Love and connection persist
Inspiration comes from many sources. Sometimes we search for it; sometimes it finds us, unbidden. This was certainly the case with a message out of the blue from my deceased black cat, Beauregard. Beau had initially taught me how to animal communicate, and he still believes to this day that I need his tutoring. In the case of his surprise communiqué, I received marching orders: “Look for a neutered male cat on Petfinder. He will be a blue point Siamese, who has been a stray. Find him and adopt him. Trust me on this. You won’t regret it.”
I knew better than to argue with Beau. Dutifully, I pulled up the Petfinder website and entered my search criteria. Twenty or more cats came up within a hundred mile radius. As I scanned the pictures and read their bios, there was no mention of the stray lifestyle. But one regal looking cat caught my eye. Beau affirmed, “Yes, that’s the one.”
Pharaoh, as he was named in rescue, was estimated to be 4 or 5 years old and had been in care of the shelter for about 6 months. The shelter was in a shopping mall, about 30 miles from my home. I called and made an appointment for my family to visit him the following Saturday.
When we arrived at the rescue, Pharaoh was napping in his cage. We dutifully browsed the other cats and I beamed messages to him; we were there just to visit him. He roused after a few minutes and stared at me across the room with piercing ice blue eyes. He was uncertain and mistrustful of my intentions, but was willing to meet me.
The shelter director scooped him out of his cage and placed us with him in a visitation room. I asked if he had much opportunity to wander freely; I was told not so much, but he could be a bit rough with the other cats and the staff at the facility. I asked for his back story; he had been found running wild by Milwaukee Animal Control, flea-infested and ill. Rescue had taken him in and gotten him healthy, but he represented a placement challenge. Beau certainly had gotten the stray bit right.
I had brought toys and catnip. Pharaoh was entranced by both. He was less interested in our family, and hissed, swatted, and tried to bite when we wanted to pet him. The shelter director was able to hold him, but said that we needed to understand how to handle him. My heart went out to him, but I wasn’t sold yet on the idea of bringing Pharaoh into our home. I had two older, very gentle cats, and this boy obviously was a street fighter. He was lean, strong, determined, and edgy. I agreed to go home to ponder and promised to call the shelter back in a few days.
At home, furious sorting ensued, as well as extended conversation with Beauregard. “Are you sure this is the right cat? Isn’t he going to be too much for the other cats in the house? Will he ever become tame?” Beau was adamant; this was the right cat. He wanted me to animal communicate with Pharoah daily and to do some Tarot work to shift the energy of the situation. Of course, I complied.
“You know, Pharaoh, you will never get out of that cage if you keep trying to bite people. You have to stop trying to bite.”
“I know, it’s just so hard and I really don’t trust people much. I feel much safer when I bite.”
I simply kept reassuring him that, if he came to live with us, we would respect him, care for him, and always treat him kindly. I showed him mental pictures of our home, the other cats, and how we interacted with them. I asked him how he came to be a stray and met a wall of resistance. This was a topic we would not discuss.
Each day I had several remote conversations with Pharoah and did the recommended Tarot work daily as well. The first Tarot reading was grim, but successive readings were progressively a bit more optimistic. Many of the cards repeated from reading to reading, but shifted to more auspicious placement. I began to have some hope that the situation could work out. I checked in with Beauregard again.
“How will I know if Pharoah is willing to try to change?”
“When you talk to him and see him drop something at your feet, you will know he’s ready.”
On Tuesday Pharoah approached, in my mind’s eye, and dropped a ball of light at my feet. When I bent to pick it up, it unfolded into fragmented bits and images of his story. I had my sign!
I called the rescue back and made arrangements for another visit. Back in the visitation room with Pharoah, I reached my hand out to touch his head. He prepared to bite me, and I immediately responded with, “Uh uh. You need not to bite people.” The expression on his face barely softened, but he closed his mouth and turned his head away. This interaction repeated itself several times, and by the end of our time together that day, I was ready to fill out adoption paperwork. He had shown he was willing to try. We arranged to pick him up the next weekend. Beau was pleased.
On Saturday, we came, carrier in hand. Pharoah knew what was happening and didn’t fight being boxed. He was ready to get out of his cage and on toward a new chapter of adventure. On the drive home, we chatted with him about various names. He told me he didn’t like Pharoah; although it suited his regal Egyptian profile, for him it had associations with the cage.
“What about Horus?”
“It’s okay, but not really right.”
Just then we drove past the neon sign for Orion Corporation. It seemed like an omen.
“Would you like to be named Orion?”
That was settled. He was totally unafraid on the drive home. He stared out the vehicle windows with interest. This was much better; there were new scents and views.
Once home, we sequestered him in a bedroom for a week and then began to integrate him into the household. At first he attempted to dominate and terrorize my other two cats. He attacked and bullied them. When he got out of line, I would pick him up—hissing like a tea kettle on full boil—and carry him to his bedroom for a brief time out. Otherwise, he spent much of his time pacing the house, in ritualistic pattern.
Things weren’t progressing much and I knew he needed something to take the edge off his anxiety. I decided to try taking him outside on a leash. I bought a figure eight harness and leash and tried rigging him up. The first time he drew blood. The second time, he flopped on the floor like a dead but somehow hissing cat. This wasn’t working. I decided to simply tell him my intentions and go for it.
“I want you to wear this harness, so I can take you outside safely. I promise to stay with you and protect you, and that you will return to the house when we’re done.”
He looked at me with interest, and I knew it was time. I took him to my back door, kitted him up in leash and harness, opened the door, and put him out. It was a cold, breezy March day, but there were only a few patches of snow on the ground. He hauled me down the porch stairs and around and through my garden at speed. After 5 minutes, he was shivering and his paws were thoroughly muddy. It was time to go back inside. In the house, I was faced with a dilemma. His paws were caked and grimy; they needed a wash. I took a deep breath and moistened a paper towel.
“I wash your feet because I love you. I’ll dry them too, so they’re not wet and uncomfortable. You’ll feel better when I’m done,” I told him.
Hissing and writhing ensued, but not too much. Once his toes were dry, he huffed off through the house. But no blood had been drawn, so I counted the experience a success.
That evening, I stepped out of the shower to find Orion on the bath mat. He gazed up at me intently, and then proceeded to dry my feet and ankles with his tongue. My heart melted; I knew that, in his own fashion, he loved me back!
Orion was a slow bloomer. Gradually he became gentler with the other two cats. He learned to go to his room, voluntarily and on his own, when his aggression flared. Orion grew a little more tolerant of handling, but only by family. He continued to be mistrustful and angry with other people. Clipping his claws was a two-person job, with much protest on his part. At times, you might see a relaxed or content expression on his face, but he did not purr. I knew severe abuse was in his background and began to believe his ability to purr had been physically damaged.
I let him unwind at his own pace. I knew somehow that pressuring him would break him. I did lightly challenge him to learn new life skills. I began to hold him in my arms, at first only for a second or two. Initially he was resistant and not afraid to show it. I gently persisted.
“I hold you because I love you and enjoy the feeling of your body next to mine. I hope you might learn to enjoy it too.”
With time he stopped hissing and squirming and simply sat rigid and disgruntled in my arms. I gradually upped the hold time to 10 seconds or so. If he started to fight, I’d thank him and put him down immediately. Over time I was able to carry him through the house. He didn’t resist, but he didn’t relax either.
A year or two passed. He learned to chase ping pong balls—a great favorite—and play with toys in front of me without fear. I wondered who had punished him for this natural cat behavior. He refused all spoiling and ate only dry food. Nail clipping was now a one-person job, but still only tolerated. I discovered that he liked baby talk and singing. My “butch boy” liked to be cooed to.
I eschewed all expectation of Orion’s affection and learned to love his unique qualities. He had a laser beam gaze and was obviously ferociously intelligent; it was clear he didn’t believe the same of me. He acted afraid of no one and nothing. Presented with any situation he disliked, he went on the offensive.
Orion told me he was immensely grateful for my patience with him, and that if I waited, he would try to learn to be cuddlier. I continued to push softly at his physical boundaries, teaching him to tolerate very brief touch on his belly, tail, and toes. Then one day, I came upon him curled up on my bed. There was a soft rumbling that I excitedly identified as emanating from him. My brave boy had let down his guard and purred in front of me! He earned a new nickname that day: Ryepurr.
The next few years have brought further milestones: loud purring, lap crawling, head butting, belly baring for tickling, undercover snuggling in bed, begging at the refrigerator door and table for human food, and most recently, relaxed cuddling in my arms. Orion’s evolution into an affectionate housecat has been a long, slow process that has reinforced for me the value of patient, persistent belief. I’ve certainly learned as much, as he has, over our years together.
Orion discovered the value of animal communication first hand. He now frequently assists in my sessions with clients, offering guidance and reassurance to frightened or previously abused animals. He has “street cred” and mistrustful animals believe him more readily because of his background. He offers help voluntarily, often showing up in my lap as soon as I establish distant communication with a client’s pet. It’s his way of giving back.
Over all my interactions with Orion, I can feel a beam of approval from Beauregard in the great beyond.
“I told you so.”