On Saturday mornings, my cat likes to eat her breakfast by the TV.
It’s not a “TV” like you and I typically think of. Ellie’s TV is the screen door — the front door flung wide to give her access to her favorite channel. A channel featuring scampering birds and squirrels, swaying trees, and dancing leaves. She is polite in her request when she asks that I “turn it on.” And she settles in happily to watch.
And, since it’s Saturday morning, I take her special breakfast off her regular place mat and allow her to enjoy it in front of her TV.
With pets — and people too — it’s about Listening. It’s about paying attention to not just their words but their actions and behavior, their eyes, their body language, how they respond to what we say. It’s learning to hear what they aren’t speaking.
Our pets mewl and bark to express their needs. We pay attention and care for them. In a world full of distractions, though, it’s easy to miss a message. More than ever, we need to be truly present, observing those we care most about, and doing what we can to support them … to understand what’s important to them. To hear beyond the bark, the mewl, or the words. To be kind.
We live in a predominately selfish world where the tendency is to focus on our own wants and needs — to be oblivious to what is going on with people surrounding us.
On the road, we’re annoyed by the driver who cuts us off — or won’t let us merge.
When shopping, we’re frustrated at the lack of cashiers, slowing us down at check out.
At the office, we feel slighted when we don’t get the recognition we feel we deserve — or when our boss seems oblivious to what is happening on our desks.
When someone doesn’t respond to a call, a text or an email as quickly — or in the way we think they should — we feel slighted.
In those moments, perhaps it might be a better choice to look beyond our limited view to consider that there’s more to the story … that we only see a part of what’s actually happening.
How amazing it is then to share time with a a pet — a sweet creature who asks so little of us and offers unconditional love. There’s no subtext to try and interpret. Everything is straight-forward.
So, in the mornings when perhaps I might sleep in longer, her plaintive mewls awaken me. I find myself wanting to get up … wanting to do something for Ellie … wanting to spend time with just the two of us in our sun room.
Then when she sprawls out — literally taking over my exercise mat — I accommodate that request too, scratching her as I workout.
And, I take her Saturday morning breakfast to the screen door where she can enjoy it as she watches the Nature Channel.
It’s about more than us. It’s thinking about and truly caring about the needs, the hopes, the fears, the desires, the wishes, and the dreams of the people — and the animals — we interact with on a daily basis. It’s about listening to them as they speak — and hearing more than their words. It’s about being present with them as they sit beside you. It’s about the gift their presence brings into our lives and how we make the most of each encounter. Life is too precarious for anything less.
I’ll never forget when I was a kid and Grandmother Carmichael delivered cinnamon toast to me while I watched Saturday morning cartoons in her den. It was an act of love.
I’m pretty sure Ellie knows that when I bring breakfast to her while she watches her Saturday morning Nature Channel it is my way of saying I love you to her too.