Ever since the 70’s my wife and I have almost always had a dog and a cat. But for me the dog was far more important. The dog is a companion. You walk together, you train together, you share similar emotions, you have adventures. For me the cat has been mostly in the background. But this is the first time we have had a cat and no dog. I always liked our cats but I guess you could say that I was not particularly drawn to them.
Recently, my wife acquired a calico cat while I was at sesshin. She let me know by emailing me a photo of the new cat on the mantle! I have to admit that I was charmed, even though it had been our understanding not to bring home an animal without a prior agreement. I gave her a variance because during sesshin I was in a state far beyond right and wrong, form and emptiness.
Now that we are between dogs, I have this opportunity to study our cat. We are obligated to train dogs because they are responsible members of society. Dog people. Cats on the other hand train us. They weave in and out of society as they wish without any obligations and live according to some inner mysterious compass. Our cat mostly lives outside and comes in to eat and sometimes takes a long nap in the morning after prowling around all night. I have spotted her all over the neighborhood crossing streets.
But I have to say that she really loves us. She doesn’t like to be handled, but we always greet each other with affection, bumping heads and short strokes. She often makes a little statement when she comes in to announce her arrival. She also spends time in the backyard garden, and appears seemingly from nowhere when you think she is gone. When she is around outside, she seems to know everything that is going on in the house and has an unerring sense of time and timing. She prefers to be out all night and when I get up at 4:45 we meet at the back door at exactly the same time. I could go on about the virtues of this little creature, her intelligence, her agility, her perfect composure and so forth. She is so well coordinated, it seems like her whole being is her brain. But just one more thing. Animals are such great models for us, and have so much to teach us including silent communication, loyalty, love and communion. Sometime I will tell you about Doug’s chickens.