Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Blessings of Life: Dogs and Cats I have loved.

I have been cat-sitting here in the beautiful Berkeley hills for almost two weeks. Since I love dogs and cats, this is a dream job. Animals have been my healing strength more than once in my chaotic life. As I continue to reflect on God and His amazing creativity, I am humbled by a small black, brown and white kitty who has decided she can trust me. She has decided I'm safe to sleep with.

I lay very still as she makes the little circles, deciding exactly how and where she will lie down on, or near me. I can feel the faster pace of her breathing. As she drifts off to sleep her body twitches slightly, here and there as she releases herself into deeper levels of rest. I pray for the people and animals in my life.

I wake again, very early this morning. I'm now on my side and miss kitty has made a cozy nest behind my bent knees. She has positioned herself to have as much physical contact with me as is comfortably possible. I marvel at the beauty of God's creation. Ever take the time to truly examine any plant near your home? I concluded, as a teenager that God must exist, because of the beauty I saw in a Bay leaf, examined under a microscope. No man could have fashioned that.

Animals respond to prayer. I do not know if they see angels, or just feel the difference in my attitude, when I focus my attention off the mundane and turn to the eternal. I have seen dogs sit in wrapped attention as I pray. I have seen cats sit quietly while I pray, and then, when I am finished, they leap and twirl in the air with joy.

I know animals sense far more then we give them credit for. They may not understand your words to them, but they know when you are happy, sad, angry, or sorry. I have learned the subtle ways of sadness my charges express as they realize their "people" are gone, when I first arrive to stay with them. I have frustrated more then one pet owner because their cat will come when I call, but will absolutely ignore their owner!

I have helped abused animals recover from a bad kitten-hood, or puppy-hood. I really believe one must be mentally ill to deliberately injure a defenseless kitten, or puppy. A roommate of mine rescued a stray kitten after she saw the apartment manager drop kick it off the property. She breathlessly told me the story, securing my permission to include a kitten in the shared apartment. She ran downstairs and reappeared with a beautiful smokey-gray, trembling, drooling and terrified kitten. This kitten was lovely. Her fur was not shiny, but a flat charcoal /smoke gray. So, what else, we called her Smokey.

Since I was not working at the time, Smokey became my cat. I'd hold her in my lap for hours. She eventually stopped trembling and drooling. She was afraid to purr while awake. She'd purr as she was drifting off to sleep. But would wake and leap straight up in the air at the slightest noise. After several years, Smokey decided it was safe to purr and sleep.

She was a determined trouble-maker. Cats are nocturnal, so about 11 PM, it was time for her to rock 'n 'roll. I was trying to sleep, but heard her leap somewhere and suddenly a heavy picture crashed off the wall followed by a loud yowl from a cat underneath said picture. I rescued one cat and my roommates expensive artwork. Smokey thus learned not to bat at things hanging on the walls!

Smokey was the first cat I really got to be close with. She slept on my chest, or along the side of my body. When I left that apartment and the roommate who I couldn't bear to live with anymore, Smokey never forgave me. That cat refused to even let me pet her. I felt just terrible. But I was living in a no-pets situation. Smokey suffered a lot when I left.

The next cat I got close to was Sandy, a friend's cat. I cleaned her house and Sandy showed me how a helpful cat can keep even a determined housekeeper from making a bed. When I came to my friend, the night my batterer threw me out of the house, Sandy stuck really close to me. She wrapped her little body around my arm when I slept. I could feel her little heartbeat. Things come around full-circle. I helped an abused kitten, and a cat was helping me recover from two years of being battered.

Dogs and cats both show affection, but their styles are very different. A dog will greet you, after you have left a room for five minutes, like you are the return of Jesus. A cat won't even react when you return to a room - unless they want something. Cats come on their terms. Dogs just worship you.

So, I share my musings about beloved animals I've known, tended and loved. My life is richer and fuller for the part my four-legged furry friends have played in my world.

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