A number of Kossacks have recently lost animal companions. I have one, and I take my responsibility very seriously. So do most of us.

Having just read  a sad and moving diary by geordie about the loss of her woozle, Sophie, I feel compelled to share with the community how my late First Nations (Mohawk) husband saw animal companions.

Quick jump over the orange bone/catnip mouse....

I grew up on a farm, but we always had dogs and cats. Some of the cats were "barn cats" and some were closer pets, but mostly, they were companions. I remember my great grandmother drowning rats in a bucket that the cats didn't catch, and I remember my father telling me about what would happen years ago to "unwanted" cats: put in an old pillowcase with some rocks and drowned in the pond. Ick. I could never do that. But you know, farms are different places...

This Victorian, British-born woman had the heart of a Hun when it came to drowning an excess litter of barn cats

I take a bit of a farm view towards cats and dogs, that is, they are companions but also "working" animals. My Geoffy, a very independent pootie, doesn't get "baby talk" and doesn't get treats. He eats when he has to, and does what he has to. He doesn't get treats (the last time a friend tried to give him some he ate them, promptly backed up and vomited on the carpet because he's unused to rich food). He doesn't get "baby-talked" or "pootie-talked". He knows his name, he knows "No!" and he certainly knows when his dry-food or water bowl is being refreshed.

Before I met my late husband, a Mohawk from Vermont, I started to pamper him a bit. Well, my other half put a stop to that, and fast. "He's a cat, Bill" he told me. "Not just a cat, but he's a cat. He's an animal, and deserves to be treated with respect".

I bristled at that a bit, but then my late husband started to talk to me about how First Nations folks look at their "helpers" (read: animal companions). "Don't baby-talk him. Let him understand commands. Give him as much freedom as you can. Curb his willfulness as you curb your own. Don't ask him to do anything you wouldn't do, including hunting. Treat him like a member of the family, not a baby or a surrogate for a baby. Respect your cat first, he will respect you".

I learned a lot from my First Nations husband, and so did our cat, Geoffrey. Frankly, I obtained a lot of dignity by treating my cat with dignity and not talking down to him. Geoffrey responds to English, French, German and Mohawk/Iriquois. We snuggle up in bed every night, and up here on the Rock he gets to go out and hunt voles.

I have a better relationship with my cat for not talking down to him, not "pootie-talking" him,  but seeing him as a being--a very independent being who is also a helper--and I'm thankful for this because a First Nations person corrected my way of looking at animal companions/helpers. I also learned to learn Geoffy's language: eye blinks, being aware of my own body language, his body language, and getting on the floor once in a while with him and letting him lead our relationship on feline terms. He's a happy cat, and one that no one wanted to adopt before we adopted him.

When we adopt animal companions, we'd do well to follow in these footsteps: we have as much to learn from them as they might from us. Perhaps more. As Terun would say, "check in with him, and let him tell you how his day is going. Listen to The Cat.

Geoffy and Terun--a descendent of Thyendenaga/Joseph Brant, a great Mohawk leader.

NOTE: Terun rarely called him by his name. He was always "The Cat". That was a testament to his deep appreciation for the dignity of all animals. He felt that only God or Gods had the right to name things that never really belong to them. Especially cats.

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