Who's That Cat?
Constant readers have almost certainly noticed I have plenty of cats hanging around. Six of them, to be precise, and each a little weirder than the last. Yes, we're rescuers, and each of our babies has been adopted from an animal shelter, feline rescue, or found right in our backyard.
Today, I'm pleased to tell you a little more about Schala, who is my very most specialist muse. If you're part of my reader group on Facebook, you'll recognize Schala from her starring spot in our group cover photo, in which she's deeply engrossed in one of my books. She's my mascot, my personal editor-in-chief (she literally sits on my shoulder watching the screen as I type), my comfort creature, and my bedtime monitor. Schala is not just a furbaby: she's an integral part of my work.
Schala was rescued from a box outside our local WalMart when I was 21. To this day, my partner lovingly reassures her that she's the best thing to ever come from a trip to WalMart (easily). She's led a wonderful life—next April, in fact, she'll be officially old enough to vote! I've never had to take her to the vet for anything other than a normal checkup. When it's cold, she does tend to limp a little on her back leg, the ghost of an old injury she sustained while beating the crap out of an insistent and unwanted suitor. I refer to her as my vicious attack cat, because despite her tiny, tiny size, she'll box rats to death, take down local strays looking to get into her territory, and even smack down our German shepherd, Ninook.
Schala's such an incredibly unique and special part of my life, it's impossible to imagine it without her. She shares a wonderful bond with me: she sits on my lap and eats food right out of my hand—usually food I'm trying to eat at the exact same time! She knows just when I need someone to cuddle up, be it because I'm sick, sad, or facing an impending migraine. She's so gentle and affectionate, she'll lie literally in my arms through the night, like a special, favorite teddy bear.
And, she has saved my life.
Those who are familiar with feelings of depression, bipolar disorder (particularly manic episodes), and suicidal ideation might have experienced what I have. In my darkest hours, when I walked on a razor's edge over decisions that could have irrevocably altered my path for the worst—or brought it to an end, entirely—Schala came to my side. She grounded me. She pressed herself into my physical space to hold me together and remind me someone depended on me to make the right decisions. Who would care for her, if not me? Who would she have in this world, if I was gone?
It may not sound like quite the "rescue" one would expect, but because of her, I held on. Because all she'd ever done was love me, and even if it was only to feed her and care for her, I owed it to her to stay. Every night, when she snuggles in my arms and her purring lulls me to sleep, I think of how she was sometimes the only thing keeping me sane.
These are the reasons Schala is not only my furbaby, but my mascot. My first and most trusted editor. These are the reasons that, at long last, I've found a place to immortalize her in my fiction: as the proud and ferocious caracal adopted by Sadira, in my Beast and Beauty series.
For 18 years, Schala has been a hugely important part of my life. That's why you'll find her in my reader group, on my social media, even in my books. So if you ever wondered who that silly tabby in all my pictures and every email, now you know. Schala my cat, my boss, my muse.