Monday, April 17, 2023

Jack the Cat

Our beagle, Ellie and I were in the middle of our afternoon "snuffle."  Unlike our morning walks, which are primarily for exercise, her snuffle is a time we walk around the neighborhood and she is allowed to stop and smell as often and as much as she likes.  Being a beagle, this is quite often.

As we walked along, we passed a gentleman sitting on his front steps.  We exchanged pleasantries and I noticed a beautiful white, brown and black cat sitting quietly at his feet.  The man then suggested to the cat he "go say hello" to Ellie.

My first thought was that no cat was going to just do what someone tells them.  My next thought was that my beagle in close proximity to any cat was definitely a bad idea and I said something to that effect.  The gentleman told me the cat was very sweet (I've heard such falsehoods from pet owners before).  He also told me Jack wasn't actually his cat, but lives across the street and comes to visit him every afternoon.

At that, Jack got up, stretched and began a slow walk toward Ellie. His movements, leisurely and purposeful, were somehow comforting and almost mesmerizing.

Surprisingly, Ellie, who is normally scared of a blade of grass blowing in the wind, didn't move a muscle. She didn't strain at the leash or show any signs of fear. She just intently watched Jack as he came closer and closer. I was watching intently as well, ready to jump between the cat and my dog if necessary.

Finally, Jack was within an inch of Ellie. Ellie did not move. Jack leaned in a little closer, his nose almost touching Ellie's and he sniffed her. Then he did something I would never have expected. He gently rubbed his face on her face, much as a mother dog rubs her face on her puppies. Jack did this two or three times, then laid down in front of her and rolled to his side, exposing his belly.

 At that point I began to believe that Jack was indeed the nicest cat I had ever encountered. However, he was still a cat and I felt it was time to end this encounter on a high note. I said as much to the gentleman and explained the last time she was that close to a cat it had reached out and slashed her ear.

As Ellie and I continued our walk down the sidewalk, I turned back to look once more at Jack. He had gotten up and taken a few steps toward us, watching us as we walked away.


As much as I wanted to protect Ellie and remove her from possible harm, I was sad the surprising encounter had ended.  I had expected Jack to be something he wasn’t - a threat to Ellie- and he was something I had not expected him to be – a kind, motherly sort of cat.  I had misjudged him on both counts.

This made me wonder how many times I might have misjudged people simply based on past experiences with others. I think most people will surprise us if we just give them a chance.   If we expect the best from others, I think they will often rise to the occasion. It helps bring out the best in us, too.  If we expect the worst, that is likely what we are likely to be giving out and getting in return.

Sometimes all we have to offer those we meet along the way is a friendly smile and a pleasant greeting. We can never know the impact those two simple things may have on someone's day, even in their lives.

“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” Romans 12:18

“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love.” Romans 12:10

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