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Bad weather forced me indoors this weekend. Which led to a productive cleaning out and organizing of much of the clutter that has accumulated, over decades… in my basement. I stumbled upon  James Herriot’s book, “Every Living Thing”.  It is not as famous as “All Creatures Great and Small”, but is no less a treasure if you are an animal lover.  I have yet to meet a veterinarian that is not a James Herriot fan.

Today, as I tried to convince my husband to adopt yet another kitten, I thought it fate that brought me to this particular book on this particular dreary day. It reminded me of the many people that have never lived with cats, or the right cat. Thus, so often, the wonderful experience of sharing a home with cats is missed, which is unfortunate. I thought sharing this story could help those doubters reconsider.

Perusing this book again, I realized  I had forgotten the story of Olly, and Ginny.  They were outdoor cats, inseparable, and timid, if not semi-feral.   Olly passed away, leaving a distraught Ginny, hiding and no longer pacing the wall near he and his wife Helen’s home, with her friend.  But, this is where the story, in my mind, gets interesting.  It touches upon what  many of us that love cats love about them.  They do not always warm up to you immediately, but once they do, there is a bond that is hard to describe adequately.  I will let Dr. Herriot do what he does best, and let him tell you in his  own words.

” I looked at the little creature, wondering if I’d ever get used to seeing only one cat on that wall, but Ginny sitting by the fireside or on Helen’s knee was an impossible dream.  …I knew I was taking on a long and maybe hopeless challenge because she had always been the more timid of the two, but I pursued my purpose with resolution.  At mealtimes and whenever I had the opportunity, I presented myself outside the kitchen door, coaxing and wheedling, beckoning with my hand, but for a long time, though she accepted the food from me, she would not let me near her.  Then, maybe she needed companionship so desperately that she felt she might even resort to me, because the day came when she did not back away but allowed me to touch her cheek with my finger as I had done with Olly.  

After that, progress was slow but steady.  From touching I moved week by week to stroking her cheek, then to gently rubbing her ears until finally I could run my hand the length of her body and tickle the root of her tail.  From then on, undreamed -of familiarities gradually unfolded until she would not look at her food till she had paced up and down against my hand and brushing my shoulders with her body.  Among these daily courtesies one of her favorite ploys was to press her nose against mine and stand there for several minutes looking into my eyes.  

It was one morning several months later that … Helen came upon both of them in this position, and his response to her was “I’ll have you know that this is one of my greatest triumphs”.

Yeah, I get it.  I hope you do too.  Some things in life are worth the effort and the wait.  The hard earned love of a cat is one of them.

Please share with someone you think might enjoy this.

Dr. Dawn
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