My volunteer work with the Southampton Animal Shelter, while intrinsically rewarding, comes with a high risk. The risk of falling in love. Luckily, I’ve kept my emotional distance for the most part, primarily due to the line on my lease that states “no pets” (I had to leave my two “adoptables,” a German shepherd and black cat back with my family). But I confess, my heart was stolen in a way that has become eye opening.
Sophie is a five-month-old kitten that was rescued with a terrible infection in both of her eyes, rendering her permanently blind. When I first saw what I thought was a helpless, little fur ball in a cage, I looked away. Knowing I couldn’t help her, I assumed she was doomed to live a lesser life and therefore my instinctual reaction was to close my heart and walk by. As I was prepared to do just that, a paw reached out to me as if to say hello.
Well, there’s just no turning back from that! Over the course of two days, I spent a few hours with Sophie and learned she was anything but lesser. She adventurously climbed her cage, enthusiastically played with toys, easily navigated her way around a new room, and purred with affection against me to show love. She even tried to teach her stuffed animal to use her litter box.
Observing this kind-hearted creature awakened something deep within me. No, Sophie isn’t disabled at all. Like much of the rest of the world, she’s simply blind to what’s in front of her. How often do we go through life looking without ever truly seeing? If our hearts, intuition, and instincts could guide us ,rather than our sight, would we want the same things? Would we be the same person?
It was miraculous to watch as a five-month old being sensed it could trust me and felt my intentions without ever knowing what I looked like. I was judged based on my touch and my energy. She learned a room, its dimensions and contents, and, once understanding it was no longer a cage, appreciated its freedom. She didn’t look for toys; she was just happy to explore.
Imagine a world where we all listened more and reacted less? Without the use of her eyes, she listened to my voice, heard my every movement, and reacted based on those sounds rather than jumping to conclusions about a visual. Sophie is my lionheart.
Yes, my world has been turned upside down by a blind kitten, her innocence and her perseverance. Sophie doesn’t have a disability. In my eyes, she’s been given a gift. The gift of seeing with her heart.
Good news! Sophie has been adopted. But remember, there are many other dogs and cats at Southampton Animal Shelter in Hampton Bays. You can help them find a forever home by visiting www.southamptonanimalshelter.com.
This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here