She’d been a constant in my life for almost eighteen years, moving with me many times from Ohio to Missouri to Minnesota to New Hampshire and then back again to all these places. She’d pawed my face gently when I cried. She’d sprawled on my lap as I hallucinated. She'd loved me through seasons of darkness and moments of giddy gladness.
She’d never deserted me as had my dad and mom when I was five. She’d stayed with me through depression and fear and thoughts of ending my own life. She was dear to me in a way that no one else was.
She died on July 6. Two days later I woke alert, compelled to go to my computer. As I sat in front of it, my hands automatically began to type. The first words that came were these: “At the end all that matters is love. My love for my human and hers for me. I have planted the memories of our life together in her heart. She will find them there when I am gone and they will comfort her.” I stared at the words, realizing that this was Dulcy speaking.
Each morning for the next two months I spent an hour at the computer before beginning my freelance projects. During that hour, I sat before the computer, hands poised, waiting for Dulcy’s words.
She never failed me. Each day she shared memories of our life together. I’d forgotten these stories, but from some place deep within me—that place where Dulcy dwells in Oneness with all creation and with me—the remembrances of our life together spilled forth. Even in death, she gifted me.
After completing what writers call “a first draft,” I began to edit. I switched from the openness of the right brain to the critical editor of the left. Slowly the story glued itself together.
For a year and a half, I sent out query letters about Dulcy’s story. In return, I received only form rejection letters. Then in April, nearly two years after Dulcy died, an editor at Crown responded with a typewritten note. In it, she said that if I’d cut half of the 42,000-word manuscript, she’d be happy to look at it again. She advised me to concentrate only on Dulcy—no other cats.
Within three days, I did the cutting.
I sent the manuscript back to her.
Two months later I had a contract.
A year later, Crown published A Cat’s Life: Dulcy’s Story.
Another gift then came my way: The publishing house decided to hire Judy J. King to illustrate the book. A truly gifted artist, Judy captured Dulcy’s sweetness. Her cover was as lovely as the one that later enhanced the story of Dewey, the library cat. I think Dulcy and Dewey would have been great pals.
The royalties from Dulcy's hardcover enabled me to do three things:
· Buy a new Mac.
· Take six months off work to write.
· Travel to Greece for four weeks to research a novel I’d been aching to write since I’d been in the sixth grade and studied World History.
One of the joys of being published is the letters a writer receives. I’ve read many letters from readers who have somehow gotten hold of a hardcover or a trade paperback copy of Dulcy’s book. They write to tell me how the book has touched their lives and changed their relationship with their pets.
I know this pleases Dulcy. It certainly pleases me.
Next week's postings will be on a disease with which I've struggled since 2000. It has taught me many things, especially that I have little control over my life. I can control my decisions, my response to the people and events of my life, and what I write. That's about it most of the time.
As you read the three postings, you may have questions about the disease. If you do, please query as a comment or e-mail me. In a future posting, I'll answer, to the best of my knowledge, any questions or concerns you have.
I hope this long weekend is being enjoyable for you as well as safe.