I am thrilled to be one of nine authors in the anthology, Pets in Space, combining two of my big loves, space and pets. A portion of proceeds are being donated to hero-dogs.org who raise and train service dogs for US veterans.
I am delighted that each author in Pets in Space has agreed to share with us an insight into their story in the anthology and a little bit about why they decided to write for the anthology. Today’s guest is Susan Grant:
For me, writing a story about pets in support of a charity that pairs pets with military veterans was a purr-fect match. I’m a military vet, and I have loved dogs and cats since I was born.
“Doggie” was one of my first words. “Kitty” soon followed. (I’m sure “airplane” wasn’t long after). As soon as I could string together a sentence, I asked my parents for a pet dog. My mom assumed a toy dog on a leash would satisfy me. Ha. The look on my face says it all.
Next came a stray cat named Alice when I was in second grade. I would leave out food and water for her every day, but she wasn’t allowed to set one paw in the house. I had allergies, and my allergist told my parents that if I got a cat, I would die. Or, at least this was the reason everyone gave me. Not wanting to die, I accepted this, and loved Alice with all my heart until she disappreared one day after about a year. My mom told me that a band of hippies stole her and drove off with her in their car. (Actually, I always pictured Alice’s little face in the window of a baby blue VW bus as she and the hippies sped off to a Grateful Dead concert.) Recently, I learned that Mom actually dropped Alice off at the pound. It took four decades for the truth to come out. I hope from there Alice found her forever home, hippies or no.
It wasn’t until after I graduated from the US Air Force Academy and became a second lieutenant in the Air Force that I was finally able to get my first real pet—a cat. My moving boxes had barely hit the floor in my rental house in Del Rio, Texas when I brought home a kitten born on a nearby ranch. You may have heard the term “soul mate”. Well, the furry bundle of joy was my soul kitty. I named her Foxbat after the infamous Russian MiG-25 fighter jet. The Cold War was in full swing. Is there any better way to neutralize a threat than by making it seem cute and cuddly? Here she is, not much bigger than my car keys:
Foxbat was so little when I brought her home that she slept in my slipper. I had a few sniffles at first, but they passed, thus proving my childhood allergist wrong—cat ownership did not in fact kill me. Foxbat attended all the student-pilot parties at our house, was partial to Cheetos, was known to lick the mouths of empty beer bottles, and she stayed up until all hours—just like us. With aplomb, she made many a military move to new duty stations, traveling to cities in Texas and eventually to California. She was the only cat I’ve ever known who loved road trips.
Foxbat used up every last one of her nine lives, even surviving a rattlesnake bite, somehow making it home before she collapsed and, somehow, making it to the vet before she stopped breathing. In true incredi-cat fashion she went on to live nineteen full-throttle years, passing away only when a ravaging disease called FIV took her down. Even then, she fought hard, until her strong, sweet little spirit could fight no more. (There is a vaccination for FIV now, but there wasn’t then.)
Since then, many other pets have padded into my life and burrowed into my heart. My home has contained as many as seven dogs and cats at once. But I still miss Foxbat. I always will. She was and will forever be my soul kitty.
Stray, my novella in Pets in Space, highlights the amazing and unique human-pet bond many of us know and value. In this excerpt, Interplanetary Marine Lt. Lukas Frank has just received the worst news imaginable about his fiancée, Captain Carlynn Riga. In times like these, even a tough warrior could use the support of a good dog:
“Bang-Bang waited by the doors, holding a sitting position where Lukas had left him during the briefing. The white tip of the dog’s tail batted against the floor, slowing as his yellowish, old-soul eyes zeroed in on the turmoil inside Lukas that the station’s staff could not see.
Lukas halted, his breath stuttering. The only other living thing capable of breaching his defenses and rendering him so transparent was Carlynn. Her eyes, the color of black coffee, had brought him to his knees more than once, turned him inside out, and showed him what love looked like when viewed in someone’s gaze.
He bent down on one knee, and Bang-Bang’s paw hooked over his forearm. “She’s missing.” He managed to get the words out. Inconceivable words. It seemed surreal that he might never see Carlynn again. Might never hold her…
The softest of sorrowful, high-pitched whines exited Bang-Bang’s throat, and Lukas almost lost it. He pressed his cheek to Bang-Bang’s. Kindred spirits. Their bond had been there from the moment they crashed into each other on the streets of Barésh, the filthy, overpopulated domed mining world around which Bezos Station orbited.
BANG BANG—two loud booms diverted his attention that night on patrol about a year ago. He had swung his weapon around, sweeping for threats, his heart racing way too fast, before he backed off and let out a shaky breath. Not Glenn-Musk. Not the attack. Not dozens of bodies tumbling into the vacuum of space, Lukas helpless to save them. No, the double bang was only a backfire from one of the rattletrap mining vehicles the Baréshtis drove. Then a street dog flew out from under a parked vehicle, headed right for him, two freakishly intelligent eyes broadcasting sheer terror. Lukas opened his hands like a pair of catcher’s mitts and caught him. The way the dog pressed close, trusting that Lukas would protect him even as his skinny body shivered and revealed his panic, got to him. Yeah, got to him good. A brush of coarse whiskers, a wet nose, and that was that. They were a team from then on.”
Thanks a million for having me at your blog! I love chatting about pets and books. Susan Grant