Animal People


Anne Michael

We had goldfish when my children were young. The fish were won at the local fair. The kids were thrilled, but it was mom that ended up with the care and feeding of the bug-eyed critters. One rainy autumn day the crew, as they were affectionately called, was happily playing with their toys and games while I began supper preparations. In the midst of the giggles (from them) and the chopping (from me), I noticed that several of the fish had died. I rounded everyone up for the “Grand Flush Off” as we disposed of the small bodies. After the initial tears over the watery grave, life went on as much as it started. A while later, we all sat down to the supper I had prepared. It was my favorite shrimp and rice casserole, a major splurge to celebrate some now-unremembered milestone. As I tucked happily into it, savoring each mouthful, I noticed the table had gotten quiet Looking at me with reproach and horror were four small faces in front of their untouched meals. “How could you do it?” they all seemed to wail at the same time, tears coursing down their faces.

Perplexed at the outburst I asked them what they meant. “You cooked our dead goldfish and put them in the rice,” was the mournful reply. The shrimp had done what shrimp do when cooked and turned that peculiar pinkish peach color that to my children’s eyes were the same colors as their orange and white fish. No reminders of the bathroom funeral could change their minds. They were convinced the meal consisted of their happy little friends chopped up in the rice. It was the last time fish were kept as pets or I cooked that casserole. I have not been “a fish person” for decades.

There are cat people and dog people and bird people. There are folks who love snakes, lizards, rats and other rodentia. It is one of those things that make the world go round, I reckon. Personally, I could not imagine intentionally sharing living space with a snake or rat. But it all comes down to choice and perspective.

My husband, Steve, and I are dog people. We admire the warmth and enthusiasm dogs bring with them and their willingness to stay with us, making it worth the effort to walk them in all manner of weather even if we would really prefer that they use the bathroom and clean up after themselves. My children and their families are animal people, finding pleasure in both dogs and cats.  

A good number of my friends and acquaintances are cat people. Cat people are a breed apart (literally and figuratively). They commend the virtues of their feline friends easily, and don’t mind cleaning out litter boxes. My friend Allison has 16 cats and cleans the ten boxes in her house daily. It amazes me that one never smells cat upon walking into her home. One litter box is bad enough, but ten! That definitely says “love” to me.  However, then there isn’t too much about Allison that doesn’t bespeak love. Allison also has dogs and squirrels as well as a passel of grandbabies running around her house.

Allison is sure that I will love cats, too, if I just give them a chance. I’ve tried having cats. They’ve either been totally aloof or as clingy as nettles after a walk in the woods. One cat named Smuckers wasn’t happy unless she could sit on my head and purr loudly as I was trying to go to sleep. Smuckers was the cat that cured me of cats, grape jelly (for reasons I won’t go into here) and made me understand the dangers of sleep deprivation.

A woman of my acquaintance, Kim, is another cat person. They are her children, and she carries their pictures in her wallet. I admit, however reluctantly, that her babies are quite handsome. Kim and I also share a passion for science fiction/fantasy books. It is that zeal that keeps us in contact because neither of us know many other people who share our pleasure in that genre. We have started swapping our beloved tomes with each other because we trust they will be returned after they’ve been read.

In recent weeks, Kim loaned me Tailchaser’s Song by Tad Williams. She has extolled the virtues of this book over the short period of time we’ve known one another. It was the first fantasy novel Kim ever read, giving it a special place in her heart. From the first chapter it is apparent that Williams has an eye for detail and that he has spent countless hours living with and around cats. Even a dog person like me can recognize the veracity of his descriptions.

The story revolves around a cat named Fritti Tailchaser, his family and friends and the fantastic world in which they live. It’s a vivid world of royalty, storytellers, history, friendship and the quest of finding of one’s own way in the world. Just as with all good fantasy books, there is an epic adventure as Fritti goes searching for his one true love, named Hushpad who disappeared with her humans without saying goodbye.  

I will admit that I fought the reading of this book because it is about cats. I was impatient with the stage setting in the first seven chapters; I do not have a cat’s good patience. By chapter eight, however, I was spellbound and utterly captivated by the story, unable to put it down. I read it quite happily and usually with a dog in my lap until the very end. The incongruity of a lap full of dog reading a book about cats was not lost on me and made me laugh.

I won’t tell you how this brilliant tale ends, but I will tell you that if you are a cat lover you will adore this book. If you’ve never read a fantasy novel this is a superb entrée into the genre. Even if you never read another fantasy book, this particular book is, quite simply, a must read. Kim has earned a debt of gratitude for sharing the wealth of Williams’ imagination with me.

Speaking of entrées, perhaps it is time to dig out that dusty old shrimp casserole recipe and try it again. Steve and his mom surely won’t think I tried to be thrifty and went fishing for dinner in the neighbor’s koi pond.

At age 10, Anne realized she was never going to get to be Miss America since reading a book was not an acceptable talent. So she went on to get a job and raise a family. Along the way, she fixed meals, picked up toys, helped with homework, and collected a drawer full of rejection slips for her “great American novel.” It was not all bad, however, since she ended up wallpapering a closet with them. She currently designs and creates greeting cards for her tiny company, The Frog Prints, LLC, and also works full-time as a Training Specialist. Anne is currently tethered to reality by a loving spouse, two dogs, one cat and the occasional hurricane that blows through Florida, although falling headlong and happily into a book is still her favorite “talent.” She can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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