At the close of the year, I sit quietly, a cup of tea in hand and two cats nearby, and reflect back on the year. What has been steady and true for me throughout the year is my family, my dearest, oldest friends, and my animals. Each brings joy, peace, and comfort in their own way, and I’m deeply grateful for them.
The ones I spend the most time with—because I work at home as a writer—are my cats, Gracie and Mr. Bean. Mr. Bean, who was infamously chronicled in the four-part “I Was Born on an Amish Farm in the Middle of Winter,” https://untoldanimalstories.org/2013/09/13/i-was-born-in-the-middle-of-winter/ blog post (several posts down, September 2013), is transforming gradually from over-the-top rambunctiously biting and playful to a more dignified, loving version of himself. Even Gracie tacitly approves of him from time to time.
Gracie, though, I think she might be something akin to enlightened. She is consistent in her loving behavior, and she never says an unkind word, so to speak, to anyone. I suspect she sees things as they are, and despite what others might do, she acts unwaveringly in alignment with the principles of kindness, acceptance, and generosity of soul.
A home with a pet feels different from a home without pets. To me, homes without can feel spacious, but the space has a stillness and emptiness. A home with a pet feels friendlier, fuller, as if the very air has love in it. Animals give so much. There are the antics, which amuse; the unconditional affection, which satisfies; the steady presence, which brings comfort; and, of course, the opportunity to do animal-speak.
If you don’t have a pet and are reading this, you’ll think the lot of us are certifiably nuts. If you have a pet, I’m willing to guess that you do animal-speak: the animal does something, and you provide the narrative of their thoughts and actions, in a slightly different voice than your own.
Animals have a different sort of wisdom than we do—one that is un-derailed by thinking and believing our own thoughts. They trust their instincts above all else, seeing clearly beyond any veil of pretense and delusion to the heart of the matter. These “lesser” beings, to some, have much to teach us.
For part I: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2013/09/13/i-was-born-in-the-middle-of-winter/
Part II: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2013/09/20/part-ii-i-was-born-on-an-amish-farm-in-the-middle-of-winter/
Part III: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2013/09/27/part-iii-i-was-born-on-an-amish-farm-in-the-middle-of-winter/
I was not born on an Amish farm in the middle of winter, but I live with the one who was. I was born in the middle of summer in Peachbottom, PA, near a chain link fence. By the time I was six months old I’d had a litter of kittens. At eight months, someone tossed me from a car window by my forearm. I walked with a limp like Quasimodo for a long time. I landed in a soft place eventually, but that’s another story for another time.
This part of my story is about Mr. Bean, who blasted into my life after we lost our dog, Beez. Beez and I were best of friends, and now he’s gone. My people adopted this wiry, wild-eyed kitten who lacks manners. Though our pasts have similarities—each of us was neglected and suffered from hunger—I’m more philosophic than Bean is. I see things as they are, and I soften into them. Despite Mr. Bean’s behavior toward me, I conduct myself exactly as I chose to be. I never bite. I am kind, always. I live peacefully. It’s my hope that by walking my path, I will teach this young one. In the meantime, I’m chased, pounced upon, and chewed on. If I could sigh, I would. But things are exactly as they are, and I move through my world in relative serenity, sometimes better than others.
Feedback . ideas . rescue stories
Why they named me Frank Sinatra, I am not sure. The neighbors laugh every time they say the name. From what I understand, Frank was a singer. Perhaps they named me because of my voice. I wouldn’t say it’s mellifluous, like the birds that live at the borders of our pasture, but to my ears the intake breath sound of Hee and outflow breath sound of Haw have a nice, solid sound, like large farm machinery scraping across the floorboards of the barn. I like that. It makes me less lonely for my kin.
I do have a friend. He’s a horse who shares the pasture and barn with me. His name is Fred. No last name. Wherever he goes, I follow. Mostly he doesn’t mind, but sometimes he swings around toward me with flattened ears, so I back up a few paces. A little later, when he’s not paying attention, I sidle up and stand near him. I’m quite a bit shorter than Fred, but I feel that my being near him somehow adds to my stature.
We came here from different places—here being this roomy pasture with a barn, and a man and woman who live in the stone house. Fred traded hands many times. He made friends at the first few places, but with each subsequent trade he kept more and more to himself. He told me, What’s the use in making friends when humans can decide at any time to send you somewhere else? Horses have no choice. We’re compliant, and we withstand all sorts of things. But that doesn’t mean that our hearts are resilient.
Fred came here five years ago. I don’t think he or I are going anywhere. That’s the feeling I get from our people, and I’ve overheard them talking about letting us live out our days here. Still, Fred keeps himself a little apart from me, just in case. Once in a while, Fred touches my neck with his nose and I bow my head in gratitude.
The man and woman take him on trail rides now and then. Sometimes I go along, led by a long rope. I like the change of view and I’m happy not to have all that saddle and gear strapped to me. We go down to the end of the pasture, out through the gate, across the cool stream, and up into the woods.
Unlike Fred, I wasn’t so much as bought and sold as shunted from one place to another. Children at one barn rode me a few times before becoming bored with me, so I went to another place where men in straw hats and suspenders and women in long, dark dresses worked me hard.
I pulled some contraption across a field, back and forth, back and forth. I wasn’t fast or strong enough to suit them, and more than once they lashed my back harder than necessary to get their point across. I strained and tried and sweated, but it was never good enough for them. They believe that animals were put on earth by god for their use. Never once did they touch me with kindness. I closed my mind to it, but I never got used to it.
Eventually they stopped working me and brought in a broader, stouter donkey that pulled whatever they strapped to him. In the pasture, though, he always stood with his head hanging low, his eyes half-closed.
I was sold at auction to the man and woman I live with now. They coaxed me into the trailer and then out of the trailer, down the ramp, and into a pasture of tall, sweet grasses.
I kept waiting for things to unravel—for the food to become meager, for a command to pull something far too heavy, but it never happened. Gradually I came to trust them.
Sometimes at night the man and woman sit on their porch playing wooden stringed instruments. The woman sings. Her voice is like a wisp of wind spiraling up into the sky. Sometimes I’m inspired to sing along with her. When I do, Fred stands nearby and listens attentively to the sound of our voices in harmony and the kind, kind laughter of the man.
-UntoldAnimalStories.org – We tell animals’ stories from their perspectives. Gentle in our approach rather than shocking, we invite connection, compassion and, from that, action. We also provide tips on what you can do to help animals, and we seek new action ideas, as well as animal and rescue stories, from you…. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or via our contact page
I was born under a porch where I nestled with my mother and siblings in the cool, shaded dirt. We stayed put when she left each night; she didn’t tell us to do so, but she made it clear somehow. We weren’t inclined to wander anyway—there were odd sounds at night beyond the latticework that separated us from the world. So we chewed on each other, and climbed on top of each other, and silently curled around each other, awaiting her return. She came back before first light. We nursed happily and slept.
One morning there was commotion outside our hideaway. Our mother stepped in front of us, tense. There was a wrenching sound, then the latticework fell away and sunlight streamed in. A man and woman stooped down and peered at us, making friendly little sounds. My mother, wary, moved toward them, her thin body silhouetted against the glare. She sniffed their hands then allowed them to pet her. She turned to us and meowed, and we came to her. The man gently scooped all four of us kittens up at once in his arms and placed us in a crate. He called to my mother, who looked at us in the crate, glanced to the side toward freedom, looked at us again, then climbed into the crate. We pressed against her body on the jostling ride.
We came to a place of meowing cats and barking dogs and talking people. A woman carried us to a cage in a back room. Another woman draped our mother across her shoulder, petting her, and brought her to join us. There was a bowl of water, into which I dipped my nose and sneezed repeatedly. There was a bowl of food that my mother ate, all at once. There was a soft blanket on which we slept and passed the time together.
People came and went—tall people and little people, high voices and low voices, kind hands that pet us and fed us. My mother grew less boney. We grew bigger.
An older man came one day, white haired and angular. He opened our cage and petted each of us with exquisite tenderness, then the spoke to our mother. They regarded each other for some time, as though something was passing between them. Before he took her away, he held her near each of us. We touched noses with her, and then she was gone.
Two days later, two of my siblings were adopted by a young couple, and three days after that, my remaining sibling was adopted. The cage had a lot of space to move in, but I missed the sense of belonging and deep comfort that came from my family’s nearness. The people who cared for me were kind, picked me up, and spoke to me, but mostly they were bustling about caring for so many cats.
At night the shelter grew quiet and peaceful. The moon came through the bars of my cage, bluing the floor and my black fur. In its soothing light, I slept deeply.
One day a woman came and paused before each of the cages. I liked the way she moved, like a blade of tall grass in the wind. She lay her open palm against the door of each cage and talked softly to the cats. When she came to my cage I stretched my arm out toward her and blinked slowly—the language of cat love. She asked someone if she could hold me.
When the door swung open, I walked into her outstretched arms, settled in, and reached up and touched her face with my paw. She laughed, a lovely, silvery sound, stroked my fur, and said something to the shelter person. I went home with her.
Sometimes I dream of my mother and siblings, a far-off memory now. In my dreams each of them has someone to love.
Some have the mistaken belief that shelter cats aren’t adoptable, that they’re in the shelter for behavioral and other problems. Generally this is not true. Cats land in shelters because 2% of lost cats ever find their way home… because unscrupulous owners abandon them…because their people die…. Please consider adopting from a shelter. There are 70 million homeless cats in the U.S.
About www.untoldanimalstories.org —We tell animals’ stories from their perspectives. Gentle in our approach rather than shocking, we invite connection, compassion and, from that, action. We also provide tips on what you can do to help animals, and seek new action ideas, as well as animal and rescue stories, from you…. Please write to us at email@example.com