Toby and Grace: My Faithful Kitties, and My Faith Reminders
Jane Berry has New York roots with Kentucky fruits. She is originally from Niagara Falls, NY, but has grown up and lived most of her life in Kentucky. She currently resides in Lexington with her cats Toby and Grace. She is a technical assistant with a managed-care services company, and she enjoys reading and writing, African drumming, and of course, cats.
I had no idea what I was getting into when my roommate and I drove to a town outside our city in response to a Craigslist ad. Much earlier, some lady's husband was supposed to get their cat spayed, but before he did, she escaped for a little rendezvous with the neighbor's Russian Blue. It was not a welcome mistake for them, but it turned out to be the best "oops" for me. After handling one little bundle of energy and deciding he was too squirmy for me, I picked up the smaller of the two males and decided he was for keeps.
It didn't take long for a name to pop into my mind: Tobias. It sounded regal and fit my newfound gray pal's earnest little face. I could tell he would look stately when he got older, but he didn't really click with Tobias. I didn't know what it meant, anyway, so with a few clicks of a mouse I found Tobias meant “God is good” (a nice little serendipitous moment). I’d heard from somewhere that cats respond well to names ending in an “ee” sound, so both of us seemed quite fine with the variation Toby.
I also researched Russian Blues, and though he is half Blue, he is all Blue at heart. Both the physical and the personality traits are the things that I love to my core about Toby. I could gush all day about his nuances, and how I love to study him while I pet or hold him.
Since I took Toby to the vet soon after getting him, with monthly visits until he had all vaccinations, he became acclimated to sitting in my arm, due to the strange and unfamiliar surroundings of the big bad vet office. This endearing dependence and closeness has since remained our special ritual. Every day when I get home from work, I first head to my bedroom to drop off my things. Toby darts ahead of me, stopping to see if I’m still headed that way, and waits for me to open the door. I sit down on the bed, give a few pets, and he crawls up my side to assume sitting in my arm, just like the good old vet-office days.
During these times of bonding I see the beauty of Toby. He isn’t just a solid gray cat. The silver tips on his hairs and the shades of gray on his fur, nose, and whiskers are beautiful when I stop to see them. When we’re close like this, in quiet moments of admiration, I think to myself, what a living work of art. He is the perfect cat for me. This little guy is a true gift from God, and his name and presence, despite the hardships life has hurtled my way, is a reminder that God is good.
That being said, one of my roommate’s cats, an older gray-and-white female with gorgeous intelligent eyes, took a liking to me over time. Her name is Grace, and I remember smiling on her first day at our apartment, telling my roommate in symbolic fashion that “Grace is free.” I guess the message had a twofold meaning, because eventually Grace would choose me (another serendipitous moment) to be her numero uno. Both my roommate and I are fine with this, though, because I had a kitten -- before Toby -- that completely fell in love with her and deemed her the mama and not me. Tit for tat? Or shall I say kit for cat!
Joking aside, Grace has been mine for a while now, and she is as loving a girl as a cat can be. I call her a “cat lover’s cat,” because she is so incredibly affectionate. When I get home she also follows me to my room, sits on the floor, and bores into me with those aqua eyes until I give the OK signal, which can range from a "Hey Gracie!" to the subtlest arch of a brow. Then up she leaps for a thorough petting, while I receive in return a kitty massage employed with an equal measure of fervor and abandonment. She literally zones out to her own purring and methodic kneading, which is funny and adorable (except for the drool, thanks to one very relaxed jaw). The point here is that Grace, too, is great. She is the sweetest girl, who only wants to love and be loved. She is a beautiful picture of how God is and created us –- to love and be loved.
So there it is. My two cats that have wound themselves into my heart and life, and have knit -- by name, circumstance, and personality -- threads of faith and restoration into my life during a season of hardship and challenge. God knows that I operate on a metaphoric level, and He chose to create two perfect little kitties, give them perfect little names, and give them to me. I love cats. I marvel at them. I marvel at God because of them, and I really am thankful to be part of the circle of cat-loving stewards on this earth.
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