Beautiful long-haired Siamese Sammy walks the perimeter of the porch, winding near me and away from me, enticing me with low, prrr-meows, but staying two inches from my outstretched hand.  This is a familiar routine. “Sammy, remember how you love me?” Finally, the tips of my fingers make contact with his fur, and, as soon as he feels the caress, he does remember. He leans in to me….moves toward me…presses his side to my leg…relaxes, purrs, and stays.  This is the result of almost two years of loving Sammy the Hiding Cat.

I met Sammy at the feed store.  I was hefting feed on to the cart when I caught a glimpse of the Animal Shelter cat cage.  I left my cart to look closely at the gorgeous large cat inside. He was healthy and fat and obviously not a stray…but when I looked in his eyes I almost choked with sadness. I couldn’t understand this cloud of depression that settled around me and this caged cat.

“Jill? What’s this cat’s story?”

Jill is a practical, down-to-earth business woman and not prone to my dramatics but her face was serious when she turned to me and said, “Does he look like he’s crying to you?” Sammy’s story was that his owner had died and he had no place to go.  Well, of course, I took him home.  As soon as I opened the pet taxi, Sammy ran under my bed. I thought maybe he would need some time to adjust…a few hours? A few days? A few months?

Sammy lived under my bed….sneaking out only at night to grab a bite to eat….for six months. I tried catching him and holding him close. I tried sitting quietly and enticing him with treats. I had never met a cat I couldn’t win over…until I met Sammy. Living under my bed was not a life of quality for an animal, so I decided to introduce him to my other cats and let him experience the outdoors. He adjusted well and loved to run around the farm, but I knew I had given up my chance of ever holding him and I worried about what would happen if he ever needed human assistance. I continued to talk to him when I fed him which was the only time he would even get close to me. He would listen–and stay at least a foot away.

But one day as he was eating I was stealthy enough to lightly touch him and he surprised me—and himself—by leaning in to my hand. I could tell he remembered this thing called petting. He forgot, for an instant, to be afraid. Now, every day, I have to remind Sammy that he loves me.

Sammy is my daily reminder that what I see in the souls around me is not necessarily what is hiding underneath. Sometimes people have to be reminded to love.  We all have our protective shields. When I’m feeling my most vulnerable, I laugh…a lot. Others become sullen, quiet, or gruff.  The challenge is to not discount the person who is laughing like an idiot or growling judgmental commentary. Under that exterior is a soul—a soul connected to me. We are all connected. It may take time, patience and energy, but I’m sure that each person I meet can be reminded of love.  And, truly…what else is more worthy of my time than love?

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