June 11, 2015

Walking with Cats.

walking away let go goodbye back man body / Vato Bob

I have done a lot of walking around in my 45 years.

Much of that walking has been directly related to the fact that I was an alcoholic for most of my life. Even though I no longer drink, I believe that alcoholism is a terrible disease that has at times controlled every aspect of my life.

I took my first drink at the age of 16.

Drinking has caused me to lie, cheat and steal from nearly everyone in my life in one way or another, and it has separated me from my son, my family, friends and loved ones.

There have also been times in my life where I became homeless as a result of my alcoholism. It was during those times that I did a great deal of walking.

Sometimes I walked with other people, but the majority of that walking was done alone.

The worst of my alcoholism and homelessness came with a chronic depression that kept me wanting to limit my interaction with other people, but since I am a human being I desperately desired contact of some kind.

When you walk around, you find a lot of things. I came to be known for my knack for finding things. Once, I found $220 while walking around. I promptly blew it on alcohol.

When you are homeless and just walking around, you also come across quite a few animals.

Mostly cats and dogs.

From my experience, most dogs were not fun to interact with on the streets, and they didn’t desire the same type of contact that I was hoping to find.

Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs. And I have had a few great dogs as pets, but really, I would consider myself to be more of a cat person, as I have had more cats than dogs in the past. But even house cats are finicky by nature, and will not usually approach you unless you offer them some type of pleasure or sustenance.

So, imagine if you will, how much less inviting a stray feline is compared to their domesticated counterparts. Regardless, at the time I related to these creatures. I identified myself with them and it is with them that I chose to interact with when the chance presented itself.

For the longest time, I could not get a cat to come to me on the street no matter how hard I tried. And let me tell you, it is a horrible feeling when you’re at rock bottom, and at odds with a disease (which has seemingly left you alienated from all  other human beings around you) and you cannot even coax a cat into playing with you for a moment or two.

During these times, I learned a lot about cats, and I learned a lot about myself.

I was a bad person, doing bad things with my life, and if I was a cat, I wouldn’t have come to me either.

Still, it broke my heart to be homeless, strung out and drifting along, trying to figure out what my next move was going to be, and to see a cat whose situation didn’t seem to be much better than my own. I thought to myself that if I could just get it to come to me, get it to let me pet it and hear it purr, and feel it nuzzle against my hand, even for a moment, then maybe things might not be that bad.

But things were that bad and the cats knew it.

Do you have to lose everything in order to find peace and happiness?

I don’t believe that is for me to say, but it was those experiences that prompted me to do my best to do away with the negativity in my life, the negativity that I was sewing into the world.

I am still on that road today.

I was walking to the store the other day when I came upon a small, raggedy looking, gray tabby cat whose best days appeared to be behind him.

We stood 10 feet apart and looked at each other.

He had the same look in his eyes that I’d had when I was homeless. I squatted down and held out my hand. He meowed, and to my surprise, came closer to me until I could hear him purring and feel him nuzzling against my hand.

That cat never noticed that I had started to cry, or if he did, he kept it to himself. I loved on that cat the way cats love to be loved. I stroked his fur, and scratched his ears, and rubbed his belly for about 15 minutes. And for those 15 minutes, I was as close to being one with the universe as I had ever been.

I continued my walk to the store where I made an extra special purchase—a can of cat food for my new found friend. I left him with the feeling that things are never as bad as they seem.

I like to think that he felt that way, too.

And for now, that is good enough.



I Quit Drinking 4 Years Ago: My Transformation.


Author: Dave Rich

Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Vato Bob/Flickr

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