I heard the footsteps of God

~by Susi Pittman

I have walked so many journeys with the animals that have found their way to my door. Each and every one is unforgettable in its unique way and each one has drawn me closer to the Creator whose providential care does not forsake anything He has created.

EVERY animal that has come into my life has been either discarded or physically injured. There has been the dogs we adopted from the local animal shelter; the eight baby possums whose mother was struck by a car; the disabled wild rabbit that lived in our home for five years, the twenty feral cats that became house cats; the parakeet a friend could no longer keep and a cockatiel that arrived on a stormy night; the horses that were left to fend for themselves; the Maine loon rescued from the pounding surf off St. Augustine Beach; the injured baby Loggerhead turtle that arrived in the Sargasso seaweed and many more. Each an every one of these beautiful creatures were given sanctuary by our family and embraced as our co-family of creation.

There have been moments of extraordinary mystery that speaks of “God in the moment.” Such was one of those moments with a stray cat named Brownie who came into my life. I was called to be unswerving in my faith and in what I professed to believe….that nothing that God loves escapes His eye….and that love IS the most powerful force in the universe.

Brownie, my tiger came from an apartment complex where he had been abandoned by his previous owner. The maintenance men on the site had told me that Brownie had been there for some time and had reverted to being feral, not wanting to deal with humans anymore.

You can imagine how life is for a cat like Brownie. He was raised from a kitten in a home where he was fed and cared for and in the blink-of-an-eye, he is put out the door and his owners leave never to return. Going to other apartments to beg food, he was sent scurrying away with harsh words or an encouraging kick. It didn’t take long for him to learn that he could not trust humans anymore and that he would have to go into the woods and garbage cans to find what he could to survive.

I first saw Brownie as he sat looking at me from the woods, very thin, his big green eyes reflecting a pain in his spirit that melted my heart. We sat looking at each other for a time as I silently prayed to St. Francis for his loving touch on this beautiful cat.

I started putting out food each morning and evening and before long, Brownie would let me sit close by while he ate. It was a red-letter evening when he walked over and rubbed up against me and allowed me to pet him. I told him, “you’re home little guy, I won’t leave you.” He looked at me as if he knew it and I took him home with me to begin our life together.

It was on an October evening that Brownie as usual had jumped up on the table in the garage and had eaten his dinner. He joined me and some of the other cats on the front porch as the evening drew to a close, the younger cats playfully jumping on each other and racing into the nearby ferns. Brownie sat on the lawn and appeared to be at such peace as he turned and looked at me contentedly.

The next day…no Brownie.

The days without Brownie grew. It was as if the night had opened and swallowed him up. I felt a tremendous uneasiness and loss. I had never had a pet disappear for any length of time. There is such pain associated in dealing with the unknown. Where was he? Why did he go? Was he alive or dead? Was he trapped somewhere? Had he become lost? Was he hungry? Was he hurt? Could he hear my voice?

What on earth could I do?

I visited my neighbors, I put up posters, and I called the Sisters of St. Joseph for prayers for Brownies safe return.

I continued to leave food out on the garage table in the hopes that Brownie would come home.

It had been nine days and I was sure that Brownie was gone for good. If Brownie could have gotten home, he would have. He never missed a meal and he never missed his evening lap-pets. My heart was broken and I cried for the loss.

It was 11:30 P.M. of the 11th day, my daughter, Seana and I were talking. I told her, “I don’t know why this happened, but I know that God knows where Brownie is. Whatever happened, Brownie is known to God and I will not grieve anymore. He was always God’s cat and I accept whatever God has decided on Brownie.”

With those words, I felt a welcomed release of love in my heart. It was as though a heavenly peace had settled about me. I turned Brownie over to the Creator.

I kissed my daughter goodnight and went to bed.

It wasn’t even an hour later when she threw open my door, her voice filled with excitement, tears in her eyes as she cried, “He’s back Mom, Brownie’s back!”

I could hardly believe my ears.

I said, “Are you sure, is it Brownie, are you sure?”

She said, “Oh Mom, hurry come see!”

I stepped out into the garage and like a ghost from the past, there stood my Brownie hungrily eating the food on the table.

I walked carefully over to him, as I could tell he was skittish and I called his name. His eyes were wide and glazed and he appeared to be worse for wear, he was exhausted. His matted fur and low hung tail spoke volumes about his journey. So I hurriedly went to open two more cans of cat food, which he ate with unbridled vigor.

Finally, when he had eaten his fill, he turned to me with eyes that said, “I was so scared and now I am so tired…hold me.”

I listened to his breathing and smelled his fur as we both rested in the beauty and peace of two loves re-united.

I held Brownie to my heart and he fell asleep in moments. Wherever and whatever had happened will forever be a mystery, but he was home now and his worries were over. I sensed that something most powerful had seen Brownie home.

Love IS the most powerful force in the universe. It is in accepting “the will” of that Love that gives us peace. It is love that keeps us connected one-to-another whether near or far. It was love that had brought Brownie home.

At that moment, embracing Brownie in that heavenly silence, I heard the rescuers footsteps. I heard the soft “footsteps of God” as He walked away into the night.

But you spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!

(Wisdom 11:24-26)

UPDATE: From that time on Brownie remained a very pampered “inside cat” until his death from cancer years later.

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