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  • I don’t know if anything can look as miserable as a miserable cat. Not miserable for any actual suffering – just because it is being asked to do something it does not want to do.

    After years of planning and fundraising and work, we were able to complete the sixth and final new bear enclosure this fall. But with the bears tucked away cozily for winter, all that wonderful new space was sitting there unused. The cougars were looking at us with their lovely golden eyes. They had been waiting a long long time for new space. Sudden eureka – we could give them the bear enclosures for the winter! But that would mean moving them…..

    Jean went to Windwalker, leash in hand. He was eyed suspiciously. Ignoring that he petted him, put on the leash and tugged gently. A few steps – then emergency brakes. No budging. Any of you have who have tried to walk a cat on a leash will have sympathy. Picture Jean waiting patiently, a cougar in full stubborn mode at the end of a leash pulling back with all athletic 150 pounds of muscle. Feet planted. Saying absolutely not.

    Thoughts ran through Jean’s mind: “What is he thinking? What is stopping him? Why does he not want to go this time and last time he did. Well I just have to wait. Pulling will just make it worse. Eventually he will be tired of sitting there, or he’ll forget why he’s sitting there and he’ll come over to see what’s going on.”

    Windwalker would move a few inches. Jean would take up the slack. Another 5 minutes. Another few inches. Jean would slowly reel him in. Cougar waits. Jean waits. He could see he was going to be in for the long haul and shifted into patient mode, a timeless place of animal time, feeling his way to how Windwalker felt. Jean went to him and petted him and told him what a nice boy he was, trying to get him out of his bad mood. It made Windwalker feel better but it didn’t help move him. Even with very excellent cougar morsels offered just ahead - the answer was still no.

    Jean waited some more. Every so often Windwalker walked up and rubbed his head against him in commiseration –this was a difficult time for both of them. No hard feelings. Jean returned the affection. But the moment his intention changed from petting to trying to move him, even before he made a physical motion but just thought of it, Windwalker would retreat to the end of the lead and go back into stubborn mode . More time. Both refusing to give. Again and again Windwalker would come up to Jean for comfort and affection, but a no go for moving any further. Abraham, our animal helper, walked by several times, laughing at the scene.

    The day warmed up. An hour later Jean was waiting. Windwalker did not want to move. He did not want to go to a new place. He wanted to stay in his old place. A frozen puddle began to thaw. After one of his retreats to the end of the leash, when Jean coaxed again, Windwalker simply laid down in protest, right in the puddle. That is a strong comment for a cat.

    But the cougar had met his match. Pull back against the leash as he would, frozen in rebellion, Jean just waited. When I finally left Jean was still sitting on the log waiting. My last image was of a stubborn cat and a stubborn man.

    When I came back later in the day – Windwalker was in! Not happy, but in. I asked Jean how he did it. He mumbled something about a stuffed dog on a string. About trickery. About human mind outwitting cat mind (I don’t know if I believed that one).

    A little later Jean went back to check on him. Windwalker was prowling his new spacious quarters, happily batting a ball – something he had not done for years. At the sight of Jean he playfully rolled over on his back and into a ball, and let out a massive purr. Jean had been forgiven and all was well.

    Next for the afternoon: Moving Windwalker’s brother, Shoshone…... More patience, More persistence……

    Ah, the glamour of it all.

    Click here to learn more about Earthfire Institute.
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