A year ago I wrote about a fabulous writing retreat I went to in Old Orchard Beach. Four writers with the same agent and new contracts to write mysteries. What a difference a year makes! Now two of those books are out. Edith Maxwell wrote here earlier in the month. Now it’s Liz Mugavero’s turn. Her book, Kneading to Die, A Pawsitively Organic Pet Food Mystery was published in May.
“Maybe the best thing that ever happened to Kristan “Stan” Connor was losing her high-stress public relations job. Now there’s plenty of time to spend in her sleepy new Connecticut town working on her dream: baking healthy, organic pet treats!
Before long the neighborhood dogs are escaping their yards to show up at Stan’s doorstep, begging for the kinds of special homemade treats her Maine coon cat Nutty loves so much. And Stan’s pet-loving neighbors are thrilled with the new organic options available to their furry family members. But not everyone loves Stan and her newfangled organic ways…
Includes Gourmet Pet Food Recipes!”
Liz’s Maine Connection? Maine coon cats, of course.
When I developed the idea for my Pawsitively Organic Mysteries, I knew immediately which of my own cats would take the spotlight as a main character – the Maine coon, of course. In the book, his name is Nutty. But in real life, he’s Tuffy, a stray who turned up one day and never left. It’s not that all of my rescue cats don’t deserve the spotlight. They do. But there’s just something special about a Maine coon, which I know cat lovers – and Mainers – understand.
Tuffy lived in the neighborhood when we moved in. Not feral at all, he was close pals with members of the street feral colony. They had each other’s back. Crafty as he is, I believe he was in charge of finding the next feeder for the group. He had his eye on us from day one, and staked out the house from afar while the moving trucks unloaded, assessing the situation. I imagine the questions ran through his head: Can I get food here? Will they let me hang out on the back porch, perhaps have some shelter in the bad weather?
He must have decided we looked okay, because he ventured closer. I would come home from work and find him sitting on the rock out front, pretending not to notice me as I drove up. He would eat dry food we left out back, but only when no one was around. Eventually, he ventured up to the garage door and accepted wet food. He became chatty, too. But he always took off, back to forage in the woods and chase his feral friend, affectionately named Lion because of his golden mane of fur, around the yard. He would share a spot on the porch (and his food) with one of the neighborhood possums, too, in the evenings. He didn’t have a name yet, because it seemed too soon in the relationship. Instead, he was known as “handsome cat.”
One evening he didn’t show up for dinner. Even though he had no obligation to do so, he always did. It was a sleepless evening. He didn’t show up the next day, either. The third day, he came into the yard as always, but his regal tail drooped. His eyes looked glassy. He came in the house for once and slept on the porch. At that point, he’d already become part of the family, so a trip to the vet was the next step. After learning he’d had some kind of altercation, most likely with a car, he got a pain shot and some special food and returned to the homestead.
But now that he felt better, he wanted back outside. Conversations ensued. He turned a deaf ear. The economics of the situation didn’t move him either, despite the rationalization that every time he went out into the wilderness, the possibility of vet bills rose even higher. Nor did the threat of disease that he could bring back to the other cats, who were strictly indoors. He wanted his way and was determined to get it. He made this known by sitting at doors and windows screaming and howling every night.
So, he got his wish – the option to leave. And leave he did. Sprinted across the yard like he’d been held prisoner for years…and then he stopped. Looked behind him. And turned around and came back. Yes, I know it sounds like a sappy Lifetime movie for animals, but it’s true. He’s been an indoor cat ever since, dubbed “Tuffy” because of his fearless nature.
I’m not one to get fixated on breeds when it comes to cats – I prefer the “rescue” breed. But since Tuffy wandered into my life, I’ve done some research on Maine coons because I’ve found him so delightful. It was lovely to find out that Maine coons are the only cats with U.S. origins – Maine, of course. The rumor is they are derived from Marie Antoinette’s angora cats, who made the journey to America without her. Hence the trend to act like royalty!
They are identifiable by the “M” on their forehead (note Tuffy’s example) and the longest whiskers ever recorded. On average, they weigh 17 pounds and have oversized paws, designed to help them walk in Maine’s snowy winters.
And for the Harry Potter fans out there, remember Mrs. Norris, the Maine coon who caught Hogwart students when they were misbehaving? Typical Maine coon behavior: Self-righteous, in charge, spotlight stealer. But it’s why we love them.
Readers, who has a great experience with a Maine coon? Share it here.