We're taking care of our pastor's two cats while his family is away. We have two of our own, so we're accustomed to feline peculiarities, but one of these two cats does something I'd never seen before. When you bend at the waist--to pick something up off the floor, to pet the other cat, to see whether you can touch your toes yet--the cat walks on to your back.
It's freaky at first, having a cat on your back. Four paws with claws, each carrying the cat's full weight in turn, circumnavigate your spine. Loud purrs surround your head. The chin of a cat pushes against your head and shoulders, marking territory. I couldn't move, because if I did the cat might fall to the floor or dig in its claws out of self-preservation. But I couldn't stay still either, because quite frankly, I still can't touch my toes yet.
I was reminded of a cartoon I saw as a kid. A guard dog adopts an abandoned kitten. The guard dog is worldly wise and sees all the ways a kitten could get itself into trouble, and so the guard dog does what it does best: it guards the kitten.
The kitten, by contrast, is hopelessly naive, freely exploring the construction site it now inhabits, happily embracing the mortal enemy that has adopted it. But naive as the kitten is, it's totally safe, because that dog has fallen hopelessly in love with it.
The moment I'm reminded of takes place twice in the cartoon: the kitten climbs onto the back of the guard dog and nestles in, kneading the dog's back with its paws and claws. The dog cringes and weeps throughout the process. Cat scratches aren't pleasant regardless of how adorable one finds the kitten. But the nestling in eventually ends; the kitten falls asleep and the dog falls in love with its adopted child.
I'm like that dog. I fell in love with that cat while it took possession of my back. So if you run into me today and are shocked by the sheer volume of cat hair collected on the back of my shirt, here's my request: just deal with it.