I wrote about our new dog a couple weeks back. I described how he and our cat had not yet met, because our cat stayed in the bedroom for over a week, never coming out, even though he is a ferocious hunter. Before we got the dog, our cat had the habit of standing by the door every morning about 6:30 waiting to go out into the dark to hunt, and to kill. He never hesitates, whether it is snowing, or cold, raining, whatever.
Both of these animals are neutered males. The dog is gentle, seldom barks, and loves to play. But the cat who has lived here for a couple years was really put out when he smelled that we had brought home a dog. He went and hid in the bedroom. We put his sand box in there, too, so he could relieve himself and not make a mess.
Good news! They are no longer enemies. The cat roams out and about as he always has done before. He walks past the dog and pretty much ignores him. What happened?
First, we didn’t force the issue. We had good advice. Cats hate to be forced to do anything. So, knowing the cat would be upset, we planned carefully. Before even bringing the dog into our home, we put all the cat’s necessary things into the bedroom where he is used to sleeping. So he had food, water, poop box, a familiar place to sleep, plus his perch by the window so he could look out at the world.
Second, when we brought the dog home, we made sure the cat was safely away in that room with the door shut. From the very start we taught the dog that this bedroom was totally off limits. We let the cat have a safe zone. And we never took the cat out or forced him to face the dog.
Third, we gave them both plenty of time. Eventually after about a week, we simultaneously gave each of them their favorite food, but this time it was a couple feet on either side of the bedroom door, with the cat inside eating and the dog out in the hall eating. They’re smart. They each knew the other was close by and nothing bad happened.
Fourth, one day while I had the dog out of the house for a walk, my lovely wife left the bedroom door open, and just happened to make noises opening a can of the cat’s favorite midday food. He came out exploring very carefully. After he ate in the kitchen, the slider-door to our deck opened for him, and he couldn’t resist going out for stroll, something he had missed for over a week. When he returned a couple hours later, he very warily came back into the house. He observed the dog, and ran into the bedroom.
Something like this happened about five times, and each time the cat and dog discovered the other one was not a deadly enemy. Now, they each roam freely throughout the house, and the cat box is back out in the laundry room hallway. They get near each other without any nasty noises. They have learned to trust each other.
What I learned from this experience is that you cannot make anyone trust if they are afraid. But you can do your best to make them safe. And then with patience, let them discover the truth - that they are also safe in the presence of that person or that place they had feared. And slowly a fearful creature, whether it is a man or woman, a child, a boy or a girl, can discover that the world is a bigger place and life is full of possibilities.
The hard part is for each of us to be patient and loving, protecting and encouraging, nurturing courage in someone. I hope I can keep doing this for people who might be missing out on the bigness of life and the joy of living.
Jesus once said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. . . .” And his follower, Paul, said, “The truth shall set you free.”
There are people and places around the world and in our own neighborhood where someone could discover a better life. We need to help them feel safe, give them time, and whisper a few words of encouragement. It could turn into a very big thing.
© 2020 Stanley Hagemeyer