So I’ve been “on the road” this week. I’ve been to Sarasota and Miami, doing a couple of events in both towns, and I’ve been lucky enough that my husband was able to accompany me on my Miami trip. We came over on Thursday and will leave on Saturday, and so what, you might ask, did we do with the infamous troll? (You might ask, I said, I didn’t say you actually would).
Well, what we did was we boarded her. For the first time. She’s nine years old and we have taken her with us everywhere. Which, when you consider the fact that she is a 120 pound shedding, gassy, drool producing machine is really quite good of us. I mean, that whole pope curing Parkinson’s thing has nothing on us, right? Beatification is clearly just around the corner.
And yet, the Hyatt does not seem to share our miraculous, patient love of all things Niko. In fact, they’re downright rude about it. And so we found a place, scoped it out, and then…dropped her off. And all I have to ask of parents with actual human children out there is: How do you DO that?! How do you drop your kids off at other people’s houses? It’s a good thing I don’t have kids, as I would likely duct tape them to my body. I suppose you get used to it? Inured to it? Do you eventually embrace it? Look for reasons and opportunities to do it?
And obviously it can’t be good for your kids to duct tape them to your body. For one thing, duct tape hurts like hell when you peel it off, and it always leaves those patches of gray stickiness that you have to rub off for days (don’t ask me how I know that) and that leave tender patches of pink skin behind. And surely the psychiactric bills from over-protected children must be astronomical.
But does it matter with a dog? I’m not sure. All I know is that I miss her. Oh, and the title?
Squirrels. Definitely squirrels.
I would like to start this harrowing tale of animal encounters by saying that I live in North Vancouver. This area is about 15 minutes from the downtown core of Vancouver. However, our home is about half way up a mountain, a mountain that we share with several woodland creatures.
We have two dogs, they are approximately the size of two jumbo Kleenex boxes. Their true size in no way affects how they perceive themselves. In their tiny dog minds, they are more the size of two large ponies. As far as they are concerned, they rule this ‘hood. They do not like sharing their yard with woodland creatures. Squirrels in particular drive them insane. It is clear to me that as puppies they were taunted by cruel and vicious squirrels. The mere hint of a bushy flickering tail is enough to cause them to hurl themselves against the fence in what I suspect they think looks very vicious. If they weren’t the kind of dogs that could be carried in a hand bag I am sure this would be true.
One fine day I heard them barking up a storm at the neighbors fence. I went out to beat them into silence. As I bent down I could peer through the slats of the fence. I saw a black form. My first thought was “oh, it’s our neighbor’s cat.” This was followed by my second thought “that cat sure looks awfully big.” Then all those years of watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom paid off and it occurred to me “that is no cat.”
I stood up. The bear stood up. We faced each other, very neighborly across the fence about six inches apart. For the record, bears have foul breath. The advice they give is if you encounter a bear you should back away slowly. They say you shouldn’t run, as prey runs, and you don’t want to put any ideas in their head. I’m sure this is great advice- I just didn’t follow it. I bent down, swooped a barking dog under each arm and ran full tilt into the house screaming like a junior high school girl at a BackStreet Boys concert.
The bear, very slowly, hauled himself up and over the fence. Then he sat down in my backyard eating the apples from my neighbor’s tree. He looked quite relaxed. I put a panicked call into animal control. Their advice. “Are you inside? You are? Ok, you should stay there.”
The dogs meanwhile continued to bark saying the dog equivalent of “Lemme out here. I can take him!”
What animal have you never wanted to see up close and personal?
I had a hard time debating the title for this post (side note: yes, this is how I spend my days, coming up with good titles for my posts rather than finishing my option material for Berkley). It was a dead heat between “Room with a Moo” and “Click, Clack, Moo” (the title of a darling children’s book by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin), and the latter was obviously the winner.
What’s up with all the mooing? I guess that’s because when I write, if I were to look up and out the window, I’d be face-to-face with a cow. Or two.
Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit – they’re not THAT close. But they’re pretty close – definitely within mooing distance. And if I wanted to give them the stink eye, they’d see it, guaranteed.
When I write, their bovine bellows are a gentle reminder that my reality of Paradise is probably different from what most people think (“You live in Hawaii? You must be at the beach every day!”). Granted, I’m not far from the beach, about 15-20 minutes away (that, and you need to drop about 2500 feet down the defunct volcano that we live on – how’s that for glamorous?), but our quiet little “green” town of Waimea is cowboy country, and at night we’re not sleeping under the hula moon beneath a palm tree, but burrowed in flannel PJ’s under down comforters.
Are there things about your life that are more fiction than fact?
For several years, my partner Drea and I lived way out in the woods. I have many strange and wonderful animal stories from these days, but this is my favorite.
It was summer. Mid-afternoon. Drea and I were in the clearing where our house stood, building a door which was up on sawhorses. I had a hammer in my hand. The radio was cranked up on an oldies station. The sun was out. The world was good. Until we heard the noise.
It came from deep in the woods — a voice, calling over and over.
“Do you hear that?” I asked. Drea nodded. I switched off the radio. We listened. The calling continued.
Drea thought it sounded like someone had lost their dog and was in the woods, calling – screaming really, furious that the dog had run away – “Ralph!” over and over.
“No,” I told her, a sick feeling sweeping over me. “Listen. It’s someone yelling, ‘Help!’”
As we argued about what it was the person was yelling, the gravelly voice got more desperate. Drea soon agreed that the voice was calling for help.
It didn’t help that Drea and I had seen The Blair Witch Project a few days before. And it scared the hell out of us, living in our tiny cabin way out in the middle of the woods. As we heard the voice calling, we both thought that it was like something straight from the movie. Too much like it. Maybe it was one of our twisted friends messing with us? We discussed this possibility for a few minutes, wondering which of them would do such a thing, such a strange, sadistic, elaborate prank (this was before I knew Deb Eileen). Meanwhile, the calls for help got ever more insistent, desperate.
I became completely convinced there was an old man in the woods and something terrible was happening to him. Drea was still skeptical, but not skeptical enough to risk leaving someone alone in the woods to suffer. So, hammer in hand, terrified, I led us into the woods towards the voice. As we got closer, and I got even more terrified, I suggested we turn back, drive to the neighbors for help. Wouldn’t we be better off going into the woods in a large group? But there wasn’t time. Whoever this was, whatever was happening to him, he needed us right away.
Scenarios went through our minds and we discussed them as we made our way towards the voice: a man trapped under a fallen tree, stuck in a leg-hold trap, being mauled by a wild animal, or tortured by a roving band of Satanists. Or, of course, Satanists setting a trap for us, luring us into the woods for unspeakable reasons.
The calls for help seemed clearer. The voice was old. Raspy. Desperate with panic. An old man in terrible pain.
We called back: “We’re coming! Where are you? What’s happened?”
All we got in response was another series of cries, “Help, help, HEEE-LLLLP!” interspersed with little moans.
The woods were thick, dark and cool, and it was slow going. Saplings snapped at our faces. We tripped on deadfalls. It was like the forest itself was trying to hold us back.
We were close. The sound was just over a little hill. As we climbed the hill, we heard a snarling growl. Drea and I froze. Stared at each other in sheer terrror. I now understood what was happening. I knew that when we crested the hill, we’d look down and see a man being eaten, probably half eviscerated by a wild animal, a catamount maybe. The hammer suddenly felt very small and stupid in my sweaty hand. For the first time in my life, I wished I was carrying a gun.
We crept up the hill slowly, trying to be quiet. Drea was clinging to my shirt, twisting the fabric – or maybe it was the other way around.
As soon as we got to the top, we saw it – a brown bear at the base of a tree. She saw us, growled again, took a couple of swaying steps back.
But where was the person? In the tangled underbrush, no one could be seen. Then, we heard the call again and looked up.
There, in the spindly birch tree, was a baby bear. He’d climbed up and couldn’t seem to get back down. He’d wiggle, then slip, cry out, cling tighter and go higher. And his cries sounded exactly — uncannily — like an old man saying help. Of course, if he (not to mention mom) had been scared at first, he was now in paroxysms of terror after listening to us crashing through the woods, closer and closer, yelling threatening gibberish for the past 15 minutes. Finally laying eyes on us, even more horrible than he’d imagined, made him jump. He made it gracelessly to the ground, and he and mom beat a hasty retreat.
So, a happy ending, and good stories for both us and the bears to tell for many a year.
I was pretty much born wanting a dog and a farm to raise him on. Most of my childhood memories involve me positioning myself in front of my parents with a big glossy dog book and a face full of tears. I’d stare into the eyes of a West Highland white terrier and feel how much I’d love him, and him me, if only he could be mine. Then I’d tilt my face up so my tears would glisten in the light of the TV.
“You can have a farm full of dogs when you’re grown up,” my dad would say.
“The Andersons’ dog destroyed the whole house,” my mother would say. “The whole house!”
And I would bawl. This went on for years. With the exception of a one month stint in which my parents agreed to a beagle named Willie (who then destroyed our whole house), the only pet I was allowed was a red-eared turtle named Snoopy who kept escaping and wedging himself beneath the heating coil of our fridge. Snoopy was okay, but I quickly learned that one dehydrated turtle does not a farm make.
Then when I was 11, my mother announced we were adopting her friend’s brown poodle. Someone in the family was allergic to Mocha and the kids were devastated to be getting rid of him. I thought about the sad kids for about a second and a half, then started celebrating. I was finally getting a dog!
We’d walk through the woods together. He’d never need a leash because farm dogs are never on leashes. Besides, he’d never want to leave my side.
A week later, Mocha arrived. He was curly and matted and perfect. The sad kids came with him to say goodbye. I felt bad for them, but not for long. I had my very own dog! The sad kids were even sadder when they had to leave him with me and my imaginary farm.
Mocha was the perfect dog. He slept on my bed, he kissed my face and, most important, he didn’t destroy my mother’s house. He even learned not to run away when off leash.
In the meantime, the sad kids got a hamster they grew to love nearly as much as Mocha. One weekend they needed someone to care for the hamster while they went skiing. I volunteered. I figured it was the least I could do.
The sad kids looked even sadder when they dropped off their hamster. I tried to cheer them by telling them I’d take good care of him. And I did. This was a big weekend for me–I had two live animals in my care and neither of them had a shell.
One morning, I thought I’d show the caramel-colored rodent a really good time by setting up a corral made of towels in my bathroom. I brought Mocha in so I could look out at all my livestock from my perch on the toilet.
I don’t know why I looked away, but when I looked back again, the hamster was gone. I checked the bathtub, behind the toilet, under the useless towel fences. No hamster. Then I noticed an open cupboard door and peered inside. There was nothing but a few bottles of bubble bath and some towels. But where the pipes met the wall there was a gap plenty large enough for a hamster to shimmy into. I’d lost the sad kids’ new pet.
In spite of all the treats I layed out, the hamster never returned. The sad kids came back to an empty cage and I felt like a monster twice over. If the kids ever got another pet I never heard about it. I’m sure they found another petsitter.
As to what happened to the hamster, we heard scratching in the walls for a few days. Then, the following year when movers lifted a rolled-up rug in the basement, something came tumbling out. A pile of tiny bones and caramel-colored fluff.
Some lousy farmer, huh?
Let’s just start off the week of animal posts with a crazy cat lady one, why don’t we? Yes, I’m the girl with more than one cat and let me just say that I do love the look on people’s faces right after I say that I have cats, plural. The tiny crinkle of the eye, the slightly concerned look. “How many?” they ask conversationally, but I can tell that inside they’re imagining I’m one of those people with the hundreds of felines attached to my person and running rampant throughout my living space whose squalor will one day be written about in an article detailing how my house was raided.
The fact of the matter, however, is that I have only two. Two insane creatures that run my living space and love me a lot, but never more than when I’m in process of opening cans of their food. And these two creatures could not be more different — Lilly is friendly, loving, adorable. She’s the one who’s immediately in friends’ laps, whether they’re allergic or not. Toby is a bit more complex. The truth is, she’s downright ornery — perfectly willing to scratch, bite or hiss at anyone. I warn people about her when they come in and marvel at her beauty (both of my girls, and I say this without bias, have truly supermodel-esque cat features). I say not to pet her or poke a finger in her direction. They never listen — the first time. After that, they leave her well enough alone. When Toby and I are one-on-one, however, she’s downright obsessed with showing me love, to the point where she tends not to be able to stop licking my face.
I imagine at times that Lilly and Toby (a word about Toby’s name: I thought she was a boy until I got her fixed — this could have something to do with her “issues”) represent the two sides of me. One, gregarious and sweet. The other, dark, moody and, at times, the most loving creature ever born. Some days I’m more Lilly than Toby, other days I’m a 24-hour Toby. They say that pets take after their owners. And I guess that as a Gemini with my share of mood swings, I needed two to fully represent me.
Debs in Review! Sandi of CK2S Kwips and Kritiques gave Good Things 5 out of 5 clovers! “I have to be truthful and tell you that I didn’t get a good read. I got a great read! This first effort by this new author had me turning pages late into the night, and taking every opportunity presented to me to read until the last page was turned. If I were a keeper of books Good Things would make it to my keeper shelf. I look forward to what might be forthcoming from Ms. King.”
Debs x4 – Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is! Good Things, Catching Genius, Promise Not to Tell and Town House were in the March 15, 2007 Library Journal feature article, “Great Expectations: Forthcoming Debuts” which was picked up on the wire by CNN Money.com!
Unpredictable – Keeps the Dance Going! Due to strong foreign sales and great early reviews – Berkley has made the decision to make Unpredictable/In the Stars a lead title! Wa-hoo! The marketing machine will need time to rev up so the publication date has been moved to Feb 2008 – that is one way to keep the deb dance going. Mark it on your calendars!
Play It Again, Deb! The Debutantes are giddy to announce that Kristy Kiernan’s Catching Genius has officially gone to a second printing two weeks after its release! Fingers crossed for #3!
Debs on the Web! This week, Catching Genius by Deb Kristy is featured at Campaign for the American Reader, The Page 69 Test, and Authorlink. Way to work the room!
Friends of the Debs! The fabulous Judy Merrill Larsen, author of All The Numbers, has entered the blogging world with Not Afraid of the F Word (is that a title, or what?). Go check her out, and tell her The Debs sent ya!
A Deb Does the Daisy! Good friend and supporter of The Debutantes, Larramie, will be featuring Deb Jennifer and Promise Not to Tell on her wonderful blog, Seize a Daisy, this Monday 3/26. Check it out! Thanks, Larramie!
We Love a Good Contest! We have a new Postcard Contest running! Visit our Contest page for more information on how you can get a postcard from each of the Debs, plus a goody gift from one of us as well! It’s free! It’s easy! And it’s fun!