- by Patricia Rosemoor
It all started when I was a kid and was told, “NO, you can’t have a cat or dog because you’re allergic and having an animal would mean more asthma attacks…”
Anyone who really knows me should KNOW better than to tell me, “NO, you can’t (fill in the blank),” especially when it comes to animals. Little did my parents have a clue that someday animals would play an important part in my life…and in my profession.
When I was seven, I found a cat outside and guilted Mom into letting me feed it. Mom was really an animal person, too, so she caved and I had an “outside” cat. At the time of her death, Mom had five cats and four dogs, several of which were throw-away pets-thrown away into my parents’ yard because people knew Mom would find them homes. I’m proud to say I take after my mother in regards to my love of and respect for animals. The most pets I’ve had at one time-five cats and a dog-pales next to Mom’s record, but of course I live in a city 2-flat, so six animals was pushing it.
The first animal that was really mine was a kitten I adopted in grad school when I had my own apartment and a new roommate with a cat said “NO, you can’t get a kitten because Mitzi hates other cats.” Deciding she couldn’t tell me what to do in my own place, I brought home that kitten. Indeed, Mitzi was hostile and the roomie predicted the kitten would be dead by morning. Of course when Mitzi went out of control, roomie stood on a chair for some weird sense of safety, while I simply picked the cat up by her scruff and let her know I was the top cat. Before leaving for an evening class, I had a chat with Mitzi about not hurting the kitten. When I got home, they were snuggled together and I sensed the strength of my connection with animals.
Years and several cats later, I had just started riding horses when I needed major knee surgery. The doc was convinced I would never walk without a limp and when I asked how soon I could get back on a horse, he shuddered and told me, “NO, you can’t ride because you’ll further damage your knee.” Six months later, I walked into his office sans limp. When he asked me what I had done to make that happen, I told him riding horses did a great job of developing quads. End of conversation.
Since becoming an adult, I’ve been an animal owner, contributor, participant, rescuer, and in the last decade, volunteer. Furthermore, I seek out unusual animal experiences as research for my novels.
Horses play a large part in many of my Harlequin Intrigues. What I write about comes from the bonds I forged over a decade riding and jumping and showing horses. I think my experience makes the read seem real because the human-animal connection is real for me.
Over the years, I diversified my animal interests. To research novels, I sought out a variety of hands-on experiences. Before writing SILENT SEA, I swam with dolphins in Florida and learned everything I could about dolphin rescue and the conflict between rescuers and those who run dolphin shows.
Then came The McKenna Legacy, my nine book series (new branch of the family coming next summer!). Many of the McKennas have psychic connections with animals. To write TOUCH ME IN THE DARK (another current reprint), I slept in a Dances with Wolves tepee on a mustang refuge in South Dakota and picked the brain of the inspiring man who started and ran the refuge.
For NEVER CRY WOLF, I learned to track wolves among other skills at a winter wolf ecology workshop in northern Wisconsin. I also visited a wolf refuge with my husband and my then writing partner. When I said I wished I could go into the caged areas holding the wolves for some up-close-and-personal time, both Edward and Linda thought I was crazy. I simply wasn’t afraid because I believed in that connection I always felt with animals. All that wolf research material came in handy for a second book, as well-WOLF MOON won Best Intrigue of 2007 from Romantic Times BOOKreviews.
Probably the most challenging thing I ever did with animals was to move cows. My surgery knee was already challenged (meaning I needed a replacement) when I sold a new mini-series to Intrigue, but I decided to get back on a horse anyway.
I knew enough about horses but not about ranching. So on January 1, my late husband Edward and I drove in a snowstorm from Santa Fe to a New Mexican ranch to research The Sons of Silver Springs. The ranch was situated in a canyon that made us feel like we were at the end of the world. That night, we rode around the property for three hours in the dark-and then rode again the next morning to move cows across the river. I joyfully renewed my connection with horses…and my knee survived the experience.
My research life has grown quieter in recent years, especially so since Edward, my partner in life and in research, died three years ago this week. But my love for animals will go on forever. I volunteer both at Lincoln Park Zoo and at PAWS Chicago, a cageless, no kill animal shelter.
At PAWS, I try to connect with the shyest cats in hopes that I can make them more comfortable with strangers and help give them a better chance for adoption-like Blossom, the kitty I recently adopted myself. So far, I haven’t really used those experiences in my writing, but with my connection to animals as strong and satisfying as ever, I have the urge to write a series about an animal rescuer…
Hmm, maybe someone needs to tell me “NO, you can’t write that because it’ll never sell…”
Author’s note: While Blossom is my new girl, I was privileged to be Mom to the other cats and dog for 14-19 years. Their photos were scanned for me by Linda Sweeney (their Aunt).