by Linda J Wright
Watch for KRL’s interview with Linda, and review of her mystery The Always Anonymous Beast written as Lauren Douglas Wright which has recently been republished by ReQueered Tales, in the last issue of this month.
I’ve always been an animal rescuer, as I imagine many animal lovers are. Butterflies with broken wings, sparrows fallen out of their nests, tarantulas upside down in the swimming pool. I “rescued” them all. But cats have always been special for me. I dragged home my first stray cat when I was five, a ginger/buff-colored guy who my father reluctantly let me “keep.” He spent nights in the basement as he was forbidden to sleep with me, which dismayed me greatly. But I outfoxed my father: I tiptoed down every night to sleep with the cat on the basement stairs. Anyhow, one night I was discovered, and the cat mysteriously disappeared. This scarred my five-year-old psyche so badly (abandonment, guilt, anger) that I developed a serious case of cat-anxiety, an anxiety that led me eventually to start the NPO cat rescue group, The Cat People, in Bakersfield in 1990.
I formed the group one October night when a friend called to tell me that her apartment building’s landlord had trapped a stray and was about to drown it in the canal. My head exploded and I went to get the cat. Then I discovered the dirty rotten truth — neither the SPCA nor Animal Control nor the local humane society would lift a finger to help homeless cats. They wouldn’t let them into the shelters, wouldn’t provide money for their spay/neuter, wouldn’t find foster homes. So I figured (hubris) that I could bring together a group of people who would do all that. I’m happy to report that The Cat People is still going strong — I figure it’s helped over 20,000 cats in its 30 years of existence and, amazingly, a few years ago, received a 2 million dollar bequest.
Question: did large-scale, “official” cat rescue, rescue me from my anxiety? Nope. If I see a stray cat ambling through my garden, I still have to take deep breaths. But therapy helped/is helping. And writing about my experiences in The Cat People — my memoirs if you will, has helped too. I’ve published four of these origin stories together, as The Rescue Chronicles, which are for sale at my website www.lindajwright.com/littlebooks. (I’m an indie publisher and the press, Cats Paw Books, is mine). These are the stories of the first cats our group rescued, the cats who started it all.
I had one other life-changing animal rescue experience. In 1999 (I’d moved to Oregon by then) I had the chance to work with the Free Willy Keiko Foundation, the group that saved Keiko the orca —the “real” Free Willy — from a slow death in a swimming pool in Mexico City, brought him to Newport OR for rehabilitation, and set him free off Iceland. I was their fundraiser, and even had the chutzpah to ask Sir Richard Branson to support our project . . . and he said yes! Ditto UPS, which flew Keiko from Mexico City to Newport, and from Newport to Iceland. I will always remember Keiko: he was a funny, patient, and personable gentle giant. Putting on a wetsuit and swimming with him in his spacious tank one sunny Friday in September — his last week in Oregon —was a thrilling but bittersweet experience. Unsurprisingly, there is now a special place in my heart for orcas.
About my cat books:
During the pandemic, I got freaked out, as I imagine most people did, and absolutely couldn’t concentrate on writing my latest mystery novel. I found myself completely disinclined to write about crime and punishment. I was looking at stock photos one day, and I found a photo of a cat in a silly blue virus mask and thought . . . what if? What if cats, locked down with their humans, had a reversal of attitude? What if they became kind and helpful instead of their usual badass, mischievous selves? So Locked Down: Cats Write Pandemic Poetry was born. That went over so well that it led to Locked Down 2: Cats Write More Pandemic Poetry. Then those two books of silliness led to Apart Together: Cats Write Pandemic Diaries (sort of a cats’ version of Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year) in which the cats’ experiences are proxies for our own. I also wrote Jack the Finder: The Case of the Sock Thief about a Bengal cat who solves mysteries with the help of his koi sidekick, Toshio, and a crow named Ka. I have plans for a series featuring Jack and the gang. Writing these little books has been so much fun that I may just keep doing this for awhile. They’re all at www.lindajwright.com/littlebooks.
In case you’re wondering, these books are not on Amazon because I choose to give the 30% of each sale that Amazon would take, to cat shelters.
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