All Creatures Great and Small

23 Feb

PBS has been airing a show that I’ve recently been catching glimpses of. I don’t know what the show is called except that I believe it’s sponsored by “Nature.” Anyway, every time I stumble upon it, people are being featured with their pets and interviewed about their relationship with them. A number of the interviews highlight cats and the transforming impact of them on their owner’s lives. Whenever this show comes on, I stop riveted as I listen to people’s personal testimonies. It’s like witnessing someone’s conversion to God. I’m held slightly in awe.

Now I grew up with pets so it’s not like I’m unfamiliar with how endearing they can be. Boomer, Pasha, Smokey and Sly were significant childhood companions. However, I have never given money to the Humane society and used to be kind of cynical whenever listening to animal rights activists. I felt like it was easier for people to take up a cause for animals- a species one step removed from them – than to confront all the injustice humans experience. But suddenly, I am finding myself deeply drawn to animals and that I’m concerned for their well being in the same way I am for humans. 

For me, having animals as an adult is a different experience than when I had them as a child. Sure, I had to be responsible for mine as a kid. I come from farm stock, so chores were more than part of my daily regiment. The dogs got walked and brushed twice a day despite the fact that they had almost an acre to roam on and I washed them every Saturday. When I got my driver’s license at sixteen, I also took them to the vet. But somehow being responsible for pets as an adult differs from my childhood experience. If pets were like siblings when I was a kid, now as an adult, they feel like my children. 

I became the proud owner of Rumi and Hafiz when their previous owner, an elderly woman fell and broke her hip, resulting in her needing to move to assisted living. She had raised these cats since they were infants, feeding them milk from an eye-dropper. It broke her heart to give them up and she called me a few times the first week I had them to make certain they were truly okay. 

Rumi and Hafiz (I gave them these names) were initially overwhelmed at having to change living environments. They hid in my closet during their first day or two with me, only to come out at night or to be fed. The sound of their paws clicking on my hard wood floors drove me batty at first, as did their waking me up every few hours for food like newborns. They came up with all kinds of clever ways to arouse me from slumber including walking directly on my face, which resulted in all of us being startled and terrified.

Like any parent, I think my children are the most beautiful, most clever and most unique species on the planet. But trust me. Rumi and Hafiz are. Besides looking like super models, with soft beautiful fur, blue eyes and well defined cheekbones, they are love personified. My cats are not your typical aloof, leave-me-alone, I’m independent felines. Rather they are dog-cats. They want to be by my side every second. If I’m at the computer, one is on my lap; the other on the desk. When I wake up, one is sprawled on my legs; the other on my chest. They display an uncanny degree of loyalty and affection that I don’t know what I did to deserve and look at me with eyes that I swear pierce into the depths of my soul. For you see, I think these two cats are really angels disguised in fur. I truly think they are missionaries from God sent to look after my spiritual well being. 

The other day I happened to be at the police station filing a report for the hit and run driver who rammed into my car – %$#@!  –  which is right next to the humane society. A woman from the agency was walking a magnificent dog. I’m not certain what the breed was – s/he was similar to a golden lab but a little more red in color. Anyway, I fell in love. And it just killed me that the dog didn’t have a home. I looked deep into his eyes and then verbally said a prayer. “Please, may you find a wonderful family to love you.” Isn’t that what we all want and deserve? Whether animal or human, we all want a family where we can freely give our love. This dog wasn’t so interested in “getting” love. He just wanted to wag his tail and to GIVE his love. 

Years ago, PBS aired another program dealing with animals. Based on the books by James Herriot, “All Creatures Great and Small,” was a delightful series about a Yorkshire veterinarian. Yes, indeed. All creatures great and small. The Lord God loves them all. And it is through them that I am learning some pretty profound lessons about love.

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