She’s all of about 12 pounds of a fine combination of fur, playfulness, and love; her name is Vanessa. About 8 years ago, I rescued her from a farm. At the time, I knew she’d be destined to spend her life outdoors, constantly exposed to harsh weather and the complete absence of any medical attention. She’d been orphaned only a few months earlier; I just didn’t feel right about leaving her fate to chance.
These days, she seems to have adjusted quite well to life as a house cat. At the moment, I am reclining on my favourite chair and my little friend lays outstretched on my chest, a common resting place for her. By the intensity with which she snuggles into me, you would think that she had not had human contact in weeks. In truth, it’s been about 30 minutes since she was in the exact same spot. She is a sook; she loves attention and any kind of human affection.
Many people believe animals have keen intuition. On this day, Vanessa’s intuition has spoken loudly. In recent weeks, I have had some health challenges. This day, I feel terrible. It is not uncommon for her to visit with me whilst I am sitting in my favourite chair, but today has been different. From the moment I arrived home and decided to have a seat, Vanessa has been seated on top of me, making sure to let me know that she loves me. She literally has not left my side (nor my stomach). She knows I’m not feeling well.
As I sputter and “phh” away the hair that is covering my hooded sweatshirt and face, I wonder: why is there such a special bond between humans and animals? As little ones, many of us are given stuffed animals, almost as an invariable precursor to the life’s future enmeshing with pets. For me, the sound of a purring cat is a calming balm. For others, the sight of a wagging tail evokes the same manner of heart-filling contentment. Of course, the point of this article is not to draw a line in the sand between those who are dog lovers and those who are cat lovers; in fact, nothing could be further from my intention. It is true that many of us certainly prefer one over the other; however, it is clear that a great majority of us truly enjoy having an animal friend in our lives. I know I do.
I guess it speaks to the breadth to which love can be known. As humans, sometimes we meet other people who do not speak the same language as we do. However, we are still able to give and receive hospitality and generous gifts of love and kindness. In the midst of such disparities and differences, I find it remarkable that love is able to find a way to bridge the gap. In my world, we have a word for this: grace. I think it is similar with animals. Certainly, there are pronounced differences between us. For example, I do not urinate or bathe myself in public nor do I enjoy eating raw meat. Moreover, at this point in my life, I am unable to understand the verbalizations that my cat makes. To me, “Meow” can have different intonations, some of which I can interpret, however, for the most part, I am often aware that I cannot in any definitive way understand what my cat is saying to me. I suspect the same is true for her.
However, it is into this divide that love can enter. Love is intuitive. Love does not get tongue-tied or fret about the differences of uttered sounds. Even better, love is bigger and stronger than the shape of our paws, be they human or non; it does not care about the manner of fur that fits our torsos. Love binds us all together; cat, dog, woman, man, and so on.
I’m sure that many of you have pet friends that are very dear to you. I would love to hear about the special bond you share with them. If you would like to share them with me, you can reach me via email (email@example.com), in person (C.C. Jones Student Services Building), by phone (453-5089) or our blog: Blogs.unb.ca/chaplains-corner/. Peace.