

NARRATOR: …and began to cry. The sounds of his sobbing traveled upstairs… and woke up the cat and dog.

CAT: Is that the man?

DOG: Is he… crying?

CAT: We must comfort him!

DOG: Let’s go!

NARRATOR: The cat and dog came downstairs and nuzzled the man with their noses.

MAN: (crying slowly stops) Aw, thank you, friends. But I’ve got bad news. Our wishing pearl is lost. That neighbor ran away with it, and I have no way of crossing the river to get it back! (beat) The party’s over, I guess. Might as well go back to bed. Good night.

NARRATOR: The cat and dog waited until the man went upstairs. And then…

CAT: (urgent, excited to talk again now that MAN is gone) Okay! We have to get that pearl back!

DOG: Yes! We must cross the river and get inside the neighbor’s house!

CAT: But the man doesn’t own a boat, and I’m not about to swim – you know how much we cats hate water!

DOG: No worries! You’re my best friend! I’ll do all the swimming, and I’ll carry you on my back!

NARRATOR: So the dog swam the cat all the way across the river. When the pair reached the other side, they crept up to the neighbor’s cottage.

CAT: Good news, Dog! The neighbor left a window open! We can sneak right inside!

DOG: Great! And my excellent sense of hearing tells me the neighbor has gone to sleep already!

CAT: As long as we’re quiet, we can skulk around until we sniff out the pearl! You know we both have amazing senses of smell!

NARRATOR: Quick as a wink, the cat and dog snuck through the window and sniffed around. Their noses led them to a little clay pot in the kitchen. And what should they find hidden inside the pot but…

DOG: …The pearl!

CAT: I’ll fish it out!

NARRATOR: The cat stuck her paw into the jar, took out the pearl, and held it between her teeth. Then she and the dog dashed to the river. The cat jumped onto the dog’s back, and the dog began to swim across.
But halfway to the other shore, the dog began to grow anxious.

DOG: Um, Cat? Just to make sure… You still have the pearl, right?

NARRATOR: Given that the cat was clutching the pearl between her teeth, she did her best to answer clearly.

CAT: (spoken unclearly, as if holding pearl between teeth) I have the pearl!

DOG: (not understanding) Wait, what? Do you have it or don’t you?

CAT: (spoken unclearly, as if holding pearl between teeth) I said, I have the pearl!

DOG: (still not understanding) What?

CAT: (spoken unclearly, as if holding pearl between teeth) I have it! I have the pearl!

DOG: (still not understanding) Look, I don’t understand what you’re saying! Just tell me: do you still have the pearl!!??!

NARRATOR: Finally, the cat could take it no longer. She opened her mouth wide and let out a yell.

CAT: (no longer holding pearl between teeth) (yelling) For the last time! I have it! I have the pearl! (beat) (realizing) Uh-oh.

NARRATOR: To the cat’s dismay, the moment she’d opened her mouth to yell at the dog, the pearl had fallen out, and sunk into the water.

DOG: What’s going on, Cat? What’s with the “uh-oh”?

CAT: (sheepish) Uhhhh… let’s just say I did have the pearl… but it kind of fell out of my mouth just now…

DOG: What?!? How could you let that happen? Now the man’s life is going to be ruined! He’ll have to go back to scavenging for driftwood on the beach!

CAT: It’s not my fault! You kept asking me if I had the pearl, and I kept saying I did, but you couldn’t understand me! So I yelled! And that’s when the pearl fell into the river!

DOG: Oh, so it’s my fault now?!?

CAT: Well it’s definitely not my fault!

DOG: Is too!

CAT: Is not!

DOG: Is too!

CAT: Is not!

NARRATOR: This bickering went on and on, all the way across the river.

DOG: Okay. Now that we’ve reached the other side, Cat, you can get off my back. And you can get out of my life!

CAT: It would be my pleasure to get out of your life!

DOG: Oh yeah? Then I’ll get out of yours, too!

NARRATOR: The dog flicked his head round and stomped away in a huff. The cat stayed behind and searched the riverbank, hoping beyond hope that she would find the wishing pearl washed up on the shore.
But alas, all she found was…

CAT: … a dead fish?!?? Well, it’s not the treasure I was looking for, but I might as well bring it home. Now that the man has lost his wishing pearl, he’s going to need something to eat!

NARRATOR: The cat brought the fish inside the house. The morning sun was up by now, and the man was at the kitchen table, sipping some tea.

MAN: Good to see you, Cat! When the dog came home without you, I thought for sure you’d run away! After all, you two have always been inseparable. (beat) But wait! What’s this you’ve brought me? A fish?

NARRATOR: The man took the fish from the cat’s mouth.

MAN: Oh my! This one’s a beauty! And what a delicious breakfast it will make. I’ll just clean it out before I cook it up…

NARRATOR: The man laid the fish on the table. But the moment he sliced it open, do you know what came rolling out of its belly? Do you?

NARRATOR: That’s right! The wishing pearl! The fish had swallowed it after the cat dropped it into the river!

NARRATOR: From that day forward, the man, cat, and dog lived in comfort and harmony. Or maybe just comfort. Because even though the man had regained his pearl, the cat and dog never regained their friendship. Instead of apologizing to each other for their hurtful words, they held tight to their grudges and never got along again. So even today, if you have cats and dogs as pets –

CAT: For the last time already! We are not “pets”!

DOG: We are “companion animals”!

CAT: That’s what I was about to say! Why do you have to interrupt me?

DOG: Why do you have to be so rude?

CAT: Oh, I’m the rude one?! You’re the rude one!

DOG: No, you are!

CAT: No, you are!

DOG: No, you – (gets interrupted)

NARRATOR: Okay! You two! Cool it! We need to finish the story!

CAT / DOG: (sigh) (grudging, almost as if rolling eyes) Fiiiiine.

NARRATOR: As I was saying…

NARRATOR: Even today, if you have cats and dogs as companion animals, nine times out of ten they just do not get along. Instead, they bicker. They quarrel. And they fight. Just like… yes… cats and dogs.


This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by Katherine Brewer. Original music and sound design is by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn.

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Rebecca Sheir Host, Circle Round
Rebecca Sheir is the host "Circle Round," WBUR's kids storytelling podcast.



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