When Mitzi arrived at our home she had already lived with other humans. Some of these folks had unfortunately mistreated her and others simply misunderstanding her needs and all having called her by other given names. And so at the age of roughly 10 years old she began “again” with her new human family and was given her new name by my 20 something year old daughter who would now be her new caretaker (in addition to her own small herd of goats).
The first thing we learned was that we had to meet Mitzi on her terms or else she would bite or scratch you. Some of us took longer to learn this than others. You see, she looked very soft and cuddly, she would purrrrr as you approached, and would even roll over and expose her belly to you as if inviting a few good rubs. However, she rarely accepted these gestures and typically swatted you quickly with her claws or nipped at your hands hence the warning “don’t pet cat – she bites!” that now graced our doorstep.
The humans, both family and community members, over time learned to give her space, talk to her in a gentle manner, and when properly suited up (as in wearing a snow suit head to toe) you could actually have her sitting in your lap for a brief moment. Then as the seasons passed and she settled into her new space Mitzi began to allow my daughter to fully pick her up routinely and my husband was granted this same pleasure on occasion too. Harmony, for the most part, had settled in at our front door.
Mitzi became very much a part of our daily comings and goings always there to greet you at the front porch and often seen out our windows going on adventures in the meadow. She spent time in our gardens whenever we were weeding or planting and seemed to enjoy our company. The goats learned to tolerate her and she them especially on long winter days in the barn when a snow storm was piling the inches up outdoors and they were stuck inside together. And when my daughter spent time in the barn with all of them they could be content if she laid in the middle and they each sat to one side. It had an essence of Fern in Charlotte’s Web about it except my daughter was navigating her early 20’s and simply found it soothing to be with her fur babies.
And now after sharing the past 3 years with us Mitzi has passed away of natural causes. My daughter was hesitant to put the “don’t pet cat – she bites” sign on her grave, located near her butterfly garden, as she felt Mitzi had come such a long way in her behaviors towards humans. In the end though it seemed most appropriate as it was done with love and acknowledgement of how we learned to take her on her own terms and what a special gift she left us with in learning how to P.L.A.Y. and connect in her own special way.
This experience has had me thinking what a true gift it would be if we all learned to apply the lesson Mitzi taught our family:
Simply meet everyone on their own terms.
See, hear, value, and learn to understand a person or animal as is versus trying to change them into something you’d like them to be.
This is the truest and simplest gift of being present and embedded in the very nature of P.L.A.Y.
Sending wholehearted hugs and wishing you many P.L.A.Y. days with your loved ones- both your fur and human family.