I’m stalking the coolest cat that ever walked.
And I was always a dog person. At least until my friend Kat sent me a link to a cat story (her name is really Kat).
I mean I know cat vides are popular on You Tube, but until I heard of Russell I never once typed “Cat video” into my Google search bar. I usually read and write about trauma, addiction, recovery from abuse or neglect or maybe friendships and break-ups.
I can no longer claim those bragging rights.
I’m in love with a four-legged feline.
His name is Russell.
Russell is recovering from second and third degree burns in North Carolina at Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care.
He lost his home and eventually his canine companion a few years ago because of a fire. Russell was found four days after the fire. Though presumed dead—he wasn’t—and stayed alive despite severe injuries.
He endured amputations (which is why he doesn’t have ear tips). He was burned on paws, had mouth and rectal injuries.
It hurts to even type that.
Now, without ears, with bandages and in between his own surgeries he tends to the other animals.
Russell, according to the staff is a real cuddle bunny of a cat. Though he may never recover completely he’s always improving. According to the staff, he seems to sense which other animals, maybe a fawn or a recovering dog, needs some extra love and attention.
He’s a wounded healer kind of cat.
This sounds like a plea for money. It isn’t. Apparently, the hospital has received enough donations to care for Russell for his entire life from about 40 countries and most states.
Isn’t that incredible too?
I generally like edgy, honest and brave. I like gritty and tell-it-like it is without sugar coating.
But here’s why.
Russell isn’t all cute and sweet. Russell is injured and looks “rough” as one in recovery or pain does. There’s no way to not see his injuries.
And also to see what a dazzling cool cat he is.
Through love all pain will turn to medicine. That’s a Rumi quote as translated/popularized by Coleman Barks.
Over the past two years I’ve interviewed trauma survivors who use their traumatic experiences and post-trauma recovery to help other trauma survivors.
I’ve met human versions of Russell. The tough ones who turn kind blow me away because honestly, though I aspire to be them, I’m still angry a good deal of the time.
I drink their spirits in and share them with others because we all need human and feline Russells in our lives.
There’s Zahabiyah Khorakiwala (Zabie) who is a rape survivor and also a yoga teacher and violence prevention coordinator. When talk therapy didn’t help her personally as much as she had hoped, she found yoga and it did.
Zabie not only used yoga to heal herself, she started the organization Transcending Sexual Violence through Yoga. She now teaches other yoga teachers how to lead trauma-sensitive and trauma-informed classes (and teaches them and has a yoga practice herself).
Zabie is a Russell.
There’s Julie Lovely survived her own fire and has a father who survived a traumatic brain injury. She found traditional trauma therapies didn’t help her as much as being with horses did. She not only found healing for herself, opened Wild Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Program. She made Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy free to veterans, which is a free program
She didn’t just survive her trauma, but shared what she learned about what helped with others. Affordably and by donating her own time to fundraising.
Yeah…as my daughter would say. Yeah… so… that.
Julie is a Russell too.
I love meeting human versions of Russell. In fact the Kat who told me about Russell is the founder of Report It Girl: Ending the Culture of Silence Around Sexual Violence. She wants to make a safer and more healing world for those who have been sexually assaulted. Report it Girl is about healing through storytelling, community and resources. It was a resource Kat needed for herself and didn’t have when navigating the criminal justice system and healing. She wanted better for others. So she made it happen.
Kat is a Russell too.
Transforming trauma into pain or service is a beautiful victory of the spirit (I almost said human – but for Russell).
But love and compassion after agony aren’t always possible. Sometimes ever and certainly not right away.
Sometimes, the absolute best one can do is survive. And let me be clear – THAT is a triumph and a victory too!
As my friend Kathy says, sometimes pain is just pain. Sometimes pain is ugly and messy before it becomes all beautiful or medicinal.
That’s human. That’s real. That’s understandable. We are pain-avoidant beings and pain is well – painful. Especially after trauma of any kind.
Like rape or fire or childhood abuse.
So when there’s a Julie, Kat, Zabie and a Russell who have all suffered and who have grit, grace and generosity even though and maybe because of that suffering…
Well, that’s a balloon falling huge ceremony worthy sort of celebrating. We don’t get to see enough both the bandages and the compassion. With Russell we do.
Too often difficulty, woundedness and pain are sanitized or sugar-coated. We don’t need to be protected from pain. Sometimes we need to see that pain because it makes the compassion right next to it even more beautiful.
We get strength and inspiration from knowing what’s possible.
These Russells inspire those of us who may still be steeped in pain or who can’t imagine using our pain for good to think bigger and shoot higher.
Or to just feel understood. We get to witness people moving on and forward and living—even after.
They are amazing. And like Russell does, I’m sure they have recovery days, down days, days they need care and tenderness and soothing.
Russell still has bandages too. That doesn’t mean he’s not healed or healing too.
I’m sure Russell has don’t touch me days. I bet he has leave me alone moments. Those too make some of the “medicine” that love turns pain into. Who or how would Russell be before his fire or if he had never been burned?
It doesn’t really matter now because he was.
He need not be perfect every single second to be notable, wonderful and worthy of praise and acknowledgement.
He’s the perfect example of being human.
And he’s a cat.
And that’s enough.
Maybe you know a human Russell too? If you have a Russell in your life you want to celebrate write about him or her in the comments. Let’s document ordinary divinity.
I’m going to share this with my human friend Kat who let me know about Russell.
I need them both.
Author: Christine “Cissy” White
Editor: Renée Picard
Images: via Imgur