Friday, January 16, 2015

The Power of Trust

I think I've mentioned here that a couple of months ago I adopted a cat, now named to Harry. In this photo, Harry — eight year old Maine Coon mix —  is investigating the boxes I've collected for my decluttering project. Harry seems to share a number of characteristics — like loving boxes — with other felines. But he has other quirks that seem to be uniquely his own.

Much more of a dog person than a cat lover — having only had an outdoor cat briefly when I was a child — I have been surprised by the bond that we're forming. But what has surprised me even more is that having Harry in my life is giving me greater insight into human relationships. Harry is an opportunity to study close-up the profound power of trust to affect human behavior.

Yesterday, I dropped Harry off at his vet's to have his teeth cleaned while I made a quick trip to New York City. The night before, Harry seemed to pick up some anxiety on my part that I had received instructions that he was not to eat after 6 am. That meant I would either not be able to leave food out for him that evening or that I would have to wake up before 6 and remove his food bowls. But my greater anxiety was that he would somehow sense that the next morning I planned to put him into his carrier. Harry does not like his carrier, wisely associating the carrier not only with being caged but with a trip in the car to the vet.

At a little after midnight I went off to bed, having decided to set the clock and get up at 6 to remove his food bowls. For the next two hours, Harry wandered through the house meowing, with occasional stops in front of my close door to scratch and meow louder. The scratching at my door is something we dealt with early on. We established that I will not open my door because he scratches. At night, I go off bed, leaving him to do the same — and he is often asleep before I am. But he wakes up and plays cat soccer with his toys and dashes through the house and eats and does whatever cats do at night. His business, as long as he stays away from the door. Then in the morning, I get up and open the blinds so that he can look out. He is already on top of the radiator waiting. Over the past two months, we've worked that out. So the scratching at the door and the loud meowing was disturbing. I couldn't sleep and he wasn't in a mood to play.

At 2 am I gave up. I waited until it had been awhile since he scratched on the door. Then got up, went into the living room and set on the sofa. Now, that we have a pet cover, he is allowed to make use of the sofa without the balled aluminum foil that didn't keep him off anyway. Now, we sit on the sofa in the evening when I have the time. Easier than having an 18+ lb cat jump into my lap when I trying to work on my computer. So at 2 am, I sit on the sofa. He jumped up beside me. Exhausted, I stretched out. He stretched out in the curl of my arm, on his back, paws in the air.

When he was snoozing, I eased off the sofa. He turned over and curled up against the pillow and kept sleeping. He was still asleep when I woke up at 6. In fact, I had to wake him up a little before I scooped him up and put him into his carrier — actually, a carrier designed for a medium-sized door. I had lined it with a towel, sprayed it with a calming spray, but Harry still meowed his unhappiness as we drove to the vet. And I felt guilty, as if I had betrayed his trust, even though I knew the trip was necessary and that I would come back for him. And I hoped that 2 am time together on the sofa had helped him to believe that, too.

Harry has gotten me thinking about humans relationships, not just with animals, but with other humans. For most of us — those of us who have the power of empathy — being trusted by another human or an animal is a gift, but it comes with responsibility. The responsibility to live up to that trust.

As writers, particularly crime writers, we deal with trust in our work — usually betrayals of trust. But there are also those stories to be told about keeping trust. Harry has me pondering what I can do with that. Writer thanks cat.

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