I have a cat named Hidey. We will celebrate our third anniversary on February 14. I found her at the county animal shelter a little over a year after my husband passed away. I needed another creature to share this house, and I needed a little affection on a daily basis. I gambled on Hidey.
My youngest son named her. This 7- or 8-year old cat had belonged to an elderly lady with dementia, who couldn’t care for her anymore. The day I brought her home to my house, she disappeared into my basement right away. I looked for her, but didn’t spot her right away -- there are so many boxes and shelves and closets and dim corners in my basement. It didn’t bother me, I figured she’d come out when she was ready.
Well, it bothered my son. He stopped by my house after work to meet my new cat. When I explained that she was in hiding, he decided to find her. And he did, eventually. Wearing his white shirt, suit and tie from work, he was on his hands and knees peering beneath the basement stairs and he spotted the gleam from her wide eyes. She wouldn’t come out, even tempted with a dish of white albacore.
Defeated, my son came upstairs and named her. “We’ll call her Hidey, because she was hiding under the stairs." So, Hidey.
My gamble paid off. After a wary start, we’ve become the best of old lady friends. When I am reading or knitting or watching television, she often settles next to me on the couch and rests her head on my thigh. Once in a while, she climbs into my lap and lies lengthwise along my legs. Sometimes, she sits in my lap, leaning her head against my chest. As I pet her, she looks up at me with the widest green eyes. We stare at each other. Often, I blink at her. I read somewhere that cats interpret that as a sign of affection.
My husband didn’t really like cats -- he was a dog person. But I love Hidey. And this morning, as I read another sermon by Ellen F. Davis, I realized why. She tells the story of Martin Buber, who grew up caring for horses, one pony in particular. One day, he realized that he felt the affection of that one pony for him, young Martin. He realized that love crosses the boundaries of species, so that humans and animals can love each other. “Love does not depend on similarity,” Davis wrote.
Human beings are not like God, she continued. Creatures are not like the creator. We all fall short of the glory of God, a biblical writer said. But love does not depend on similarity. God loves us, in all our failings. When someone asked Buber how we could know that was true, he said, “Ask the animals, and they will teach you.”