When my good friend and super-talented author Carolyn Haines invited me to join her writing posse I was totally flattered and honored. Affectionately known as The Cat Women Collective, this group is writing a new mystery series about Trouble the Black Cat Detective. Trouble is the son of Familiar who had his own mysteries to solve and Trouble is every bit as capable and efficient at doing so (with help from humans, of course) as his father. This sounded like a great project to be involved in so of course I said yes I’ll participate.
So that got me to thinking about cats. I’ve had about a dozen cats during my life, all different kinds. And yes, even several black cats. One of those black cats was named Tipper and he turned out to be quite a rather interesting cat. And, it’s almost twenty years to the day since he came into my life.
I remember that day clearly. It was December 8, 1997, and a coworker asked me if I wanted a kitten. At the time I already had two cats and the thought of adding a kitten was hard to resist. But practicality, and the fact that I was living in a small apartment, I didn’t think it would work so well having another cat, so I reluctantly said no. But I agreed to help my coworker find a home for this kitten and so off we went to get him.
Well, as fate would have it, I was smitten the first time I saw this precious tiny ball of darkness almost prancing down the halfway with a twinkling bell on his collar. I knew right then and there that he would be mine. He was adorable. Black with a white nose and partially white mouth, white underside, white paws and the tip of his tail white like it had been dipped in paint. That is why I called him Tipper. He fit in well with his siblings and eventually the four of us moved into a house and went on with our lives.
But then six years later on the day after Christmas, Tipper got out of the house. As a devout pet lover you can imagine the devastation of the uncertainty of where my beloved cat was. I searched the neighborhood for hours, driving around, shaking the kitty treat can, but to no avail. I called the local pound almost daily to inquire if he’d been turned in. I read the lost pet ads in the paper. I called every local vet. I made posters and put them up around town, in local vets and at the grocery store. I couldn’t think of anything else except my lost baby out there somewhere in the world.
Time went on and every day I hoped Tipper would come home. I constantly drove around the neighborhood just hoping for a glimpse of him. A couple of months later I decided to call a local psychic who ironically owned numerous cats. I’d been to her years before and she had correctly told me that I would one day move north. I was hoping she meant somewhere in the northern United States but in actuality I did move geographically north of where I had been currently living. I knew she would be able to help me.
I called the psychic and she told me that Tipper was still alive and that he was close to home, and to not give up hope. She also said that he would come home. Now, of course she told me what I wanted to hear, and while I wanted to believe her whole-heartedly, I did know that I shouldn’t let my hopes up, but at the same time I needed to have faith.
Okay, flash forward a few weeks and I was at my local grocery store one weekend. They had someone set up outside from the local newspaper selling subscriptions. I was actually writing freelance at the time for my local newspaper but I didn’t subscribe to it. I thought, well, why not. I thought I’d only get the Sunday paper and my first delivery would be on Sunday, March 14, 2004. It was about 5:30 that Sunday morning when I went outside to get the newspaper and my heart stopped. There, across the street was a black cat. I took a step forward and saw that it was my Tipper. O.M.G.
I called out to him and he looked at me. I was afraid to move in case it was a dream or he got spooked and ran, but I was outside in my jammies so I had to do something. I slowly backed up to my door, all the while keeping an eye on Tipper. I dashed inside to grab my keys and the kitty treat can and ran back outside. He was still across the street. I called for him again and he started towards me. I shook the treat can and he continued coming towards me. He was finally in my yard and I could feel my heart pounding. He needed to get just a little closer and I could grab him. When he was within arm’s length I reached for him and he took off towards the back of the house. I chased him until I caught up to him and grabbed him and pulled him into the biggest hug I’ve ever given a cat. My Tipper was home.
I checked him over once I got hold of him and didn’t see any visible signs of injury or mistreatment or anything. I would take him to the vet as soon as I could to have him checked out. Tipper was a little distant for the first hour or so he was home but he soon remembered where he was and who the other cats and I were. Since it was Sunday I was just spending a lazy day at home and Tipper never left my side. In fact, he stayed next to me all day lying on my stomach. He’d never done that before. Eighteen days later I found out I was pregnant. I always thought he “knew.”
When my daughter Madeline was born the cats were respective of her and never once harmed her. We were happy at home until Hurricane Katrina blew into our lives. I will never ever forgive myself for leaving my cats home when we left. I couldn’t get one of my cats to put her into the carrier and she about ripped me to shreds trying to catch her, so I left them home because I didn’t want to take two without all three. I figured I’d be home in a day or so. I mean, who knew Katrina would be so devastating. It would be five days later when I’d return to a house that had had three feet of water. My house was basically ruined but the cats were okay. Although what they endured I don’t know and blame myself for traumatizing them. I don’t know that they were ever the same.
Tipper would live for another eight years, outliving his siblings. He was the sweetest, most curious cat. He was also the funniest cat. When we first moved into our house, he would sit and stare for hours into the dishwasher. He also liked to climb things. The house I moved into had been vacant for years and had been owned by an elderly couple so it was rather outdated. There were these decorative trellis things by the doors that he loved to climb onto. This was after the allure of jumping onto the tops of doors wore off. He was fast and speedy, and would dash around the house quick as a flash.
I have no idea where Tipper had been or what had happened to him while he’d been missing. Had someone found him and taken him in and he escaped from them? Or had he just been living out in the elements for the 79 days he was gone. How I wish he could have talked to tell me his tales. I would make up stories in my mind about what he’d been up to. And who knows? Maybe one of those imagined stories will make its way into a Trouble mystery or two.
Tipper succumbed to cancer on October 9, 2012. I couldn’t bear the thought of going through that kind of heartbreak again so I didn’t plan on getting another cat. But my daughter loves cats and was heartbroken he was gone so I decided to surprise her with a kitten for her eighth birthday in November, only that idea didn’t go as planned. But that’s another story for another blog.
Mimi Bosarge has always wanted to be a writer. Writing is in her blood as her grandfather was the author of several non-fiction books and even won a Pulitzer Prize for his editorial writings on the civil rights movement in the 1960s. She’s written short stories, wining or placing in a few local contests. She was also a freelance newspaper correspondent for her local newspaper, The Mississippi Press, which ironically is the same newspaper (though the name had changed) of which her grandfather was editor-in-chief. She also wrote for a year and half for another local newspaper until it ceased publication. She also writes the monthly newsletter for her office.
Mimi grew up in Texas and considers herself a Texan, but it’s Mississippi that she currently calls home. She has a severe case of wanderlust and would jet off overseas or take a road trip with her daughter in a heartbeat. She has a passion for reading, cross-stitching and collecting recipes and has recently become slightly obsessed with freezer cooking and preparing make-ahead meals. When she’s not working she spends her time at her daughter’s soccer games and can often be found scribbling notes for story ideas on the sidelines.
Mimi lives in Pascagoula, Mississippi with her teenage daughter Madeline and two black rescued cats. She works as a paralegal at a downtown law firm by day and writes at night. She is currently working on her novel for the Trouble the Black Cat Detective (Familiar Legacy) series.