Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Another Cat and Dog Story

Trust between two beings is a wonderful and tremendously fragile thing.

Another cat and dog story. Sorry. You find your illustrations where you find them, and I’ll do the same. Pet haters may tune out here.

Dogs and cats are very different beings. Obviously, each member of a species is a unique set of data points on a wide spectrum of behavioral characteristics. Your Rottweiler is not my Shih Tzu. Your amiable moggy is not my brother’s exceedingly defined Siamese. Some animals in each species exhibit more trust than others. But generally speaking, dogs are way more trusting than cats, and cats are way smarter. At least those are the uneducated observations of a lifetime of enjoying God’s creation up close.

Anyway, this week the ceiling springs a leak. It turns out the drain under the floor has suddenly collapsed, and the bathwater from upstairs is backing up into the space between floors and then making its way back down wherever it can. Repairs will require pulling up half the laminate flooring in the apartment and a plumbing crew with a jackhammer. Two days’ work at least, as the new concrete will have to dry overnight. And of course all the furniture has to go temporarily, as do the pets.

Trust and Adversity

You know how this goes. Like human beings, a great deal about how a pet-grade animal responds to adversity has to do with its personal history. The dog has been with us for fifteen years and, other than trips to the vet, has been hurt by human beings precisely once, when two wrestling boys accidentally fell on him. More than slightly ruffled, he rolled over, shook off the impact and looked up at the offenders as if to say, “I’m sure you didn’t mean to do that. Let’s just pretend this never happened.” Could be stupidity, but I like to think it’s trust.

On the other hand, the cat was tossed to the curb by a previous owner and fended for herself for a number of weeks before she climbed through my open window almost eight years ago in very bad shape with a respiratory infection. She will not cross the threshold except on my shoulders. I could leave the door open for a week and I would come home to find her waiting inside. The prospect of leaving her little world terrifies her. Trauma will do that, especially if you have a good memory. Accordingly, she has turned suspicion and grudge-bearing into a fine art.

Reflections on Reactions

So you can picture the different reactions as we relocate to my eldest son’s apartment for a couple of days. Dog curls up on a lap and goes to sleep. So long as his owners are present, he knows he will be cared for. He’s so relaxed in transport you have to check twice to make sure he still has a pulse. Cat, meanwhile, who is experiencing exactly what the dog is experiencing, is howling to wake the dead. Her security isn’t tied to the people in charge of her life, it’s tied to her circumstances.

Oh, wait. Maybe that’s reflection number one: Where do we place our faith? Does our security come from our daily routine continuing in an orderly and predictable way — or does it come from the established character and presence of Someone we know loves and cares for us? We rarely know for sure until our circumstances change. In the last two years, many of us have found out precisely where our faith was placed. Hopefully we are making the necessary adjustments.

Faith and Flesh

Another thought: the ability to trust has no relationship to intelligence or analytical capacity. Under normal circumstances my cat has both in spades, but fear reduces her to a very primitive state. She immediately forgets all the lessons I thought she’d learned. Trust is fragile. You can undo the work of seven years in thirty seconds, and not simply because you don’t speak the same language. You may have observed that higher IQ Christians are not necessarily more trusting. Maybe they are tempted to overthink things. My dog is never in danger of that.

Final thought: to be trusted is a fantastic feeling. More importantly, trust is the foundation of every good relationship you will ever experience. It is entirely understandable why it is impossible to ever please God if you will not trust him. Nevertheless, because we are creatures of flesh, we sometimes take advantage of other people’s trust. God never does. He may test our trust in him, but he will never abuse it, and he will never let us down.

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