by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson
In a way I feel sort of a cheat. I don’t put animals in my books, at least not in any major roles. I do, however, have them in major roles in my life, roles so major that I sometimes feel like a minor character.
I believe firmly in adopting rescue pets, so much so that The Husband’s and my favorite charity is East Lake Pet Orphanage. Right now we have two cats – a frail little tuxedo named Squeaky Boots and a simply enormous grey/brown tabby called Chloe – and an extremely prissy little dog of uncertain antecedents whom we call Mindy Moo the Monkey Dog, for reasons too complicated to go into now.
We like to say Mindy is half terrier mix and half diva. And she can be fierce, even though she is only 12 pounds. For reasons we can only guess, she simply loathes big dogs. When loathing is not enough, she will attack. I have pulled her off the chins of more startled big dogs than I care to remember – it is a nerve-wracking experience. On the other hand, it can be effective. For several years there was a Harlequin Great Dane in our neighborhood that would drag his owner to the other side of the street whenever we happened to see each other out walking.
But Mindy is not the queen of the house. That title belongs to elderly, frail Squeaky Boots, who – without the basic tools of claws or fangs – rules the roost with an iron paw. If she wants to eat or drink something, the owner of said treat simply steps aside. Same with a prime seat. If Squeaky Boots wants, Squeaky Boots gets. Perhaps it comes from her early life – we know little about her, except that she had five homes before she was four years old, and that in the last one she had to scrap for every bite of food she got.
By contrast, Chloe is a world-class wimp. Although she is huge – 16+ pounds and when stretched out almost as long as a king-sized pillow – she is shy and timid and incredibly neurotic. We know little of her early life, except that she was a police seizure from a home where she had been tortured for years. Every time I visited the orphanage she had invariably wrapped herself in a towel with only her tail sticking out. I brought her home while The Husband was deployed abroad. Like we’re told to do, I put her in a room by herself for a few days so she and Squeaky Boots (Mindy had not joined us yet) could smell and hear each other but with no contact, and I would spend a couple of hours a day in there, reading aloud or perhaps working on my laptop. Chloe cringed and hid, but did not fight too much when I picked her up and held her for a minute or two a couple of times a day. I thought we were making progress.
Then after a couple of days I decided to let her out… and she promptly disappeared. It was two or three weeks or more before I even caught a glimpse of her. Taming her took months. It started with just the touch of a fingertip on her tail. Then she let us touch her head. Then on one glorious day she started rubbing against my leg when she wanted to be touched. She learned that if I was working at my computer – which I nearly always am – she could butt her head against my leg and I would then be allowed to scritch her head for a moment.
I always played along, but once she butted my head in search of a head scritch at the wrong time. I was lost in my work and could not turn loose of the words to play with her. She butted again, once more without my responding.
Chloe has both claws and very intimidating fangs, and she wields both with skill. She turned her head and sank her fangs into my leg. Hard. She neither moved nor ran when I jumped and screamed, but merely butted my leg once more, demanding her scritch. I was overjoyed. She even allowed me to pick her up, put her in my lap and pet her. I didn’t even mind that blood was running down my leg.
And Mindy? Mindy simply moved into our home and hearts. You’d never believe what she suffered before she finally ended up with us, or how we managed to get her. That’s the subject for another blog. Now she is happy to sleep at my feet when I write and with her courageous barking protects the house from sinister mailmen, marauding moths and other offenders.
So how is it working at my writing when I am surrounded and outnumbered? It feels great. At least one is always at my feet or on my desk, and the others are usually within scritching distance. Normally the babies are pretty good about not disturbing me, especially while I’m working, unless it’s time for din-din, when everything descends into pandemonium. But with the love and companionship of three wonderful, affectionate animals, even pandemonium is great.
Janis Susan May Patterson is a seventh-generation Texan and a third-generation wordsmith who writes cozy mysteries as Janis Patterson, romances, horror and other things as Janis Susan May, children’s books as Janis Susan Patterson and non-fiction and scholarly works as J.S.M. Patterson.
Formerly an actress and singer, a talent agent and Supervisor of Accessioning for a bio-genetic DNA testing lab, Janis has also been editor-in-chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups as well as many other things, including an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist. She is a founder of RWA and currently serves on a regional MWA Board.
Janis married for the first time when most of her contemporaries were becoming grandmothers. Her husband, also an Egyptophile, even proposed in a moonlit garden near the Pyramids of Giza. Janis and her husband live in
with an assortment of rescued furbabies. Texas
Find Janis on Twitter @JanisSusanMay and on Facebook at Janis Susan May.