A Cat Named Lady

Lessons come when you least expect them.  Sometimes one simple event can provide deep understanding into the nature of the universe.  This is one of those stories:

Recently a pregnant cat made her way to the playground of my son’s preschool.  On April 1st, during the children’s recess, my young son and his classmates were privileged to witness the birth of a litter of three kittens.  This was a wonderful day for the children, and it showed them that:

Life is precious.  From the largest elephant to the smallest mouse, we are all born.  This is the gift of our existence.  It is through this shared experience we are all interconnected.  Remember this when interacting with others, from humans to animals to insects.  Just as you would not want this gift taken from you, do not take this gift from others.

When my wife went to pick our son up from daycare she learned from the school faculty that they were concerned with keeping the new family on a playground of children, for fear of something happening to the young kittens.  My wife is very kind-hearted, especially towards animals, and offered to keep the cats at our house for a short period of time until homes could be found for them all.  We live only one block from the school, so the mother cat would still be in her familiar territory.  Knowing that I have severe cat allergies she set up our dog’s large kennel outside with a bed, litter box, food and water, a roof and walls made out of a tarp, a fan to regulate the temperature, and toys to play with.  The mother cat was free to come and go if needed, but the kittens, too little to get out of their bed, would be protected from the elements.  This is a great example of how we should:

Give freely.  Sometimes you may have a lot you can give, sometimes just a little.  No matter what you have you should give freely whenever you can.  The most basic of things to one individual can be life changing to another.

Everything went fine for the first few days.  The mother cat stayed next to her new babies at all times, rarely more than a few feet away.  They enjoyed the luxury of their warm bed and enclosed home.  The mother cat was very friendly when my wife would come to check on her, and seemed appreciative of her new home.  Late one evening a rainstorm blew through the area.  The mother cat, scared of the storm, moved her babies from their new-found home.  She attempted to move them back to the playground where they were born, but had to stop half way there in a cardboard box on the side of the road.  Though not the wisest of choices, she showed that:

Material gain does not guarantee happiness.  Almost all of us want for material items.  From a soft bed to lie on to a cool new electronic device our nature is to strive and desire for more.  Yet, in the blink of an eye the things that brought us happiness instead can cause us suffering.  Even our own home, with its safety and protection, can turn into our worst nightmare during a disaster.  The joy that we gain from material things is not real.  True happiness can only be found within ourselves.

Early the next morning the kittens were found by a group of neighborhood children.  Curious of the small cats, the children tried to play with them.  In the process, one of the kittens was accidentally killed.  Thankfully an observant neighbor found the incident before anymore tragedies could happen, and returned the cats to my wife.  This event showed that:

We all must die.  No matter if we live in the lap of luxury, in a box down an alley, or anywhere in between, we will all die.  It is not in our ability to change this truth.  Death will come quickly for some and slowly for others.  Young or old, healthy or sick, death can come at any moment.  Make the most of your time here while you can.

After getting the small family back my wife felt an even greater need to protect them.  She knew that our setup was safer than a cardboard box, and as such began closing the door to the kennel.  She spent a lot of her time making sure that all of their needs were taken care of and that they were comfortable, letting the mother cat out only while being observed during the day, and shutting them all in at night.  It was also during this time that my wife decided the family all needed names.  She remarked many times at how wonderful of a cat the mother was and took to calling her Lady, saying she “composed herself like a lady at all times”.  The kittens were named Jinx (a boy) and Trixie (a girl) in honor of their birthday.  The small family seemed very content and enjoyed their new lives, while my family grew closer to them.  Through these actions we demonstrated that:

Fear causes attachment.  We naturally try to protect those closest to us, be it our children, our parents, our spouse, or our friends.  Through this need to protect, we naturally develop fear of what may happen.  The more we fear for these unknown futures, the more we try to hold our loved ones close and keep them safe.  This clinging is attachment.  The more we cling, the more we try to protect, and so the cycle continues.  Remember that taking precautions for safety of those close to us is always a good idea.  Becoming attached, fearing for an event that has yet to happen, and losing sight of the present is not.

As planned, Jinx and Trixie both found loving homes rather quickly; Lady did not.  We realized that if we could not find her a home she would have to go back out on the street.  Our daughter, in an attempt to keep this from happening, convinced her grandparents that they wanted a cat.  We began making preparations for her transition which, due to a preplanned vacation, meant that Lady would have to stay at our friend’s house for a few weeks.  While we were gone Lady enjoyed running around his large loft apartment and the extra attention he gave to her.  All seemed well in her life, and proved:

Good fortune comes when you least expect it.  When you stop clinging to what will be and start focusing on what is you learn that good things start to appear.  The release of worry and anxiety leave space for the positive.  Just remember that happiness is part of a cycle, and does not last forever.  Cherish each moment for what it is and let go of your expectations.  You just might find a spark of happiness where you least expected.

When we returned our friend agreed to keep Lady for a little longer, until we could get her vet visits set up and get her moved to her new home.  Then everything changed.  Within the course of a few days Lady went on a rampage in his apartment, ripping up carpet, shredding the leather on the footboard of his bed, and burrowing her way into the box-spring of his mattress.  This meant that Lady had to come back to our house, and with nowhere else to stay, was put back into the kennel to wait.  She was learning the hard lesson that:

Karma will always find you.  Sometimes it is instantly, sometimes it takes years, but either way your actions always have repercussions.  If you choose your actions correctly, demonstrating positive behavior, then you will be rewarded.  If instead you choose your actions poorly, then you should expect the negative repercussions that will arise.

During this time the layers of my daughter’s manipulation of her grandparents came to light.  They explained that they did not want an inside cat and were leery to take on an outside pet due to the predators that roamed the area where they live.  They felt that they had no choice but to resend their decision to take Lady, causing her to be homeless once again.  This turn of events showed that:

Misfortune also comes when you least expect it.  No matter how positive you are, no matter how much good you do, misfortune can come without notice.  This change is the nature of the universe.  How you react to this change says the most about who you are inside.  You can let the bad times overwhelm you, make you depressed, and hold you to the past, or you can appreciate the challenges for what they are and focus on your path forward.

All alone, Lady would sit in her kennel every evening, calling out for someone to release her.  You could hear loneliness and sadness in her cries.  She wanted to be free to run and explore, not locked in her cage every night.  My wife was desperate to find a home for Lady.  She knew that she could not keep monitoring her during the day and locking her up at night.  Ultimately she realized she might have to let Lady fully back outside into the world, but was scared of what would happen when she did.  Would Lady get hit by a car?  Would she run away and never come back?  She loved Lady and wanted to give her the best she could, but circumstances were fighting against her.  She was so attached to Lady that she couldn’t turn back, and this was causing them both to be unhappy in the process.  It is true what they say:

Attachment causes suffering.  When we love someone we want them to be safe and happy.  This is a positive response and should be cultivated.  The danger is our love and affection can easily become attachment instead.  We fret over if they will reciprocate our love.  We wonder what will happen to us if they were to go away.  We then become so focused on this attachment that we lose sight of the present.  No one knows what will happen in a year, in a week, tomorrow, or even in the next minute.  Grasping and attachment is not love.  If you truly love someone you have to be open enough to let them go.  In this freedom both parties involved have the opportunity to give their love openly, without expectations.  This breaks the cycle of attachment and suffering, and allows for two individuals to be stronger when alone and closer when together.  The purest expression of love is to love in such a way that the other person feels free.  When you give your love freely and expect nothing in return you are liberating yourself from suffering and allowing love to find its way back.

My wife finally decided that Lady needed to be released back into the neighborhood full time.  Since then, Lady proves she feels the closeness that our family has towards her and spends the majority of her time near our house.  She is usually found right outside our door, happy and ready to be petted.  You can tell that she does love being near our family, and we in turn love her.  When I see her I am thankful for the lessons she taught us.  We are better individuals and further along on our path to enlightenment all thanks to the lessons learned in the story of a cat named Lady.

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