Sunday, July 17, 2011
Trust Lessons from Stray Cats and Wandering Hobos....
I'd try approaching him quietly, talking in a low voice, but he never seemed to appear at a time when it was convienent. It was always when I was coming in from the supermarket or on my way out the door to somewhere else. And the appearance of my energetic, almost seven-year-old son bounding out the door joyously (as he always seems to do), would usually send the stray cat bolting if my own presence hadn't already managed to do so.
Until a couple of days ago when, inexplicably and in an unprecedented display of a sudden decision to trust, the cat not only let me get close to him, but let me pet him as well. It was morning, and I was on a stroll around the gardens, cup of coffee in hand. It was early, my sacred morning time (which I accomplish only by rising at 5:30am), and I was almost startled when the cat suddenly appeared, strolling out from the sunflower patch where he'd been resting. He caught sight of me and I expected to see a flash of tail and black-bottom feet disappear around the fence corner, but this time....he stayed. And as I whispered softly to him, he twitched his tail, blinked his eyes, tapped his front feet up and down, and made some low sounds back to me.
This is all communication...cat-speak for, "I want to know you."
I went back inside, grabbed some dry food, and returned.. He was still there, and I shook the cup of food a few times before putting it into the kitty bowl. Then I knelt beside it. This is all communication, too. Offering food to a stray animal is human-speak for, "I want to know you."
The magic worked. After circling me and meowing several times, he finally approached the food bowl, despite it's dangerous proximity to me. And when I reached out to touch him, he didn't slink away, but remained, allowing me to pet him. I couldn't believe it, and I couldn't stand this strange and wondrous new development on my own, so I slipped into the house and awoke my son, telling him that "Gray Kitty finally let me pet him!" I told my son how to come out the door quietly (as opposed to his usual 'bursting forth into the world') and to slowly approach from behind me, making no noise or sudden movements, and he did it all just right. As a result, he was able to pet Gray Kitty as well, which was the equivilant, to my animal-loving child, of Santa Claus showing up unexpectedly in mid-July.
And so it has gone on and on. Every day we have some time with Grey Kitty, who we've 'named' Lamington Deer (don't ask why, please...) and who occasionally still bolts away for no particular reason I can see. But he also has climbed up into my lap, allowed me to pick him up and hold him, showed me his belly and allowed it to be rubbed (ultimate sign of trust for most animals as it's such a vulnerable spot), and allowed my son (who approaches him now with the quiet grace of a Ninja Warrior walking through a motion-activated security field) to pick him up as well. He doesn't know it, poor kitty, but once he's tame enough for me to put him into a carrier he'll be taken to the vet for shots and a slight 'alteration' to his manhood, for he on occasions gives my little female kitties an unnecessary chase. But bottom line is the question that my son asked me last night: "Is he going to be ours now?"
"I'm not sure," I replied, "It's really up to him." And this is true. He's never been 'owned' before. He may not want to hang around in one place after at least a few years of stray nomadic-ness. It's a tough qeustion to answer. I remind my son, however, that what matters is not him becoming 'ours' in the end, but that we are showing him kindness and love right now. This small creature has decided we are worthy of his trust. And I'm not only flattered, I'm honored, because there is no greater judge of a person's character than a stray animal. This is universal knowledge to the point that years ago, travelling hobos used the image of a person holding out a bowl of food to a dog as a symbol for a house where one might find kindness. And in Medieval Europe, the image of a woman with a bowl of food surrounded by cats meant the same thing. These drawings were usually crude and stick-figurish, but there is a truth behind them than animals seem to know, and the down-and-out can sometimes see through to the soul of a person and know a truth about them that others often miss because thier vision is too clouded with a sense of thier own grandeur.
So whether or not Lamington Deer becomes ours, he's giving me a lesson in trust that I find heals my spirit. My heart leaps when I step outside and see him there amidst the sunflowers. It makes my soul smile each time he lets my son and I pet him. I needed this lesson, I know and perhaps the kitty knew as well. Or rather, I'm sure he did. He'd observed me from afar for quite some time, after all, and cats are considered healers in many countries both in the past and today. My Reiki-practitioner friend has told me that cats naturally do Reiki because they have an ability to heal hurt with positive energy. I can feel this happening in me, with each closeness that he allows. (Why did it need to happen? View my other blog at http://www.boldnessinitiative.blogspot.com/ and look for the 'Sad Eyes' post.)
And now my son is awake...the sacred morning time, so fleeting these days, is suddenly filled with, "Can I have breakfast?", "Can I watch cartoons?" and now the new mantra, which pleases me greatly: "Can we go outside and see if Lamington Deer is still there?"
"Yes," I say to all three.