Saturday, November 27, 2010

the work that they do

I have recently returned from travelling for a series of regional business meetings. As some of you know I am fortunate enough to work in the pet industry….so I spend my days talking about dogs, cats and the human-animal bond and working with fellow pet lovers. It is not only perfectly acceptable, but it is expected, that the conversations over meals during these meetings were focused on how much we were missing our own pets, swapping stories about how our animals made us laugh, about how much they mean to us. These conversations and these weeks of travel got me thinking about the notion of work….not of ours per say but of the work that our animals do. In the traditional sense the work of animals, specifically dogs, has been defined by activities like herding, guarding, guiding, searching and rescuing, etc. Their jobs have also expanded into arenas like therapy and hospice work. These are all important jobs performed by remarkable dogs. But the work that I got thinking about is the work that our ordinary, run of the mill dogs and cats do every day...the jobs they do for us – individually as pet owners – and for us collectively as a group.

The work that Sophie has done for me and continues to do for me is the very thing that this blog was built upon on. Initially, simply in becoming a dog owner, her work was to teach me about patience, about communication, about how to build connections, about perseverance. When my life was turned upside down, her work became comforting me, inspiring me, showing me the possibility of a different path...of slowing down, of figuring out what brings me joy and chasing after it with no looking back. And as our lives have become so intertwined, her work continues – she is my muse, in both my personal and professional life – a huge job for one little dog but one that she does beautifully. And the work of our pets is not limited to our dogs….our cats have equally demanding roles. If Sophie is my muse, Elora is my heart….quiet, steady and always, always there. Her job is to be my touchstone…my constant in world full of change…my rock. Her very presence is what I define as home…again, another huge job for such a small girl, but she does it, without fail, every day.

As we talked about our pets over breakfast and dinners during these regional meetings, the work that these animals do was apparent time and time again. Stories were told, not just about the unique, personal roles that these dogs and cats play in their owners lives, but also the work that they do in general for many people in this world – people they may only interact with in a brief and fleeting moment….bringing smiles to strangers faces with their wagging tails and easy demeanors; lifting spirits of troubled souls, even if it’s just a for a few minutes, with their exuberance and infectious enthusiasm for life; easing tension between co-workers with their simple, unconditional love for any and all people.

This kind of work that our animals perform….it is not because we tell them to do these jobs, or because they get rewarded…it’s simply what they do, it’s part of their very nature. And after my weeks of travels, I found myself writing this on the plane as I flew home eager to see Sophie and Elora because I was thinking about what our lives might be like if that wasn’t the case…if it was not their nature. I know for me, and I think I can say for most of the people that I spent time with at these meetings and for most of you who continue to visit Finding Sirius, our lives would have less…less joy, less comfort, less laughter and, definitely, less love. The work that they do….be thankful for it and love them for it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

the mean cat

I’m going to say the thing that no cat owner should say: Elora, whom I love to my very core, is a mean cat. My 3 year old nephew, who knows his own cat’s name, who knows not only Sophie’s name, but all of her nicknames too, knows Elora simply as “The Mean Cat” –emphasis on the “The”. And it is the simple truth.

She was standoffish even as a kitten at 6 weeks old….the last of her litter waiting to be adopted at the shelter as her brothers and sisters were cuddly and affectionate while Elora sat in the corner staring at potential owners – even then with a cool gleam in her eye daring one of them to make the slightest move in her direction. But when I saw her I immediately took to her….attitude and all. Elora does all the things a mean cat should….she hisses at unfamiliar people in her house; she swats the hand that lingers on her fur a little too long; she has been known to give Sophie a perfect left jab -- followed by a fierce right hook, to her nose simply for walking by at too quick of a pace. She is wary of people, mildly tolerant of Sophie and lives with me on her own terms. She is the cat that I have to tuck into a bedroom when visitors come by, the cat that I have to apologize for to family members when a swat makes contact and….and she is the cat that I love.

My bond with Elora is just as strong as the one I have with Sophie. Although I too have received my share of warning strikes with a soft but firm paw, I have also received the kind of affection from her that you take notice of, that you remember…partly because it’s coming from a mean cat. She will cuddle with me on the couch, purring up a storm; she will play with a ball that I toss for her – like a kitten of 6 months; and she will weave between my feet as I make dinner in the kitchen, soft and warm, relishing in her contact with me. As much as I chose Elora that day in the shelter, she has chosen me back in return…as her human, her companion in this life. The love of a mean cat….it slips quietly in and finds a place deep in your heart and takes hold for life.