Queenie, my childhood pet, was part border collie, part standard collie, the family’s guardian, and a working dog in search of a job. On an autumn day, the kind requiring only a sweater, Queenie and I were raking colorful maple leaves into a heap in the front yard when a dainty calico cat magically appeared. Maybe she wanted a bit of food or perhaps someone to say hello to her, but Queenie and I decided the little lady might enjoy living with us. We invited her in and she accepted.
Many weeks later, Kitty surprised us with a litter of kittens, and since Queenie needed a job, she volunteered to be the babysitter. She’d always wanted to be a mommy, so it suited her well. This allowed Kitty periodic respites outdoors to sniff grass, watch birds, and indulge in small musings.
One of the kittens was a busy black bundle. If he wasn’t causing trouble amongst his siblings or harassing his mother, he was off in search of adventure, often having to be retrieved by his mother or his babysitter. When his blue eyes changed, as kittens’ eyes do, it was to a glowing emerald green.
This simple memory of a calico, her dog, and a beautiful green-eyed kitten was the seed for a novel about whispering cats and the dog who protected them, most of it narrated by Pilgrim, a black kitten with brilliant green eyes. It’s a tale of great loss, great love, and the search for a perfect clearing in the forest. Don’t we all seek such a clearing? Continue reading →
Bedridden for six months with a recalcitrant back, I watched TV, wandered the internet, read voraciously, and–why not?–wrote a book. Animal Planet was showing all the “My Cat from Hell” episodes where Jackson Galaxy (aka Cat Daddy) made life better for troubled cats and people troubled by their troubled cats who were mostly troubled by their people. It inspired me to go on a journey for others like him.
Zippy Chippy dined on Doritos and beer, and he stuck his tongue out at visitors. He might run down a track or saunter if he felt like that instead, and on a number of occasions, he refused to run at all. If he wasn’t in the mood, he ignored his trainers. Zippy did what Zippy wanted, how he wanted, and when he wanted. Pedigree be damned.
Born into the same bloodline as Secretariat and Man o’War, there was early hope for Zippy, but it was unwarranted. Four losses in a row at Belmont sent him to the lesser tracks where he lost 16 more times, and where he was eventually banned at one of the tracks for refusing to move out of the starting gate. Continue reading →
Everyone calls her HHC (His Holiness’s Cat) except for the Dalai Lama. To him, she’s his beautiful little Snow Lion, a Himalayan, of course. David Michie was kind of enough to help her tell her story about the journey she’s taken, a story that begins in New Delhi where two street urchins find a hidden family of kittens and steal them:
“Snatching us from the cozy nest in which our mother had tended us, [they] thrust my siblings and me into the terrifying commotion of the street. . . . In the process I was dropped, landing painfully on the pavement.
Much can be said for printed books—the feel and aroma of the paper, the ease of flipping back and forth in them. Much can also be said for digital books—portability, no dusting required, less expensive and sometimes even free, but do you know all the freebie sources? The following list has been whittled down so you don’t waste time with badly constructed web sites or those without variety. My four favorites are listed below, and there are even more. Is there anything better than free stuff?
The clock said 6:30 a.m, but light through the window said it was predawn. No problem, I thought. It’s a cloudy morning and the sun is still low. But then the clouds turned thicker, darker, like smoke from a forest fire. Moments later, pounding rain sent birds into a nearby fir tree to hide. Just one raindrop could ground a bird. What next? Would the earth erupt? Would an archaeopteryx fly by? Had Armageddon begun? What should I do? The answer came in an instant. I wrapped myself in an afghan, settled into my most comfortable chair, and started reading a cozy mystery with great animal characters. Why not? Instead of a last meal, I’d enjoy one last book.
CHOOSING THE LAST BOOK BEFORE ARMAGEDDON was easy. Waiting on my Kindle was the only Shirley Rousseau Murphy “Joe Grey” cozy mystery I hadn’t read. Reading was magical just as it always is, except this time, there was a bonus: When I finished the book, the dark rain ended and the birds flapped out from beneath fir branches. I added the book to my five-star list, not because it had warded off Armageddon, but simply because it deserved it.
FIVE STARS FOR A COZY MYSTERY? A cozy is never a serious tale of personal, philosophical struggle, but is that the guideline for a good book? No. It’s the writing that counts. It must be evocative, the plotting must be strong, and for sure, the characters must be sympathetic. You have to care what happens to them, and I cared about Joe Grey and his cat friends, Dulcie and Kit. I ask you, when Armageddon looms, do you want a depressingly soul-wrenching novel or an engrossing cozy with delightful characters and a happy ending?
Queenie was a shepherd mix, the collie portion contributing long black fur that set off the ambitious red bow we always attached to her collar on Christmas Day. She enjoyed her big bow, but only until it slid beneath her chin. People don’t like things poking into their chins, and dogs don’t either. She showed her unhappiness in the doggy way: head tipped down, eyes tilted up. It’s a look we humans can’t ignore, and so we removed her décor. However, she got a new red bow the following year and with the same result.
Though the size of a large rabbit with fur almost as soft, it wasn’t a bunny. The solid little creature was black and white like a lemur’s tail with a white face that drew me to it like a kitten face does with those irresistibly large, sparkling eyes. Innocent eyes filled with the wonder of the world.
“There are two ways humans have of not telling the truth. The first used to be hard for me to understand because it doesn’t come with any of the usual signs of not-truth-telling. Like the time Sarah called my white paws ‘socks.’ Look at your adorable little socks, she said. Socks are what humans wear on their feet to make them more like cats’ paws…
“Now I know that humans sometimes best understand the truth of things if they come at it indirectly. Like how sometimes the best way to catch a mouse that’s right in front of you is to back up a bit before you pounce.”
This is how “Love Saves the Day” by Gwen Cooper begins—with the words of Prudence, a tabby cat. You might at first think it’s just another of those cute and clever speaking-cat books, but it isn’t. It’s a deeply affecting story of a mother, a daughter, and a thoughtful cat. Continue reading →