Last year when I lost my baby boy, Boots. He had been with me since January 1, 2006 when I adopted him and his brother, Whiskers. They were both very scared and had a rough time before coming to my home. I had to take the time to show them that I was going to take good care of them. I had to SHOW them. Although I talked to them, it was my actions that were what caused them to trust me. I didn’t think about this at the time, I just loved them until they loved me. In 2011, I lost Whiskers to diabetes, but I still had Boots to love me through that loss. In 2015, I lost Boots to Kidney failure. My home life was officially empty and I was taking my time deciding between getting a dog or a cat. Everyone wants to give me a cat and I couldn’t take another 10 years of sick cats. I love them dearly, but I couldn’t afford another sick cat.
My boss had 2 cats, both she had taken in because they were unwanted. They are Maggie and Tom Landry. Tom Landry has quite a number of bad habits combined with normal territorial behaviors. Maggie was an outdoor cat who suddenly decided she wanted to be an indoor cat. Tom wants to be the ONLY cat PERIOD. So he had the run of the house while Maggie was confined to one bedroom for her own protection. My boss asked if I would take Maggie on a trial basis, while they had some remodeling done. She told me, “Maggie is the cat that makes you want to have cats. She is never sick, always uses the liter box and loves to be petted. If it works out then you can keep her”
I agreed, knowing I would end up keeping her. Animals come around to liking me pretty quick so I was surprised when after 2 -3 days she hadn’t come out when I was home. She is a great hider. I started thinking about trust and I thought I need to show her I can be trusted, with Maggie it took weeks before she would even show her face while I was home. I watched her to understand her boundaries and she watched me to see if I could be trusted and worthy of her love. This was hard, but I let her come to me in her time, but the entire time I kept talking to her, keeping her food bowl full, water and liter cleaned. My boss and I were getting concerned that I just had a cat in the house and not a companion. It just took time, little actions here and there. I put out toys. I sang to her, only to find out that she was not fond of my singing, imagine Big Bang Theory meets Friends. Laid on the floor and did the slow blinking and gave her treats.
One day I am knitting and watching TV and this cat comes marching into the room and starts talking to me. I sat up and put my feet on the floor and she marched over and THUNK she head butted my leg. I call it love at first thunk. This girl had decided she could trust me and that she wants to be petted ALL OF THE TIME!!
Basically I learn from my pets the basic essentials of life, trust, unconditional love, joy, and living in today. I have never seen a dog or cat pondering what’s going to happen next year, next week or even tomorrow. What do I want or need now. These are all hard concepts for humans, but animals just are who they are. These times make me reflect on my life.
Trust isn’t easy. I know at a young age that when my trust was broken I went from trusting blindly to not trusting anyone. It was all or nothing and that became a theme in my life. My solution was to control my environment. We know I was, and still am, only in control of my own actions, but that didn’t keep me from trying. I spent most of my life trying to control everything so that I could trust that I was going to be safe, or you were going to love me, or I would get what I want… It’s interesting looking back and having come through trials and events that I actually believed I was creating a trusting and safe environment. All I was doing was showing that I didn’t trust and by not being able to control my environment I was just proving to myself that I can’t trust anyone or anything. This is a vicious cycle that I had a hard time breaking.
Today I can identify trust in others and I have been able to change, ever so slowly, my perspective on trust. I have started to internalize what it means to trust through my cats. I am like my cats in that initially I have to assess whether you are friend or foe. It is by watching your actions I determine if you are worthy of my trust and my time. Trust is managed on a one by one basis today, not all or nothing.