Sunday, November 29, 2009


Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao

When I was in the sixth grade I learned that throughout history science has held fast to one erroneous belief after another. This lesson totally amazed me and then and there I asked, “What is it we now accept as true but one day will discover is all wrong?”

At the time, I decided it was division by zero, which we were told dogmatically, “you cannot do.” But, if you had a quantity (5 for example) and divided it by Nothing, I figured you had to have exactly what you started with: 5. This of course meant that division by one (you divide an amount once) gave 2 and ½ not 5. It all seemed obvious to me and I ran this fantasy through my head of all the bridges in the country collapsing on the day the mathematical error inherent in their construction was discovered.

Perhaps even at age twelve I intuitively understood the power of “The Story” that we tell ourselves.

Anyway, the lesson stuck and my years in science have not dissuaded me.
The discoveries that have just amazed me often are predicated on their over turning a long held dogma of biologists. A layman would simply say, “Oh? That’s nice.”

And so it was I approached the dogma of having Bennie neutered.
Yes – everyone is neutered these days. It’s the politically correct behavior.
All the experts recommend it.
And I didn’t care. I could resist all that and did so for three years.

But, it didn’t go unquestioned. I didn’t really understand my opposition until the day I drove by the vets on my way to work.
“Why?” I wondered. "Why do I resist?" And just like that I was flooded with the images, the memory of putting Annie down, of seeing Kitty Carlisle go limp in our hands.
The small warm bodies had put their trust in me only to rewarded with…betrayal? Human frailty masked as the humane?
All I knew was I couldn’t put another animal under anesthesia, even if only temporarily.

And then, Bennie's eager pushiness became blatanly agressive.
The animal behaviorist diagnosed it as “status aggression” meaning that in a world where he is not sure, he tries to control his environment. Nice words.
In practice, it means lying in bed reading, Bennie would come, sit on my belly, give a hard stare, growl, and then lunge.
My cuddly cocker had morphed into a naremarish Cujo.

It deeply frightened me, even as it broke my heart.

The past few months have been filled with learning about dog behavior and positive training. Going against all feeling and intution, I had Bennie neutered.
Within days he had ripped his stitches out leaving a gaping hole.
He had to be sedated yet again, re-stitched with twice the sutures, and go on antibiotics.
Wearing an Elizabethian collar, no running, no jumping, training had to be put on hold.

Well, Bennie’s stitches have held this time. They’ll come out in a couple days.
He’s behavior (due to clicker training) has changed amazingly.
When I do my morning yoga now, rather than climbing all over me, he sits on his mat and watches.
He loves his puppy-pushups: sit, down, sit, down, sit, down … his exercise that avoids running and jumping.
He will rush from the living room (Ok some running is unavoidable) and jump into his crate whenever I ask, “Wanna go to the slammer?”
He’s making progress on loose leash walking, will sit and stay focused upon me, even when a squirrel or dog flaunt him.
And he loves to cuddle and be massaged with TTouch.

It’s been an intense journey for the both of us.
And I guess that’s why tears came yesterday as I read these words from May Sarton’s, The Fur Person.

“He’s a tom,” Gentle Voice would say, as if this were not the best thing in the world. “There’s no getting around it.”…
It never occurred to the Fur Person that what they were contemplating was to change his personality, not his name, to change him

He had suspected that something was brewing but The Thing Itself took him totally by surprise… His first instinct, of course, was to escape (the eight Commandment of the Gentleman Cat is: “Never allow constraint of your person under any circumstances.”) But he was after all quite mature and he soon realized that struggle would achieve nothing. So, he quieted down, his eyes very big and alarmed…

Fortunately, the Fur Person, like any respectable animal, had unlimited amounts of patience to draw on, and what he did in the hospital was simply to wait for the strange experience to be over, a prolonged and exhausting yoga exercise which left him quite weak, so weak that he hardly responded when at long last Gentle Voice lifted him out of his cage and he knew that he had been rescued…

“I don’t like that cough,” Brusque Voice said the next morning.”…
“He’s not feeling at all well, “ Gentle Voice answered. “Oh dear – that awful hospital…”

When a cat begins to lose his fur, it is a very humiliating and terrible thing…
He who had been so full of self respect that his walk (his tail vertical, his paws lifted lightfully and gracefully) was a delight to behold, now felt an impulse to hide…
And one day Brusque Voice said, “Nobody could love him who had not known him before. But we love him, don’t we? And we won’t abandon him.”…

Ah, he thought, taking a surreptitious look, after all I still do have the white tip to my tail. And I must not despair…

A strange thing was happening little by little. He was coming to understand that even if he never got well at all, his housekeepers were now more than housekeepers, they were true friends and they would not abandon him…
They did not love him for his glossy tiger coat, nor his white shirt front and white paws, nor his great green eyes, no, not even for the white tip to his tail.
They loved him because he was himself…

It is all in the name “Fur Person,” he decided then- not really a name at all… For a Fur Person, he saw in the state of his extreme concentration, is not an ordinary cat. He is a cat who is also a person… a Fur Person is a cat whom human beings love in the right way, allowing him to keep his dignity, his reserve and freedom. And a Fur Person is a cat who has come to love one or, in very exceptional cases, two human beings, and who has decided to stay with them as long as he lives.

This can only happen if the human being has imagined a part of himself into a cat… just as the cat has imagined part of himself into a human being.
It is a mutual exchange.

And such is the power of love and such is the path of love and consciousness.
Happy belated Thanksgiving to you all.


Eve Bralley said...

This is a sweet story Patty. I am glad Bennie is doing better.

Anonymous said...

Hello? anyone there?
Its been a long time - hope all is well with you! Here's wishing you a lovely year ahead and look forward to reading more from you...

Best wishes and luv

Pat Bralley said...

Oh Anjali, Yes I am here - with absolutely nothing to add to the discussion anymore. Is this a phase? Lord knows. I don't even know whether to hope it is or is not.
Be that as it may... Happy New Year!

Sarah said...

Just wanted to say great blog!

Keep writing!

Pat Bralley said...

Sarah, Thanks! Encouragement is always appreciated.

Anonymous said...

This is such a beautiful and touching blog sharing.
Thank you Patrica.
~ jani

Pat Bralley said...

Jani, Thank you. It's sweet of you to comment!