Brody: Earning trust takes work, patience

Published 9:21 am Tuesday, July 9, 2019

My brother Jim had Taz, “a hybride feline – mostly African Wild Cat” for many years.

To say she was not a pet is a gross understatement.

No matter what anyone did, she would never be tamed or domesticated, much less a friendly feline pet.

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As most of you know, I am very interested in feral and wild animals, and they’re instinctual behaviors. Naturally, when Jim got Taz as a baby, I could not meet her fast enough.

Being the humble human I am, I was positive she would accept and trust me. I think I said, “Just give me an hour alone with her, you’ll see.” Yea right!

That was years ago, and I cannot count the times I have spent with her or how many hours I spent on the floor — eye-to-eye connection — to show her I would never hurt her and wanted to be her friend.

I was convinced she had an invisible line which if you crossed it, she would have no compunction about removing what ever body part that overlapped it’s boundary.

There is one person she truly loved and that was Jim, and yet she landed him in the hospital with Taz-inflicted claw wounds that caused blood poisoning but he still loved her dearly.

One day she went outside but did not return for dinner. Nobody worried.

The next day, her food was untouched and she was nowhere to be seen. Jim went searching the island, but nobody had seen her, and believe me, everybody knew Taz.

The day passed and she did not return.

Every day Jim went looking.

He was literally sick and convinced she was dead.

After a week, she showed up with one back leg hanging pathetically, almost severed into two pieces.

She obviously had not eaten in a week and was pencil thin.

Jim scooped her up and ran with her to the vet whose prediction was dire. He said Taz probably would not live. Her only chance was to amputate the the back leg at the hip.

He thought Taz had probably been trapped by the leg and had literally tried to chew it off to free herself.

The leg was finally amputated after first putting a cast on it so it could heal if possible.

It could not and we agonized as to what Taz would do with three legs.

We need not have. She adjusted.

Years later, she could outrun any dog or cat, certainly any human. She still went in and out through her cat door, so you get the picture.

Inside the house she had her own soft chair, had an eating schedule which Jim followed, and she had her place on Jim’s bed.

She was huge, long and slender with amber eyes that told anyone who got in her way she wanted no part of a relationship.

You knew she was not friendly with people and she hissed and spit to emphasize this.

This is where I came into the picture. For years I had tried everything I knew to break down her wall. I was determined to bond with her or at least to touch her.

After a two-day/night visit with Jim, I was more determined to end the visit with a relationship with Taz.

My entire time was spent in inching closer and closer and with every inch forward, her spits got louder and her hisses showed more teeth.

Finally, we just had to leave and maybe try again another day.

Everything was loaded in the car but something told me to go back in for one last check.

I stood in the middle of the living room and was turning towards the front door when Tazmania the Great, the Wild African Cat walked right over to me and began rubbing her soft warm body over and between my legs.

Nobody moved or spoke except for Jim. She had never done such a thing to a mere human.

Jim’s mouth fell open in disbelief and I was speechless and felt utterly humble.

In a whisper I said, “Taz, thank you.” She raised her head and for that moment her amber eyes lacked all of the mistrust and wildness. They looked at me softly.

She approached me. She touched me. She knew me. She trusted me. I wanted it to never end. It was one of the high points in my life.

I am quite aware my need for this totally wild cat to trust me was extreme.

Having raised and worked with four wolves from birth to sexual maturity taught me how difficult it is to gain their trust.

You see, living in the wild necessitates being mistrustful and cautious to survive.

To cross over that line takes time and much trust.

To realize that, indeed, I had crossed over and gained her trust and respect is all I ever hoped to achieve at least for a few precious moments and I did.

So again, I humbly thank you Taz.

The view from the mountain is wondrous.

Jean Brody is a passionate animal lover and mother. She previously lived in Winchester, but now resides in Littleton, Colorado. Her column has appeared in the Sun for more than 25 years.