On Aug. 17 of last year, I took a chance and adopted a black cat.
I wasn’t worried that bad luck would come my way, as misguided beliefs against black cats as harbingers of misfortune and all things malevolent might suggest. I’m not superstitious that way.
The risk element for me was the same as for anyone who adopts a new pet: not knowing whether it’s going to work out.
But what began as a challenge to give a home on National Black Cat Appreciation Day to a member of the least adoptable and most euthanized of all feline types—because of people’s prejudices—has turned out to have beautiful karmic rewards.
What’s in a pet’s name?
Five years ago, on a year-end holiday road trip to visit relatives in Arkansas, I stopped at a small farming town on the Texas Panhandle called Groom, some 40 miles east of Amarillo on Interstate 40.
With a population of under 600, Groom would be a blink-and-you’ve-passed-it-unless-you’re-looking-for-gas-or-a-restroom type of town if it wasn’t for what roadsideamerica.com calls its “Titanic Texas Tribute”: a 19-story metal cross visible for 20 miles in a landscape “as flat as unleavened bread and as empty as Jesus’ Tomb.”
The Groom Cross, as it is known, just about compels one to stop at the Old Route 66 roadside attraction that also features Biblical-themed bronze sculptures, a recreation of Christ’s tomb and a religious bookstore near its base. If you ever wondered where the buckle of the Bible Belt is located, well, now you know.
That afternoon, as the sun started to go down, silhouetting the giant cross and grain silos in my rearview mirror, I thought Groom would be a fun name for a male pet someday. And like Mary in the Gospel of Luke, I treasured this thought and pondered it in my heart.
In a way, one could say that my black cat, far from being sinister or ominous or (Gasp!) demonic, is totally the opposite: a beautiful gift from a God whose love for his creation is color-blind.
When I adopted Groom, I wasn’t thinking of myself, but rather wanting to find a companion for my other cat, Rescue, a fluffy orange and white tabby with honey-colored eyes. But as karma would have it, Groom’s presence has turned into what the Bible might call a spring of living water, a soothing ointment, a Balm of Gilead for my soul.
Whereas Rescue is playful and independent, signaling with throaty meowing when he wants to be let out (which is always), Groom, with his shrilly, baby-like cry, constant head rubs and tickly whiskers, is, unabashedly, my cute cuddle buddy. His tail high and swaying like an elegant, willowy dancer, he will often climb on top of me while I’m lying in bed and start kneading my chest gently as he prepares a spot to curl up restful and satisfied, his little head pressed up against my heart. Heaven. Nirvana. Happiness.
True to his name, Groom loves to groom Rescue, stubbornly pinning his neck with his paws as if to say, “Hold still, Bro, till I’ve finished making you handsome.” Rescue will play-bite him now and again, manifesting his own expression of cat brotherly love.
Save one, save the world
In Buddhism, cats—and all animals, for that matter—are sentient beings with the capacity to feel, perceive and experience life subjectively. They, like us, possess the Buddha Nature: the potential for enlightenment and freedom from the binding cycle of death and rebirth.
There are countless sentient feline beings—who just happen to have black coats—waiting in shelters all over the country for a chance to be adopted and possibly help enlighten their humans with love.
Save one of them, and, to paraphrase another saying from other religious traditions, you might just be saving the whole world. Well, at least theirs and yours.
Join me in wishing my jade-eyed Groom a happy adoption birthday. May many of his fellows also find homes Saturday.
Louis Medina lives in Bakersfield. Find lots of photos of him and his cats on https://www.facebook.com/lou.medina.75.