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
My little Roomba vacuum was opposite me, having completed the living room, but it moved an inch, stopped, moved another inch, stopped, and continued that way. Normally, it would trundle off down the hallway toward “home,” but it was Inch. Stop. Inch. Stop.
What the devil? Was it broken? Something maybe caught in a wheel? But then I saw it—a large black house spider two feet in front of the Roomba, facing it.
Coming home from school one day in early spring when he was seventeen, my dad found a small dog on his front porch. It was all black except for a white stripe on its chest, it had a hound’s face, an English bulldog’s body, and a stubby tail. Its coat was matted, every rib in its body was showing, and all told, it was a very lonely, hungry, and exceptionally ugly dog. Continue reading
The squirrels scattered when I went outside to pick the mint that grows at the back steps, a single mourning dove remaining, placidly pecking at the ground. I gathered a few stalks and then went back inside, glancing out the window to see if the squirrels had returned yet. They hadn’t. However, from the woods at the other end of the lawn, I watched a black bear emerge. Continue reading
It’s the Chinese Year of the Rat. It was also the Year of the Rat when a little rat named Betsy was born.
Let me tell you about her.
I was in a pet supply store buying food for a rescued field mouse I called Stinky (for good reason) when I saw a cage of young rats. They intrigued me, and after the clerk let me hold one of them, I went straight home where my husband and I built a roomy cage, placing it next to Stinky’s cage in the kitchen. The next day, I went back to the store and bought a “hooded” rat. (Hooded rats are marked like little pinto ponies.) She was sweet and shy, and so I named her Betsy, which seemed to match.
When I heard a cat yowling, I figured she was looking for a lover, but then it went on for too many nights, which made me wonder if the toms didn’t like her song. I really couldn’t blame them. Her pitch was off.
And then I saw her—a young calico walking along our dirt road. I knew all the neighborhood cats, and she wasn’t one of them.
Certainly, she had to be hungry and thirsty, and so I scrounged in the fridge for anything a cat might eat without harm, bringing it out onto the lawn along with a bowl of water. I did this for a week, always retreating into the house because, otherwise, she wouldn’t go near the food. When the week was up, I could remain outside as long as I stayed on the back steps. Continue reading
A turkey is beneath the bird feeder, our local dining room, and is intimidating the regular customers. Some peek through branches, others from the shrubbery, and more are around the corner. They wait while the turkey hogs the space. It doesn’t belong there. This is just plain wrong. (Image by 272447 on Pixabay)
A young squirrel, late for breakfast, blasts around the side of the house, sees the turkey, drops down spread-eagle onto the sidewalk, and holds its breath. “Now what?” Being a gray squirrel, it decides caution is always better than valor and so rises slowly to carefully walk away.
First we have a pandemic. Then along comes a nationwide protest over a heinous act, the protests being usurped by rioters. We need a portal into a world of peace, a portal that, unfortunately, doesn’t exist. What we do have, however, is the escape-hatch novel.
The escape-hatch novel has no room for serial murderers lurking in the alley, lizard aliens dining on humans, or evil shadows slithering across the bedroom floor. It’s a place filled with likable and often unique characters. It’s the cozy mystery. For us animal lovers, it’s best when populated with animals.