This article was previously published on NBC Petside.com
Of all the novels I’ve read involving furry friends, The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle is by far my favorite. There’s the dancing goat Muriel, a three-legged cat named Gerald, and Moonshot, a beautiful rescued horse among others, brought to life with vivid detail and charming personalities. The novel is about veterinarian Cami Anderson and the year that follows her divorce as she comes to terms with her new reality and finds comfort in the animals under her care. The animals in the book are major players and they are inspired by those in Katrina’s life who have helped her deal with her own divorce.
“I think a lifetime spent with animal companions makes it feel natural to populate my stories with them. I’ve long been interested in how ‘rescue pets’ always end up rescuing the people who save them in some form or another,” said Katrina.
In this article, meet the animal companions that inspired a beautiful book.
A Horse Named Degas
Being around animals does have a therapeutic effect. After Katrina’s own divorce, a particular horse was integral to her healing.
“Degas was probably the equine love of my life and very much the inspiration for Moonshot in the novel,” she said. Degas, just like Moonshot, had been rescued and had a lot of anger and attitude. While everyone else was scared of him, Katrina and Degas hit it off.
“Right about the time of my divorce, he mellowed big time and we’d go for long walks, or I’d just sit in his stall. If I cried, he nibbled my hair. If I was angry, he’d throw in a buck or two to make me laugh. He’d steal my jacket when I was leaving his stall and play ‘keep away’ with it, holding it out of my reach,” she said.
Degas has passed away, but Katrina is so grateful to have had him in her life during a rough time.
Gerald, the wild three-legged barn cat in the novel who is always providing comic relief and comfort to Cami, is based on two wily, scrappy cats Katrina had the privilege to know. A friend of hers found a cat with a mangled, infected leg, which was later amputated. The three-legged cat was named Peggy Eileen. “This tiny little scrap of a thing gets around beautifully. She’s even a successful mouser and quite agile. So I used her as the model for the movement and adaptability of Gerald,” she said.
The rest of Gerald’s personality comes from George, who was a giant yellow feral tomcat lurking around her friend Judy’s farm. “He’d never let us catch him or touch him, but he’d eat the food we put out if he thought we weren’t looking,” she said. One day, George was found with a wounded face full of dried blood. “Only once he got sick enough from the infection were we able to catch him. We took him to the vet, where they discovered he had a bullet in his cheekbone! Someone had shot our little wild cat,” she said.
Katrina and her friend nursed George back to health and he let them hold and snuggle him. But George is an independent little fellow, and disappeared for weeks at a time after he was healed. “Over the years, he’s grown more and more gentle and sweet. He now lets me pick him up and hold him like a baby,” she said.
Joey the House Cat
Right now, Katrina has only one cat in her home—Joey. He is a great big, tall, black and white cat with a huge personality. He was an abandoned kitten found by a veterinarian friend of hers.
“He’s pretty much my writing assistant—if I’m at the computer, he is on my lap, with his head and forearms on my left arm. He attacks the printer every single time I print something, and he ‘sits in judgment’ on freshly printed manuscripts. He also reminds me when it’s time for a break by hopping down and biting my ankles,” she said.
Sounds like Joey has quite an important job to do!
Humphrey the Dancing Goat
In The Blessings of the Animals, one of my favorite characters is Muriel. As someone who adores goats, I was immediately taken by Muriel’s antics. The way he runs up the stairs in the house or prances about in a playful manner simply because he can is so endearing.
Muriel is based on a goat in Katrina’s life named Humphrey. “There is another animal who ‘belongs’ to me even though he’s not mine (or, more accurately, I belong to him!),” she said.
“Humphrey loves to head-butt and push his way into the house, where he immediately runs up the stairs. He dances around and is the very picture of whimsy—I particularly love it when he runs along the patio retaining wall and then leaps off, then goes back and does it again and again. I call him my ‘fella’ and I love it when I show up at the barn and he makes his ridiculous bleating noise and comes running to me.”
Clever and Mischievous Goats
Goats are so clever and mischievous. They’re just like dogs, with personality and love to have company and play games.
“Their voices just make me laugh. I love their intelligence, their Houdini like genius at being escape artists, and those amazing eyes. ‘Caprine’ means goat just as ‘Equine’ means horse, and caprine is the roots for such delightful words as capricious and caper. They’re just fun!” Katrina said.
Luna the Adorable Donkey
In the novel, Cami and her friend rescue an abused donkey named Luna, who turns out to be pregnant. The story is taken right out of Katrina’s life. She is a big supporter of the Humane Society and accompanies her friend Judy, a court-appointed livestock agent for a rural county’s Humane Society on animal investigations. One day, they both rescued a miniature donkey named Jenny who had been beaten badly and nearly starved.
“She was pregnant, the vet didn’t expect the foal to survive, but it did and was a spectacular diva within hours of her birth,” she said. The baby donkey is named Lilly, and her mom is clearly the inspiration for Luna, the adorable rescued donkey whose resolve and willingness to love people regardless of her past help ‘save’ Cami.
Get Your Own Copy of The Blessings of the Animals
The Blessings of the Animals is a heart-warming tale of love, loss, and moving on with memorable characters and furry animals you will come to adore. Pick up a copy at your local bookstore or get an e-copy and cozy up with your own animal companions.
Katrina Kittle is currently working on a middle grade book called Strange Katy that heavily features animals.
The ebook is now only $2.99 at Barnes & Noble. Get your copy here.