Remembering to Play
Healing can come through many different forms in relationship. The simple act of play can open doors between two people and begin a healing process – or bring profound changes. This truth was illustrated to us quite dramatically through our cat, Rose.
Our family loves animals and holds all the animal kingdom in our prayers and thoughts. A person coming to our home is typically greeted by our three Golden Retriever dogs who make stepping out of the car quite difficult due to wagging tails. Watching on is a circle of six cats, all of whom expect a pet before the person enters our home. Rami’s horse, Magic, is usually not part of this welcoming committee. Living with ten animals is interesting and fun.
Last year, when we had only four cats, I decided to go to the SPCA to get a kitten for my father. My parents live close to us for six months of the year, and I felt a kitten would help my dad as he had recently become deaf. I found the perfect kitty at the SPCA. I was ready to leave when I walked by Rose’s cage. She was around three years old and beautiful with her long white hair and one black spot. She was also visibly depressed with her nose to the far end of the cage. She had been there for a month. I wondered, was her time almost up?
Something about her would not let me walk away. I asked the volunteer about her and was told that she was becoming more depressed with each day, not moving and not looking at anyone. Something in me knew I had to give Rose a chance. I brought her home, along with the kitty. Terrified, Rose quickly found the bathtub and would not move from it. (Fortunately, we have a separate shower, so the tub became Rose’s shelter.) Only at night did she venture forth to eat and use the litter box. When we reached into the tub to pet her she cowered as if she were afraid we would hit her. If we did touch her, she’d run to the other side of the bathtub.
This behavior went on for a month, and we were feeling we might never establish a relationship with her. We tried singing to her, sitting in the bathtub reading to her and offering special foods. She remained glued to her corner of the tub.
One evening our 14-year-old daughter, Mira, sat in the tub with Rose and began waving a cat toy in front of her. For ten minutes she sat, slowly swinging the toy with no response. Then a paw reached out and Rose began to play. She played with the cat toy and Mira for about 15 minutes. Then she began to groom herself for the first time in over two months. The whole family gathered around the bathtub to watch, pride and joy radiating from our faces. Each day Mira sat by the bathtub and got Rose to play with various toys. Within a week Rose let Mira pet her and even bring her to her bed. Seven months later, Rose is now one of our most affectionate cats. Playing seemed to bring memories of happier times in her life and allowed her to open and trust us.
It is a well known fact that children and young animals learn and grow through play. Adults also need to play and have fun. Sometimes relationships can get so serious and the fun and joy get buried by all the talk and working out. It is good to talk deeply and work things out but this needs to be balanced with some amount of play.
Many of us have somehow forgotten the importance of play in our lives and relationships. We have concentrated upon “growing up” as fast as we could, somehow equating maturity with seriousness and heaviness. But we can remember this forgotten art. Play can add a refreshing energy to a challenging situation. Smiles, a fun adventure or situation, giggles or a good hearty laugh can bring a gently healing energy and allow two people to get a different perspective, open their hearts and feel thankful once again for the friendship.