barb harness



For the last few months, Tom and I have been leash training our Maine Coon kitten, Corbindello. We thought this would be an uncomplicated task as his “sisters”, also Maine Coons, had accepted the leash willingly eager to explore the outside world. The girls, Jade and Cleopatra, walk calmly with us; their long, plush tails held high, flicking this way and that in a stately manner like Queen Mothers waving to thier subjects as they stroll down the Abbey along Whitehall.

Alas, this was not our experience with Corbin!

Perhaps it was the hand-me-down PINK harness (how embarrassing), or the fact that we were attempting to restrain him, but our first attempt was a disaster of epic proportions! Before the walk could even begin, there was a struggle as we attempted to put on a harness and attach a leash. Despite our continued reassurance, Corbindello squirmed and wiggled to escape from my lap and the obvious pending doom. He bobbed and weaved his head to prevent having something slipped over it, and gnawed on the strap as we tried to insert a paw into the armhole it made. After several attempts to attach the buckle, we finally heard a ‘CLICK’ and set him on the floor. His first steps in this restraining contraption were much like those of a toddler bundled into a snowsuit; legs splayed wide, he teetered from side to side before defiantly tipping over with a loud and resounding thud. Despite a gentle breeze ruffling his fur and bird chirps beckoning ‘come hither kitty’, it was obvious that Corbin was NOT going willingly through the doorway, so we gently picked him up and placed him on the front porch. Immediately he started to low crawl toward the porch edge, peered over and cautiously slithered down onto the top step. So far so good we thought, and then it began…

… the alligator death roll!

Repeatedly he rolled from back to front, apparently using the stair riser in attempts to rub off the harness and effectively winding himself in the leash which yanked it right out of my hand, freeing him to scoot away down the stairs to the landing! “Smart little guy”, Tom remarked with a laugh, while untangling our furry swamp creature and setting him gently on the next step, where he promptly proceeded to roll again and again desperately trying to release himself from the bindings of his captor until he lay against the concrete exhausted and unable to enjoy even one minute of his time outside.

Every evening, Tom and I would prepare Corbin for a walk and each evening he would immediately launch into the death roll on the stairs in attempts to break free from the evil clutches of the leash, but this only served tangled him further. Time and again, I witnessed this struggle between kitten and leash; and soon I started to see a parallel. Isn’t this how I struggle with chronic pain issues? How often have I found myself fighting against confines that seem to hem me in until I’m worn out, pulling against my Handler’s leash of common sense that prevents me from dashing off to participate in some activity that may cause me to experience more pain?

Gradually, over several months and through patient persistence on everyone’s part, Corbin has become more accepting of his restraints. He is beginning to learn that his harness and leash are actually expanding his horizons and give him the ability to enjoy the out of doors in small increments, safely. Likewise, I have come to understand that by finding a healthy balance between activity and rest, I am able to participate in more of the things I enjoy.

Yesterday, when we prepared Corbin for his outing, he walked calmly to the door and once outside, he stood on the porch proudly sporting his stylish RED harness, sniffing the air, no doubt breathing in all the possibilities waiting to be explored. As we walked down the sidewalk with Corbin, his gorgeous tail is held high, tip gently curled giving it the appearance of a question mark as if it is asking, What can I get into next?;  I whisper a prayer of thanks to my Handler for showing me through our kitten, that I needed to change my attitude about my limitations, and for His patience in helping me to find a way to harness my energies which have allowed me to find harmony so that I can enjoy activity without becoming entangled in pain.