Life Lessons We Learn From Pets

Buddy the cat was only two at the time he moved in with us, and Catman was 12.

Both cats were sleek oriental short hair Siamese. Buddy was bred as an exotic, with a long, Egyptian stylized body, gray striped coat, brown feet and nose, and tall and wide airplane ears.

cats

Eleven years ago, John and I were vacationing in Spain when we received the email from my family telling us that my youngest brother’s car had been found across the state line in Kentucky.

Byron had been missing for a week when we left for Spain.  My family had filed a missing person’s report just days after we left the country.

We were in Spain for a week when this happened, and we made arrangements to fly back to the states.  Delta Airlines did some heroics for us. We were able to fly into Atlanta with a 36-hour layover so that we could drive from Atlanta to Tennessee to pick up Byron’s cats.

Byron’s missing person’s case became a homicide case.

His apartment was cordoned off with yellow police tape and off limits to everyone.  Only my niece Tara and her husband were allowed in with a police escort to get the cats.

This was the unimaginable.  My family was rocked to the core.  It was frightening enough to have Byron’s case become a homicide but the worst part was that he was still missing.

John and I had the task of bringing Byron’s two cats into our condo to live with our two dogs — Dodger, a yellow lab, and Pearl, a Bichon Frise.

Byron had asked me 20 years ago if I would take his cats should anything happen to him.  I said yes and gave him my word — never thinking that it would actually happen.

Buddy was the wildest cat I’ve ever met.

Buddy stalked Pearl and swatted her out of “his” kitchen.  We couldn’t sit down at the dining room table without having him sail onto the table and grab our food.

Once I watched as Buddy leap off the floor to grab food right out of John’s hand as he was about to put in it his mouth.

Buddy even learned to drag large pizza boxes off the counter, and knock over the dog’s cookie jar.

John was patient with the situation but one night about three months into it, he asked me if it would become a marital issue if he didn’t want to keep the cats.   All I could answer was the truth, “I can’t answer that question right now.”

I said in the beginning of our journey with the cats that in one year Buddy would become a wonderful member of our family.  Buddy slowly allowed us in and accepted our love.

At the end of that first year, I told John, “Give me one more year, and he’ll be a remarkable cat.”  At the two-year mark, Buddy had learned that getting love and attention from us was so much better then walking on our kitchen counters and jumping on our dining room table.

Although people say you can’t train a cat, I told my friends I trained Buddy with pure love.

I was on a love mission and in the end all of us won.

Buddy won over John’s heart, and he won a place in the family with all of our animals.

Our housekeepers loved the cats and affectionately gave Buddy the nickname Jerry Lewis, and Catman the name Sidney Poitier.

Buddy charmed every person who came into our home.  He learned how to open our doors in our house so nothing in our home became off limits.  He would let Catman out anytime I put them in a room together.

Our vet and the technicians feel in love with Buddy.  The vet techs would cheer when I brought the cats in for check ups.

When I coached someone in my home, I noticed that Buddy would come in and sit with any client who was distraught.  It was only when someone needed to be comforted or were in emotional pain that Buddy would come in and sit on their lap.  He was like a sponge and was so sensitive to feelings.

Three years into having the cats live with us, Byron’s body was found on a farm outside of Knoxville, Tennessee.  At least now my family had some closure.

The case has been cold for the past 11 years.  I comfort my mother when she asks me if I think they’ll ever find out who did this to Byron.  I tell her that God will be the ultimate judge and will take care of this.

In the seven years that Buddy and Catman lived with us, they helped me heal from my brother’s death.  Both cats learned to trust and love us, and they learned that we loved them deeply.

I know that Byron is happy that I took care of his cats.  About six months after we had the cats, I had a visitation dream with Byron that was so real.

In the dream, I was standing at the window of our condo holding Catman.  I saw Byron standing outside a big yellow taxi.  He was looking up and waving to me with a huge smile on his face.  He was so happy that I took care of his beloved cats.

Eckhart Tolle believes we’re experiencing a much closer connection with our pets because we live in a fear-based society.

We (humans) are afraid to show our authentic selves to others for fear of rejection.   Tolle says animals help us focus on the present moment and show us what we’ve lost.

I believe the more technologically advanced our society becomes, the more alienated we are from nature, animals, each other and our souls.

I see a huge trend in people wanting a connection to the land, animals, each other and to reconnect to their soul.

Our pets give us the opportunity to open our hearts with unconditional love.  They don’t judge us, and our love is always reciprocated.

John says he learned acceptance from Buddy.

I called Buddy my love bug. When I think of Buddy I’ll always remember how hilariously funny he was, his charisma in charming every person who walked into our home, his keen intelligence, his insatiable curiosity and most of all his nose kisses.  He would reach his head out to touch nose to nose with me many times each day.   I’ll miss those nose kisses.

You can check out Eckhart Tolle’s book, Guardians of Our Beings here.

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  1. What a lovely way of talking about pets and also the loss of your brother, Sherold. I really enjoyed this post! I feel connected to my dog – I find her comforting and ‘solid’ in her love for me. I feel healed when I hear that you took care of your brother’s cats and then had the dream that he was outside and knew you had them. Bless you for your lovely words today.

  2. Anne Marie – I always feel my heart open when I read your emails to me. You have the kindest heart:) Thank you for sharing this. I am going to start writing a memoir this year and this will be a part of it – caring for Byron’s cats. xo

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