The Gift of Animals and Unexpected Time

Yesterday it wasn’t raining. It was breezy, but sunny and warm. I was in need of a walk, to pray and sort out my thoughts, as I was feeling burdened. I wandered down the hill, through the town and towards the sea, with no fixed idea of where I was heading.

I found myself half praying that someone I knew would come along – someone to talk to, to make sense of everything. I walked slowly through the gates and into the bowling green, a lovely spot next to the sea. I came to rest on a bench. Colourful flowers were blooming all around.

A tortoiseshell cat arrived the moment I sat down, rushing and leaping up beside me. He began to nuzzle my side and then my leg. I don’t like cats generally, because I’m allergic to them. When I was little I wanted to be a vet. I don’t know how I thought that could happen when I was allergic to so many animals and afraid of so many others!

I didn’t reach out to stroke the cat, but I didn’t push him away, and he seemed perfectly contented: all trust and affection. I thought that it wouldn’t be long before he gave up on me, but he kept nuzzling, sitting as close to me as possible. I brought my hands out of my pocket and sang, ‘You are my Sunshine,’ quietly. I laughed and shed a couple of tears, though I hardly knew why. He jumped to the ground and began to roll around playfully on the warm slabs.

I wouldn’t have known what to say to anyone at that time; they probably wouldn’t have known what to say to me either. But that silent creature had come to comfort me instead. Someone knew exactly what I needed…

I picked at the pale cat hairs that had clung to my black coat, and my fingers began to itch. Reluctantly, I decided to leave my faithful friend and keep walking, but it wasn’t easy to get rid of him! He followed me until I was far away.

After a while I came across a couple with a beautiful dog. The young border collie bounded along the path ahead of its owners, and then turned and froze, completely blocking my way. I almost tripped over him! I smiled, looking down and saying, ‘Hello!’

But he just looked to his master, with his eye on the prize.

‘Sorry, he hasn’t even noticed you!’ the man said, in amusement. ‘He’s after this stick.’

The dog turned his head, suddenly saw that I was right next to him, and jumped high in surprise! We all started laughing. I was still smiling when they were well out of sight.

But then time was up. I began to walk homewards, enjoying the last bit of fresh afternoon air. The feeling of burden crept up again, because I had to go and teach five music pupils in a row – a lovely job, but much harder if I’m feeling drained. I was trying to maintain the better mood that two sweet animals had given me, but I still wondered how I would get through it.

My phone started to ring as I made my way back. It was a parent phoning to cancel the first two lessons. I had an unexpected extra hour! So I went to the corner shop, bought a drink and chocolate shortcake, and headed to a nearby bench with a view.

I had time to sit quietly and write down all these thoughts, whilst overlooking the unusually turquoise water of the Menai Strait and enjoying the glorious sunshine. I scribbled on the back of a receipt, and on the last couple of pages of a tiny notebook, until my time ran out for the second time. By then I was ready to face the evening.

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