Practice the pause

Cats take a message and get back to you (as opposed to dogs, who at least in this old saying, come when called). I’m beginning to think they have the right idea.

My work with animals has taught me to slow down long enough to respond, rather than react, to what is happening. A pause of even a few seconds can stop me from reacting — say, rushing to fix something that may not be mine to fix or just going along to get along. It buys me time to think about what’s being said and how I actually feel about it. Then I can respond in a way that brings better results.

That’s one of those things I always knew, but it took my Reiki practice (and of course, years of living) to bring it home.

Don’t get me wrong; reaction can be good. If my dog is in a dangerous situation, coming when called could save her life. If a 6-foot stock tank is rolling down the hill toward me during an animal Reiki session, you can bet I’m going to react by getting the heck out of the way. (Yes, that happened.)

Pausing and saying “I will give this some thought and get back to you,” “I need a minute,” or some variation thereof buys time to do better. Or, like the cats, to take a good stretch in the sun.

If the other person tries to pressure you, pin your ears back and walk away.

Cats and Christmas trees: Game over


As soon as the Christmas tree went up, our cat started chewing on it.

It was a fake tree. It can’t have tasted good, and I tried to make it taste even less good with a little hot pepper wax spray on the lower branches. But Dusty kept coming back and nibbling.

Dusty in one of her less criminal moments.

I told her how dangerous it was. My partner and I tried to distract her with toys, which worked until it didn’t. We told her no, which sent her scampering out of the room. Until she came back and headed straight for the tree.

Finally, it looked like Dusty was leaving the tree alone. Then she threw up a bunch of the fake needles, prompting an emergency vet visit.

Thankfully, Dusty was OK. We would watch for any signs of blockage or bleeding for a couple of weeks.

The tree, however, was un-decorated, taken down, and put away by noon the day of the emergency vet visit. It wasn’t worth the risk.

When I communicated with Dusty about the ordeal, what I got was that she was surprised when she threw up the fake tree needles … and even more surprised at our anxiety, and at being whisked off to the vet. She thought we were enjoying the “keep the cat away from the Christmas tree” game as much as she was, so it continued. Unfortunately, we couldn’t figure out a way to call off the game without removing the hazard.

Maybe this is actually “why we can’t have nice things.” Living with cats and other creatures sometimes requires us to forego nice things in favor of better things.

I found some Christmas tree cat-proofing ideas here. The article notably does not rule out skipping the tree in favor of a wreath on the front door! I’m sure we will end up finding a Christmas tree alternative as well.

Christmas was never really about the decorations, anyway.

Image by mskathrynne from Pixabay 

Routines and rituals add spice to life

After being fed at 4 p.m. sharp (or preferably before), Lucy the black tortie settles into a chair to supervise my yoga practice. If I have the nerve to still be sitting in said chair, she sits and looks at me. Time to get moving.

Around 8:30, I can count on our younger cat to pace around pointedly until I follow her to the room where her bowls and litter box are kept. I give her a bedtime snack of three or four kibbles. We say our prayers and goodnight.

Our shepherd mix, whose anxiety casts the world as predictably unpredictable, knows she gets a dental treat at 7 p.m. If it’s not forthcoming by, say, 6:55, she will follow me around, panting, until she gets it.

Most of our animal friends expect certain things to happen at certain times with certain humans — comings, goings, feeding, walks, turnout, rides, bedtime. (Some animals I work with know when it’s time for my Reiki rounds, too!) Departures may be tolerated, but not especially welcomed.

According to this Brain Pickings article, routine contains everyday chaos while ritual imbues the mundane with the magical. With animals, I think those distinctions blur. Rescues in particular find magic in the most basic daily happenings. Over the last 15 months, they’ve dealt with disrupted routines along with us. Perhaps they’ve found magic in helping us develop new ways to contain our chaos.

Variety may be the spice of life, but routines and rituals add different spices — cinnamon, perhaps, or turmeric — to sustain us in an unsteady world. Like a good stretch, or bedtime prayers and purrs, they affirm that God is good and life, even in some small way, still makes sense.