The first cat I owned was named Sasha. I adopted her from the Sacramento Animal Shelter in 1986 on what would have been her last day of life. She was the runt of her litter and had already been adopted once but returned. How could I resist? I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog.
Sasha played fetch better than any dog I’ve ever owned, and despite her diminutive size, was the feline equivalent of Michael Jordan. Toss a cat-sized ball, and Sasha would catch it mid-air. Sometimes she would back-flip off the couch and catch the ball upside-down, between her paws, just because she could.
Sasha was what’s known as a dilute tortie, which meant she was a mottled grey, peach, and cream with piercing green eyes. She was a big talker and an even bigger squirmer. Getting a flea collar on that cat was like wrestling a greased pig. But the thing Sasha did best was hunt. She could catch and kill anything.
After a year of entertaining my law school classmates, Sasha moved with me to South Lake Tahoe where I’d snagged a summer job. A few of us were renting a ski condo at the top of the Kingsbury Grade, and Sasha immediately sized up the local wildlife. Fat squirrels lazed on the asphalt parking lot. Sasha decided it was her job to rid the world of such slothful creatures. After that, she would kill at least one every day and leave the rear half of its carcass on the front doormat as a gift. Fortunately my male roommates arrived home before me and kicked the remains off the walkway so that they fell behind the carport, two stories below. By the end of the summer, the area looked like a rodent death camp. Not even a pair of bells could slow the carnage. It was gruesome, and yet, strangely inspiring.
Sasha lived another 16 years, and she remained a hunter all her life. Of the seven cats I’ve lived with since, none have been hunters in anything more than a passing sense. They’d watch birds but never kill them. My friend Melanie has a cat named George who hunts the way Sasha did. She told me he killed three birds in one day and brought them home to share with her. One of her neighbors was less than amused. Melanie came home to find an anonymous, f-bomb laced note. This individual was pissed that George had walked on his fence and stalked some squirrels. He cursed at Melanie and threatened the cat. She was alone for the weekend, and the note shook her up. She asked what she should do. I told her to file a police report. I phrased it in terms of her safety, but mostly I was worried about George. “Oh,” she said. “Who would hurt a cat?”
Sadly, there are many. And while I understand that killing birds is unacceptable, so in my mind, is leaving profanity-riddled notes and making threats. When did it become acceptable to skip over polite discourse and jump straight into hostility? Did the neighbor think f-bombs would make Melanie more eager to give him what he wanted?
We teach children not to bully, but wouldn’t this be more effective if adults modeled non-violent communication? Perhaps I’m thinking about this issue because the past few months I’ve been subjected to a high degree of online harassment from a former friend. Snarky comments on facebook; off-topic rants on my blog; texts, emails, and phone messages containing threats. It’s been stressful and upsetting, particularly given that I’ve done nothing wrong. It’s like the people who yell about my poor parenting skills while my daughter is mid-meltdown—so not helpful.
Personally I aim to be courteous in all my interactions. I’ve learned excessive anger is never helpful—even when you have a right to be angry. But not everyone knows this, so when dealing with angry and negative people, I try to remember that others’ inappropriate behavior is far more about them than me. Sometimes, when I’m dealing with such people, I give them my brightest smile. Like Sasha, just because I can.
Until next time,