You would think that as experts in nature photography, travel, and web design, our main site, Taking Your Camera on the Road, would have certain articles that would attract a high level of consistent traffic, right?
You would think that exciting and innovative articles like CSS Unleashed – CSS Experiments with Design Elements, which took months to produce and is still one of the best single resources on the web for showcasing CSS design elements for web page designs, would attract a lot of attention. You would think that our online books on photography, “How To? What For? The Basics of Nature Photography”, “I Long to Be Close to You: Closeup Nature Photography Techniques”, and “Bows and Flows of Angel Hair: Photographing Patterns in Nature” would consistently draw people into our site. Not into photography? Then the article series on “Know Before You Go”, about travel planning should attract a substantial number of readers. Right?
Nope. None of those. Yes, they come and go out of the top 10 most popular articles on our site, but the one consistent article that stays in our top 10 is about a blind cat.
Dahni, the Traveling, Eyeless Wonder Cat
Dahni has no eyes. Shhhh. He doesn’t know it. And we don’t tell him.
They say that what a child doesn’t know won’t hurt him. Well, we decided not to tell Dahni that he has no eyes, and so far, he doesn’t seem to mind. He is our Eyeless Wonder Cat. Since he arrived in our home in Israel, we’ve learned a few things about life.
The story of “Lessons Learned from Dahni, The Eyeless Wonder Cat”, and it’s companion page, “Traveling Blind Cat Dahni is in the News”, consistently draws in the searchers, peekers, and readers.
It was brought to my attention again recently when a young girl left a comment about a new blind kitten she’d just rescued and how she already loved it. People comment and email me all the time about Dahni and the impact the story of him had on their lives. When I teach or speak publicly, many people come up to me to tell me about reading Dahni’s story and how he touched their lives. A newspaper in Israel even wrote an article about him. So I decided to take another look at my story about Dahni, the eyeless, traveling wonder cat.
I find the article on our site and read it. And start crying. Not just from the sorrow of losing my fuzzy buddy, seeing his eyeless face on the screen and dealing with all the memories that come swirling up. I am crying because I finally get it. I finally understand that the lessons he taught me were not just little life lessons but life changing lessons. Wood-blocks-to-the-head-and-spirit kind of lessons. My husband and I are stronger now because of what we learned from our little blind cat.
Dahni didn’t arrive stuffed with guru-like calm, teaching us to own the beauty of our lives. He arrived scruffy and damaged, and pissed off. He’d been in pain for all of his short 5 months of life, left alone for long periods of time and hardly touched. When we decided to keep this ratty creature, we didn’t realize that I’d be wearing long sleeves for over a year in the heat of the Middle East to hide the long, fiery red scratches he’d leave down my arms. We didn’t realize that he would test our souls, our patience, and our courage. We knew he’d be tough to live with because of his disability, but we didn’t know that he would turn our world upside down.
It wasn’t until we took him on his first road trip that we really decided to keep him and not have him put to sleep. Unable to cuddle or touch him much, and with no one to take care of him during an extended trip on assignment to photograph the bird migration in Southern Israel, we threw him in the car with the rest of the luggage and camera gear, and decided to suffer his presence. Twenty minutes down the highway, this little black snarling beast crawled up onto my lap, snuggled across me, and slept for the next eight hours.
The whole trip he was a charming, cuddly lover. We’d play ball in the room and go for walks on the leash in the desert. I’d watch him stand up on the back of the couch, pressing his nose against the window screen watching the birds outside. He’d be long and stretched out to reach the window and then twist his head around to look at me as if to say, “Are you watching me!” I swear there was a huge smile on his face. Dahni glowed the whole time, a delight to be around.
From then on, whenever he got nasty, I’d throw him in the car and we’d go for a ride, and he’d be a joy for the next two weeks. He loved camping. Adored it. He’d spend hours against the mesh of our tent watching birds, racing from one end to the other to follow their sounds. He’d hang over the edge of our balcony, four stories up, ears straining towards all the sounds of the world below. He loved walking on the leash in the gardens, rubbing against the flowers and grasses, breathing in their perfume.
Patience. He taught me patience. I’ve been on an undesired life-long quest to learn more about patience, and Dahni taught me a level of patience that I had never imagined. I learned how to choose my battles and temper my temper to a fine honed steel plate of self-control.
He also taught me wonder. Not just the wonder of being amazed but the joy that comes in seeing the world through wondering eyes. Every thing was new and exciting to Dahni and we loved watching him explore the wonders of the world. Through his lack-of-eyes, we saw the world in a different way.
Brent and I were constantly amazed at how well he would maneuver no matter where we took him. When we had to flee the Middle East due to the war with Iraq, it was a challenge to get permission to take him out of the county, but we were not going to leave him behind. He went with us to Spain, traveling around for over six weeks in a small motor home, listening to the war on the shortwave radio.
Fearing he would hurt himself jumping up and down from the bed over the cab, we made a ramp with one of the long cushions from the couch and within seconds he figured it out, racing up and down his new stairway. We loved introducing him to snow in Los Picos de Europa, laughing at his high-steps to get the cold wet off his feet, and watching him race around in the sand and hiss at the waves on the beach in the north of Spain. He would lay across the dashboard in the warm light coming through the windshield and wait for us to return from one of our many explorations. If we left the window open part way, he’d manage to stick his head and one arm out and talk to us, carrying on long conversations and hanging there for hours if we let him.
In his short life, he traveled on at least 12 airplanes and visited six countries. Everyone adored him. Stunned by the lack of eyes, his charming personality would overcome their pity and he would have them smiling right away. Staying in a convent in upper state New York, he managed to get out of my room and wander downstairs while I was out. I raced around the building looking for him only to find him snuggling the blind mother of one of the nuns, brought there for the final year of her life. She was delighted to pet this friendly kitty and wanted to know what color he was. I told him he was black with a tiny spot of white on his chest. Then told her he was also blind.
“That’s nice, dear.”
I think she finally understood that Dahni was blind, but to her, it was insignificant. He was warm, purring, and comforting, and the unconditional love of an animal can outweigh just about anything, including eyesight.
Re-reading the posts, I realized that I’ve learned a lot from Dahni. A couple weeks after his last airplane ride, his health finally stopped him, but Dahni’s will to survive against all odds changed both Brent and I. The lessons learned impact our lives today. We learned a new level of patience, courage, and determination.
Sure, I had those, but he taught me how to risk when it comes to patience, courage, and determination. It’s fine to say you will, but it is better when you act, and act brazenly when you do. After all, what’s the worst case scenario? Death? Well, after death, how much are you going to care then? Huh? So jump far when you run off the cliff. Anticipate landing not falling.
We became more short-term goal focused instead of long-term. Yes, we have long-term goals, but we make the shorter-term ones important and accessible, keeping us focused and on track. We learned how to be brave in the face of life’s obstacles. Smack us in the face and we keep on going.
I know for a fact that I would not be working on this blog if it weren’t for the lessons I learned from Dahni. When Donncha invited me to help the alpha test of WordPress.com, everyone said “no, don’t do it. Time waster.” Even people whose opinions I valued within the WordPress Community shot down the idea.
Yet, as I made my original plan on what this blog would be about and the audience it would serve, long before WordPress.com became public, I knew that I had something of value. I sat down and made a list of articles on WordPress and blogging to write about, and today, over 10 months later, I’m still working off that original and amazing things-to-write-about list. I amazed myself at the passion and inspiration that hit me and I’m still feeding off it. Donncha tossed the ball and I’ve been going after it ever since, bonking my head against the table legs and tripping over rug edges, but determined to pursue the ball as it rolls across the WordPress floor.
Trust me. With all the objections, concerns, and poo-pooing I got at first and along the way, if Dahni hadn’t taught me to control my own destiny and how to get past the punches, I would have given up a long time ago.
Our life changed with Dahni. We are stronger, wiser, more compassionate, and braver because of knowing him.
What is it about Dahni’s story that touches people and seems to drive a lot of traffic to his article? I can get technical and say it’s keywords like “hope, inspiration, blind, disabled, lessons, life, cat, toilet training” and such, but I think it is something more. Word of mouth brings a lot of people to the page as well as search engines. The photograph of a blind cat using the toilet always sparks comments and amazement.
But aside from the technical aspects of SEO, I think it is about the spirit of the story. I think people are moved by Dahni’s story and the life changing lessons we learned from our blind cat. It’s the same sympathy-empathy-awe-shucks feeling that makes us cry over movies, television, and books when the mushy part comes. When pain and physical challenges are overcome by determination and faith, it’s the cheer that rises up out of our throats when the loser comes in third. It’s showing us how a simple animal like a cat can be so much more. So, why can’t we be more?
From the article I wrote about Dahni, here are the simple lessons we learned which changed our lives, all from watching this tiny blind kitten fetch a rubber ball tossed through our long apartment:
Dahni’s Rules for Living might be good to apply to your own life. Imagine what humanity would be like if we actually lived like Dahni?
1. The ball is the most important goal.
2. The journey is an adventure but don’t let it stop you from getting to the ball.
3. Get the ball and throw it again.
4. Always jump and fly through the air in a landing position.
Remember, you can probably see the ball you are after. He can’t. So what stops you from getting your ball?
Blog About Someone or Something That Has Changed Your Life
So I challenge you: Blog about someone or something that has changed your life.
Your story might end up attracting a lot of traffic. More importantly, it helps us understand a little more about you and who you are. It also may help you to stop and take stock on what motivates and changed you in your life.
It can be a way of saying thank you to the person who changed your life, or a way of recognizing the growth and accomplishments in your life.
Or your story might help change the life of someone else, much as Dahni’s story has. So who or what changed your life. Tell us about it.
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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network