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Cat Whisperer

Stevie Ray

“Mom, if you keep talking like that, people will start calling you the Cat Lady.”

Brandishing his infinite wisdom, my college-age son once again offered his advice. And called me the Cat Lady!

Cat Lady? Visions of a deranged, lonely woman surrounded by hundreds of hungry, yowling felines invaded my imagination. Okay, the scenario is technically possible, but what my son doesn’t know is that I AM The Cat Lady, better known as The Cat Whisperer. I talk to my cat, and he talks back.

He doesn’t speak English. If he could, I think he’d prefer to talk like an Egyptian due to his breeding, but, nevertheless, he speaks. He just doesn’t use words.

He shows rather than tells.

Stevie Ray, named after the legendary blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, is a highly intelligent tabby who communicates with subtle and not-so-subtle cues.

Stevie Ray is a free spirit. He comes and goes as he pleases. I don’t force him to stay. He’s a back-door man who taps on my sunroom’s glass door with his velvet paw when he wants to enter.

Stevie Ray is refined. He requires no litter box. He sits by the door and meows when he needs to excuse himself. If I don’t respond soon enough, he sharpens his claws on my potted plant and shakes the leaves until he has my attention. If necessary, he topples the plant, which is nearly five feet tall.

Other than the occasional tree toppling, Stevie Ray, never, ever, violates my home–which is a whole lot more than I can say for the Scottish terror who invades our  living room and kitchen. She, with her vindictive attitude and predisposition for stealing quesadillas on take-home Mexican Monday, is jealous of Stevie Ray. Given the opportunity, she sneaks into the sunroom where Stevie Ray and I hang out, and leaves a nasty “gift” on the carpet by my computer.

By nature, I’m a dog lover. In addition to Maggie, the Scottie, I am also the proud owner of a yellow lab and a Hellhound. I’m sorry. This IS a rated-G blog. But it’s true. The same college-aged son who accused me
of being the future Cat Lady once brought home a sweet little black puppy we named Scooby Dee. I relented and let her stay, never imagining what she would turn out to be.

Little did I know that this black puppy with the big paws would grow into a shiny ebony monster with a Cheshire cat grin that resembles a Capuchin monkey. She has a body that’s a cross between a black lab and a Great Dane and the face of a Pit Bull or some other flesh-gouging canine straight from the depths of ….

But she’s a sweetheart, despite her looks. Scooby talks too. Literally. She tries to mimic our speech. But I don’t understand her words. I have to watch her actions. When Scooby wags her lethal tail, she’s happy, so happy, she knocks me off my feet.

Lacy, her yellow sister, is the runt of a litter of 13, the baby. And you know what they say about the baby. She always wants attention. I enrolled her in obedience school, and the leaders almost kicked us out because Lacy was too social. She barked constantly and wanted to rub noses with ever pup in the place.

Nevertheless, Lacy SHOWS her affection by trying to snuggle in my lap. Nevermind she’s at least 50 or 60 pounds. She flops at our feel for belly rubs and shakes hands over and over again because she knows it makes me happy.

My pets don’t tell; they show. And that’s what effective writers do.

My juniors are preparing for the TCAP Writing Assessment Test. My goal is for them to show vivid examples, not just tell about them. We’ve been practicing this objective all week. I usually throw in a personal example like the one below to make a point.

As a naïve, young teacher I agreed to sponsor a band concert for Homecoming, not realizing that five-foot little old me would be the ONLY chaperone of 500 hormonal teens. And because it was a concert, the only lights available were on the stage.

I could tell you I was terrified. Better yet, let me paint you a verbal picture and show you.

Being the naïve young teacher, I feared two things: procreation and illegal drug use. I was moderately worried about the mosh pit, forming at the front of the stage.

I watched with hawk eyes, and then I saw saw it. The glow of a red light. My imagination soared. I had to save my students. I assumed some shady perpetrator had sneaked a funny cigarette into the theater. I flew into combat mode and attacked the unknown suspect, yanking him over the back of the theater chairs.

Can you say overzealous?

Ironically, the red light on the alleged smoke was actually a laser that beamed from a Rebel Canon EOS camera. I had just wrestled my newspaper cameraman to the ground. I didn’t recognize him in the dark. I think I scarred him for life.

Can you say embarrassed?

A picture is worth a thousand words.

The greatest piece of advice my mother ever gave me was, “Actions speak louder than words.” You can only truly judge a person’s heart by examining his actions. Some people are takers. They depend on other people to make them happy. They always want something and possess a “What’s in it for me”attitude. Other people are givers. They find their happiness in doing something to make others happy, even if it means sacrificing something for themselves.

When it comes to writing, readers want to get to know their characters. They want  to fall in love with the characters in our books just as we want to fall in love with the characters in our lives. Actions speak louder than words.

Being the hopeless romantic, my heart melts in the presence of a giver. And that’s what I want my readers’ hearts to do when they meet my characters. I can’t just tell my readers the protagonist in my book is wonderful. I have to show them. I have to make the character do something that makes the readers’ hearts melt. Actions speak louder than words.

Just ask Stevie Ray. If he flips his tail, he’s telling you to back off, but if he purrs, he invites you to enjoy his presence. Right now he’s sleeping at my feet—he wants to be near me. That’s how I know he loves me.

At least that’s what his actions say.

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