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Giuseppe Baldrighi: Lion (1750s)

" … this world is better off, too."

I start most days with a period of interspecies communication, Mutualizing, with Max our cat. He initiates these sessions. I'm uncertain about the details from his perspective, but I suspect that he's showing me appreciation and respect when he ambles into the library to hop up onto my lap and stretch out for a scratch and a purr. We share not even the odd verb, but I sense that we're conversing after a fashion. The chat always starts with some questions and tentative answers. Sometimes, he hesitates but consents to allow me to pick him up by the scruff and plop him onto my lap. Other times, he clambers up onto the chair back and climbs down my shirtfront. He quickly settles in, sometimes for no more than a minute—"Just checking in," he seems to say—and other times, he'd stay for hours if I didn't have business to attend to after an hour. He usually lingers for a half hour, sprawling, completely vulnerable, trusting and peaceful.

I cannot imagine a more reassuring way to start any day than to have a fine cat, who could easily choose sublime independence, decide to share some of his wildness with me, seemingly appreciatively.
I know that I'm the one who feeds him and that he might just be sucking up to his curious benefactor, but I sense some deeper connection, something more binding. Through the balance of the day, he'll play at independence, most often refusing my invitations to stop by for a head scratch. He'll look at me then as if I was crazy. What possible business could he have interacting with me? He can hold that attitude until along about five, when we both know that it's his suppertime.

Then he might scold me for seeming to forget, especially if I was roaming out in the broader world when his suppertime came. How dare I not be present for the very most important moment of the whole afternoon? His sister Molly remains a mostly feral kitty, which means that she limits her bouts of Mutualizing pretty much to meal times. She'll seek me out when she's hungry and chew me out if I don't seem to know what she's complaining about. I'm aware that she maintains a vocabulary probably every bit as extensive as mine and that I'm a dedicated species-ist for not finding the talent to translate it into mine or mine into hers. Her intelligence seems ample, even wise. It's about me when I treat her as if she were some sort of dependent baby. She's nearly twenty in cat years now and has a mind and a world of her own making in which I'm little more than an odd hour bit player.

I suspect that us humans keep pets to satisfy an innate need for Mutualizing. We're ultimately dissatisfied with standard verbal communication and so we insist upon engaging in perhaps one-sided conversations with entities who we can at least imagine listening to our stories. People can seem so danged inattentive. I swear that "What?" might probably be the most common word The Muse and I share. Not so with Max, who never deigns to ask for clarification, or with Molly, who, frankly, probably doesn't care. I can most reliably bleed out my heart to both better than I can to anyone with whom I share my species. These conversations might be more monologue than Mutualizing, but I sense that both the cats and I are better for these heart-to-hearts. I'm pretty sure that this world is better off, too.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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