The Better Devotees: Cats or Dogs?
Caitlin and I walked to school this morning. Just as I was saying goodbye to her at the classroom door, the teacher’s dog Charlie leapt over the barricade and bounded off enthusiastically down the hill. We all ran after him, adults and kids alike, and finally after 5 minutes found him quite a distance away. The teacher called once more, and he came running back with all the zest that comes from being a one year old puppy.
As I made my way back home I stopped by a neighbor’s house to say hello. I noticed her cat who was stalking around outside, and being an all around animal lover I hoped to give him some affection. He wanted nothing to do with me. I was about to walk away, thinking that he wasn’t interested in a meeting, but his owner said “Wow! that’s really good for him — he usually runs away.”
So I knelt down and began the courting process, hand extended in greeting. The cat, alternately looking at me and then at nothing in particular, made his way from one side of the parking lot to the other, inching his way towards me with each sideways pass. He continued to shift his gaze, as if to say, “You aren’t really all that interesting.” As he did so, I kept emanating love and peace outwards to him without attachment. I often practice this with many of the wild animals we have wandering around out here (deer, foxes, coyotes…) trying to emulate St. Francis.
Finally, at the end of 5 minutes, he came just out of reach of my outstretched hand. In one fluid motion he touched his nose to my hand then retreated to a safe distance and was done with me.
And I couldn’t help thinking that my life as a devotee has been way too much like the cat and and not the dog.
How long have I, in this lifetime, courted God and His love from a distance? Given Him little attention, but spent the majority of my time looking away at nothing of particular substance. God’s love was still there when I made some progress, inching one step forward for every 8 steps sideways. When I finally made contact for the briefest of moments I ran away as fast as I could, fearful of opening myself fully to His love.
And how I long to be the dog — errant though this one was — ever willing to come running back: “Yes, Yes, Yes, I was a bad dog, but You still love me, right? I love You! Okay, everything’s good!” Happiness.
Now all you cat lovers out there are going to pipe up about the superiority of the cat in discrimination, stillness, focus, and flexibility (perfect characteristics of a yogi, wouldn’t you say?).
Today, though, I’d rather be the dog. Loyal, energetic, loving, enthusiastic. I’ll try not to bark.