Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Lessons from a Cat

It was May when we had to put our beloved Pit Bull, Mugsy, down - he was only four. He had begun to get aggressive with me while disobeying my every command and one day snapped at me when I grabbed the newspaper to correct him. Then, one fine day, he decided to escape the kennel in our backyard, chase inmates who were doing yardwork around the grounds and get into a little scrap with a very aggressive Black Lab. Of course all the blame went to Mugsy, and we were asked to get rid of him.

We searched our hearts for a solution, but all available research pointed in one direction. The advice, as cold as it seemed, said, "If your Pit Bull has snapped - even once - don't give it to another family where someone else could get hurt." With heavy hearts we took Mugsy to be euthanized and then buried him through lots of tears.

I've had lots of pets over the years - dogs, cats, birds, fish, rabbits, lizards, and of course, a turtle. My turtle, Agape, was absolutely the best pet ever and I loved her for eight long years before one spring, she failed to come out of hibernation. The birds were too noisy and dirty. the lizards - escape artists that chose to bite the hand that fed them. Fish are still nice, but because I have a ten year old African Cichlid named Tommy who eats everything that moves and refuses to die, my 55 gallon tank is home to none but he.

There have been times in my life that I really did not like cats. They are so predatorial. I don't really enjoy finding dead birds and mice at my door. The feral neighborhood cats wreak havoc - breaking garbage bags open and spilling the cans all over the road and yard. But most of all, I never could find a cat who loved me. I seem to have a knack for picking the cat who would just look at me with that condescending, "Be My Slave - Feed Me" look. So, i made up my mind - stick with dogs.

Derek and I made up our minds we were going through a Rescue to find our next canine friend. We looked and looked. We attended adopt-a-thons and called places - only to find out the dog we wanted was already adopted. Then came Shadow.

Shadow's owner moved in with his elderly mother so he needed to find a home for him. The owner happens to be Ellen's cousin on her father's side, so I had heard about Shadow for months. It was love at first sight - part Cocker Spaniel, part Pug, pure black fur with a little white goatee stripe on his chin - Shadow was just what I wanted - a little fluffy dog with a touch of masculinity so as not to be too frou-frou. Even better - he is mellow. He's great at just hanging out with me outside and he doesn't chase a thing. But now the honeymoon is over.

Shadow will be two years old in October and is yet to be housebroken. When I take him outside, he lays in the grass and watches the world go by. When we go inside, he sneaks off to one of the bedrooms and does his business there - usually on some piece of clean laundry. I won't give up on him, but I have yet to understand how a dog can reach the age of 2 and still not understand that "Outside = Rest Area."

Anyway, two weeks ago it happened. Ellen comes walking in the house carrying the cutest little tabby cat and says, "Mom, can we keep it?" She went door to door asking our neighbors if they knew who's kitten it was, finally discovering the truth - the kitten was born to one of the feral cats in the neighborhood. Now was the time to save her. In another month, she would probably be too wild to be approached by humans.

We named her Victoria-Gwenivere after my godmother, Vicky and my mother, Gwen. They had been best friends since the sixth grade when Vicky lost her life to cancer two years ago in October. Vicky was also, in my best estimation, the Patron Saint of Stray Cats. She was always taking in stray cats and blessing them with a home.

I have to admit I wasn't expecting much from this cat, with all of my oh-so-joyous experiences with the species. But Miss Vicky, as we affectionately call her, has impressed upon me, an incredible lesson of God's love.

What kind of life would Miss Vicky have lived had we not taken her in? There she was, as Ellen informed me, all alone - wailing, crying to anyone who passed by. She was probably hungry, and soon would be living life covered in fleas and digging out of garbage cans for survival.

But we took her in. Every morning she comes running when I come home from my route and leads me to her dish where I lavish her with yummy treats. I fill Shadow's dish as well, and by the time my coffee's made and I am seated at my desk to start my day's work, there's Miss Vicky - jumping or climbing up into my arms - purring like a small airplane engine and giving me gentle "head-butts" of love and appreciation.

Strangely, but yet, not-so-strangely, when we would open the door to the outside, Miss Vicky would bolt upstairs. This week, however, curiosity got the best of her and she nosed around the yard for just a bit, and then quickly ran to the door and tried to open it with her paw. She seems to want nothing to do with the "outside world" but is happy to rest in our ever-so-humble, but loving, home.

How much is this relationship like that of ours with our Heavenly Father? He has rescued, and continues to rescue, us from a flea infested, garbage-ridden world. He provides for us (so much more than food) and allows us to rest in His arms. He continues to love us - and yes, I indeed, have come to love this cat. I was wondering if she ever got lost, how would I know that she's mine? She is a typical grey tabby with no distinctive markings. But something tells me I would just know, just as God knows every hair on our heads. Luke 12:7 says, "Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows."

When I think of this overwhelming love I have for this cat, it awes me to think how God loves us. Romans 5:8 - But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. It comforts me to think of myself as this poor little kitten resting in God's great arms and feeling the love He has for me. More and more, I don't want to know what's waiting outside that door. There is no need to stray when I'm safe in my Father's arms.