Gentle Paw 1/5/21

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

For the past couple of days, I’ve been home. On Saturday, my feline friend came home with me from the Humane Society, and I didn’t want her to be alone. My thinking is that we need time to get acquainted, so I’ve actually canceled a few things to be sure I could be here with her.

She’s not my first cat. Sir Purrsalot had adopted me, oh, a decade and a half ago I guess. He’s no longer with me, I’m sad to say, and while Star can never replace him, she can find her own spot in my heart. This is an important distinction; if I expected her to be like Purrsy, then she would fail. She is her own cat, and I’m sure I will love her every bit as much as I did Sir Purrsalot, and by recognizing that she will be different, I’m giving her the room to build that love.

If you think about a cat, they’re the perfect killing machine, except that they’re, well, small. Star is about twice the weight of the typical full-grown cat, but even at that, she’s only seventeen pounds. But she has incredible stealth skills, her claws are sharp and deadly and her teeth are equally formidable with sharp long fangs to grasp and hold prey.

Star is a lover. She has yet to complain that I’ve given her too much attention. Purrsy would let me pet him for only so long, then in the blink of an eye, the claws were out, the fangs were digging in and we were having an argument. Eventually I learned the warning sign, a very subtle tail jerk, that told me the end was neigh. So far, Star has yet to claw, fight or show any sign that she even wants me to stop. It’s very different.

Don’t get me wrong. She does tell me when she is wanting something, usually attention. This morning she woke me up asking for food. We could learn a lot from cats, to tell the truth, because I woke up with the most gentle, sweet and tender paw touching my shoulder as if to say, “human? Are you awake yet? Human?”

If you think about this, that paw has exceedingly sharp claws, but she didn’t use them. There was no anger, and her touch was so incredibly gentle as if she were touching a soap bubble she feared might pop. Just a brush, really, to tell me that she had a desire.

It’s not the only time. A couple of times since she would make the same gestures when she wanted me to give her attention and love. If I was on the phone too much, she would simply touch my hand as if to say, hey, me, too.

I wish people could be like this. We, too, have claws, even if not physical. My ex-wife was far too expert at extending her claws and hurting me emotionally to initiate a fight. When she wanted attention, she did it in anger, accusations, and deep emotional wounding blows. I see it every day. In politics, nobody seems to want to listen to each other. Instead of reaching out in kindness with a gentle touch as if to say, “I have something I would like to say,” all too often we strike out at our perceived opponents even as we should recognize and respect those who disagree with us as we are all humans. We all deserve respect, and we all need to learn to listen.

One reason, I realize, that we lash out with our claws is because it’s too easy to ignore that gentle touch. It would be easy for me to ignore Star as she gently caresses my skin in a sweet effort to get my attention, but if I do, where will that lead? If she gets hungry enough, when will the sweet caress become boxing? And how long until boxing becomes clawing?

We need to listen to one another, respect each other, and pay attention. Probably my biggest trigger is when I feel ignored. If I have something to add, I want to express myself because I believe I have a point that has not been brought up and, if not worthy of action, is at least something that should be considered. Unfortunately, I’ve had too many people in my life, starting with my family as I was growing up, who found it easy to ignore and dismiss me entirely. I have come to realize that I’m not willing to let that go any longer. Of late, when I feel like I’ve been disrespected, my proverbial claws come out. I don’t like it. I’ve learned how to cut from the best, and when I utilize those lessons, I feel terrible. I can honestly say, though, that I always try gentle caresses before turning to that extreme. If only everybody could say the same.

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