Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cat Thursday: Authors and their cats' guest, C.W. Gortner (26)

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Enjoy! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

The second Cat Thursday of each month is Authors and their Cats Thursday. Each time I will feature an author and their cat(s).

I have a very special guest today! Please welcome author, C.W. Gortner...

C.W. and his beloved, Paris
 Ever since I was a child growing up in Spain, I have loved animals.

When my parents decided to move to southern Spain – my mom is from Madrid, had married my American dad and moved to the US – we took with us our first family dog, a yellow lab named Rowdy. Rowdy was adored since he was a puppy; but in Spain, during those final years of Franco’s regime, when the country was frozen in a 1940s time-warp, animals were not treated well, particularly dogs.

My family rented a large villa in a wealthy colony dominated by English ex-pats. They all had pets, but just outside the colony the countryside was still farmed by peasants, who severely mistreated their dogs. I remember one dog, in particular, who I named Linda, was pregnant and she lived tied up all the time to a pole in a farm, near where I used to walk Rowdy. I went by her every day and heard her crying, and I saw how the ignorant farmer would cuff and beat her. She barely had anything to eat and when I dared to ask the farmer what he intended to do with her pups when they were born –I was a child, no more than nine, but very outspoken—he replied brusquely: “I’m going to drown them. They’re good for nothing.”

His words so haunted me that I organized a stealth rescue with my friends in the colony. We snuck to the farm after dark, after I’d spent a week bringing Linda bits of food so she’d come to trust me, risking the farmer’s wrath. He chased me away several times but he also spent most of his days in the fields. He and his family lived in a house with no running water or electricity; they were very poor, as so many campesinos were in the area. They ate over a fire in the center of their kitchen, and while they had dinner, I cut the rope binding Linda and took her away with me. Of course, she was a mess—starving, infested with ticks (Rowdy would later die of a tick-borne illness, as in those days we didn’t have Advantage or other protective products) and she was very fearful. My parents were bemused when they saw her, but I insisted on keeping her. As we had a swath of gardens surrounding the villa, I argued there was plenty of space. With time and care, she became a beautiful, if always timid, dog; she followed me everywhere with Rowdy and when she gave birth to four pups, one of whom died soon after, I wanted to keep them. My mom said it was impossible, so she helped me find families for them among the colony residents. And when the farmer came to shout that I’d stolen his dog and wave his garrote in my mom’s face, she threatened to call the Guardia Civil, the civil police in Spain that so many feared. My mom’s father was a famous film and TV actor in Spain and everyone knew it. The farmer did, too. He muttered and cursed her, but he didn’t return.

Thus began my life-long crusade to rescue dogs. Linda was the first of many I stole from neighboring farms, nursed back to health, and kept. I picked ticks out of their ears with my bare hands for hours, bathed and fed them. When I got up in the morning to go onto the terrace outside my bedroom, a chorus of barks and wagging tails greeted me. The colony started calling me the Doggy Pied Piper, because as I ran around with my friends, a herd of pooches were always at my heels.

Much later, my family returned to the US and we had other pets. But after I went to high school and college, I started working and didn’t have time for a pet. When I met my partner, we decided we wanted a dog after we bought our home. I adopted a rescue dachshund/corgi mix named ChaCha through Rocket Dog Rescue. ChaCha had been in and out of shelters; she was older and afraid, but in time she bloomed into this beautiful, trusting being. An autoimmune illness took her from me within the year and I was devastated. A few months later, I adopted my beloved corgi, Paris, who would be with me for the next twelve and a half years.

It was Paris who first discovered my cats. We walked every day in the park near my home, crossing a bridge over a creek, and one day she stopped suddenly. I was ahead, and called to her. She started barking. When I went to see what she was so eager to tell me, a ginger cat streaked past me under the bridge. I investigated and found Mommy Cat, huddled with a litter. Mommy was feral and wouldn’t get near me, but as I started bringing food twice a day, the kittens became fascinated by Paris. They tumbled about her as she sat there patiently. She was never aggressive toward other animals, and so I decided to employ her to help me trap the kittens. After contacting the local SPCA Feral Cat program to find out how to do it, I set out traps, baited them, and waited. I got all the kittens but one. Mommy also eluded the trap. I named the elusive kitten Boy, as he was male and he liked to swagger.

The kittens were adopted through the SPCA; I then turned my attention to trapping Mommy and Boy, with the help of a lady who feeds feral cats in the park. By the time we ended up getting them both, Mommy and Boy had bonded with me. At the advice of the Feral Cat Program, however, after they were spayed / neutered, they were re-released in the park, with the caveat that I’d continue to care for them. But in February of 2011, Boy showed up to his daily feeding with an injured paw. He sat at my feet, as if to say he needed help. I knew that if I left him to fend for himself, another dog might kill him. I'd rigged up shelters under the bridge where he and Mommy lived, but between rampaging off-leash dogs and raccoons knocking the shelters over, plus exposure to the elements and the cats’ bond with me, I was finding it increasingly difficult to leave them. I put Boy in a carrier and took him to the vet. He needed stitches; he also had to be confined indoors for a week while he healed, so my partner and I decided to bring him and Mommy home, to see how they’d fare. You never know with ferals, we were warned, as most never adjust to being indoor pets.

Boy and Mommy (gorgeous kitties!)
It’s been almost two years now, and Boy and Mommy have settled in. They are very happy, with the run of the house. They love belly-rubs and kisses. Paris was a bit miffed that she had to share her territory, and me, but she adjusted, too. In December of last year, she fell gravely ill with pneumonia, complicated by a two-month prior diagnosis of mega-esophagus, and I had to let her go, as her underlying condition was incurable and she’d lost half her body weight.

Losing Paris is one of the most heartbreaking events of my life. I mourn her still, but the cats were her gift to me, and they did all they could to comfort me. Were it not for them, I might have crumbled; Boy even began sleeping in the same spots she did, and alerting me to lunch time – tuna time, for him— when I became immersed in my writing. He’d hear me crying and creep into my lap, gazing at me with his stunning amber-green eyes. To this day, I believe he and Paris struck a silent pact; that she left something of her with him, for as she began to fade, I think she sensed my anguish and wanted Boy to assume her place.

Before Paris’s passing, I’d already begun assisting in rescuing dogs in high-kill shelters, especially in the Los Angeles area, through a Facebook group called Angels for Animals. I pledge money toward dogs and cats in imminent danger of being euthanized by these overcrowded, underfunded shelters, since in order to rescue an animal, rescues need the funds for the inevitable vet visits, boarding and fostering before a loving home can be found.

Today, I pledge over a thousand dollars a year in memory of Paris, who never knew a moment without love, and for the thousands of homeless, neglected and lonely souls who die in our shelters every single day. Backyard breeding, breed prejudice, and irresponsible ownership are the culprits for this holocaust that kills over 10,000 cats and dogs annually in the United States. Neutering and spaying pets is not only the responsible thing to do, it saves lives.

To find out more about the Angels for Animals network, please go here:

If you can help, please do. A pledge of just $5 per person adds up, and though you may never meet the animals you help save, they will repay your generosity a hundred times over with their unconditional gratitude and endless capacity for love.

Thank you for spending this time with me. May we strive for a world where every animal in need of a loving home has it, and euthanasia at shelters becomes a relic of the past.

C.W. GORTNER is the author of five internationally acclaimed historical novels, including his most recent, THE QUEEN'S VOW: A Novel of Isabella of Castile, and THE TUDOR CONSPIRACY, Book 2 in the Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles. His books have been translated into 20 languages to date. He lives in Northern California and is a passionate advocate for animal rights. To find more about him and his work, visit:

What a caring soul. I can't tell you how much this post touched me, but I'm sure you felt the same. Thanks again to C.W. for being our guest today.

Check out my reviews of C.W.'s books, The Last Queen, The Queen's Vow and The Tudor Conspiracy. He has become one of my favorite historical fiction authors and a good friend to boot. =O)

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  1. please pass the tissues

  2. What an amazing story! Thank you for sharing it with us.

  3. Bea @ Bea's Book NookOctober 10, 2013 at 6:49 AM

    What a wonderful story!

  4. Meg-A Bookish AffairOctober 10, 2013 at 7:43 AM

    This is such a fantastic story!

  5. Awesome guest post and beautiful story!

  6. That is a beautiful story. C.W. Gortner is a true angel for all the love and work he's put into rescuing animals. Thank you for all you do for your fur friends.

  7. What a powerful story! Thanks for sharing this guest post with us Michelle. Have an awesome week!

  8. Great post! I really enjoyed reading it. I feel the same way that he does about high kill shelters. I don't like, or support them, but I know sometimes there is nothing that they can do. I believe all animals deserve a chance to live. I try to help out as best as I can at the local shelters. Thanks for sharing and introducing us to a great author!
    : )

  9. Sorry I am so late this week. I have been away for a long weekend. This is a fantastic story. Thanks for sharing it with us. The cats are adorable.

  10. C.W., a blessing on you! I'm glad you stole those dogs and took care of the kitties and are helping through Angels for Animals. I recently "confiscated" a cat that had been attacked by a dog, resulting in losing an eye and hearing in one ear, and a broken jaw. The owners didn't even bother taking her to the vet. I don't understand why people bother getting animals if they're going to treat them so badly.

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