Ever since the Fire Department pulled Gracie down from the tree behind our house as a timid little kitten, she has been determined to squeeze every ounce of life out of life.
It’s not that she’s feral. It’s that she’s fierce. She’s passionate. Everything is a wonder to her. Whatever she does, she does it one hundred percent.
After months of marveling at her tireless celebration of life, my husband and I began to create stories about Gracie.
For instance, we decided that her real name is actually “Lolita Grace” – which added a much needed exotic touch. I said that she had lived in South America for a brief time and had married a Latin tycoon of sorts. (No one knows why or how the marriage ended. She never talks about it.) This story resulted in a longer name. Lolita Grace Gonzales Kane. Then, after she stalked, killed, and brought home a giant piece of pizza, her name officially became Lolita Grace Gonzales Domino Kane.
Our stories about Gracie cracked us up. At that time, she often stayed out all night. This worried me, but I came up with the perfect explanation. I told my husband that Gracie had opened a nightclub along the river where we live. “It’s called Lolita’s by the River,” I said. I described it for him – a ramshackle hut, hammered together with rusty nails and pieces of scrap wood that came down the river. And all animals – be they predator or prey – go to Lolita’s by the River. They set aside their differences beneath the twinkle lights (there are lots of twinkle lights) and they listen to music. Gracie would serve drinks laden with fruits, long swirlie straws, and little paper umbrellas.
Some summer nights, my husband and I would both wake up at 3am and realize that Gracie was still out. I’d say to him “Well, it’s Cajun night at Lolita’s by the River. So, the place probably got pretty rowdy.”
When Gracie hadn’t returned in the morning, I told my husband that she had started another business called “Lolita’s Lattes” and was out serving coffee-drinks to go at a roadside stand.
Gracie also opened a transport service along the river called “Gracie’s Gondolas.”
As much fun as I had creating the imaginary world of my little gypsy cat, it stressed me out that she stayed out all night. My other two cats are home-bodies, mostly sleeping and playing on the deck. They each have their own stories as well. For instance, Atticus (aka Mr. Patticus) is Headmaster of the Patticusian Academy of Relaxation and Comfort [PARC] – and has implemented various coziness initiatives in the house, such as the Patticusian Lean Optimization Program [PLOP] – which allows for him to lean on any convenient person or pillow as he sleeps.
One day, I told my friend Joy that I wanted Gracie to stop staying out all night because it worried me so much. Joy reminded me of the power of our thoughts and words. Even though Joy loved hearing all the stories about Lolita’s, (while Joy was on vacation, Gracie dragged a rickshaw across town and picked up Joy’s cat P’nut and brought her to Lolita’s) she suggested that maybe I should start portraying Gracie as a cat who loves to be around the home.
So, I did just that.
After that conversation, when anyone asked about Lolita’s by the River, I said that Gracie had started an online business because she wants to stay at home more. Lolita’s by the River is still there, of course. But now, she has outsourced all the work so that she can tend to her online business. I also began to imagine Gracie delighting in hanging out at home and on the deck.
Well, guess what?
Since I began shifting my thoughts and stories about Gracie, she has stayed out all night only once. (It was Reggae Night and the band didn’t show.) And even when she’s out late, she runs home the minute my husband calls her. She’s also much more affectionate with us and more aware of our presence in her life. This change has been nothing less than remarkable.
Now, am I saying that all you have to do is think different thoughts and your animals will change?
Not at all.
But I am suggesting that when you see your dog as needy or crazy, or when you call your cat weird, or bad, or stupid, or afraid – those messages have power. Our animal companions pick up on our energy and our emotions. It’s so easy to forget that. While you’re becoming more conscious and aware in your life, remember that your animals can change and grow with you. They can also be the best teachers along the way. Gracie taught me the power of imagination!