Unconditional Furry Love

I’m not blogging about this:

 

What people choose to do with their imaginations and free time is entirely up to them. I’d like to talk about another type of “furry love”: the bond between people and animals. Yesterday was National Pet Day, and naturally, I thought about my pets. Though I’m not a fan of that term “pet”.  It implies a master>lesser relationship. I’m not saying that my cats are qualified to write my next novel or perform open heart surgery—those are human strengths and occupations. However, animals have their own talents. They intrinsically grasp the concepts of loyalty, pack-pride and love. To me, my two furry children are among the strongest emotional and spiritual supporters that I’ve ever known in my 36 years of life.

Human relationships tend to have a lot of qualifiers and complications. Whereas animal love is nearly unconditional. As in, so long as you don’t neglect or abuse your animal companion, they will never harbor resentment against you and will always look to you as a fellow member of their family/ pack. Animals offer tremendous comfort, mental and bodily equilibrium to their owners. Moreover, they bring us—if we’re open to the possibility—spiritual balance.

As I mentioned, I have two little darlings. Zeus, who is a hyperactive, perpetual kitten—always chasing shadows, meowing and looking for petting and attention. And Persephone (Persey, for short), who wavers between extreme lethargy and obsessive neediness. She has a habit of licking people. She also has a feral and borderline psychotic personality for which she is medicated daily. My cats are each flawed and wonderful, with specific wants and personalities. I’ve heard the suppositions before that animals cannot think, feel or possess “real spirits”, and to me, I’m assuming the person making such statements has never shared a bond with an animal. Animals teach us the building blocks of empathy. They teach us how to love something with which we cannot use our tongues or human methods to communicate. We have to connect to that creature on a primal, natural level. As a society, we’ve lost a great deal of the art of connecting to the land and to life.

Let’s talk about the more troubled of my two children, Persey.

She comes from a sad and sorted past. We picked her up during an Abandoned Cats Pet-A-Thon. I immediately chose her because of her beautiful green eyes, her expressive meow, and her sheer desire for us to unite. She pushed all the other kittens in the kennel out of the way, and even stepped on a few to clamber up so that she might press her face to the cage. She was a determined creature with a fierce personality. I knew that right away. Upon adoption, when they disclose to you the animal’s history, we learned that she had been left at a shelter in a box with her deceased mother and three other kittens. How’s that for a traumatic infancy? She was also six weeks old at the time, yet since she had no parent they weren’t opposed to putting her up for adoption early. As a result, Persey had not learned how to feed and groom herself properly and we had to “teach” her some of the fundamentals of cat-hood.

When she was older, we had her spayed. This service was paid for during her adoption. I remember having a very bad feeling about the rather run-down clinic where her operation was to take place. We were quite poor at the time, so shopping around for vets wasn’t an option. I also remember telling myself that I was being silly to be concerned. Sadly, my fears were justified and the animal that returned to us was not the same one who we had grown to love for so many months. Something happened to her just before, during or after her operation. She was devastated when we got her home. She wouldn’t eat and hid under the kitchen sink for almost a week. When she came out, she was terrified of the world. As she matured, she displayed symptoms of a “fractured” personality: aggression, mood swings, growling. I learned that this was an actual veterinary term for when something in an animal’s mind snaps. In short, she developed—or had all along a tendency for—mental illness.

I won’t go into the whole wild, expensive history with dear Persey. Despite the not-so-subtle pushes from certain concerned veterinary staff that the more “humane” option would be to simply end her life, Persey has defied the odds and now lives a blissful, healthy existence. Getting her to that place of stability was not an easy journey. It’s quite devastating to have a creature that you love turn on you and treat you as if you are their worst enemy. We tried tricyclic depressants and anti-psychotics, even a cocktail that Mr. Manson was once on—though that one just made her angrier. Eventually, we settled on a course of Elavil.

Today we have this traumatized, mentally ill, medicated animal who has caused us all sorts of grief—financially and emotionally—and yet I could not see my life without her. A great many people would simply say: “Why? What a hassle.” Then get rid of the fractured animal. However, my partner and I made a commitment to care for a life. One should not enter into such an agreement lightly. Don’t commit to an animal, a child, a passion, or a relationship without expecting there to be trials and sacrifices. That comes with the territory of love.

After Persey had settled into a working course of treatment, she still never really got around to being normal with other people. Though, she never again showed aggression towards us. Now I remember when my mom used to come over during her breaks between treatments. You have to be careful with cats and cancer-patients, so we were especially watchful during these visits. What amazed me was Persey’s immediate and unprecedented shift in personality. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. As if mom had rubbed herself in catnip and tuna, Persey rolled on her back, meowed, and demanded belly rubs. Persey cuddled up next to my mom and gave her the expectant “pet me” stare. To which my mom obliged with a certain caution. Prior to this, the closest Persey ever came to outsiders was to hiss and swat at their feet. Persey knew that my mother was ill, and her aggression transformed into compassion.

Somewhere on an old dead cellphone I have a picture of Cynthia and Persey siting side by side. Mom was in a gypsy head wrap and reading my first manuscript. Persey was curled up beside her—paw on mom’s leg. Persey wore a perfectly pleased, half-asleep expression. “My two favorite ladies in the world,” I think, whenever the picture comes to mind. I remember that image, and it plainly shows me one of life’s greatest truths. Our connectivity. Our compassion that can flow from person to animal and down into the soil itself. We are all spirit and we can connect through love. Animals can teach us that secret: how to love beyond boundaries.

Happy (belated) National Pet Day to you and all your furry children.

All my love,

—C