Good boy. Goooooood boy. You’re my gooboy.
Why do we say this to our cats constantly? What makes them so praiseworthy when they’re eating or staring at us or just being happy?
I am anything but immune to the Gooboy Phenomenon. If I offer Webster treats and he eats them, I practically whip out the trumpets and party hats. Good boy! Good Webby Webby Webby! If he jumps on my desk and demands affection, the praises start: What a sweet baby Webby! Gooboy!
When our cats do what they want to do, we tell them they are good. When they get what they want, we croon of their goodness. When cats are cats, we can’t help but erupt in praise.
Are we crazy?
Or are we onto something with our effusion of enthusiasm?
I say we are: cats are just that good.
They’re good because they’re ours. They’re good because they’re in our orbit. They’re good because they were created to be magnificent, and because they were destined to be loved by us.
They’re inherently, irrevocably good.
Maybe the most sparkling instance of the Gooboy Phenomenon occurs when we praise cats precisely at the moment when they are getting what they want. They eat the treats which they, themselves, begged for us to give; we proclaim their magnificence. They leap upon the toy we brought home; we crow of their greatness. They delight in what they want…and we call them good.
Isn’t that a sort of wish among us all — to be declared “good” at exactly the moment when we’re happiest? It’s one thing to be called “good” when you’re saving a burning busload of orphans. It makes cool, rational sense to be called “good” if you are without fault and without sin. It’s quite another matter to be anointed “good” when you’re just your ordinary, dented self, doing something that simply brings you joy.
Not selfish. Not guilty. Not lazy. Just…good.
Our cats are never better than when they’re giving us the gift of seeing them happy. Perhaps our Maker is similar when it comes to the sheep of His pasture. If may be that those things that most fill our souls simultaneously bring Him joy…and make Him call us good. If it’s true that He came that we might have life more abundantly, then our highest, truest happiness is His delight. The glory of God is man/woman/cat fully alive. Our rejoicing is a hymn of praise to the Giver of all good things.
It’s been said, in many different wise ways, that what makes a thing/person/cat/three-toed sloth lovely is not so much that he’s lovable, but simply that he’s loved. Cats don’t earn our affection — much less our swoons of “Gooboy!” — any more than we can earn the smile of God.
Love makes them worthy. Love makes them beautiful.
Love makes it all deeply, unstoppably good.
As I type this particular post, love — in the form of one Webster — is sleeping soundly in my lap, his face in his paws. Vigilant human beans may have noticed that I’ve not blogged about Webby much recently. The reasons for this are several:
- To write about Webby is to write about my love for Webby, which is to write about myself. When it comes to writing about myself…well, do not want.
- When words are your work and your world, you learn to recognize when words are too weak. I humbly confess that words are way too wimpy when it comes to trying to express how I feel about Webster. Mere words can feel like a betrayal of feelings this strong.
- #2 has never been truer than the last few months, because Webby…well, he’s not doing splendorously well.
- Writing about the truth of #3 makes it seem real. And…
- …I’m honestly not ready for #3 to seem real.
Webster’s treat-eating draws forth an especially profuse stream of accolades now that he’s down to eight pounds. His hugging my arm starts me singing “How Great Thou Art” when I know that every day of arm-hugging is a gift, and no gifts are guaranteed.
His heart is weaker, which means my heart beats louder every time he jumps in my lap…and every time he doesn’t.
All of this unbeknownst to her, an extraordinary woman in North Carolina felt her own heart touched by Webster’s goodness recently. She’s never met him. She was completely unaware of his recent health struggles.
But somewhere in the brightest reaches of her soul (and I have reason to believe that every nook and cranny of this particular human’s soul sparkles like the Hope Diamond), she felt the Spirit move her to send a large box to Tabby’s Place. I can never, in 47,000 lifetimes, fully express how much her actions have meant to me. Sometimes the veil is drawn back and you can actually see God working through a person with the full force of Love. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Like a little boy on the eighth night of Chanukah, Jonathan bounced into my office with the box. “Look, it’s really big, and it’s addressed to you!” He then proceeded to launch into the box. It was at an angle, so I couldn’t quite see its contents as Jon’s voice suddenly grew hushed. “It’s…Webster.”
“What? No…” I couldn’t comprehend what he might mean. I saw the edge of what looked like a painting, but people don’t do paintings of Webster. “It must be Dot,” I blithered, moron-style. “People do paintings of Dot and –”
Then he turned the box around.
And I was instantly reduced to a blubbering puddle of goo.
Where words fail, art sings. Webster’s luminous eyes in this portrait are truer poetry than has ever crossed a page.
The Love-driven artist behind this miracle — let’s call her Hope — wrote the following:
“This is for you, Angela. I have been touched by the love that you and Webster have for each other, and I wanted to do this painting for you as a gift. Of course, no artwork can ever capture his true magnificence, but I wanted it to express the close bond that you two have, and I hope it is a blessing to you. What a joy it is to know the love of a precious cat in this life, and to know that it will only be greater and better and forever in the life to come! May God bless you with many more happy years together!”
May He indeed. But, meantime, day by day and moment by moment, I’m in awe of the goodness that embraces us all. Our cups runneth over, and we hardly know it until a miracle knocks us off our feet and onto our knees, crying out, “You are a good, glorious God. And this is a beautiful, irrevocably good life. Thank You, thank You, thank You.”
Good people of Felis Catus, if you happen to be reading this and need to hear it today, I hereby proclaim to you: You, too, are a gooboy/googirl. A good, good human. A much-loved human. It’s a true fact.
Thank you from the reaches of my soul — sparkling and otherwise — for your goodness.