Tag Archives: pets

Pets in Mysteries

Mystery books are the genre I enjoy reading and writing the most. Lately, I’ve noticed my stack of cozy mysteries has grown, many of which involve pets in some way. Cats and dogs, specifically. In pondering why this has been a factor in my reading, I’ve come to the conclusion I’ve been seeking somewhat lighter fare. Books with a good puzzle to solve, but that are considered more “comfort” reads, with a good resolution and happy ending.

The pets in recent and current readings have such attributes as being affectionate, loyal, curious, obedient or not, cute and even humorous. Some have that instinctive sense of good and evil and/or use their scent abilities. Some even help describe their owners’ traits or personalities.

Sometimes, animals in books are more family members than pets and as such, are involved in the plot more like actual characters. They often set the scene with their own cute antics to which readers can endearingly relate. Pets with acute instincts or sense of smell are more to my personal liking when it comes to animals involved in the mystery’s solution. I’m not really fond of talking animals in stories, but that’s just my preference.

In my own book, SHE HAD TO KNOW, I introduce Pippi, a black cat who seems to think she is the mother of Scotti, a white West Highland Terrier. They are both family members who appear just a few times being the animals they are, chasing one another, sleeping together, or just being nosy. But, since they have such small roles, they are not featured on the cover.

There are authors who have animals based on their protagonist’s vocation, for instance, veterinarians or pet sitters, or protagonists who have more exotic animals, like birds, turtles or potbellied pigs. If a reader sees a book on a bookstore shelf with a domestic animal on the cover, I think they automatically are inclined to assume the book is not going to be hard boiled and quite possibly, cozy. I may be wrong, but it seems to me there has been an upsurgence of these kinds of books lately. Is it me? Could it be a reflection of readers’ desires to escape the challenges of today’s world? What do you think? Do you have any animals in your stories? If so, how did you use them? Or, if you are a reader and not a writer, are these among the kind of books you enjoy reading? I’d love to learn your viewpoint.

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A New Addition!

Anyone who knows me knows that I am an animal person.  Pretty much anything with fur appeals to me.  My apologies to the fish, reptile, and bird lovers, but I want something that will curl up beside me on the couch while I’m watching a little HGTV.

There is something about the wag of a dog’s tail or the way a cat rubs up against your legs that just seems to melt my stress away. Most nights, in fact, I can be found on my couch, working on one of my novels or some other project. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, my beagle, Charlie, is never far from me.

My children have the same love of animals that I do. The only difference is that their animal of choice is cats. In fact, immediately after my ex-husband and I told our girls we were separating, I wanted to do something to make them feel better. They’d been asking for a cat for years but hadn’t been allowed to get one. Since the rules were now changing, I told them I’d get them each a cat. Within thirty seconds, their tears had vanished and they were thinking of names for their new pets.

To me, having an animal is part of growing up. I’ve had a dog or cat all my life and want the same for my children.

Many, many years ago, friends of mine had a pair of bassett hounds. I loved those dogs. In fact, when I would visit said couple, I would spend most of my time stroking the soft fur of their ears and snuggling their smooshy faces. They were the sweetest dogs I’d ever been around. I loved how their legs were too short, their ears were too long and their bodies didn’t quite match the rest of them. The shape of them was just comical to me and make me love them all that much more.

Thus began my love of bassett hounds.

Flash forward to this week. I was innocently perusing Craig’s list as I do if I’m interested in finding a piece of furniture to refinish. I’m still not sure how I ended up in the “Pets” section, but….

This little guy’s picture popped up.

new puppy

I know! Adorable, right? I clicked on him, backed out. Clicked on it again. Closed my browser. Later, I found myself going back to his picture. I simply couldn’t stay away. When I could stand it no longer, I called the number listed on the ad and left a message. The posting indicated that a sale on the puppy was “pending.” I figured I didn’t stand a chance. After all, who would let this little guy out of their hands? I left a message saying that if the sale fell through, please call me.

And you know what? She did.

The sale fell through and the puppy was now available for purchase. Did I want to come see him?

Did I? Is the pope still catholic? Does he still wear a funny hat?

You betcha!

My girls and I drove to meet this little guy Wednesday night. When we went into the barn to meet him and his seven siblings, I feel certain that the sound of our voices would have shattered any glass if it were within hearing distance. We immediately fell to the ground and scooped up whatever puppy was closest to us. It took several minutes for us to discern which one was the actual puppy from the ad. When we finally did, it was love at first sight.

new puppy with abby

Yup. We pick him up next Friday.

However, we still haven’t picked out a name for him. This is where you come in. Reply in the comment section with your name and email address and a name suggestion for my new addition. Keep in mind, you’ve got to impress a fourteen year old and a twelve year old. If they pick your name as the name of our new bassett, I will send you a copy of one of my books – your choice!

It’s a win/win! You may end up with a free book! And me? Well, I’ve already got a cute, new puppy!

He just needs a name…. Go!

Donna Small is the author of two novels, Just Between Friends and A Ripple in the Water. Both are available here: http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/#!donna-small/c1ewn

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If You Can by Harry Margulies

Beautiful Black Labrador Puppy DogSometimes when they dream their paws start to twitch,
Where is it they’re running? What is it they wish?
Maybe they’re chasing a squirrel or mouse,
Maybe they’re trotting home, back to their house.

 

2Cat
But what if they had nowhere to run,
Those tiny paws trembling from fear, not from fun.
The smallest things scare them, if only they knew,
They’ll take what they’re given, that’s all they can do.

 

Guarding TogetherSomeone will love them, that’s what we say,
Let’s leave them behind, get on with our day.
You’ll be fine, pups and kitties, you’ll be fine, just you see,
Someone will take you – it just won’t be me.

three kittens striped tabby isolatedBut more often than not they don’t end up fine,
Their life not a book, but barely a line.
They don’t understand why there’s no one to love,
Why they don’t get a chance, why they can’t find a hug.

Bulldog lying on wood floor.
Unconditional love, it’s so hard to find,
There’s always a catch, I hope you don’t mind.
But that’s what you’ll get if you give them a home,
Unquestioning love that won’t leave you alone.
It will be there all day, you don’t have to ask,
Their love is a pleasure, it’s never a task.

6CatIf you don’t have the time or the love or the space,
It’s not fair to adopt them, just leave them in place.
But if there is a spot in your family this season,
Please make a commitment, listen to reason.

And then when you notice their paws start to twitch,
You’ll know that they’re happy,
You’ve granted their wish.
7Harry&Bingo

If you can
 

* * *

Harry Margulies is the author of The Knowledge Holder and the soon to-be-released The Weight of the Moon. When he’s not writing about romance, money, women and other subjects he thoroughly enjoys but knows nothing about, he’s frittering his precious time as a cartoonist.

 

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A Plethora of Pets by Harry Margulies

A couple years back, a friend of mine offered me a cigar. He wanted to celebrate something, or commemorate something, or agitate his wife – I’m still not sure which. Although I’m a non-smoker, I accepted his offer. It wasn’t as if I’d never tried a cigar. When my girls were born I handed out pink ones that tasted like bubblegum. I had a few left over, so I kept them to try. I thought they were delicious. 

 

Turns out, the cigar my friend handed me was the grown-up type made of actual tobacco, and had a fancy band imprinted with words other than El Bubble or Pink Owl. I wasn’t sure whether I should run away, feign sudden-onset menstrual cramps, or be a pal and have my respiratory system take one for the team. Before my bovine-like brain had a chance to process these options, I was holding a lit cigar somewhere between my fingers – clumsily, like a dog gripping a golf club. Five minutes later, I came to a realization – the kind of realization that bovine-brained people like me don’t often have. I liked it. I mean, I really, really enjoyed it; the flavor, the mellowing aspect of it, the nothing like bubblegum sweetness – all good.

 

 

 

Now, the story could have, or probably should have,Cigar4 ended there, but it didn’t. Inspired by this single cigar, I decided to do what anyone who’d discovered something so surprisingly enjoyable would do, and bought a few things.

 

 

 

Shortly after setting up my new humidor and stuffing it with Robustos, Coronas and such, it came to me: owning a box of cigars is like owning a box of pets. CigarBox

 

Having said that, I understand that a cigar’s lack of heartbeat and non-existent digestive system make it somewhat easier to care for. And their inability to bark at inappropriate hours establishes them as neighbor friendly (although, if you smoke one in your back yard, and it happens to be a breezy day, Cigar5they may not be as neighbor friendly as you had thought). But cigars require love and care, just like any pet – or else. Unless your house is kept at a level 70 degrees with a consistent humidity of 65 to 70 percent, and unless you keep the shades drawn to filter out sunlight, your little babies will have to remain in their cage, or humidor, which, I suppose, is a less savage-sounding moniker for the same thing.

 

But it doesn’t stop there. A healthy cigar in a humidor won’t stay healthy for long if you don’t keep said humidor clean (no table scraps allowed), moist (but not too moist), and cool (but not too cool). In other words, it’s a big responsibility. I had a pet boa constrictor for 26 years. Boas require a specific environment of uniform toastiness and Amazon (not the booksellers) level humidity. My boa was much easier to care for than any cigar. And he was easier to hold.

 

I have lots of pets, actually. And they’re not all cats and cigars. You do too, and you may not even realize it. Take clothes, for instance. They need regular baths, and they get all stiff and cranky if you don’t let them out of the closet and take them for a walk now and then. If you have a car, you have a pet. It needs to be fed and then hosed off after it plays in the puddles. The payoff for me though is when I ask my car if he wants to go for a ride; the way his headlights get all bright and glow-y – it gives me a warm feeling. Our homes are pets too. They may sit like a blob all day, never moving, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore them. If you do, they’ll bite you worse than a pile of fire ants, which, by the way, do not make good pets. I could go on and on, but I won’t – except to mention houseplants and golf clubs – you figure it out.

 

And just because all your pets don’t bark or meow, don’t assume they’re exempt from the occasional trip to the vet. Susie’s Dry Cleaners, The Home Depot, Bob’s Garage, Cigars International – all vets. They just sound friendlier and less expensive than Dr. Susie’s Dry Cleaners, Dr. Home Depot, Dr. Bob’s Garage, and Dr. Cigars International.

 

So, the bottom line I guess is that it’s very difficult for me to light up one of my stogies these days. I will hold them and nurture them, but as their father, kind of, it’s my responsibility to make sure they never get burned.

 

 

Note: to those of you who plan on entering a cute blouse in the hmargulies.com muse of the month contest – don’t. 

 

* * *

Harry Margulies is the author of The Knowledge Holder and the to-be-released The Weight of the Moon. When he’s not writing about romance, money, women and other subjects he thoroughly enjoys but knows nothing about, he’s frittering his precious time as a cartoonist.

 

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Balancing on the Beam by J J Dare

These past few days have been slightly more chaotic than my usual hectic weekends (and weekdays). I’m juggling sharing a car with my daughter while her car is out of commission for the next few weeks, I’m hosting Baby Boy’s grandfather from Arizona, I’m helping a kid move into an apartment, and all of the usual daily stuff involved in keeping a house, working, and helping with baby, cats and a dog.

Sometimes, I feel like a spinning dreidel. This weekend, definitely. From one thing to the next, these past few days have been non-stop. As I type this blog post, I’m doing it one-handed while holding a sleeping baby.

It’s amazing how quickly you learn to negotiate daily life with only one functioning arm. I’ve learned that I  can do almost anything one-handed. Occasionally, I’m not only one-handed, but I’m holding the bottle with my chin. I am the Cirque du Soleil of Baby World.

The cats and dog have been slightly miffed since the baby’s birth. None of the animals are number one, two and three anymore. There are two camps in my house now: Team Four-legged Daybreakers or Team Sweet Baby Nightwalker.

Baby Boy is nocturnal and his mother has the night shift, while I have the morning/day shift. Baby Boy’s father gets him for a couple of hours in the evening so we can take a few deep breaths.

Raising a child takes a village or at least a smitten grandmother. It’s similar to writing a book. When I write, instead of a child, I’m raising a story. Instead of a smitten grandparent, I’m an obsessed writer. The village consists of my editor, proofreader, publisher and readers.

When I’m writing, there are times I’m going here and there and trying to tie up all loose ends. I write on the fly, so chaos is my normal mode of operations. If I get stuck (like a car breaking down), I stop and try to fix what’s wrong.

Writing and raising children. So many differences, so many similarities.

And now for something different and long overdue:

I feel like I’m cheating on my pets. They are no longer Number One on my lap. Out of guilt, I promised to make them famous on WordPress, so here goes:

Pet Collage

Neglected ( or so they think) Pet Collage

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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Pet Fashion Faux Paws

A Review of Pet Fashion Faux Paws, reprinted from The Delta Pet Inquirer
Contributors: EyeQ Terrier, Shawn Siamese, and Keenie Lovebird

First of all, if you’re expecting photos of pets wearing embarrassing costumes, we are sorry to disappoint. We have them, but they’re locked away in a secure place. We’d love to show them to you, honest, but our legal team said the risk was too great. Think about it, would you want to be all over the internet wearing a risible outfit you had no hand in choosing? Of course not!

First up on our fashion tour is the Carmen Miranda look. If you aren’t familiar with her, and unless your human watches old flicks you wouldn’t be, she was a Brazilian singer who made a big splash in Hollywood films of the 1940s and 50s. People often associate her with her head gear as shown below. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, we leave you to judge, but know this: a large, fruity chapeau is a fashion crime when it lands on the head of a dog. If your human even thinks about it, Just Say No!

Next we have the Sex Kitten look. Unfortunately (or conversely if you’re so inclined) this section does not describe feline sex. If you want to hear about that, kitties, you’ll have to read a different publication. The Delta Pet Inquirer is a family-friendly magazine! Anyway, ruched lace, chiffon and sequins are not alluring when draped on a fur coat.  From our research we’ve come to understand that the entire purpose of a lace nightie is to show bare skin and unless you’re a member of the hairless cat breed, that’s not going to happen. Also, the sequins will catch on your whiskers and the lace won’t stay in place without elastic or string ties to hold it in place. Of course, elastic and string are irresistible, but when you chew them you’ll end up getting your claws stuck in the lace and your human is sure to get upset and stop the game immediately. So why bother?

Editor’s note: After a long and contentious debate, the above photo was cropped for the sake of decency.

Again we return to the head, often the focal point of pet fashion. We really hate to bring this up, but we can’t leave out wigs. Don’t act so shocked; you wig lovers know who you are. If there weren’t so many of you, why would there be a website totally devoted to wigs for cats–in three fabulous colors no less? Well, they’re not fabulous, that’s our point. Do you really think you’re going to look better than Liz Taylor in that Cleopatra style? Forget it, even if the neon blue bangs go with your eyes. (If you’re stumped on Cleo, I’m sure you can look her up on Google. She’s more famous than Carmen Miranda.) And kitties, especially you Persians, just forget about the Marilyn  blonde “do.” It’s really, really not going to look like an extension of your long fur!

Editor’s note: This photo frame was intentionally left blank. Now do you see why we’ve chosen not to post any portraits here? We’re just not that mean.

Attention dogs: you short-haired breeds might like the feel of a warm coat on a winter’s walk—we’re definitely not sold on the booties—but don’t you think trying to match styles with your human is a step too far? If he wears a kilt, you gonna wear that too? Have some sense, or at least a bit of shame. Which works right into the old “tam-o-shanter” debate, which you may have heard before. So why are you ignoring it? Don’t even think about wearing one, not even on the golf course, should you be lucky enough to have access to such a place. Unless you wish to look like a character from a Dorothy Sayer’s mystery, don’t even think about putting a tam on your head. Many a human relationship’s been ruined by plaid. Trust us, it’s true.

We hope this discourse has been helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please post them below and we’ll get back to you.

The reporters were helped in their research by Mickey Hoffman, who has some writing credentials to herself, being the author of two mystery novels, Deadly Traffic and School of Lies, published by Second Wind Publishing.

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Schuyler RIP

We lost a cat recently. He was one of the “legendary” one. Every lover of the domestic feline knows what I mean. These cats have strong personalities and compelling backstories, rather like the best kind of character.

Cat owners usually have a pair or more of the furry dominators in residence, and this is because   “You can’t have just one” is as true of cats as it is of potato chips. The standouts aren’t common. You may only host two or three of these in a lifetime of pet parenthood. It isn’t just that these special cats are sociable, interested  in the doings of their owners and in keeping them company. These cats possess an elusive, mystical aura.  

Schuyler came off the hard streets of an adjacent comatose steel town. He was about two years old when we found him at that Humane Society, with a tail broken in several places and a bad hip.  He called to us, then reached through the cage bars to hook my sleeve. It didn’t take my husband and I long to realize he was the one. We learned that he had been dropped off by some people who couldn’t keep him, but thought well enough of him to try this last resort method of finding him a home. I was working on Revolutionary War  novels at that time, and already had a “Hamilton,” so he was named for another favorite character: “Major General Philip Schuyler.”

He was skinny and roman-nosed. He would always favor one back leg, but when our Vet first checked him out, she said he was basically healthy. “Just feed him up, and he’ll be fine,” was her advice. As you can see from the picture, “feeding him up” was not a problem.

There were three other cats here when he came, but he quickly promoted himself to what the German’s call “Furst” a/k/a  Top Cat. I don’t remember much fighting, but his long Tom-Cat-hood and streetfighting experience probably gave him the edge to psych out his new mates. Schuyler quickly became my husband’s favorite. He spent most of his fourteen years either in his lap or curled up beside him.  He greeted Chris when he came home from work, and said good-bye, too, every morning.  Sky stayed with him tirelessly while my husband endured a slow recovery from cancer surgery.

He was a pretty cat, the kind you’d see in a Flemish painting, curled on a bench in a black-and-white tiled kitchen scene. He had pink paws and a pink nose and shell pink ears. One of my online friends, seeing his picture, observed that he had “TES.” I had never heard of TES, so she explained that her cat also had this condition. She said it meant “translucent ear syndrome.”

Sky was a hunter, as you’d expect from an ex-stray, and merciless to mousies and voles. Many mornings we found them laid as offerings on our front steps. He had a musical purr. He also had a great fondness for doughnuts. We quickly learned that we had to hide these inside a cupboard, because if we simply set them on the counter, they’d be on the floor in the next second, the bag torn apart, the contents spilled and hastily gobbled. So much for the notion that cats don’t enjoy sugar!

Sadly, he’s with his mates now, in our pet necropolis. This autumn, I’ll plant daffodils on his grave. RIP Schuyler.

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I Wish I Were a Cat by Claire Collins

751674946_842d4fac92

I want to be a housecat.

I mean really, is there a better life than to be a pampered fat cat?

Let’s think about this for just a minute.

I wake up from my early morning nap when I hear an alarm clock going off. When the human walks out of their room, I weave in and out of their feet trying to trip them so they can see the world from my point of view.

If they make it into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee, I’ll be right there yowling around their ankles until the noise penetrates their sleeping ears and they fill up my food and water bowls. Then the human can go away while I enjoy my breakfast and take my morning nap.

When I wake up, the humans have all left my house and I can sit in any windowsill I choose. I stretch out all of my feline muscles while my sharpened claws are hooked in the upholstery of the living room couch.

I take my early afternoon nap, eat some more, then go lay in a human bed to groom myself, making sure to lick away all of the loose hair and other nasties so I’m nice and clean.

Then it’s naptime again.  After that, I stroll across the kitchen counters and table, looking for leftover scraps or those yummy breakfast dishes the young humans leave when they go to school.

Then it’s naptime.

Around the time I wake up, humans return to my house so I lounge around on the floor like the good kitty they think I am.

Periodically, I’d need to use the litter box, and when I cover my mess, I’d get to throw litter all over the floor. What do I care? I don’t have to clean it up. Once a week, the humans will put fresh litter in there and sweep up my mess.

When I want to be stroked, I only have to rub my furry face against a human and I get instant gratification.

Of course, when the humans are home, unless I’m eating, using the litter box, or being rubbed, I will spend all of my time napping.

When they go to bed, I will spend my time playing. My favorite game will involve rolling a marble across the tile floor just outside the adult human’s bedroom.

Meow.

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Cicada Time

Metamorphosis 

Bob was sitting on the picnic table the other morning, smiling and pleased with himself. He’d been out dancing in the moonlight all night. I was sitting on the bench, patting him. He seemed entirely happy, kneading air with his paws and showing me his spotted belly, playing at being a Domesticated Animal. 

The first cicadas are starting in our area, the genetic misfits who awaken on the far edge of their particular Bell Curve. They don’t sing much and flame out early. When one fell from a nearby maple, buzzing like a clockwork toy unwinding, Bob leapt from the table with a bound which would have done a cougar credit and made short work of it.  

(It’s humbling, the way he can tune me out. Snap! Gone on cat business!)  

I suppose he ate the poor confused thing, like he does everything else. Cicadas, with heads that are pure fat, are one of Mother Nature’s most sought-after crunchy snacks. Birds adore them. I’ve even seen squirrels eat them, these winged, green-armored Doritos of the insect world.  I would think the wings and feet would make for an over-ridingly icky mouth feel, but not coming from an insect-eating culture, I can’t really judge. 

I love cicadas. When I was small, some imaginative family member told me that their wings–see-through, gossamer, etched in green–were fairy wings. I guess what I really love is their deafening song, which can be as loud as 120 decibels up close. They are one of the few noisy things in which I take pleasure. They are Nature, after all, like waves crashing on the sea shore. The males on my maples start; the neighbor’s cicadas shout out an answer. With the trees arching green overhead, it’s my favorite sort of chorale.

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Sleeping With Cats

Sleeping with a single cat can be difficult, but sleeping with more than one can be close to downright impossible. They all try to sleep tucked against you in some way or other and end up in arguments that end in hissing and a thunder-footed chase. Either that, or they stretch out against you and push–and it’s amazing how much they can!

 

 Sometimes my husband and I find ourselves sleeping with each other, two body pillows, and three cats, which is quite a challenge, especially when he or I have to turn over and rearrange those body pillows for the comfort of our aging knees and spines. We usually have Sky curled right between us, with his head sharing one of pillows—usually my husband’s, because Sky is primarily Daddy’s cat. He’s an old, fat, stiff, gray-and-white boy. He tends to bite if you happen to twitch while you sleep, or, if, in turning over, you happen to squeeze his tail, which has three distinct bends in it from an old injury suffered before he came to live with us. It’s just not a good way to wake up, with cat fangs buried in your hand. 

 

Then there is Lizzie, who is small, orange and chock full of female flights of fancy. She hops up on the bed, and then walks along the nearest human, pausing with utter disregard for the fact that she’s balanced on your kneecap, or directly atop your dinner full stomach. How someone so small can feel so heavy is a mystery, but each foot is a dainty jackhammer, always landing in the worst possible place. If you push her or yell “Damn it! Get off!” her big green eyes instantly telegraph the fact that you are an unspeakable brute, the kind of person who doesn’t deserve to own such a special cat!

 

 I wouldn’t mind her seeking the perfect spot for a few minutes, but she can’t make up her mind, and wanders back and forth, sometimes as long as 20 minutes. She also lies across your leg in a way that means you won’t be able to readjust it, or in a way which shuts of some small crucial piece of circulation and turns into pins-and-needles. If you do move the leg, then she begins her tour again, pausing once more in all those uncomfortable places. Sometimes she demands to get under the covers. Now, this I like, especially in winter. There is nothing like a lovely warm fuzzy pool of sleeping cat against your back, or curled beside you, but just as you begin to relax and drift off, she has to push her way out and carefully rethink her choices.

 

Lizzie especially likes under-the-covers if young Murr is already comfortable and sleeping there. Murr is a classic tiger Maine Coon with big, gentle, furry bedroom-slipper feet. He has a reclusive cat-onality. He loves to be under covers, loves to be wrapped in blankets like a doll by my granddaughters. Still, if Lizzie is jealous—which is often—she will scratch her way under the blankets simply to drive him out. As Murr gets older and becomes more assertive, this can lead to a growling, feline whining argument, the kind which leaves you wishing your nightgown was twice as thick, in case they get careless with those concealed weapons they carry.

 

Sometimes we’ll all get settled, just warm and nicely drifting off in a pool of creature comfort, and then one of us will turn over–and the whole darn process will begin all over again.

 

–Juliet Waldron

November 3, 2008 ©

Author of Hand-Me-Down Bride, coming soon

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