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Pets Large & Small

A Matter of Trust

Jennifer Vanderau
Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter


Casey is a 2-year-old patch tabby looking for another person to take a chance on her. She was returned to the shelter through no fault of her own. It was a loving gesture, so she will have another home and someone to take care of her. Are you the right person who will understand that Casey still has lots of love to give? Take a chance on'll be glad you did.

To learn more about Casey call the shelter at (717) 263-5791 or visit the website

(6/1) Over the years, Iíve discovered that trust can be a very delicate thing. Many times Iíve given it to people, only to be disappointed shortly thereafter. Itís in those moments that Iím reminded of the old adage, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

And I become reluctant to trust so freely again. The more it happens, the more hesitant I become, until I figure itís just easier to agree with Fox Mulder from the X-Files and "Trust No One."

Thatís why animals are such a revelation to me. This most recent epiphany of mine came from an experience with one of my cats.

Allow me to digress for a moment and introduce my group. I live in an apartment with eight cats who never go outside because I would worry about their safety. At the risk of sounding like the crazy cat lady (or Kathy Lee Gifford talking about her kids), they're my babies. Life with my group isÖinteresting, to say the least.

First, we have Pinky, the all-white patriarch of the clan and the oldest of the bunch. He's the dearest soul. Nothing really bothers him. I affectionately call him Jabba the Hut because when he stretches out, he's so large and his stomach so fat, that you look around for Princess Lea in the bikini.

Then there is Grinch (man, he was a nasty little kitten -- hence the name), Little Girl, Blackie and Fluffy. They're a combination of all black and black-and-white and came in as a group and keep to themselves more than the rest.

Monky is the only one who came from the shelter. He was such a sweetheart, I fell madly in love and just had to bring him home. He's a unique rust-and-white color and has gorgeous amber eyes. Then came Dee Dee, the princess. Her majesty is a bengal cat, with a wild personality. She climbs, she hollers and generally makes her presence known.

Finally, the newest acquisition is Shredder and the name's appropriate. This all black kitten likes to use those claws. Sigh. I'll never have a house in Better Homes and Gardens.

Well, the afore-mentioned revelation comes from a tale of my Monky boy. One day he had decided to climb his way to the top of the closet to check out the shelf that his siblings like to use as a makeshift bed. I heard him scrabbling around up there and wondered what in the world he was doing, so I went to take a look.

By the time I had arrived, he must have either realized the actual height of the shelf or decided the experience wasnít nearly as cool as his brothers had made it look. He was literally on the top shelf of the closet making an attempt to leap directly to the floor, with no stop off points in between.

The funny thing about cats if you ever take the time to watch them is theyíre really not dumb. They may be opinionated and sassy and occasionally a tad self-centered (you really should meet my Dee Dee), but theyíre pretty smart when it comes to the basics. Like having an instinctive understanding when a perch is too high for a straight jump to the floor.

He must have known this because I found him with his back paws on the shelf and his front feet on the hanger bar in front of him. Every once in a while, heíd put a paw out to the hangers below him only to pull it back when his courage evaporated. You could almost see him contemplating the distance to the floor and whether or not he thought he could make it.

Naturally I didnít watch this little dance for too terribly long because I feared he just might be nutty enough to try to make the jump and I didnít want him to hurt himself. So I reached up and cooed at him, "You silly monster, what have you gotten yourself into?" and carefully plucked him from his precarious position.

Now, I must admit that in the back of my head, I figured there was a slight chance Iíd get pretty scratched up in this rescue attempt. Part of me assumed that my adventurous little four-legged boy might instinctively grab onto whatever he could for support.

Amazingly, he didnít claw me up at all. He was calm as a cucumber as I murmured soothingly to him and brought him back down to a height with which he was more comfortable.

I kissed him on his little orange-and-white head, put him on the bed and he raced away, apparently off to take part in yet another feline escapade.

I remember saying to the empty room, "Youíre welcome, you little turkey," but before I left, I had to take a minute to consider the blatant and complete trust I had just witnessed. He had obviously been rather uncomfortable up there and not really sure he could get down. I was lifting him away from the only stable thing keeping him from falling and yet he never protested. He never showed any fear.

He trusted me not to let him fall.

To this day, that little revelation is hard for me to quantify. I donít have adequate words to describe the feeling I got when I realized that at some point in time during the years we have lived together, I had earned his trust to the point where he knew I would never do anything to hurt him.

It was an incredibly poignant discovery for me.

At the same time, I had to marvel at his ability to trust someone so completely. Heck, I havenít had that kind of conviction in years and yet here he is, a four-legged little soul, utterly dependent on me, teaching me more about what it means to believe in someone than most people I know have. Itís really quite humbling.

And itís one of the main reasons Iím so dedicated to animals and speaking out for them. If we take the time to watch and look and learn, itís absolutely incredible what our four-legged friends can teach us.

So through all my fear and doubt and suspicion about people, Iíve decided to place my trust in animals. Iím certain that my cats will greet me at the door when I come home, make me smile at least once a day with their antics, want to cuddle at some point in the evening (even if itís at 3 a.m.) and teach me about whatís still good and pure and true in the world.

And to me, thatís something worth trusting.

Jennifer Vanderau is the Director of Communications for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter, Chambersburg, Pa., and can be reached at The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at (717) 263-5791 or visit the website CVAS also operates thrift stores in Chambersburg and Shippensburg. Help support the animals at the shelter by donating to or shopping at the stores.

Read other articles by Jennifer Vanderau