I love a cat I do not know. Our shared context: the parking lot where she lives, circling the apartment building where my son lives some of the time with his father, and where I twice-daily leave and then collect my car in the complicated dance of co-parenting, school transport and work commute.
I barely registered her as I raced from car to bus and back again until the day I saw a small tail flicking out of the dumpster. When I understood, suddenly, this cat was no one’s cat, she came into focus. I filled a giant tupperware full of dry cat food and packed it in my car with a small plastic bowl. The next morning, my small ritual of feeding began. Within a few days, the cat I do not know was running to our agreed-upon spot when she heard the sound of my car. She’d cower in the recess of a bush and wait until I had moved a safe distance away before eating.
I named the cat I do now know Sadie. Her tattered ears and sky-yellow eyes say that beneath the surface of her distrust, she could be convinced. When I wrote it down, I saw that Sadie’s name was nearly my name. Both of us orbiting the periphery of a home where we do not belong.
A month or so into our ritual, I realized that watching Sadie eat was the absolute happiest moment of my day. A few days later, she was not there to greet me. Nor was she there the day after. Her food was untouched and bloated with rain. On that second day of no-Sadie, I cried all the way home. Sadie who I couldn’t protect or save. The next morning, she met me at our appointed time to eat her breakfast.
My happiness and grief about Sadie got my attention. I was awakened to what I have always known about myself but rarely take time to acknowledge: my greatest heart-openings and heart-aches are directly tied to the welfare of animals—specifically cats and dogs. I had to admit that my soul has a calling I have not yet lived into with a force that matches my desire. I steeped in this knowing for a few weeks, asking myself how my no-margin life could accommodate more service to animals beyond the four who live in my home and the one I feed in a parking lot.
As I steeped, I was invited to an event hosted by a colleague at an animal charity for whom I’ve done some writing. Then out of the blue, the woman I adore who serves rice and beans at my favorite food cart mentioned that her mother founded my very favorite animal sanctuary—one I’ve fantasized about moving to many times throughout my life. When I realized that I have a connection at a local animal shelter, ad campaigns I could write for them started flashing through my dreams. It was clear that just giving my attention to this abiding passion of mine was surfacing friends and colleagues and possibilities. But even more importantly, I noticed that my willingness to give the ache that Sadie signified my full attention was bringing me a layer deeper into the truth of who I am, to the core strength of my soul.
Who or what is your Sadie? Is there a small tail flicking in some unobserved corner of your life? Is your soul sending you messages you’ve been too busy or stubborn to receive? What could happen if you gave those untrusting eyes of your soul’s deep desire your full attention, maybe a bit of food, and then followed with interest where it led you?
Just a minute ago came over from seeing the article about you on Oregonlive. You are already inspiring me, and I don’t even know you. Thank you!
Thanks so much, Tom! Glad to have you here!
I am so glad I read this. I was a bit taken aback by the statement, “I realized that watching Sadie eat was the absolute happiest moment of my day.” I immediately thought, well, what about all the moments you have with your son?
It took courage to admit that. Some would look down on that. “It’s only a cat!” You know the drill. But in your admitting that, I, too, have come to a realization and “confession.”
My dog is my best friend. And for all that is in my life, (the whats and the who’s) he is the one I miss the most when I am away and he is the one I am most grateful for when I am here.
Hi, Liz, My son and I feed Sadie together. It is a happiness we share. I’m delighted to witness your “confession” about your dog. I happen to have lived with a dog for 13 years who was without a doubt my soulmate. I don’t think there is any shame ever in connecting with love, however and wherever it finds us!
I get it. Taking care of a hungry, scared, lost, and possibly previously abused animal is fulfilling. They are innocent creatures that have been subject to human failures.
I commend your search in doing something for animals through your writing abilities. May we all do good with the skills we have been blessed with.
This is the coolest thing I’ve ever read. And I love your writing style.
Thank you for sharing this.
Tracy and Michelle, thank you so much for taking the time to reflect back what you appreciate about this piece! I am most grateful!
We have two jerk cats, although one is much more a jerk than the other. Biggie, a large 17lb tabby, is a jerk because every freaking day he eats his food so fast he immediately has to go puke. Inevitably, his puking must take place on carpet, NOT the uncarpeted floor. Oh no, that would be too easy. As soon as Biggie pukes, our real jerk kitty, Shobby, comes over to eat the puke; he enjoys a warm meal! Shobby is also a jerk because he likes to knock over anything you are drinking; he refuses to be held like a normal cat; he only graces you with his presence on your lap for about 3 seconds. He’s a jerk because he acts all nervous about everything even though there is nothing to be nervous about. He does the thing where he gets in front of you in the hallway and “leads” you down the hallway, refusing to let you pass him. He’s a jerk because he is a ferocious digger in the litterbox, slinging litter, and sometimes turds, across the room. He’s a real jerk to Biggie, because he likes to pretend-rape him, holding him down with a neck bite. And he’s also a jerk because he likes my husband better than me. Although he shows him his “love” by walking up to him and biting him for no reason. Those are our jerks, but we love them!
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Sage, I adore you.
I am so sorry that I didn’t know, didn’t look out of my own life, to see your grief.
Now I am wallowing in my own strong grief, and my heart is heavy for all of my friends who have come here before me.
I feel that I will be Sadie for a very long time.
I adore you, too, Cara. You may or may not be Sadie for a very long time. Life is full of so many surprises. We just don’t know what’s ahead on the road…In the meanwhile, I’ll be holding you in my heart, my friend. I am very sorry for your grief.