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  • Writer's pictureSharon Michalove

It’s Raining Cats and Dogs

Monday morning doesn’t start well.

“Oww,” I yell, startled as Dorothy attacks Thornfinn across my chest, managing to catch my wrist with a claw. Damn cats. One is above me on the back of the couch, the other with two paws on the floor, straining upwards. Hissing and growling, they feint, waving paws menacingly, with fast hits on noses and heads. Dorothy tumbles down and they wrestle, their bodies rucking the Persian rug before they rush off yowling.

At First Sight, Coming October 22, 2021

I grew up with dogs. The first was a Dalmatian named Micky who was bad-tempered and chewed up anything and everything. We were living in a two-bedroom apartment in a six-flat building in Rogers Park, which wasn’t really a good place to have a big dog. After destroying our toy box, Micky didn’t stay long!

The year I turned six, we moved out to the suburbs, to a new housing development in what was then an unincorporated area of Glenview, north and west of the city. We had two dogs while we lived in our first house. Perky was the first, a black and brown mutt. Once she bit me, that was it. After that we had Sandy, who was a very sweet tan dog. The only problem there was that she didn’t like to be home alone. I think breaking a window mechanism to get out might have been the final blow, but I will never forget how she wiggled through the vent window when we were in the Wisconsin Dells and started chasing us down the street. My dad actually got the operator of the boat ride to let her come with us.

We moved to a bigger house in Glenview when I was a teenager because our three-bedroom house was kind of small for two adults and four children, especially when three of them were boys. Our first dog there was Cindy, a beagle. After three years of unsuccessful house training, Cindy left us. Finally my parents settled on a miniature Schnauzer, Max. After that, all their dogs were miniature Schnauzers.

I got married in 1975 and, at first, we didn’t have any pets. But in 1977, when we were living in the Northbrook, another Chicago suburb, I started agitating for a pet. Not necessarily a dog, but that would have been my preference. My mom hated cats and passed her feelings along. So although I had never been around cats, I was wary.

Peter, who hadn’t grown up with pets, argued that two working adults living on the third floor of an apartment building probably were not ideal dog owners. He suggested that we think about cats. The operative word was think. Imagine his surprise when he arrived home from work one afternoon and we had a cat. Less than pleased that I had done this without him, he demanded that we return the cat. It took two days, but I cajoled a couple of friends to drive me down to Chicago with the cat, a four-year-old black Persian named Licorice.

The big surprise was that the next day Peter decided that he regretted his hasty decision. I had to call the owner and beg to get the cat back. We didn’t have a carrier and Peter’s shirt was covered with fur by the time we got four-year-old Licorice back home. That was the start of our lives with cats including Monteverdi, Gustav (is it Mahler or is it Holst?), Agatha, Caspar, Leonora, and Figaro. These are my current cats—Nicholas, a Russian Blue, and Sybil, a calico.

With my cat history, how could I write a novel and not have cats? Cress’ cats, Dorothy and Thorfinn, are based on Nico and Sybil, and have a prominent role in At First Sight. If you want to know how they got their names, well, you’ll have to read the book!

Peter at the Patriarch’s Palace, Istanbul, Turkey, May 2005

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