Nose, Meet Grindstone.

So. It’s come to this.

Blogging about a pet.

Let me explain:

I’ve been on self-imposed isolation in the hippie cabin in order to finish my novel by my deadline. Other than hiking around in the cabin-adjacent wilderness, I’ve only left the hippie cabin one time in thirty-two days. I have twenty-nine days left to go. I’m doing this to myself on purpose. I view it as a focusing of the mind. A prodding of the darker places. Reflections in a line of mirrors. I refuse to allow myself any distractions. Well, maybe a very limited few. But mostly, it’s just intense focus with hours on end of writing and writing and writing and writing…

I haven’t gone out to dinner, visited with friends, gone for coffee, or hung out at any of my hangouts for thirty-two days. I’ve barely spoken to another live human being, and I won’t for another twenty-nine days.

I miss my friends, but the social networking helps. Hey you guys and girls out there that I really miss - hey, I really miss you!! Thank you for keeping me company on-line, though. Otherwise… Utter madness. For reals.

What I’m saying is, I’ve missed my friends, I’ve missed the gardens blooming in Mendocino this summer, and I’ve missed some fun events, too.

I know. I know.

But I am committed.

I'm likewise committed to staying consistent with the blog posts, but I find that my best creative efforts have been going to the novel, so my blog posts lately have been a little *ahem* lame. As has been pointed out to me. Repeatedly. So, message received, I’m trying okay, so shut the fuck up about it already!!

My point is, since my horizons have been so very, very, very, very, VERY limited lately, I find myself here before you, on the verge of writing a blog about a pet.

Maybe I should pause for a moment and say that I have nothing against people blogging about their pets. Your pets are adorable. Love the photos, too.

It’s just that I myself am not a pet person.

I have a difficult time with the responsibility. I mean, your pet counts on you for EVERYTHING, and I’m one of those people who forgets to feed herself if I get too distracted. And I get distracted a lot. A lot. Did I mention that I haven’t left the hippie cabin in thirty-two days? Jesus. What IS that smell? Is that ME?!

So you see, any pet of mine would be doomed.

Plus, there’s the whole person / pet relationship to consider.

I used to exercise my neighbor’s horse, Little Guy, every once in a while. Sometimes I would ride him, but most of the time I’d just put him on a lead and walk him on our long hikes.

The reason I preferred to lead him instead of ride him is because when I rode Little Guy, both of us were more anxious. Understandably, Little Guy would view our outing as a chore, and would become cranky. In his passive-aggressive mood, he would try all of the typical horse tricks to make my job as his rider more difficult - crushing my leg against trees as we passed, purposefully passing under low branches in the hopes of knocking me off, spooking out over nothing in the places where the briars were the thickest, etc. My resulting stress would make him more anxious, and the spiral would deepen until neither one of us was having a very fun time.

If, however, we took the same exact outing with me walking next to Little Guy rather than sitting on his back, his mood was markedly different. This would begin at the paddock with him prancing to the gate to meet me, excited over the prospect of being out and about on an adventure in a different place. Out on our walk, his happiness was evident by the forward ears, alert head, and the spring in his step. He acted like a great big dog on a leash. Better still, on these side-by-side walks, Little Guy would actually look out for me. He’d wait and let me go first when the trail got narrow so I wouldn’t get shoved into the brush, and he’d give a wide berth to puddles so I wouldn’t get my feet wet or muddy. Best of all, every now and again, he’d lean over and gently push my arm with his nose like a buddy nudging my shoulder.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I have an unusual perspective when it comes my own, personal exchanges with other species of animals, and it doesn’t always jibe with pet “ownership.”

So I don’t have pets.

That said, I think someone else’s pet has me.

And now here I am blogging about it. Because to be honest with you, the most interesting real-life thing that’s happened to me all week involved this cat.

So. Twenty-nine days left to go, huh?


I’ve mentioned my relationship to this cat before. This cat is not my cat. I call her ‘Tide’ because she comes and goes on her own schedule and smells like laundry detergent. She comes to the cabin every single day and hangs out on the porch until I come outside to play with her. She doesn’t wear a collar, but she's clearly fed and taken care of. I’ve never fed her, but I will take breaks from the writing to hang out on the porch and play with her. We play Chase The Stick or Bat The Rock or Stalk The Leaf...

(Oh god. This blog post is getting more pathetic by the line. Oh god. And yet I can’t seem to stop…)

Once she almost killed a butterfly by batting it down in mid-air, and I grabbed her by the scruff of the neck to pull her off the butterfly in order to save it. For three days after that, I had to suffer with sullen behavior and pissed-off looks from Tide that said, “What the hell do you think we practice with the sticks and the rocks for??!!”

(Oh dear god.)

But even when she’s angry, she still comes over to hang out.

So when I hadn’t seen her for five days, I really started to worry.

Outdoor cats have a life-span of about six months out here. There are foxes and cougars and bobcats and coyotes… A fat domestic cat makes a nice meal for any one of these predators, and it’s only the cleverest and quickest outdoor cats who survive. Which is not to say that Tide isn’t smart. But the fact is, she thinks her own tail is her worst enemy, so I think that grey fox I saw trotting through here at dusk the other night would have no problem taking advantage of her *ahem* naivety.

As I said, when the days went by one after the other with no sign of Tide, I grew increasingly worried. But when an animal you have a relationship with isn’t an animal who is ‘yours,’ it becomes difficult to tell where the boundaries are when it comes to affection or concern.

Fortunately, I knew who Tide’s owner was. The woman next door - I’ll call her Rita - is in her mid-nineties, and she feeds Tide, which makes Tide her cat. At least, by human rules. So I decided to go over to Rita’s to make sure Tide was okay.

This was a little embarrassing for me. As I mentioned, Rita is quite old, and while I check in on her every now and again (as many of the neighbors do), I never feel as if I’m doing enough. I always mean to visit for longer, or do more than just pop my head in to say ‘hi,’ but I always have some excuse for putting off more extended visits.

And now there I was, not stopping by to check on Rita’s welfare, but to check in on the welfare of her cat.


So I knocked on Rita's door and she told me to come in.

I said, “Hello, Rita, how have you been?” while I cased the joint, looking for Tide.

She said, “You’re my neighbor,” and I was happy she remembered who I was.

I was feeling a little uncomfortable with just jumping right in and asking about the cat without asking more about how Rita was doing first, so I said, “Yes. I just wanted to pop in and see if you were okay or if you needed anything.”

“No, I’m fine,” she said.

I felt pretty guilty at this point. I mean, my primary motivation for visiting with Rita was due to concern over her pet, not for concern over Rita, and I was really embarrassed to ask about the cat. So, still looking everywhere for the cat, I very very VERY lamely said, “Um. Okay then. Well, you have my phone number there on the fridge if you need anything. Help with groceries. Putting out the trash cans. If you ever need anything, I’m right next door.”

And then Rita…

Oh, Rita. How many shifty characters must have tried to scam you in your near-century on this planet?

Rita, god bless her, narrowed her eyes at me all suspicious-like and said, “I’ve already drawn up my will, and I’m leaving everything to Craig. Everything goes to Craig.”

At first I didn’t get what she was implying. Then it dawned on me. “Rita,” I blurted out. “I don’t care about getting my hands on your stuff…”

“Good, because Craig gets everything.”

“Rita, I could care less about your worldly goods; I'm here because I'm concerned about your cat. I normally see her at my place every day and I haven’t seen her for going on a week now.”

“Miss Kitty?”


“You’re here because you’re concerned about Miss Kitty?”

I said, “Yes. Is your cat okay?”

“She’s fine. It’s been hot, so she’s just been sleeping a lot under the porch.” Rita smiled. “Miss Kitty is good at taking care of herself, but it’s nice to know that she has neighbors looking out for her, too.” Rita was clearly relieved that I wasn’t a grifter.

I was relieved, too, on a multitude of levels. I said, “She’s a good cat.”

Rita laughed and said, “Yes she is.”

I miss all of you other good cats.


  1. Hi Jen.

    What a lovely and warmhearted post. I'm so glad you took a break from the furious writing to say hello. And WHAT a hello it was.

    I love the stories of "your" pets. I see possibilities for a short story series about animals in my life - perhaps a continuing series in a vet magazine or a pet mag like Animal World (is there a mag by such a word??? since I just made that up).

    Anyway, you get my drift. Oh, and one other thing. Love the new header. And you know that you DO have a pet. The Spider!!

  2. I enjoyed this post and am intriqued about what your book is going to be about???

    I wish I had that much dedication to my craft (I can't imagine islolating myself and working on just one project). I've written two books now (without sending them out to publishers)and they both took years to write.
    I lost interest in both when I was done with them. It drives my wife crazy that I don't even try to market them.
    I'm simply not able to focus on one thing that long. My brain keeps craving new challenges throughout each day. The kicker is I'm a lousy multi-tasker at this point in my life. My short term memory seems to get shorter every year...

    Despite it all, I love to write and I love to read about what others write and think.

  3. Annie, I love your idea for a book about pet stories. Instant bestseller!! Can I contribute a story about The Spider? And Dave, you should do the world a favor and try to get those two books published. More bestsellers!!

    Dave - my novel is loosely based on my experiences in the Amazon as a Peace Corps volunteer. It is also the main component for my PhD dissertation, which is due to my dissertation committee in mid-August. I defend in late August, and with any luck will be Doctor Jendocino after that.

    In terms of my laser-like focus... You know what they say - nothing like a strict deadline and a lot of muckety-mucks waiting to read your work to motivate you to stay in the hippie cabin and write!