Not just any cat.
Cat was the pet of a man who recently passed away. His daughter already owned three cats, two dogs, several mice, a couple of birds, and a ferret. She loved the cat, but simply didn’t have room for another pet. A vet tech, who knew of her situation and was familiar with Irish’s soft spot for all cats, feral and domesticated, called him to ask if he’d consider adopting the 4-year-old.
When I met Irish in January, his cat Boo Boo was still alive and very old. Boo Boo was Himalayan, and because I have a mild allergy to cats, being around him caused me a few issues. But I’ve been around cats for most of my adult life, and because God invented Kleenex and eye drops, I dealt with it. After Boo Boo passed away in May, Irish started feeding two feral cats who found a way inside his barn to bed down every night. When he got the call from the vet tech about Cat, he asked how I felt about him owning another house cat, given my allergy. There was no way I could (and no reason for me to) say no.
Cat was NOT a happy camper in the carrier. When the daughter brought him into Irish’s house and released him from his prison, he ran under the bed. Nothing Irish or I did could convince him to come out. He stayed there for three days, venturing out only in the middle of the night to eat and use the litter box.
The details of Cat’s life prior to living with the man who’d passed away are sketchy. Cat lost his leg, the daughter told us, due to a fight with a wild animal. Cat’s ears are also chewed up a bit. She also said that prior to living with her father, he was teased and possibly tortured by a group of young men who lived in a dorm.
On the afternoon of Day Three, Cat came out of the bedroom. I was in the office and Irish was watching football in the living room. Cat sat down and stared at me from the doorway. I said hello. A few more minutes passed. When I slowly got up from my chair, he bolted back under the bed.
The next night, I walked out of the bathroom after brushing my teeth and Cat was sitting in the hallway. He didn’t run away. I slowly sat down on the floor and talked softly to him. He cautiously walked over to me, purring, clearly craving attention. I reached out my hand. He cowered, but held his ground. I touched the top of his head and he moved to rub his neck against my hand. When I stood up to go to bed, he walked – not bolted – to his rug under the bed.
That Cat allowed me to touch him at all was courageous.
Fast forward three weeks. Tres, as he’s been named, is still a little skittish, but is all about being around Irish and me, walking between our legs when we’re getting dressed, playing with his mouse toy in the living room while we’re watching TV, and eating his food when we’re in the kitchen. It’s clear that Tres loves love. He thrives on attention. No wild animal, no cruel humans could squelch his hope or his desire to be cared for.
We all need to feel safe; to be acknowledged for the unique individuals we are. But it’s often what’s unique about us that keeps us hiding under the bed.
I’ve felt a nagging fear in the back of my mind ever since I wrote my last AIM post about my imaginary encounter with Santa. I’d written that I was worried that I wouldn’t complete tomorrow’s Jingle Bell 5K walk in the time that I could have completed a 5K a few years ago. Santa, of course, told me that time didn’t matter, that commitment to the cause of raising money for arthritis research was what was really important. But it’s hard to take advice from Santa when you’re the one playing Santa, you know?
Driving home from Irish’s today, I turned off the radio and concentrated on the nagging, the dread, the fear. What was I afraid of? It took several miles, but I identified the fear as fear of pain and fear of not being able to keep up with people who walked without a limp, especially the people who would be walking with me: my daughter Carlene, Irish, and my granddaughter Claire. Daughter Cassie will run the 5k, and I also realized that I’ve been comparing myself to her, too. I was feeling like Tres when he first moved into Irish’s: skittish, hiding under the bed, out of my element.
Then I thought about the trust Tres has built for Irish and me these last few weeks. Tres doesn’t intellectually understand the concept of trust and love, but clearly it’s innate. He doesn’t feel he has anything to prove to us. He doesn’t care that he has three legs.
I, too, have nothing to prove to the people who love me. I have to do nothing more than be myself. Walk what I can in the time that I can. Pain will ensue, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. Limp? Yup. It’s how I walk. Jingle Bell is a walk for arthritis research, for cryin' out loud! There will be people there with far more disability than me. People who will no doubt humble and inspire me.
My fear is in my head, created on the premise of “What if?”
I can do this tomorrow, whatever “this” turns out to be. And on Sunday when I see Tres again, I will give him a few extra neck rubs and thank him for showing me a side of trust and love I haven’t recognized in awhile.
|Irish and me|