We can’t be God–but we can be kind.

This little guy is breaking my heart, and has been for over a year.

That is how long I have been setting food out on our front porch for him. When he first showed up he was wild-eyed and skittish and would run far out at the first sight or sound of me. He now understands that when I come out, it will be to set food in the dish that I keep out there. He is still leery but only scampers off about 4 feet and waits; he also looks me in the eyes now, too. I consider this progress.

When I first spotted him around the neighborhood he was filled out a lot better than what he is now. I don’t know if he is an accidental escapee, or if someone tossed him out on his ear. There are absolutely never any good reasons for tossing any animal out on its ear.  He held his ground against our nasty winter, though, and I made sure there was a box with a blanket in it, and food in his dish twice a day.

Whatever his history he obviously knows how to survive. I witnessed him lord it over another tom in our neighborhood that turned up on the porch one night. My adopted stray knew how to handle himself. I let them both know I did not want that going on on our porch. My mother once asked me if I liked sounding like a drill sergeant at times. It serves a purpose every now and then.

I want to clean those face wounds for him, take him to a vet and have his ears and body checked for various unwelcome things, but I doubt he is ever going to trust me to that level, so all I can do is see that he has enough food and water, if he wants it. This season he’s taken to sleeping on our wicker chairs. I peek through the curtains every morning as soon as I get up and most of the time he is sound asleep in one of the rockers, and he actually looks peaceful and relaxed–something I never see in his demeanor when he’s awake—and I am instantly grateful for covered porches and wicker rockers.

He is losing weight and his gait seems stiff and guarded, and I have been down this road before with other cats. I’ve seen the bulges in their sides and their sagging limps and I know that all I can do is feed them and send friendly energy. Nature will do as it must when the time comes.

The Dalai Lama says it so very well: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” 

It’s been a buzz saw of a freelancing week, as you will have guessed by me missing my promised Monday blog post deadline. I’m delighted to have numerous story assignments but it gets real interesting when they all are due on the same day next week. But I said yes, and I will deliver. Every now and then the Universe makes it even more challenging such as it did this week like when the photos I took didn’t work for the editor and the subject source couldn’t drop everything just for me to come in and reshoot them right away, or certain questions weren’t satisfied, etc, etc, etc, so I was a bit involved and coming up with a writing analogy for this blog last Monday had to take a back seat. But having said that, Nature didn’t abandon me. I can always rely on my love of animal spirituality to give me content. I’d be lost without it.

So, three things to remember: Continue to say ‘yes,’ remember to breathe through it all, and always remain kind.

One final note . . . this morning my manuscript arrived on my doorstep, back from my editor. ☺ As I told her: I’m eager, I’m centered, and I’m ready.

Stay tuned. I will have much to share with you–

The Mental Ecstasy of a Belgian Draft Horse

     I fell in love all over again last August at the Iowa State Fair–with sixteen stunning two-hitch teams of Belgian draft horses. 

     We had the good luck to be milling about the horse barns when the teams were lined up and paraded out along the avenue that led them into the Pavilion where the sled pulling competition was about to start.  

     The calm, intelligent, cooperative demeanor of these gigantic beauties brought the foot traffic along the roadway to a stop. There’d been high-dressed, glossy horses of various breeds out and about on the avenue all that morning, but none of them commanded the attention that the Belgians did as they made their way to the competition ring. I’m always in awe when something can grab onto the human collective and cause it to get quiet for a bit. It was dang near a spiritual moment. I wanted it to last. 

     When we caught up with the crowd, it was standing room only inside the Pavilion. During the competition each team had its turn in the center of the ring where the driver held them in ready position while two men, one on each side, stood poised to attach the team to the sled loaded with weights. When the judge signaled them to begin, the two men moved in to attach the rigging in a synchronized manner and then backed out of the way very quickly because the minute those horses felt “the attaching” they began to pull that heavy sled. They didn’t wait for any prodding from their driver. They knew what needed to be done.  

     I have loved the working class horses since childhood when I experienced their commanding pride from the sidelines of a parade. The only times I was able to enjoy them were in parades, and while I couldn’t have articulated then what it was that affected me, I think I understand it now. 

     Those horses know who they are and what they’ve been put here to do. They just go with what’s inherent inside them–deep, deep down inside–and it gives them authority. And authority isn’t what they are after. They are after doing what they know how to do. 

     Mankind should be so lucky, or even more specifically—writers should be so lucky. I think those Belgian drafts know more about listening to their intuition than we do. 

     So then—a question for my writing world friends today: 

     What is it that feels inherent in you these days when you sit down to write? Are you waffling over what you think someone’s going to say about how you said something? Are you afraid someone will see through you? Will you be satisfied in the end to have been so controlled? 

     The following quote was at the bottom of the page in my journal where I wrote about my State Fair Belgian “hooo-ahhh” moment last August–  

       Being you is all about connection, about being real. When you are you, you connect with others. —  Henriette Anne Klauser, 20th century American writer.

Special Vision–not Special Effects


      Tomorrow is Halloween. Some sort of black cat story seemed appropriate. This post is about 3 times longer than blog posts need to be, but I believe you’ll find it justified in the end. It is a true story. Hope you enjoy it. 


          My neighbor’s cats had three full-time jobs: eating, napping and hating each other, but when the time came, Puddy, Sambo and Hal knew what mattered.

        Our neighbor Bonnie suffered from Crohn’s Disease, an affliction that zapped her physical and mental energies. After their son left for college, she and her husband decided to get a cat to keep her company while he was away at work.

        Into their life came Puddy, a solid white, long-haired female cat with celadon eyes and full Prima Dona attitude. Nothing was too good for “the Puds” as Bonnie called her. A fancy collar, painted ceramic feeding dishes, real fur mice toys, pricey tinned food, and plenty of catnip. Puds’ eyes flashed psychedelic green after a “rolling taste” in the weed. Bonnie would spread a small pile of it on the carpet and Puds licked her paws before coating them with the kitty drug and ‘getting crazy,’ as they say. The weed transformed her into Wonder Cat as she pursued her dancing wire dangle toys and furry mice with evil passion. Those wild and crazy moments dulled the edge of daily solitude and delivered welcome fits of laughter for Bonnie.

        Puds frequently stretched out close to Bonnie in the TV room, resting companionably in the warm panes of sunshine through the double deck doors. Even more often, though, the cat burrowed in alongside Bonnie on the sofa, the two of them napping long afternoon hours away in front of movies playing on the television. Soap operas, talk shows and news programs cannot compete with a warm, snuggling animal.

        Bonnie’s deck was outfitted with numerous bird feeders dangling from bordering bushes and small fruit trees, along with bowls of food conveniently placed out there for visiting strays. This is how Sambo entered the picture. He started showing up on her deck every morning for breakfast. Puds watched him through the deck doors, tail twitching, hissing when he stuck his nose up to the screen. Sambo watched back unfazed by her attempts at intimidation.

        One day Bonnie noticed a tear in his ear. Sliding the double doors open she coaxed him inside. The wound was treated, healing soon after, and Sammie–as she called him–and Bonnie sealed a friendship. Puds didn’t approve of this, of course, but they learned to compromise. Puddy moved her cat-nap act into the formal front room of the house whenever Sambo was inside. Bonnie nicknamed it the “Throne Room.” Complete with mahogany furniture and brocade sofa and chairs, it seemed the perfect place for the White Princess. (No boys allowed!) And Sambo never tried. Being with Bonnie was enough for him.

        His beautiful moss-green eyes kept watch on the outside world while perched atop an oversized quilt next to Bonnie on the arm of the sofa. Come nightfall, however, he demanded—and received—egress out the patio doors for his favorite nighttime activities, but he always returned at daybreak to spend the day with her.

        I don’t remember exactly where Hal came from, or why Bonnie gave the young tiger-striped gray male that name. He just started showing up at the deck door each day, inspecting the feeding dish, and Bonnie couldn’t resist, of course. One morning the deck doors were opened and in he came–to stay.

        Sambo had conspicuous eagle talons for claws, and there isn’t a doubt in my mind that he could’ve whipped Puds or Hal with one paw tied behind his back, but he never did. I’d like to think they created a silent pact between them, possibly out of respect for the one who showered them with appropriate doses of love and vittles.

        Hal seemed relegated to “adopted cousin” status. He’d curl and respond under the love of Bonnie’s hand, but there was no pillow throne for him, and he didn’t seem sure where he stood in the household. Resembling a young, fun-loving teenager, he often tried to entice Sambo off his perch. Sambo eyed him with a “don’t you do it” green stare, but Hal kept pushing the envelope and finally the older, bigger cat would spring from his cushion, chasing the young punk out through the galley kitchen, around the sun porch, back through the kitchen, finally returning to Bonnie, who enjoyed bouts of hysterical laughter at such scenes.

        Point made, Hal would take up his only real seat in the room–Bonnie’s husband’s leather recliner. Sambo resumed his nap next to Bonnie, the brief entertainment over. But the circus could easily start up again if Hal decided to venture into the Throne Room, only to come flying back out with Prima Dona Puds close behind, hissing and spitting, poised to slap. Hal never really did get it: Throne Room: Puddy’s. Daytime pillow next to Bonnie: Sambo’s. Always.

        Bonnie’s body grew tired of its fight with the disease, and eventually a hospital bed was set up for her in the TV room. The cats took turns sniffing and inspecting this new dynamic in the room, but they never jumped up onto it with her. And then the day came when she no longer needed it.

        Several weeks later after her death I stopped to visit her husband, and he shared a fascinating story with me.

        As Bonnie’s breathing grew shallow the morning she died, all three cats walked into the room, lined up on the floor by the head of her bed and sat quietly looking up at her, and waited. Bonnie’s husband reminded me how those three had hated each other from the time they met and that he’d never seen them sit that close together before. After Bonnie released her last breath they got up and walked out of the room–each going their separate direction.

        The Creator gives animals special vision and talents to comfort, even teach, in mysterious ways that we humans lack for all of our ability to verbalize and rationalize what should be obvious. Puddy, Sambo and Hal put their differences on hold while they gave Bonnie one final gift: peaceful air in which to leave.