What pets have you had and what are/were they like?

Q&A With Shay Each Sunday

I have always loved animals, and my pets have been there during some of the best and worst times of my life, and many were writing partners! Actually, probably all of them were because even though writing wasn’t my main focus when I was younger, I still wrote some stories and poems when I was quite young, and as a teenager when I lost my first cat. I think my animals have been the greatest writing support—they see the process firsthand and block the keyboard. So, I’m going to talk about my pets because everyone loves animals! And if you don’t, who are you even?

Q: What pets have you had and what are/were they like?

A: My first pet ever was my cat Timmy. I got him (my parents got him) when I was two. He was a fat orange tabby with giant paws that he used to cup his water when he drank, and he was the biggest mush in the world. He slept with me every night, napped with me all the time after school before I went to tennis practice, begged for all my food, and let us dress him up. He loved corn and ice cream and nuzzling our faces. He was amazing!

We got my cat Licorice when I was four. He lived to be 22 years old! So I had him well into my twenties and I really couldn’t remember a time without him, so it was incredibly difficult when he finally passed. He was my black fluffball and I felt a very strong connection to him. I have his fuzzy paw prints tattooed on my leg. He was very skittish when he was younger and would do the craziest things. We always joked that he had way more than nine lives. He jumped off the third floor landing, he crawled into the hood of my dad’s car, crawled into a tractor in the yard and got covered in grease, and once he was stuck in a tiny shallow drawer that we hardly know how he got into. He was insanely fast and basically looked like a bat flying by. In his old age he became my best writing partner and would sit with me on the couch whenever I worked. He was with me through most of both the books I’ve written so far.

After Timmy passed away when I was fifteen, Licorice was really lonely. He and Timmy were the best of friends, and Licky couldn’t stand being alone. He even went out and caught a bunny to be his friend. So we got Nike. She was a cute little striped tabby, but unfortunately she was pretty sick most of her life with kidney disease, and she only lived to be six. She was very funny though and would roll onto her back and even bite you if you touched her back. She always swatted Licorice in the face; he liked it.

Then, after Nike passed, we weren’t planning on getting another cat. That is until Oscar, our fluffy mainecoon boy, showed up on Christmas day at our back door. My parents didn’t let him inside because they thought he must have belonged to someone, so they just gave him a can of food. It snowed a lot that night and they felt really guilty about not letting him in, so when he came back the next day they took him in and brought him to the shelter. They didn’t want more cats, so Oscar stayed at the shelter for six weeks. When they called to say he was sick and no one was adopting him, my mom went to get him. I was still at college at the time and my dad texted me, “That cat is living here now.” Eventually, everyone fell in love with him because he was such a sweet boy, and we had him for an amazing five years. He was so funny with all his antics. He still passed away before Licorice—they died 10 months apart, which was incredibly difficult.

I moved to South Carolina about a year after Lick passed. I wasn’t planning on getting a pet when I moved here because of the responsibility and wanting to travel back to NY often. However, it’s pretty lonely when Pat is at work for such long periods of time so we started seriously considering the possibility of getting a pet. We decided we wanted a dog because I was still distraught over Licorice and couldn’t see myself getting another cat yet. After all our time volunteering at the Southampton Animal Shelter we were pretty sure we knew which dog we wanted. We had known our Bernie (changed his full name to Bernabe Lincoln) for almost two years before we adopted him. He is the best companion. He’s hilarious and a very good snuggler—and snorer. We’ve had him for over a year now and we couldn’t be happier that he’s our baby!

I also had a fish tank when I was younger that Lick and Timmy would sit beside and drink the fish water (those poor fish). And I had a hamster, Cyber when I was about eleven.

My parents also got another cat, Spike, a little before I got Bernie. So I got to spend some quality time with him when I went back to NY. He was sixteen when they adopted him and they only had him for about 10 months before he passed, but he was a very interesting cat. He loved to chase shadows and attack iPhones.

I’d say I’m probably more of a cat person, I’ve had many and I love how weirdly unique they are, but I love my Bernie so much. Really I’m just an all-around animal person. I’d kind of like to own a pig one day…I’m sure they’d be great writing partners, too.

I could talk about animals forever, so let me know about your pets and their antics!