Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Where fiction meets reality: the litter box

Though last Friday’s post showed that I’m a big fat liar when it comes to inventing characters, I’ll admit that not all of them are products of my imagination.

Despite being an animal nut, I don’t often include pets in my stories. Maybe it’s that I didn’t want to pee on the turf of some of my idols, Jennifer Crusie, Janet Evanovich, and Kristan Higgins, all of whom feature animals in their books.

Or maybe it’s just that I didn’t want to play favorites. My pets read my manuscripts, and the Australian Shepherd would be a real bastard if I portrayed him in a poor light.

But when I began writing GETTING DUMPED, my friend Larie (owner of the fabulous Clutch: a handbag boutique that partly inspired the story) insisted that a pet would make my heroine more sympathetic.

I rounded up our two dogs and three cats, surveying the brood for the most sympathetic character. It didn’t take long. Napping facedown on Pythagoras’ sneaker was Blue Cat.

Blue Cat’s mere presence in our home is all about sympathy. I spotted him in a lineup of death-row shelter cats a couple years ago. He was shaved nearly bald, and what little fur he had stuck out around his face like a matted blue-gray mane. Despite being hairless, he was enormous. His tag declared him to be 12 years old and a resident of the animal shelter for the better part of a year (minus a brief stint where he was adopted, matted beyond repair, and returned to the shelter for shaving and more incarceration).

I’m a sucker for pet sob stories anyway, but I knew a bald, oversized, elderly cat that had been in the pound for a year wouldn’t be high on anyone’s adoption list. Since we already had several elderly pets at the time, one more wouldn’t hurt.

On our first trip to the vet, Blue Cat threw such a screaming conniption fit that the vet tech nearly sent us home. When the vet came in, she bravely wrestled him to the floor and pried open his jaws. “This cat isn’t twelve,” she said as she inspected his fangs. “He’s more like three or four.”

Oh. That might explain the vigor he shows when chasing the dogs around the house. Or his youthful enthusiasm for hitting – not clawing, literally hitting – anyone who irritates him.

In spite of his occasional cantankerous attitude, Blue Cat is one of the most loving members of the pack. He weighs as much as a small car, but still loves to park himself on my chest every morning and purr so hard he shakes the bed. He’s afraid of nothing – not dogs, not houseguests, not even the vacuum cleaner.

So Blue Cat seemed like a perfect match for my spunky, independent heroine JJ (who deliberately purchases a blue-gray sofa to mask cat fur, and knows better than to expect her pet to come to her rescue at any point in the story).

I’m not certain what will eventually happen with GETTING DUMPED, though I know my fabulous agent Michelle Wolfson has a game plan.

But I do know that Blue Cat is here to stay. Lord knows I couldn’t lift him anyway.

When he's feeling generous Blue Cat will allow the dog to sleep on her own bed.


Anonymous said...

That is one BIG cat.

David and Dixie said...

Not only did I enjoy today's blog, I got to see the grand dog and cat. Now I'm just waiting for the new picture of my daughter.