For some time now, our cat (really Sister Paula’s cat—a great story for another day) has taken it upon herself to come and sit on my lap if she sees me sitting in my over-stuffed chair. Little by little, Precious has taken over every piece of furniture in the house and has wormed her was into all the hearts in the house as well. I am the last holdout, likely because we never had an animal in our house when I was growing up. I have come to love dogs over the years because of the extraordinary dogs I have known, especially the lovely Lady Ruth, the beautiful Irish Setter who thought she was a person, and any number of Labradors: golden, black or in between and a couple of tiny dogs of the chihuahua breed. Happy to have made the acquaintance of each of these “furry friends,” I have not only enjoyed them but have benefited by the relationships. My first serious lesson in that realm came from Ruth. One day, long ago, I was very sad—bereft even—for a reason I have long forgotten. I came home from work and, finding no one in the house, I walked down to our back field and sat in the grass, likely to pout. Some moments later, I realized that I had company, Lady Ruth was quietly sitting beside me. She didn’t say anything but sat quietly with me, offering her presence for my comfort. It was a powerful lesson about the intuition of some animals.
This morning I had a similar experience. I was attempting to write a blog post and having little success when Precious suddenly extricated herself from me and my chair and moved on to her next task. I realized I had been very alert as I petted her. She has not yet learned the difference in biting and nipping as an expression of love and I never want to trust that she has succeeded in learning the distinction. Thus I am careful to be alert even while feeling the comfort of the relationality of connection to another being.
It’s really difficult to explain the meaning of such an experience to non-animal people, but take my word for it. Animals are some of the greatest teachers around!