What A Picture Is Worth

This picture was posted on my Facebook page by my friend Kris. I was (and still am) hypnotized by it. When I asked Kris for permission to post it here, she said:

Yes! the girl is my (ten on friday) daughter Simone! the cat is Richie Cunningham, a stray we took about 8 months ago. I had him posted on Petfinder and on Craig’s List as he was hanging around our house acting like a lost kitty, possibly feral. Then, after almost a year of him coming around and sleeping in our covered shed, he decided I could pet him, to come in the house and to stay. We are convinced that our other cat Bananas convinced him we were good peeps and to stay. :) They are the best of buds and he loves Simone so much. And she loves him.

Thanks SO much, Kris. I know you know this, but the headstart in life that you provide Simone, I believe, is immeasurable.

Let me now dive off the hyperbolic deep-end and say that what I see here, the genius of this moment – it’s all in the air between them. Simone is lost in the if/then discovery of deepening a bond. Like she’s saying, “If I touch this way, is that the magic trust button? The magic all-is-well-in-the-world-and-there’s-nothing-to-fight-or-flee button?” And Richie C says, “yeah, that’s the button.” “Then I’ll keep pressing it because you’re safe with me.”

The air between them holds the Rosetta Stone of animal communication. There’s no big secret to it, since it’s about the ingredients for any strong bond whether it is between species or among them; It’s about listening, having patience, respecting individuality; Presence that it seems children can access along with their animal friends so much better than adults. Through the magic of touch, observation and blessed stillness, Simone and Richie encapsulate what I strive for every single day when I meet a new cat – that moment, equal parts “Aha!” and “Ahhh..”

And by the way, Happy 10th birthday, Simone. I hope many, many animals (and people, too!) are lucky enough to know you in the years to come!