my furry teachers

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Somebody once said “all religions in this world are the same strings on a rug, just different colors.” Evidently, the same concept applies to education. Human education comes in different forms. It comes to us in schools; it comes in family and friends. Books, television, and the Internet give us education. But tell me this: how many people do you know who got an education from animals?
A lot of people got an education from animals. The Chinese and Japanese learned martial arts. The shark tamers learned patience. Our own humble Cro-Magnon ancestors learned respect. Guess who taught them? Tigers, monkeys, sharks, and bears. All considered “dumb, savage beasts” by today’s society.
Me? I got my education from two cats. One of them lived with my family. His name was sancho. He had snow white fur, emerald eyes, and a gentle disposition. I was four when he gave me his first lesson.
I was asleep on the couch. This was how I spent most of my time during the summer of 2000. The grown-ups were celebrating the turn of the century, meaning parties. I didn’t really care about the turn of the century. All it meant to my four year brain was hop into an age of content. Oddly enough, this was the same year I learned to read. Anyway, as I opened my eyes, I found sancho’s nose inches from mine. This was hardly surprising. I vaguely remembered him climbing on top of me. The couch I was sleeping on was also the sunniest spot in the house. Since I would only add more warmth, sancho parked himself on the pillow next to me, and dozed. “Morning’” I yawned. Sancho cracked open his eyes, giving me his “ugh” look. He hopped to the floor and stretched. His claws flicked out like switchblades, and his cavernous mouth revealed a row of sharp teeth. A perfect killing machine, I marveled. After he was done stretching, he turned those brilliant green eyes to me and said, “Mrow.”
It was like God himself had given an order. I found myself stretching my body out like it was taffy. Had he hypnotized me? Did he draw upon some primal force within him and linked that force to me? I didn’t much care at that time, however, because I had entered a land of bliss. What luxury! I stretched out my arms, fingers going as far as they could. I topped the whole maneuver with a massive yawn, pushing three minutes. I sat, rather confused. “That felt great” I said to the cat, whose tail was swishing the floor like a windshield wiper. He licked my hand, and then trotted to the kitchen, presumably to look for scraps.
This was the first lesson: after a nap, always stretch. I never forgot, and have stretched after every period of sleep for the past ten years.
I said there were two cats, right? The second one was the neighbor’s cat. His name was Elvis. He was a light brown tabby with black claws. He constantly harassed everyone. But he had a special lesson to teach me.
Fast forward about a year after lesson one. The scenes different. Its winter. I’m outside making snowballs. It was a beautiful day. Sancho had gone off to hunt squirrels. A cardinal was sitting on a branch, singing. I looked at the wall- and jumped. There on the wall was HIM. The enemy, the snake-in-the-grass, the wolf. Elvis was there and he looked bored out of his mind. He perked up when he saw me, and meowed in greeting. I softened. Maybe I should try diplomacy. “Hello” I said. “Meow” again. I waddled over and started petting him. He circled behind me and-smack! His claws dug into my rear end like a hornets’ nest. I howled in pain. Elvis sauntered leisurely off, turning to shoot me a smug look. Big mistake on his part. My hastily made snowball hit him squarely on the snout. “MREEEOWWLL!!!” Elvis screamed, tearing across the yard, over the stone wall that divided the neighbor’s yard from ours. “Yeah, you better run, you fuzzy miscreant!” I shouted after him. Then I cracked up. My laughter echoed all over the yard. I hooted, snickered, and squealed myself to near death. I went on like this for half an hour, rolling in the snow like a euphoric hyena. I finally staggered into my house, an idiotic grin plastered on my face. “What’s so funny?” mom asked over her tea. “Nothing’” I replied.
Lesson number five: get a sense of humor, complete.





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