I’d found him at the Humane Society all those years ago. He’d been the only cat in a sea of kittens, an “average Joe” looking black and gray striped tiger, except for one standout feature: he glared at me with a stare of angry misery. This look conveyed to me that he knew he did not belong locked away in that cage. I’ve been put down and kicked around, his eyes flashed at me, and don’t pretend like you’re going to pick me over all these fluffy balls of cuteness.
I looked away for a few moments as this information took hold of my Soul. To my friend there with me, I seemed to be checking out the other kittens, but in reality I didn’t really see them at all. I’d found my little guy. I looked back at him again and again. He did not bother returning the favor, sure I’d pass him by like everyone else had.
He was wrong. It was a rare occurrence for him, as I’d come to learn over our years together. Whatever life story he’d lived in the estimated year and a half before I met him, he must have faced the harshness of it head on, because he came with loads of wisdom built in. The people at the society said he’d been found on the side of the road, seemingly dumped there. Upon taking him home, I learned he was terrified of men. For some years after I found him, he’d run and hide if he heard a strange man’s voice in our home. He’d become that cute cuddly kitten when he was frightened, pushing his little body up next to mine for support.
But on that day, I was not looking for just cute, cuddly, and unharmed. I was none of those things, and knew that my match would need to have a depth of character too. Simply put, I wanted to give love to him, and that was enough. I adopted him that day.
It took him a little longer to do the same for me. Apparently, he wanted his human to have her fair share of wisdom too, and he wasn’t going to trust just anybody. It didn’t help that, for various reasons during his first weeks with me, I had to continually take him to the vet, which he abhorred. I suspected that his howls of horror during the car rides to and from the office had something to do with reliving the worst kind of rejection: being left to die alone on the roadside after a car ride had taken him away from the only home he’d ever known, to be disposed of like a piece of garbage.
One particular day during our first fall together, a sore on his side had developed to the point where I felt he needed yet another vet visit. I’d reached to scoop him up off the upstairs banister of the house my two sisters and I rented off campus, when he lashed out at me with his claws and bit my hand hard.
I immediately understood the source of this reaction. His limited experience with me had included too many similar “scoop ups”, followed by another trauma-filled ride in the big, bad car. He’d reached his breaking point. Still, I’d already vowed that I’d love him for life, so his attack hurt my heart much more than it did my hand.
With a combination of dejection mixed with instinct and compassion, I plopped down on the hardwood floor as he suspiciously stared at me from his position above on the stair rail. I don’t know why, but I just started talking to him as if he were human. All I can say is, it it was the only language I knew, so I did what I could to try to convey to him that I didn’t want to hurt, but help. Genuineness, apparently, is a common language among all creatures, because as I told him I was sorry to keep taking him to the vets, didn’t want to scare him, and expressed that I understood that he didn’t trust me, his little kitty body began to relax. Rambling on, I told him that at some point I hoped he’d accept my love. Then I let out a huge sigh and went silent.
He eyeballed me some more. I tentatively and humbly offered my hand to him, from my lowly position on the floor. When he gave a little sniff, I went for the prize, telling about my promise to always love him, be there for him, and to never abandon him. That’s when I got to see something extraordinary: another’s walls of pain melting away before my eyes. What a brave moment that was for him, to decide to trust me.
From that October day until the mild August afternoon sixteen years later when we said our earthly goodbyes, he was my cling-on kitty, always at my side, teaching me by example how to never settle for less than I deserve.
Enlightenment Lesson #1: Love spoken in any language is Universally understood.