I think it would be fair to say that I have always been a sensitive guy. Some might even say that is a bit of an understatement given that I have been known to cry at previews at the movies. It might be a bit inconvenient and a tad embarrassing, but I am quite comfortable being the guy for whom sympathy, empathy, compassion and joy run close to the surface.
To me, feelings remind us that we have blood coursing through our veins and that we are part of the human experience. It’s a wonderful thing.
But is it possible to become even more sensitive than that? You bet! And I have the cat to thank.
When I was planning and preparing for the adoption of my cat Ivy, almost two years ago, no one mentioned the many ways a pet can alter one’s range of emotions. What an unexpected epiphany!
I have accepted the fact that when she is waiting for me at the door when I get home from work, it’s likely not because she missed me, it is because it is feeding time. No delusions there.
But after she has filled her belly with her favourite catch of the day and starts following me around as I prepare dinner, that’s when I start sensing that she missed me. And of course, the feeling is mutual.
On a cognitive level, I have always understood the attachment between pets and their owners. Now, as a new pet owner, I also understand it with every fibre of my being.
It’s not like my heart needed much melting to begin with, but with Miss Ivy, it melts a little more each day with everything she “says” and does. She is a ten pound bundle of cuteness.
How can this little creature who can’t even talk, bring so much joy and the ability to tug at my heartstrings with every gentle meow, purr and crazy napping position. Even as I am writing this, she is sleeping on the couch behind me, making that cute little whistling sound on the exhale. She is on stand-by, ready to follow me into the next room the very moment I get up from the desk. No human does that!
In discovering this new kind of reciprocal affection, along with it came the burgeoning compassion and understanding for other pets and their owners.
When I hear about a lost cat or dog, I can totally put myself in the owners’ shoes. I can imagine the worry they must feel. I imagine that owners must be torn by the feelings that their beloved family member may be cold, tired, hungry, disoriented or just as anxious about finding their family. We wouldn’t want a human family member in those circumstances… our beloved pets shouldn’t need to face that disconnection either. We need to remain optimistic and hope for a happy reunion.
When I hear about someone having to put down a pet, my heart bleeds for the owner. Saying goodbye to loved ones is heart wrenching, no matter the circumstances. Even in the short time Ivy has been with me, we have developed such a strong bond, that the prospect of someday having to say goodbye already haunts me. It just highlights the transitory nature of life and the importance of living in the moment enjoying the precious time we have together. For that reason, she gets lots of big hugs… daily!
When I hear stories about animal cruelty and suffering, it affects me in ways that I could never have imagined previously. Since becoming attached to this fun-loving bundle of fur, I find myself more drawn to animals in need, their protection and their defense. Could this be a new calling for my retirement years?
And when it comes to animals in general, my enjoyment of videos of animals doing cute or funny things has grown exponentially, as has my compassion for certain animals and their failed attempt to cross the road (i.e., squirrels, porcupines, skunks) even though I would never take one in, personally.
I remain surprised at how much I have learned from a rescue cat about compassion, about life and about myself. Ivy’s presence stretches my heart in directions I could never have foreseen and for that I will always be grateful.
For many heartfelt reasons, becoming a first-time pet owner at age 50 was one of the best things I could have ever done.
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Have a great day,