A little over nineteen years ago I invited a scraggly, abandoned cat into my life. Little did I know the profound effect that decision would have on me.†
I wanted Snickers as soon as I saw his picture in the newspaper as the local Humane Societyís featured pet of the week. Besides convincing my husband I had to have this cat, I needed written permission from our landlord. All this took time. Time in which I feared someone else would adopt him before I could.
Once the hurdles were finally cleared, I dragged my husband out the door. The short drive to the animal shelter seemed to take forever. I rushed inside and scanned the cages. ìWeíre too late!î I wailed.
The woman at the front desk assured us Snickers was still in residence. We looked again and found the enclosure with his name. The dirty, matted creature huddled in the cage did not look anything like the picture Iíd seen in the newspaper. Turns out, the photo had been a close-up of his face, strategically taken not to show the bedraggled state of the rest of his body.
ìAre you sure you want this cat?î my husband asked. ìWe could get a different one.î
I stuck my fingers between the wire bars. Snickers rubbed up against them and purred. He had a gravelly meow, bright blue eyes, and beautiful seal-point coloring beneath all the dirt. ìIím sure,î I answered. We filled out the paperwork and took him home.
Our new cat was all weíd hoped for: intelligent, playful, and affectionate. He was also bossy, opinionated, and continually voiced his viewpoint in a loud insistent meow that virtually ensured he always got his way.
When I decided to write a childrenís novel, Snickers helped by curling up on my lap and rubbing his chin on my pencil while I wrote. It soon became our tradition. Heíd hop on the couch as soon as he saw me settle in to work. Somehow, staring into his deep blue eyes seemed to help the ideas flow. Not surprisingly, my main character had a cat who tagged along throughout the story.
ìCut the cat,î my critique group said.
ìI canít. Heís important,î I argued.
ìWhy? He doesnít do anything for the story.î
Why indeed? They were right, of course. But the cat didnít want to be cut. In fact, the cat wanted to take over. He was bossy and opinionated. His cocky personality seemed familiar. Then it hit me . . . He was Snickers!
Any cat lover can tell you the sum of their cat is more than its parts. Their aura of mystery is legendary. I found myself completely captivated by imagining my catís secret life.
I ditched my first book and started over. The main character of my new adventure story is Snickers, the hero who saves the feline way of life.
Not long after Snickersís twenty-first birthday, he stopped eating. After a phone call to our vet who is also a personal friend, I knew it was time. That night she came to our house and put Snickers to sleep on my lap while silent tears streamed down my face.
I canít help but think he lived so long because he was holding out for our book to hit the shelves. Like me, he fantasized it would be a run-away best seller and he wanted to see his name in print alongside of mine. Because of course, he knew that without his influence, Iíd never have found my story.
Someday our book will be published and Snickers will live on through all the children who read his story. But for now, the dedication page is only written in my heart. ìTo the real Snickers, my old friend and Inspiration Extraordinaire. Rest in peace.î