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Most people I’ve met are either cat or dog people, not both.
I’ve always been a dog person. Cats seemed aloof, too independent for an intimate friendship.
That is, until I met Luna.
I wasn’t looking for a relationship when we met. No, I had plenty—a wife, children, grandchildren, and a perfect dog. But Luna, a homeless black kitten, had captured the hearts of my wife and daughter.
She was one of too many living outside in the cold, eating what scraps of food she might capture from those thrown out randomly. Luna needed rescuing, my wife and daughter pled.
She came to our home at the age of nine weeks. It was not with my consent, which had been sought but not yet given. In typical fashion, the women in my home decided what would be best for us all and brought her into our circle. That was that. They always seem to see the bigger picture.
I kept her at an arm’s length at first, reluctant to let her in. That is my pattern. I’m an introvert and skeptical of the motives of others, even if they are animals. This innate instinct has been fed by decades of conditioning in my profession, where viewing everything with a critical eye and cynicism are common practices.
Luna saw through this facade. She seemed to know, underneath my indifferent exterior, there was someone longing for love and acceptance. She was sensitive and deliberate, but she was persistent. Ultimately, when I allowed it, she showed me affection. She took an interest in my typing, toothbrushing, dishwashing, reading—anything and everything I did.
For some time, my view of it was that she was needy, that she was only showing me attention in order to get something—a rub of the head, a scratch of the chin, or a drink from my water glass.
But, as our relationship grew deeper, I came to understand her placement in my life as providential and her actions as a reflection of my needs. I need the rub of the head, the stroke of the chin, the drink from another’s glass. I need the love and affection and Luna was there to give, not just receive it.
Many have said, “life is a mirror.”
“Mirrors are essential because they give us the opportunity to see parts of ourselves that we can’t otherwise reach.” ~ Alicia Banister
That’s how Luna showed up for me. With her deliberate gaze and her constant companionship, she would not let me off the hook. She would not let me apply the stiff-arm I have used with so many in my life—those who got too close and revealed to me those things that were uncomfortable and prodded me to choose whether to stagnate or grow.
I have softened a little because of my relationship with Luna. I’m learning a little more about how to give and receive love. And, every time I interact with her, I am reminded of my flawed tendency to keep others at a distance unless I feel I truly know them.
Desmond Tutu said:
“We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another. My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.”
This is, I believe, is another way of saying we are all mirrors for one another—even cats for previously non-cat people. So, in gratitude, I will slow down, smile, make eye contact, and look intently into the face of others to see what it is I need to know to help them grow and, in turn, to grow myself. Afterward, in thanks, I’ll scratch the chin of the black cat in the mirror.