I don't just love animals, I'm a little obsessed with them. I have always been compelled to approach them, touch them, ‘talk to them’. I just want to be with them. Constantly. Nothing makes me feel more alive than being amongst animals. Whenever the local fair comes to town my grown up daughters leave me in the petting zoo while they go and look around the stalls or on rides. There is something very special about having an interaction with another being (from a different species to my own). It really makes my heart sing to have just a moment where I feel a connection to an animal through touch or eye contact or just being close to them. It is a thrill to be able to sit with an animal who feels comfortable with you. In that moment I feel as though we are communicating. We are in agreement that we are friends, we are both safe here with each other. It is a real honour to experience this for me. It gives me a feeling of acceptance, acknowledgement, without expectations. I am just being accepted for being me. There is nothing more rewarding to me than earning the trust of an animal.
I suspect my obsession with animals stemmed from the challenges I have relating to human beings. I have struggled all my life with severe social anxiety and I generally opt out of social situations altogether these days. As a kid I experienced selective mutism - an acute anxiety response that paralyzes the vocal cords. Basically, I couldn't speak in certain situations - namely school. My voice just seemed to shut down. Consequently, I struggled to form meaningful connections with my peers. Throughout my childhood, adolescence and teen years, my cats were my companions. I formed a loving bond with them and I adored and cherished each and every one of them. They were my therapy and I felt comfortable and safe in their company.
As an adult I still connect better with animals than with people. I rarely approach people to talk to them in public - unless, of course they have a dog I'm itching to pat. It often takes some courage to ask permission from the owner but typically the urge to connect with the pet is so great it overrides my fear of speaking. Naturally, I'm in my element where the owner is not in sight. A dog tethered to a pole outside the supermarket is a great opportunity for me to say hello without the hassel of having to talk to the owner. It doesn't matter where I am, if there is an animal present, I bypass the humans, making a beeline for the animal. Visits to friends homes as a kid typically featured me, alone, captivated with the family pet, whilst my siblings played with the children.
My first pet was a German shepherd, Kyla. I can’t remember much about her but my dad said she sat outside my bedroom door when I was a new born, ready to protect me. After Kyla went to ‘live on a farm’, I began acquiring cats. Strays would approach our home and of course I would beg mum to let them stay. Once I brought a kitten home from school after a litter had been discarded under our school building. Fortunately my mum was easy going in this regard. The cats were my cats. My dad would arrive home and say, ‘Oh, no! Not another cat!’ But he accepted it soon enough and no one else really bothered about them. But they got me through many tearful days and nights and were extremely therapeutic for me.
There was Tom, Orange, Princess, Moggy, Oliver, Strange, Red, Abdul, Fritz and another couple that escape my mind. I was responsible for all of them….even when they brought birds in….alive. This is the downside to having a cat. They bring you a ‘present’ so proud to be contributing to the household. “Go on, put your feet up. Dinner’s on me tonight”. I would have to chase them around the back yard sometimes to try and retrieve the poor victim. Sometimes the bird would survive. I would put it in our indoor garden and nurse it back to health. But more often than not, they wouldn’t make it.
Our home was on a main road and so unfortunately, All of the nine or ten cats I had during my childhood and teen years suffered the same fate eventually. All victims of cars. Once or twice I found them myself on the grassy medium strip in the middle of the road on my way home from school. I was inconsolable for days.
I have a cat today. 'Little Cat' is my precious companion and confident. She is the ‘person’ I tell my inner most secrets to. She is very loyal and affectionate and promises that she will always accept me as I am. She never asks me why I'm so quiet and I love her for it!