Anial Shelters, Choices, Christianity, Creation, Dogs, Emotional Health, Faith, Grace, Growing Up, Horses, Love, Marriage, Pets, Relationships, Rescue Animals, Simplicity, Spirituality, Stories, Uncategorized, Writing

Of Cats and Cat Boxes…

I do not like cats. There, I said it. While I may prefer the company of dogs and horses to that of most people, I do not like cats! My dislike for the creatures ranks right up there with rats, venomous snakes, and mosquitoes. I realize that many people love them, even my wife, but I am a dog person through and through. I’m sure that the Hebrew word for ‘serpent’ was mistranslated in the Biblical story of the Garden. I’m sure that Satan took the form of a cat rather that a serpent. Cats are generally obnoxious, dirty little animals, leaving fur all one’s clothes They are lousy companions and usually have this demanding attitude showing their disdain for whole human race. Their only talent is that they know how crap in a box.

Now before all you cat people form a lynch mob, please allow me to explain. I’m allergic to cats. Moreover, I may not remember much from my childhood, but I remember that a cat ate my hamster one day when my dad left the garage door open. It’s one resentment I’ve never been freed of. I’m obviously traumatized for life. My Uncle Carl, on who’s ranch I spent many a summer day, told me the only redeeming value a cat had was the ability to keep the barn free of vermin. I’ve been of the same opinion to this day.

However, my wife loves cats. She loves dogs as well, but she had cats up until we got married. I was adamant about remaining ‘cat-less’. After all, we had our dog, Missy, but she was definitely my dog. Margaret missed having a cat companion, and about three years ago I caved in and we adopted a cat. I placed on huge qualification on the adoption: I wouldn’t clean the litter box. I have a major problem with cat boxes. That’s where I draw the line. Margaret had back surgery a couple of weeks after the cat adoption. Guess who has cleaned the cat box…

Because it was a male we insisted on it being neutered prior to coming to our house so it wouldn’t spray our furniture. He went to a local veterinary clinic for his procedure and came to live with us that very night. Neither of us could come up a name for our new family member. I suggested ‘furry little f***’ but that was deemed inappropriate. I joked we should just call him ‘Ball-less’ given that those parts of him had been severed earlier in the day. I was told that, though it was funny, it wouldn’t do for when the grandchildren were about. Fortunately, our daughter, who has some hearing loss thought we were saying ‘Wallace’ and the name stuck. It’s our little inside joke, especially when the kids are here…

Please understand that our pets are rescue animals, so I’m going to get on my soapbox for a moment: The folks at the Humane Society of North Texas, the Dallas SPCA, and the myriad of rescue shelters (and one in your area) have an abundance of animals needing forever homes. So, if you’re thinking of becoming a pet parent, please, please, please help your local shelter. Over the last three years, we have had a puppy and a kitten, but we prefer to adopt older animals. They need a forever home more than most of the pets in the shelter. Now I can step down…

Wallace was probably about two or three, and when he came to live with us, and he was the strangest looking cat I’d ever seen. His fur was bristled and coarse, his legs seemed way too long for his body, and he was extremely thin. We soon discovered that he was malnourished and that accounted for his strange appearance. Since that day, he has thrived and filled out into a beautiful (yes, I said it…) cat. Today we call him our ‘fat cat’…

Wallace was an indoor cat until we installed our doggie door. He figured it out quickly and after a while, we couldn’t keep him inside the house. We’ve tried to keep him indoors during the extremes of Texas weather, but he won’t have it. He insists on staying on our front porch, where he has a ‘cat house’ and his food and water. He doesn’t stray far from the porch, except to sleep on the roof of my truck. He’s basically well-fed and lazy. He doesn’t care about stalking birds and squirrels like the other neighborhood cats or else he suffers from a severe case of Attention Deficit Disorder. Either could be the case. Most of the time, we find him sleeping on his back in the shade…

I guess that’s why I was so surprised as I sat on the porch, enjoying my coffee, and thinking about the day ahead. Suddenly, a huge commotion next to my truck arose. A squirrel came flying out from underneath, chattering loudly as it scooted up the nearest Ash tree. Less than two inches behind him, right on his tail, was our Wallace. The squirrel climbed high enough to turn around cussing at Wallace. I’m not sure who was more shocked, me or the squirrel. Who knew that Wallace could move like that? I guess he wanted both of us to know he still holds his place in the food chain. I could only look on with admiration, and if truth be known, a little pride in our cat.

I still don’t like cats, at least everyone else’s, although I’ve learned to tolerate them. Our other one, Shadow, was raised by our Catahoula, Jamison, so she doesn’t think she’s a cat. She doesn’t ‘meow’, she ‘barks. I’m okay with that.

I swore I’d never own a cat. I swore, with every fiber of my being, that I’d never, ever clean a litter box. Then I got married to the woman my soul connected with, the love of my life and now I have two cats and emptied the litter box until they discovered the dog door (thank you God!). Love has the power to change even the hardest of hearts.

If truth be known, I kind of like the furry little beasts. We have a crazy neighbor who has been known to shoot neighborhood cats with his pellet gun. I would have some serious words with him if one of my cats were to fall victim to his crankiness. Go figure – maybe I even love the little guys…

It may be a bit of a stretch here, but if love can overcome my intense dislike, even hatred, of cats, it’s probably able to overcome a lot of other negatives in life – or at least let me see them differently. God, of whom the Apostle John said, is defined as love, has transformed far more than my distaste for cats. My heart, and my eyes, have opened to a whole new world. Transformation occurred as my relationship with him developed, just like in my marriage. I’m growing and learning how to love today (and yes, cats included).

I had much more to say, but Wallace won’t stop reminding me that his food bowl is empty and it’s well past nap time. I gotta go…

Christianity, Communication, Conservation, Creation, Dogs, Environment, Faith, Freelancing, Hope, Horses, Listening, Love, Movies, Pets, Relationships, Spirituality, Uncategorized, Writing

“If I could talk to the animals…”

Just a couple of more days of triple digits. The weather folks predict a ten percent possibility of rain today. In Texas that means nothing is coming but cloud cover and more humidity. The Monday forecast of fifty percent chance of rain is more realistic. I’m sure the ten percent is just a ‘cover your butt’ caveat for local meteorologists. Weather people and baseball players are the only folks I know of who are financially rewarded for doing their job correctly thirty percent of the time. Just saying…

I was scanning the newsfeed this morning and came across a story that tore at my heart strings. According to researchers observing the orca (what we called ‘killer whales’ growing up) population near British Colombia, a female orca bore a new calf. The calf didn’t survive, and the grieving mother was seen carrying the dead calf on her back for the next two days.

The story stayed with me as my wife and I shared coffee on the porch this morning. We are pet parents, and like most pet parents, we ascribe human behaviors and emotions to our animals. Some would say we’ve lost our minds. In fact, my son told me I needed to get a friend after hearing me talk to our ‘Coyotahula’ (she’s half coyote and half Catahoula), Maggie. I’m lucky enough to have a friend already. In fact, I have several, but Maggie is part of the family. Pet parents will understand what I mean.

Margaret and I often put words in our dog’s mouth. We joke about the stories we come up with for the conversation that must be going on between them. We’ve thought about creating a video, but that’s another story, and you’d probably have to be here to get the humor.

I guess the point I’m trying to make, is that we aren’t that far off when we ascribe human traits to the animal kingdom. When I was growing up, the line between animals and people was more distinct. That line has dimmed as I’ve gotten older. I may be a bit anthropomorphic, but I find our friends in the animal kingdom to be more human than some humans…

The ancient Hebrew writings talk about our original relationship with the rest of the animal kingdom. I tend to forget that, though humans have a higher intellectual ability (and I’m not always sure of that – after all, look who is President…) we are still part of the animal kingdom. In the Book of Enoch, which wasn’t canonized into what we know as the Hebrew Old Testament, we’re told that we shared a common language with the rest of the animal kingdom. The whole “Doctor Doolittle” thing makes sense to me. After all, we share ninety-eight percent of our DNA with the greater apes. Why not the rest of the animals?

It seems to me that the Book of Enoch is a metaphor for our interconnectedness with all things. I’d like to believe that there will be a day when I can communicate clearly with all the denizens of the Earth. I have some questions I’d like to clarify. Do horses really sound like Mr. Ed (this may be lost on my younger readers – “Willlll-bur”)? Do donkeys sound like Eddie Murphy? I often wonder if snails and turtles could talk, would their speech be as slow as their movements? “Goooooooooooooood mooooooorrrnnnniiiiing…”

Since that day isn’t here yet, I’ll have to rely on personal observation and experience. If I ‘listen’ and pay attention to what they’re trying to tell me, my dogs, the horses, and I seem to communicate just fine. Maggie says ‘good morning the same way each day. Once it’s daylight I can count on her to jump on the bed, lick my face until I get up, and wait for her dose of morning loving.

When I remember how interconnected we are, I understand them better. When I remember how interconnected we are, I treat them better – more like I want to be treated. When I treat them differently, I begin to fulfill my intended role as a human – one of stewardship rather than domination – and act appropriately.

I guess that’s why the orca’s story made such an impact on me this morning. The mother orca was grieving, just like you and I do when we suffer a loss. I felt sad for her. I felt sad that the numbers of orcas, like so many species, are declining because we humans have failed as stewards and excelled at domination.

If we ever do develop the same language as the rest of the animal kingdom, I doubt I’ll find the words to tell them how sorry I am for the way human beings have treated them and their habitat. Like Dad always told me, “actions speak louder than words”. If I start acting differently, maybe I can start apologizing now…

Christian Mysticism, Christianity, Chronic Illness, Communication, Dogs, Emotional Health, Faith, Freelancing, Gratitude, Growing Up, Health, Hope, Horses, Listening, Love, Patience, Prayer, Relationships, Spirituality, Uncategorized, Writing

Straight From the Horse’s Mouth

Relief is in sight for the beleaguered! The forecast for the day is for cooler temperatures, at least for the next two or three days. Only in Fort Worth would we be excited by temperatures in the mid-nineties. Such are summers in Texas…

The last few days have been hectic, so I thought I’d take a break and catch the online sermon from church last Sunday morning. I’m still questioning the idea of worship in the corporate setting, so my ‘attendance’ remains online. I value the thoughts of our preacher, even if I’m still uncomfortable with how we do ‘church’ in our culture. Unfortunately, the livestream of the sermon kept disconnecting. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. I can relate to that. For the last two or three days, my prayers have been few and far between. I’ve been feeling a little low and my connection with my Higher Power is in a constant cycle of cutting out and reconnecting. I’ve felt like I’ve been in a constant ‘buffering’ state and I can’t quite reach 100%.

Connection problems can and do happen. God’s end may always broadcast a strong signal, but my reception gets spotty from time to time. The connection difficulties are always on my end. When it happens I often have to stop and clean out my ‘antennae’. Occasionally, I get far too busy, over-tired or just plain lazy and my mind gets clogged with self-pity, resentment, and self-centeredness. I begin to sound much like Eeyore in A.A. Milne’s, Winnie the Pooh – “Woe is me, I can’t find my tail…”

I’m not unique. Some of the most spiritual people I know feel a disconnect from their Higher Power on occasion. The sixteenth century Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross, called this disconnect, “the dark night of the soul”. For those of us who pray, who converse with the Spirit of the Universe, we know what he’s talking about. There are times when it feels like prayers fall on deaf ears. We listen intently for answers that don’t come. God is silent. We feel alone, left to our own devices.

When I feel isolated and disconnected, I begin to wonder where God is. I start to question my faith. I’m filled with doubts: little ones at first that multiply into crisis of faith. I used to think this was anathema to me. My upbringing had taught me that questioning one’s faith destined me to the fires of hell. That haunted me for many years, but today I know that faith without questioning is not much of a faith at all. God is much bigger than my doubts. If I continue to pray and listen I will hear God’s response in the most extraordinary, yet simple, ways.

I do some work at a stable not far from my home. Don’t tell anyone, but I’d do it for free just because I love being there. There are three horses, Dollar, Lightfoot, and Trooper (‘the boys’ as I call them). Dollar is the oldest, at seventeen. The other two are two or three-year-old rescues; adopted wild mustangs from herds in Arizona and Utah.

IMG_2039

Now I am no ‘horse whisperer’ by any means, but I’ve developed quite a relationship with Trooper and Lightfoot. I was warned they were skittish around people, but that hasn’t even been close to my experience. They have loved and ‘hugged’ on me since the day we met. When I pull up to the stables, they amble over to say hello and let me love on them.

They are one of the ways I find reconnection with my Higher Power. I leave the stables with my spirit more in tune with the universe. There’s a buzz, a vibration, and I begin to hear God whisper. Decisions come easier. Heck, life becomes easier. My mind is free to explore the realm of possibilities, to work and play again. Most importantly, I begin to feel a sense of belonging, of being a part of something far bigger than I. My gratitude grows, and my doubts are erased. All of this happens by simply allowing God to love on me through others, whether they have four legs or two.

I’m basically an introvert. I find the company of my dogs and the horses to be my safe, comfortable place. My beautiful wife, on the other hand, is extremely social and extroverted. She loves to be on the go and around others. I often joke that I’d been more places in the first year of marriage than I had in the previous ten. For that reason, the last almost three years since her back surgery have been hard on her. I’m thrilled when she’s able to get out. I know it’s her way of reconnecting, of hearing God’s voice.

God’s voice becomes clear through our relationships with people and the world around us. When I’m aware of the beauty of creation, I strive to be a better steward of God’s world. I believe that God’s silence is simply His way of reminding me of the importance of relationships, whether they be with dogs and horses or the people in my life. His silence reminds me of the spirit of all things that connect me to the universe. His silence reminds me to be grateful, to be awestruck, and to drink in the beauty of all things.

Most importantly, His silence is a reminder He’s still there, loving me through ‘the dark night of the soul’. Those days, whether measured in weeks or years, will come for all of us. Feelings of doubt and even futility, but they will pass eventually, and probably do so in the most unlikely of ways. It might even come straight from the horse’s mouth…